Vietnam trip on low budget- My experience and tips!

My 1 week Vietnam trip cost me a total of little less than 45000 rupees, this includes flight, hotel, siteseeing, visa, food, local travel and everything I spent on during the trip. This post explains my Vietnam trip expenses and helps you understand how you can plan your Vietnam trip in extreme budget.

Here's a pie chart to help you visualize the cost breakup better and there's a detailed table that follows
My Vietnam Trip expense break down, component by component, rounded off to nearest 100.
For your reference, 10,000 VND = 30 INR or half a dollar (approx)
#
Expense Category
Details
Amount
In INR
Remarks
1
Flight tickets
Chennai-Ho Chi Minh City return, Air Asia
10600 INR
10600
Booking during Air Asia sale, 10 months ahead. I should have booked 2 one way tickets- Chennai- Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi-Chennai to save little more
2
Flight Tickets
Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi & back, Jet Star Pacific
15570000 VND
4500
Booked 2 months advance
3
Visa
Approval letter 15 USD
VOA 25 USD
40 USD
2600

4
Stay
Bed in Budget Hostels, 6 nights
USD 8 to 10 per night
4000 Approx

5
Site seeing
Cu Chi Tunnels
22 USD
1500
Per person cost, booked at travel shops in person


Halong Bay
55 USD
3500



Perfume Pagoda
35 USD
2300



Tam Coc
24 USD
1600



Bullets at Cu Chi tunnels
1.1 million VND
3100


Speed boat ride from Cu Chi
350000 VND
1000



Other entry fees (Saigon Skydeck, Puppet show, palace, museum etc

1000

6
Food Expenses


5100
Refer below for details
7
Local transport
Return Train ticket to Muong Man (200 kms from Saigon), Soft Seat

650



Bike hire at Muong Man to visit town

850



All other local transport (mainly airport bus), Includes India airport travel cost

300
Ho Chi Minh city attractions covered on foot- details
8
Miscellaneous items
Sim card

850



Souvenirs & other miscellaneous expenses

1000



Bank Fee for 2 ATM withdrawals

500



Total

44950
45000 Round Off
Flight and site-seeing were the major expenses. Despite me having cheapest possible tickets, flight expense accounts for one third of the expenses. Flights are usually most expensive component of a trip. One way to off set is travel longer, so that overall per day expense comes down or visit 2-3 nearby countries together. But with limited time and leave I could only do a short trip. Site-seeing is next expensive thing-mainly because I couldn't rent a bike n explore on my own and there's no public transport to places of tourist interest outside city. So I had to depend on local tour operators. If you can hitch hike or wish to relax at one place instead of exploring lots of places this component will be cheaper I guess. I could have saved a few thousand rupees if I had not indulged in some adventure like firing M16 rifles, taking speed boat ride etc, but then after having reached all the way, I decided to loosen a bit and indulge as similar experience may not be available elsewhere.

Here’re the tips to save on Vietnam trip
Flights: I booked Vietnam round trip ticket- Chennai To Ho Chi Minh city and back for Rs 10600 during an Air Asia sale 10 months prior to travel date. I hadn’t put lots of thoughts back then. I could have saved a few k if I had booked two one way tickets-Chennai to Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi to Chennai. Because I failed to do that I had to decide between spending all days around Ho Chi Minh city only or take a flight to Hanoi. I decided to take a flight to Hanoi after I spotted cheap Jetstar Pacific return ticket for 4500 INR. You can plan smarter in this regard.

Try to get promo fares at around 5k to 7k from your city to Hanoi/Ho Chi minh city one way and another similar amount back. I think up to 15k round trip is reasonably cheap on budget airlines. 15 to 20k is ok if you’re booking closer to travel date without any sale and you’re keen to travel. 20-25k on a full service airline is ok if your pocket permits. May be little more if you're booking last minute or your city is not served well by low cost airlines. Spending more than 30k per person on flight to Vietnam is not really recommended in my opinion- try for a future date or retry after few months so that you can fly cheaper.

There're several domestic destinations you can fly around too, if you're interested. 

Stay:
I spent nights at cheap hostels, for about USD 8 to USD 10 a night, breakfast included. Booked 3 nights on Booking.com, 3 nights on AirBnb. You can book ultra cheap/mid range/luxury rooms suiting your budget on Booking.com widget below. Most hotels have pay at hotel option, no need to pay upfront and also easy cancellation terms- giving you high flexibility. If you book a room in other operators (like MMT) you’ve to pay entire amount upfront + 5% GST extra and deal with complicated cancellation terms if your plans change.

