BARE FACTS: SURVIVING VIETNAM
Vietnam seemingly has it all. There is the beaches, mountain towns, war history and food, yet for some reason they have an extremely high no return rate with tourists. Perhaps people expect too much or maybe the abrupt Vietnamese attitude puts people off, either way with a few tricks up your sleeve you will find it far easier to enjoy this country. Just keep in mind every traveler has a different experience and we encountered a good mix of both.
VISA WHAT NOTS
We played it safe and organized our visa prior to arrival for around $30 AUD, it was a fairly simple process. A friend did it on arrival with no major issues just a long wait time for an hour or two.
WHERE TO STAY
Vietnam is home to plenty of cheap accommodation in the form of both hostels and private rooms. Expect between $4 USD-$8 USD a night for dorm rooms and about $10-$15 USD for privates, usually with free breakfast. Accommodation varies with hostels, the big chains are more about partying than cleanliness.
Tuk tuks are used for cheap trips but taxis are usually more commonly used and cheap, be wary of scammers. Most places are in walking distance of the hotels and hostel areas. Overnight sleeper buses will be your best bet to move from city to city, use Sinh Cafe for nicer buses and quicker routes.
CAT BA ISLAND
Part of Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island is a great place to escape to and waste a week kayaking, swimming in the beach and devouring Vietnamese food. Explore caves and the hills on the back of a motorbike and tap into island life.
WAR MUSEUM HCMC
It's a must visit to anyone that's interested in absorbing some of the tragic war history that scared Vietnam through the 50s, 60s and 70s. Learn about the way the war affected the Vietnamese people as well as American and other foreign troops. Be warmed, it's overwhelming at times.
There is more to this UNESCO heritage site than quality tailored suits. Be taken back in time to a simple time in Vietnam through the impressive architecture set along a picturesque riverbank setting. Riverside life is relaxed, friendly and full of culture.
CAT BA PALACE,
CAT BA ISLAND
Considering we spent a lot of time in bed on Cat Ba due to pink eye, it was important the room was comfortable. Rooms are spotless at Cat Ba Palace Hotel and cleaned every day. $17 USD will get a you a spacious double with large en-suite, air con, cable TV and balcony. Location is close to the main street.
Although a little out of town, this hotel is spotlessly clean, modern and has a pool. Staff were a bit rude but for $25 USD we were happy to over look it. Air con, cable and wifi included and opposite the best Vietnamese restaurant makes this hotel a win.
DUC VUONG HOTEL,
HO CHI MINH
A great little budget hotel right in the middle of district 1 with clean rooms, air con, cable, buffet breakfast and popcorn. Make sure you hit up the roof top bar, it's such an amazing view and if you're lucky you'll meet Jade, the greatest waitress ever.
$15-$20 USD A DAY
Cheap mixed dorm rooms with fans (if you're lucky) with free breakfast helps the budget. Add banh mi and pho and only a few beers and luxuries. Enjoy the close proximity and walk most places explore. Cheap overnight bus travel is your friend.
A LIL SWAGGER
$25-$40 USD A DAY
Find a friend and share a twin private rooms, en-suite and air con. Go for some nice local restaurants as well as local food markets and enjoy a few nights out. Treat yourself to a few cool activities and a few more drinks after a long day.
$55+ USD A DAY
The world is your oyster when you can make it rain! Enjoy nice hotels, air con and perhaps a pool. Food choices are a plenty but don't get sucked in by too much Western food. Massages every few days and awesome activities to keep you entertained. Unwind with cocktails, beers and clubbing.
Accommodation should cost between $5-$10 pp for a dorm bed and varies in quality. Although cheap, a lot of hostels were lacking cleanliness especially in the bathrooms.
Pho and Banh Mi will cost about $4-$6 with a beer or soft drink and be super filling and delicious.
Beer will cost between $.80-$1.5 depending on where you buy.
Overnight buses will be your budget saver and get you long distances for a low price Most trips cost between $4.5-$20 USD for overnight sleepers. The bonus of this is you'll save on a night's accommodation costs.
Vietnam has lots of great things to see for next to nothing. For about $40-60 per week you'll have enough for museums, kayaking and cooking classes.
Go for the added comfort with a private room with a fan, breakfast and en-suite from between $7-10 pp. We had a basic but spacious room in Nha Trang with breakfast and a great location for $20 a night.
Even eating at modest local restaurants won't cost much, dinner will usually come in at $7-$10 with a beer or soft drink.
Tin Tin's in Nha Trang was our best value stop ever, about $5-6 each with beer.
Cab are cheap in Vietnam and medium budgets will allow for a few cab rides a day just make sure you don't get scammed. 30 minute trips usually cost about $7 USD.
Splash out with more luxury adventure options such as a nicer Halong Bay cruise, snorkeling and massages.
Get all the bells and whistles at a small price in Vietnam. True to SE Asian standards $50+ a night gives you a great room and all the trimmings: breakfast, balcony, wifi, cable plus more.
Go all out in Vietnam and enjoy some awesome meals for around $20-$30 USD for a main plus drink.
Mango Mango in Hoi An is celebrated for it's amazing cuisine.
Cab as much as you want and consider throwing in a private car ride somewhere alone the way, expect to pay about $45 USD per day.
Options are endless when you want to splash cash! Day spas, cooking classes, private speedboat cruises...the list continues.
Vietnam's low season is actually a great time to travel as weather is good. Both the north and south are starting to hit their hot summer months with bursts of rainy days common.
With cooler days up north but clear skies and sunshine down south, the mid season is a comfortable time to travel Vietnam, especially places you want to spend walking or exploring.
Boasting plenty of coast and therefore beaches, things get busy when Vietnam is hot. Expect sunshine and humidity every day >