vietnam on a budget - complete 2024 guide

Vietnam on a Budget

Vietnam, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes, has become a favorite destination for travelers seeking adventure and unique experiences. In this guide, I'll take you through the must-visit places, share valuable tips, and provide insights into the local culture and cuisine.

Starting from the South: Saigon, Dalat and Nha Trang

Ho Chi Minh City: A Quick Stopover

While Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, may not be everyone's cup of tea, it's still worth a brief visit. The chaotic atmosphere might be overwhelming, but consider spending 1 or 2 days exploring the city and taking a day tour of the Mekong Delta River. Be prepared for persistent vendors during the tour.

Dalat and Nha Trang: Hidden Gems

Dalat, known for its pleasant weather and beautiful pagoda, offers a welcome escape from the humid heat of Ho Chi Minh City. On the other hand, Nha Trang is a beachside city perfect for relaxation. Opt for accommodation with a beachfront and a pool, and enjoy the sun and sea.

Central Vietnam: Unveiling Da Nang, Hoi An, and More

Da Nang: Golden Bridges and Marble Mountains

Da Nang is a hub for exploration. Skip the expensive tours to Ban Ha Hills and opt for a Grab ride instead. Explore the Golden Bridge, Flower Garden, and Pagoda at your own pace. Don't miss the enchanting Hoi An, just a 30-minute drive away.

Hoi An: A Magical City

Hoi An is a must-visit destination, offering a magical atmosphere with lantern-lit streets. Spend at least 3 days exploring the city, participating in a lantern workshop, enjoying a boat ride, and indulging in affordable tailor-made clothes at places like Blue Gecko.

Hanoi and Ninh Bin: Northern Charms

Hanoi serves as a convenient stopover for travelers. Explore the city with a food tour, visit the famous train street, and experience the night market in the Old Quarter. Consider a day tour to Ninh Bin, often called Halong Bay on land, for breathtaking landscapes and cultural experiences.

Halong Bay, Sapa, and Ha Giang: Northern Marvels

Halong Bay: Choose Wisely

While Halong Bay is a popular destination, consider alternatives like Cat Ba for a less crowded and more affordable experience. Day tours from Cat Ba to Halong Bay offer a better deal.

Sapa: Cultural Immersion

Sapa is a must-go destination for its stunning landscapes and encounters with different tribes. A 2-day trek is sufficient, providing a unique glimpse into the lives of the Black Mong and Zai people.

Ha Giang Loop: Off the Beaten Path

This is one of Vietnam's highlights! Ha Giang offers untouched landscapes and cultural experiences. They only allowed tourists to visit this region 5 years ago. Before that you would have to go on your own. A 3-day loop, booked through Ha Giang Hostel, is an unforgettable adventure, exploring canyons, remote villages, and more. Be prepared to spend a few days on a motorbike with very bumpy roads and lots of dust. (on the last day, everything hurts!). You can drive by yourself on the tour or go with an easy rider. The tours usually include food and accommodation. And you'll have so much fun in the evening with karaoke and lots of happy water.

Bonus Stop: Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc is an island in southwest Vietnam, next to Cambodia. You can get there easily by plane. Although it's very western (you’ll see it in the restaurant's menus) and more expensive than the rest of Vietnam, it has Bali vibes, with many bars on the beach, fire shows, and snorkeling tours. Snorkeling is not the best, and if you want to visit the best beaches, you must stay on the island’s north side, which is very isolated. If you stay close to the airport, you can go by bus to the beaches in the north, but it’ll take around 1h+. You can also take a grab, but it’ll be challenging to return since there are not many things there. There’s no turquoise water, but it’s the best beach in Vietnam. Just come if you have time and want to end your stay in Vietnam on the beach. 

Crafting Your Itinerary

Consider this revised 2-week itinerary:

  • Hanoi: 1 day
  • Ninh Bin: 1 day
  • Sapa: 2 days
  • Ha Giang: 3 days
  • Cat Ba/Halong Bay: 2 days
  • Da Nang: 1 day
  • Hoi An: 2/3 days

Vietnamese Cuisine

Don't miss out on the delicious Vietnamese cuisine:

  • Pho (noodle soup)
  • Hot Pot
  • Summer Rolls
  • Banh Cuon (rice pancake rolls)
  • Banh Mi (sandwich)
  • Xoi (Sticky rice)
  • Cao Lau
  • Egg Coffee

Essential Tips for a Seamless Journey

  • Crossing Streets: Fear not, just go; the drivers will stop.
  • Language Barrier: Download Google Translate for Vietnamese as English may not be widely spoken.
  • Currency Caution: Be vigilant with bills, some people might try to trick you with the bills, because 500k is similar to 20k and 10k is similar to 200k.
  • Traveling Comfortably: Futa is the company recommended for sleeping buses, especially their VIP options.
  • Transportation: Use Grab instead of taxis.
  • Financial Considerations: Be aware of card transaction fees in Hanoi and Hoi An.
  • Coffee Culture: Coffee with milk means condensed milk.

Vietnam is a land of contrasts and surprises, offering a diverse range of experiences for every traveler. Plan wisely, immerse yourself in the local culture, and savor the unique flavors of this enchanting country. Safe travels!

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