Booking.com
Most tourists base themselves in city centres of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city and tour to places of interest from here. This is the most convenient way. Alternatively you can search for off beat places all around the country and plan spending a night or two there, but for this you will have to do more research- besides booking the place you’ve to figure out how to reach there, what to do, how to travel around etc.  Try it if you’ve enough time.

Local Transport:
During my 1 week stay in Vietnam, I never had to hire a taxi. From airport, I could take airport bus. Bus # 52 and 152 are non AC and cost 5000 VND in Ho Chi Minh City. There’re some dedicated Yellow coloured Airport buses (bus no 109) which have less stops and have AC, cost 20000 VND. Airport bus takes twice the time (like 1 hour compared to 30 mins in cab) to reach city centre from airport in Ho Chi Minh city but are 95% cheaper, hence those extra 20-30 minutes doesn’t matter much. (15 Rupees in a bus vs around 700-1000 INR equivalent (between 10-15 USD in meter taxi, more with hotel arranged/pre-booked taxis) in a cab for 7 to 10 km distance from Tan San Nhat airport to District 1)
Entire Ho Chi Minh city I explored on foot- details in this post. Most attractions are within a few kms from each other, so I could simply walk around.

In Hanoi, Airport shuttles operated by airlines cost 40000 VND (INR 120), city buses cost half as much. I didn’t get time to explore Hanoi city a lot-all 3 days I did out of city tours and did a bit of exploration around my hostel on foot. Next best thing to walking is hiring a bike taxi. Grab is a popular company with an App. You can use it to get a quick ride around. City buses can be used if available for your destination, else taxi as last option.

Suggested reading: City buses around the world- my observations

Site Seeing/Day tours in Vietnam
Indians can’t rent a bike or car in Vietnam. Most tourist attractions outside city do not seem to have a viable public transport. Thus as a visitor you’re largely dependent on tour operators. Most tours are priced fairly reasonably, between 20 to 50 USD per person, on a sharing basis. You can simply walk to a travel shop (they are there on every street). Supply is usually more than demand, so there’s really no need to pre book everything before leaving India. Pre-booking assures you of a seat but has many drawbacks like – you’ve to pay 5% GST extra, no flexibility once paid, heavy cancellation terms etc.

Most travel websites try to sell you day tour packages at twice the price, branding it as "Private tour". It is more fun to meet travelers from around the world in a shared mini bus than expensive private tour in a car or van with your small group.

Below is a display in Hanoi in front of one of the travel shops- cheapest prices I've seen in town. Not very sure if they're undercutting somewhere compared to other shops/tour operators.
Also check for combi packages- like Mekong Delta + Monkey island in Ho Chi minh city- two attractions in one day, 7 AM to 10 PM- more hectic compared to 9 AM to 7 PM single destination trip but saves a full day

Visa- Vietnam Tourist visa for Indians costs USD 40 per person onwards, details in this Separate post.

Forex: I converted a small amount at Ho Chi Minh airport so that I could buy a sim card n pay for airport bus. For the rest, I withdrew from ATM. I was charged around 225 Rs per withdrawal as a fee.

Daily expenses:
This is what various things cost in Vietnam. Breakfast is usually covered with hotel/hostel rent. You’ve to spend on other daily expenses such as meals, refreshments, local transport, entry fees etc

#
Item
Best price
Inflated price at tourist places
Remarks
1
Water, 500 ml
5000 VND
7000 to 15000 VND
Cheapest at supermarkets, costs more at tourist spots
2
Tender coconut
20000-30000 VND
50000-55000 VND

3
Indian Meals (veg)
400-700 INR

4
Coffee
15000-20000 VND
25000 VND or more

5
Entry fee to various attractions
15000 to 200000 VND



Weather:
Vietnam has seasons and climate similar to Thailand. During off peak season do expect some rains. Carry a raincoat/umbrella. No need to cancel your plans because of rain- not likely to rain non stop whole day. Some tours may get cancelled in case of adverse weather-storm, high waves etc.

If you're comparing this with packages offered by travel sites please be aware that above amount includes every single expense, while travel package quotes do not cover many elements like Visa, meals and various miscellaneous expenses and activities not called out under inclusions. You should ideally factor 30 to 40% on top of whatever they are quoting.
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6 comments:

  1. Other than low cost hostels I will take everything else and apply it to my trips! With age I have completely lost appetite for low cost rooms!It seems like a sensibly planned trip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure.I usually just need a bed to crash so don't need any luxury or privacy

      Delete
  2. Very well narrated for those who want to travel. If you could have updated on whether condition along with details planning it will be great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Weather is hard to predict during planning phase- you've to deal with it as it unfolds. I will try to add a note on this..

      Delete
  3. woow this is so great write up, would take every bit when I will plan

    ReplyDelete

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