Vietnam had been on my list of places to visit for a long time. When we moved to Korea I knew that I would get to Vietnam at some point during our time here. I mean it’s so close! So off we went in August for 8 days of exploring Hanoi and Halong Bay.
I knew that Vietnam was going to be cheap. I read a lot. I planned. I saw budget breakdowns from travelers all over the world. And yet, I was still shocked by the low cost of everything! Even in tourist hot spots like the old quarter of Hanoi and Cat Ba Island; the prices were so low!
This trip to Vietnam was vacation. So we were not terribly concerned with the price of things, as we did not need to ration our savings over a long term trip. We stayed in hotels, did any activity that piqued our interest, and bought a lot of things. Even though we didn’t pay close attention to money, we still spent very little!
This budget breakdown is for you if…
- You are traveling to Vietnam on a short trip.
- You like to travel in comfort
- You love to be active and experience the culture
- You really love to eat
*All of the expenses are for 2 people
*In August 2015 $1 USD = 22,000 Vietnamese dong
Accommodation – $194
We stayed at three hotels during our eight days/seven nights in Vietnam. The two hotels in Hanoi were immaculate; Clean, beautiful and convenient, plus the hotel staff went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable. The hotel in Cat Ba Island was a little bit run down, but it was very clean and comfortable and in a quiet part of town.
I would recommend staying in all of these hotels while traveling through Vietnam. We stayed at the Hanoi Gem Hotel and Hanoi Central Park Hotel. In Cat Ba we stayed at the Cat Ba Palace Hotel. If you are looking for places to stay, I use Agoda for all of my hotel bookings in Asia!
How to do it cheaper: There are many hostels that have beds in a dorm room for $5-$10.
Spend more: Plenty of luxury hotel options in Vietnam like the Sofitel and Intercontinental.
Food – 2,565,000 dong = $114
This is not a joke. Two people, who love to eat, went on vacation to Vietnam and spent $114 on food in 8 days. Never in all my life has a food bill been that low for a trip. Typically, food is the number one expense, so this goes to show how inexpensive Vietnam is. AND since it was raining for a good portion of our trip, we did a lot more eating than we would have if it was sunny and nice.
The majority of the food we ate was street food. We actually found ourselves bargaining on food, this was a first. A big bowl of flavorful, filling pho will set you back a whopping 30,000 dong.
One night, we bought fried donuts from a roving street food vendor and she quoted us 30,000 dong for 6 mini-donuts. We had no problem spending $1.50 on this treat. A Vietnamese man nearby heard her, came over and said something in Vietnamese, then suddenly the price dropped to 15,000 dong. Even though everything was so cheap, many places obviously charged tourists more than the locals.
How to do it Cheaper: Eat only street food, and eat less! You could easily eat three filling meals a day for less than 100,000 ($4.45).
Spend more: Skip the street food and only eat at restaurants, though that would be criminal!
Drinks – 1,670,000 dong = $74
Beer is always our next biggest expense. This was not the case in Vietnam because beer is so, so, so, so, so cheap! Bia Hoi is fresh beer served at many street food joints. A glass of Bia Hoi runs between 5,000-10,000 dong depending on where you get it. Plus typical snacks that go with beer are just as cheap; a bowl of boiled peanuts is about 8,000 dong.
After full nights of drinking, it never failed to shock us how much we drank and how low the bill was. We also ended up buying many rounds for new friends, which added to the price.
How to do it Cheaper: Only drink Bia Hoi; don’t buy rounds for other people.
Spend More: Go to more upscale bars and restaurants with views.
Coffee – 635,000 dong = $28
Vietnam does coffee right. The coffee is strong and flavorful and served in many different ways. In most places, 15,000 dong gets you black coffee with sweet condensed milk. Coffee with coconut milk, yogurt, an egg, or alcohol just adds a little bit more to the price. We drank a lot of coffee (rainy days are perfect for coffee shop sitting) and never spent more than 30,000 dong on a cup.
How to do it Cheaper: Drink less coffee; only have the basic black coffee with condensed milk.
Spend More: I’m not sure how you could spend more on coffee. I suppose if you went to Starbucks and didn’t try the local specialties, you would spend a lot more, but that would be shameful!
Transportation – 1,842,282 dong = $82
This transportation budget includes pickup and drop off at the airport at both ends of our trip, taxi rides, and buses.
The most expensive trip was a bus-boat-bus combination to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island and cost 250,000 dong ($12.50) per person. Taxi rides were cheap; from one side of the city to the other it cost just 20,000 dong. When getting into a taxi, be sure to ask the price ahead of time as I read that some taxis meters run fast or they will try and get you for a higher price because you are a tourist.
How to do it Cheaper: Skip the pickup from the airport and take the local bus
Spend More: Get private transportation to Cat Ba Island
Activities – 2,336,553= $104
The activities included some low cost excursions like temple visits, a prison, and a water puppet show all under 100,000 dong. We also took a street food tour through the Old Quarter which cost 500,000 each, and I went to a cooking class which was $59. The other activity expense was some pampering. I got a few massages, a manicure and pedicure. Very hard to pass up a full body massage when it costs 150,000 dong!
It’s important to note that we would have spent more on activities if it weren’t for all the rain! We had planned on going kayaking through Lan Ha Bay, rock climbing in Halong Bay and other outdoor adventure activities!
How to do it Cheaper: Go on your own food tour of Hanoi, skip anything that adds too much to your total.
Spend More: Do more!
Souvenirs – 760,000= $34
When traveling, we don’t typically load up on souvenirs. The case was different in Hanoi. Stuff was so cheap, we couldn’t help but buy it all. North Face backpacks (fake? probably, but they are fantastic quality), shoes, shirts and some knickknacks for our co-workers. Shopping was plentiful and inexpensive, so leave little extra room in your luggage!
Miscellaneous – $111
This included the visas on arrival once we got to Vietnam ($90) plus a few tips. Tipping is not expected in Vietnam, but our street food tour guide did a great job, as did the people who ran our hotels, so we slipped them a few extra bucks.
How to do it Cheaper: I think if you get your visa ahead of time through the embassy in your country, it is cheaper.
The grand total for 8 days/seven nights in northern Vietnam for two people was $741. That breaks down $92 a day for two people.
Have you been to Vietnam? Did your budget look similar?