Once shielded from the outside world, Vietnam is now drawing tourists away from other Southeast Asian nations in droves. This vast country offers travelers everything from towering limestone karsts, lush tropical islands, and thousand year culture to booming metropolises, extravagant new resorts and world class dining. With our guide you should have a good idea how much it’ll cost you for any length of time.
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Vietnam’s largest two cities, Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh in the south, are thriving and fun and each make a great spot to lay over for two or three days if the timing is right. If you’re just stopping over for a short time, you’ll most likely spend your time within the city confines with perhaps one day trip nearby.
Once arriving in Tan Son Nhat in HCMC, or Noi Bai in Hanoi, you’ll need to take a cab to the city centre. It won’t be expensive and it’s the safest and easiest way into town.
In both cities the easiest and most fun way to get around is by motorbike taxi or xe om. However, touts on the street often over charge, so it’s usually best to go with an Uber or Grab moto. Most trips should be a dollar or less.
In both cities budget hostels can be found for under $10 a night. These almost always include free wifi and usually free breakfast as well. The majority are surprisingly comfortable. In HCMC most of these are in the Pham Ngu Lao area and in Hanoi they are located in the Old Quarter. Check out our pick of the best budget-friendly hotels in Ho Chi Minh City and the cheapest hotels in Hanoi.
Of course, each city also offers much higher-end options, for a low to mid-level range budget between $10 and $25 a night. Here’s our pick of the best luxury hotels in Hanoi, and the best boutique hotels in Ho Chi Minh City.
Food and Drink
Fabulous food and drink in Vietnam can be incredibly cheap if you know the best places to get street food in Vietnam. A bowl of pho or bun bo hue bought on the street should cost between $1-$2. The same goes for com ga or chicken and rice. A beer shouldn’t set you back more than $2 and should generally be closer to $1. A real night out could be no more than $10 or $15. To cut right to the chase, check out our guides to the best street food in Hanoi, and the best street food in Ho Chi Minh City.
A good day trip for anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City is to the historic Cu Chi Tunnels. Built by Viet Cong fighters in the 40s, the tunnels were then used extensively against the Americans in the 60’s. You can book various day trips from Ho Chi Minh City which include a speedboat transfer along the Saigon River.
To be safe allocate US$125-US$200 for a comfortable two or three day stop over – although if you budget sensibly, you could easily get by with less.
Vietnam is a long narrow country and with one full week you could realistically expect to see one major city and then head to one or two other destinations.
Taxis and xe oms within cities will be the same, you only need to add interprovincial buses, trains or planes. Round trip flights booked in advance should not set you back more than $150 within the country. A bus trip from HCMC to Dalat will cost roughly $20. A trip from Hanoi to Sapa should be around the same.
Expect to pay $10-$20 for budget to mid-level in HCMC or Hanoi. If you decide to stay in a homestay in Sapa or Dalat $25-$50 per night could be expected – but you can also find budget options below $10.
Food and Drink
Eating and drinking should remain relatively consistent throughout your stay in Vietnam. In most places, you can easily enjoy a full meal with drinks for under $10. It’s perfectly reasonable to budget $20 a day on food and drink – but you may find yourself spending significantly less. Even in a more upmarket restaurant, a full meal is likely to cost somewhere in the region of $15-$20.
Trekking in Sapa will cost between $60 and $150 for a two- or three-day trip. This will include transport from Hanoi, a guided hike, and two or three nights in an authentic minority homestay.
For those basing their trip out of Saigon, the best overnight experiences will be in and around the south of the country. A great way to get out of motorbike madness is to book a flight and head to the tropical paradise of Phu Quoc Island. A round trip flight shouldn’t cost much more than $100. Once on the island, plenty of hostels and hotels can be found for $15-$20 (or slightly less).
For one week, expect to spend between $300 and $600.
The only difference between a one and two week journey in Vietnam is the number of trips you’ll take within the country. With two weeks to spare you could comfortably travel to two or three different destinations without being stressed for time. This could be a combination of Hanoi-Sapa-Ha Giang-Halong Bay or Saigon-Phu Quouc-Mui Ne-Dalat. These individual trips will vary vastly in cost; however, including flights for any two- to four-day trip, it’s safe to budget $250. If traveling by bus, that number will be closer to $100.
Depending on how you travel, for two weeks expect to spend $600-$1,200.
Three weeks is a terrific amount of time to spend in Vietnam and will allow you to see a great deal of the country. In that time frame you could conceivably ride a motorbike all the way from Hanoi to Saigon and explore coastal beaches and jungle-covered limestone mountains. This route cuts down on travel costs as the only expense there would be renting a motorbike, which is quite easy to do in Hanoi Old Quarter or Pham Ngu Lao in Ho Chi Minh. You shouldn’t spend more than $4-$6 per day.
If the motorbike’s not for you, then you could head to several different destinations via other modes of transport. A well planned trip would begin in the south and end in the north (or vice-versa). This could look something such as Saigon-Phu Quouc-Hoi An-Hue-Hanoi/Ha Long Bay or Hanoi-Ha Long Bay-Sapa-Ninh Binh-Hue-Dalat-Saigon. Travel costs would be cut down as flights would no longer be return. Just continue heading south or north. Depending on the mode of transportation this could be done for anywhere between $200-$500
Three weeks could be done as cheaply as $800, but more realistically aim for $1,500.
Vietnam is like any other country in that the cost to travel here will vary drastically from one individual to another. What sets it apart is that it can be dirt cheap, cheaper than most places you can go. If you are on a tight budget, then Vietnam can and should work for you. If you’ve got more money to play with, then you may be able to see more, travel more efficiently – and even sleep better.