Budget Travel Vietnam: $20 a day!
Vietnam is a fantastic place for budget travelers. It offers beaches, bustling cities, small mountains, limestone karsts, fantastic food, possibly the best coffee in the world, and much much more. We managed to budget travel Vietnam for under $20/day. That includes hotels, buses, food, everything. Click on a city to read more about our adventures there, or scroll down to see a breakdown of the costs. We enjoyed Vietnam so much that we moved there. We hope you enjoy it too.
Only have a month in Vietnam? Check out my 1 month in Vietnam Itinerary
How to use our Budget Travel Vietnam Guide
Under each city, you’ll find various sections that are there to help you plan and budget your trip.
- The Story is a basic blog post, most often from the first time we visited the city (since it’s likely that you will be visiting for your first time). It should give you an idea of what the city is like to visit for a couple days. The section will have some budget saving tips in it, and will provide links to useful resources, and sometimes some links to fun stuff that is in no way related to planning your vacation (because sometimes you need a break).
- The Budget is a sample budget. They are based on real budgets in my years of traveling, but not all sample budgets are the same. Most of them are based on 2 people. This means the hotel will be cheaper than if you are traveling solo, so it’s not just a matter of dividing the budget in half to get an accurate number for one person. Usually, a single room costs only a few dollars less than a double. Another thing to consider, taxi prices don’t change with more people. We usually try and avoid taxis, but sometimes it’s not possible. If the budget mentions a taxi, you might be able to lower that cost by taking a bus (see The Facts section below). You’ll see in most of the sample budgets that we have a booze, coffee, snacks section. If you’re not a degenerate/glutton (like we are), this is a good area to save money. Remember, the budgets are just samples and are there to give you an idea of how much various things cost us. Do not copy them exactly when making your own budget.
- The Facts section is where you’ll find those details that you’re going to need before you head out. It’s divided up into: Getting In and Out, The Best Budget Hotel, and The Best Budget Restaurant — which are pretty self explanatory. When it comes to suggesting hotels and restaurants, I will sometimes give a few options (usually because it’s hard for me to choose), but I try and stick to just one based on the extensive research I’ve done, and my experience with the business. None of my suggestions are based on me getting any perks from the business, but I do get a small kickback (at no cost to you) if you book on Agoda through my link, so please use it as a way of giving back for the hard work I’ve put into this guide.
- The Video section is probably available in about half of the cities. It has been something that I’ve been slowing working on. I believe that my videos are a great source when it comes to getting a sense of the city and what there is to do in it. If you like them, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. I have a background in film making, and I put a lot of work into them, so any support (likes, comments, shares) are greatly appreciated.
- The Map section is last, but certainly isn’t least when it comes to providing information. In fact, if you will be traveling with your smartphone, it might be the most useful section in this Budget Travel Vietnam Guide. Beside the Map’s title there is a little star, assuming you are signed into your Google account, if you click that star it will save the map to your Google Maps. Then, when you are in the city and you want to find a place to eat, you can whip out your phone, open the Google Map App, pop open the menu and click Your Places. A list will open up showing you various places that you’ve saved and been you. Close to the bottom of the list it will show your maps (you might have to click more maps to find the one you want). Select the city’s map and everything will show up. Now, you can find the closest cafe, and get exact directions to it. A city’s map will often have places not mentioned in the story or facts sections. When I’m in a city and I go to a place I like, I usually save it to my map so I remember where it is. All that information that’s been collected over the years is available to you!
One last note: There are some sections that will be missing categories. For example, Cu Chi Tunnels is mostly a write up about the experience along with a video and map. Since, almost everyone goes to it on a day trip, I didn’t see a need to include hotel choices. Other sections will have more than one Story section, or an additional section that outlines some important information about a section of town or day trip. For example, the Ho Chi Minh City Budget Guide has a section on Chinatown. These additional sections are usually newer and were created based on new discoveries that I’ve personally found. I rarely make edits to the original text — instead I try to add more information (rather than reneging on the information I previously provided).
Okay, that’s it. Happy planning!
Click on a city for more information
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is Vietnam’s largest city. It’s an impressive place. Of course, there are plenty of museums and attractions to keep you busy, and most of them are budget-friendly, but make sure you find a cafe and sip a coffee while you watch the city fly by. It may be the highlight of your entire trip.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are the most popular, and probably the best, day trip from Ho Chi Minh City. Learn about the Vietnam War and the hardships that the Vietnamese had to go through. Crawl through the tunnels and go to the shooting range to fire off a few rounds. Taking a tour from Saigon is cheap and well worth the dent in your budget.
It very easy to take an inexpensive tour to My Tho, but we suggest heading there for a night or two. You’ll be able to have a private boat tour, and get some time to explore the sleepy city. What’s the point of going to a sleepy city if you are going to be rushed around on some tour?
We fell in love with Ben Tre. Its market may be the best in all of Vietnam. Tourist buses fly in and out of the city, but it’s worth stopping at and spending a few days to soak in some authentic Mekong Delta. There’s not much to do in the city, but you won’t get bored if you do my favorite budget travel activity: people watching.
Can Tho is probably the most popular Mekong Delta city. It’s much larger than Vinh Long and Ben Tre, and is more conducive for tourists. For an amazing, and budget-friendly, tour go to the riverside and arrange a boat tour to the floating market with one of the boat ladies.
Vinh Long will show you what fertile land can do for a city. Fruit and vegetables are for sale at every corner. Take a boat trip to the floating market, or hang around town and watch the vendors. Sitting at the cafe on the busy river could easily eat up half a day. Not many tourists stay for long in Vinh Long, so the tourism industry isn’t built up and you can experience it like a local — which means it’s authentic (and inexpensive).
The largest island in Vietnam, Phu Quoc is a bit of a paradise. I say a bit because it is currently going through some major renovations. New roads are being built, hotels are springing up all over, and fresh island air is harder to come by. Hopefully, the island will eventually settle down and go back to being a peaceful place to relax.
Vung Tau is closest beach town to Ho Chi Minh City. It’s less relaxing than Mui Ne, but probably has more to do. For example, a huge Jesus statue that you can climb. Budget travel Vung Tau by getting a cheap room and renting a scooter to get you to the various beaches.
Mui Ne is a resort town that’s built for the Saigon vacationer. There are a few things to do, but when you arrive, relaxation will probably jump to the top of your list. It’s possible to stay at a resort on the cheap in Mui Ne.
Dalat is a place to escape. When you have a 3444 km coastline, you escape to the mountains. It’s cooler in Dalat. The air is fresher. There are many tacky tourist attractions, but mostly it’s a place to connect with nature… and eat it.
Nha Trang is a lively seaside town that’s popular as a vacation destination for Vietnamese people. The beaches are nice, there is plenty to do, and the hotels are cheap and plentiful. For budget travel, make sure you avoid any Vietnamese holidays when the prices sky-rocket.
Quy Nhon is a relatively quiet seaside town that’s known for it’s seafood. This might be the best place to get a cheap, but delicious, seafood meal.
Da Nang is largest city in central Vietnam. There’s a beach close by, and it’s very close to Hoi An (see below), but perhaps the biggest draw is the fact that it’s very much a typical Vietnamese city with very little tourism. The many dishes of the area can be tried with locals on the street for cheap.
Hoi An is one of the top attractions in Vietnam. This UNESCO heritage site is an amazingly preserved example of an ancient Southeast Asian trading port town. It’s not the best place for budget travel, but it is possible to enjoy the city for just $20/day — as long as you don’t go crazy buying things in Hoi An’s many boutique shops.
The Cham Islands are a group of 8 islands off the coast of Hoi An. They can be experienced in a day: with a tour (for pretty cheap) or independently (even less money); or you can stay overnight: at a homestay, guesthouse, or camping on the beach.
Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van pass is often considered the most beautiful road in Vietnam. It’s between Hue and Da Nang, cutting through the Annamite mountain range with the South China Sea at its side. It’s worth the extra hour that will be added to your journey if you avoid the tunnel and take the pass.
Hue is one of my favorite places in Vietnam. The imperial palace is the biggest tourist attraction, but the food is the real star in Hue. Many Vietnamese dishes originated here, including the very popular Bun Bo Hue, which you can get from a street food vendor for about a dollar — the perfect meal for a budget traveler.
Tam Coc and Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex
Trang An is Vietnam’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s been called the Ha Long Bay of rice paddy fields — limestone karsts surrounded by flooded rice fields with a river cutting through it all. It’s gorgeous! Tam Coc is the small village that sits in all that beauty. The tours are a little chaotic, but for the budget traveler you can save money but just walking around the area.
Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park is Vietnam’s first and largest national park. There are 97 species of mammal in the park. Check out the Endangered Primate Rescue Center and hike one of the many trails.
Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island
Most people take a tour to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi, but we went to the large Island of Cat Ba, where we did a day tour around Ha Long Bay and explored the many delights of Cat Ba Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you want to budget travel to Ha Long Bay and you have a few days to spare, going through Cat Ba Island is your best bet.
Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and possibly it’s most culturally rich city. A walk through the old quarters of Hanoi will definitely be one of the more memorable moments on your trip across Vietnam. With a wide assortment of accommodations, budget travel in Hanoi is easy.
Budget Travel Vietnam – How much to budget for a trip to Vietnam?
The following information was collected over a 22 day trip that we took through Vietnam — starting in Hue and working our way down to the Mekong Delta. It is just an example of one trip. For more details about how much you might spend in each city, please choose a city from the list above.
Note: Exchange rates fluctuate daily, so for the most accurate numbers it’s best to use the Vietnamese Dong. The exchange rates below were updated in August 2015.
|VND (₫)||USD ($)|
|Day Trips etc.||815,000||37.35|
Daily budget for Vietnam: $19.14 per day.
This does not include the $45 visa that we purchased from the Vietnamese embassy in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. This brings our total to $466.17.
Traveling somewhere else in Southeast Asia? Click here for more budgets.
Articles About Vietnam
These are my favorite dishes from Vietnam, and the ones I crave most after living there for 2 years. If you’re headed to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, I’ve also included the best places to try these unique and wonderful meals.
Exploring Vietnam: Binh Duong New City
In 2005, construction began on what will eventually be the administrative capital of Binh Duong. I’ve watched, over the past 2 years, as new restaurants, hotels, and apartment buildings have popped up. The heart of the city is the huge administrative building along with the convention center next to it. These new and modern buildings are an unusual sight in Vietnam.
Everything About Coffee in Vietnam
Coffee isn’t just a drink. People rearrange their lives to get that morning cup of wake-up juice. One time, I killed a lady who was slow at ordering in my local cafe. Or maybe that was a pre-coffee day dream.
At any rate, when I moved to Vietnam I was very excited about getting my taste-buds on some traditional Vietnamese coffee. Coffee in Vietnam is so chocolatey and rich. An iced coffee with milk, or ca phe sua da, is a dessert that you drink even before breakfast. Instead of milk, sweetened condensed milk is used. It’s amazing.