Vietnam is the perfect destination for a budget traveler in pursuit of an exciting new adventure! Whether you’re deep water solo climbing in Halong Bay or sand boarding in Mui Ne; this beautiful country has an activity for everyone. Backpacking along the coast from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) has become a well-established route. You will surely find friendly hostels, delicious restaurant and memorable activities in every town along the way.
Best Time to Travel
While backpacking Vietnam keep in mind that the country is over a 1000 km in length and substantially varies in weather from north to south. The best time to see the entire country is Mar-Apr or Sept-Oct. This is specifically based on visiting Northern Vietnam in the spring or fall, offering the best chances of clear skies. Southern Vietnam’s weather is more consistent. With that being said; these are the high travel seasons so traveling outside of these time’s will be less crowded.
Recommended Travel Time
Vietnamese Dong ₫10,000 VND = $0.55 CAD, $0.44 USD, or £0.38
ATM’s will charge a fee of around ₫20,000 VND($0.88 USD) to withdraw a maximum ₫4,000,000 VND($176 USD). Both the fee and max limit will vary slightly from ATM to ATM. From our experience; local ATM`s will charge you the lowest fee but will also have a lower cash limit. We used the Agoda App to book most of our accommodation. They will charge your credit card directly which is especially helpful in reducing your bank trips and ATM fees. Most company’s in Southeast Asia will charge a 5% Credit Card fee so it`s actually cheaper to use cash or pay online when possible.
Average Daily Budget
₫360,000- ₫544,000 VND ($16- $24 USD) per person
- 2 L Bottle of Water: ₫10,000 ($0.44 USD)
- Beer: ₫30,000 ($1.32 USD)
- Local Dish: ₫50,000 ($2.20 USD)
- Western Dish: ₫120,000 ($5.28 USD)
- Accommodation: ₫227,000 ($10.00 USD)
- Transportation: ₫113,520 ($5.00 USD)
Learning to haggle while backpacking Vietnam is important. Generally hotel prices and restaurant menus are set prices. Haggle 50-60% on anything you buy from a shop or a booth. You can negotiate on some local tours, however bigger companies tend to have firm prices.
Visa Options: 1 month or 3 month and single entry or multiple entry.
You MUST have these 3 things before departing for Vietnam:
- Approval letter: Print the complete set that is emailed to you within 2 business days of applying online. You can have this process expedited in urgent cases within 4 to 8 hours ($20 USD/applicant) or 1 day ($10 USD/applicant).
- Two passport photos (4cm x 6cm).
- Amount of cash required to purchase your visa upon arrival in USD or VND.
If you happen to forget your passport photos they will take one for you at the visa application desk in Vietnam. The downside is that it will cost slightly more and can significantly slow down your entry process.
Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Dukoral (for travelers Diarrhea), and Japanese Encephalitis (Halong Bay is considered a JE zone). Malaria pills are only needed for certain rural areas of the country. Double check with a travel clinic before backpacking Vietnam to be sure all your shots are up to date. Additionally; you can find information on vaccinations from Passport Health.
Agoda is perfect for finding everything from hostels and homestays to 5 star hotels while backpacking Vietnam. You can efficiently search by map or by price and they also offer free cancellation.
- Budget: ₫45,000- ₫227,000 VND($2-$10 USD) per person/night for a dorm or simple room in a hostel. Generally includes a fan with no A/C or breakfast.
- Mid-range: ₫175,000- ₫527,000 VND($7.75-$23 USD) for 2 people/night. A private room in a hostel with air conditioning and breakfast included.
- Luxury: ₫795,000- ₫2,272,000+ VND ($35- $100+ USD) for 2 people/night including breakfast. Usually a private yurt with A/C or a luxurious hotel.
For a local meal you can expect to pay between ₫20,000- ₫90,000 VND ($0.88- $4 USD) . A western meal on the other hand will cost ₫80,000 VND + ($3.50 USD+).
Some of our favorite local foods:
- Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sub): Fresh baguette, lettuce, carrots, choice of meat
- Fresh Fruit Smoothies: Made with fresh fruit, ice, and sometimes milk or coconut milk
- Pho (Noodle Soup): Rice noodles, water, fish sauce, cilantro, bean sprouts, garlic, and thin sliced beef or chicken
- Banh Xeo (Fried Crepe): Variety of ingredients ranging from sweet desert crepes to hardy dinner crepes
- Gỏi cuốn (Salad Rolls): Packed with veggies, herbs, and sometimes shrimp or pork.
- Ca Phe (Egg Coffee): Vietnam has outstanding coffee to begin with. This specialty coffee found in Hanoi is topped with sweetened condensed milk mixed up with an egg.
While backpacking Vietnam you will notice that transportation can be chaotic and stressful. Check out your options beforehand to decide the best way to get from point A to point B. We found Google Maps and the app maps.me (where you can download maps to use offline) especially useful.
Walk: Book a hostel that is within the area of the city you would like to explore. Most hostels are within a 10-20 min walk of the local tourist destinations.
Bicycle: You can rent bicycles from shops in most cities for just a few dollars a day. Some hostels will also have bikes you can use for free. We recommend this for the smaller towns, it’s an especially great way to travel around Hoi An!
Scooter: Rent a scooter from your hostel for ₫ 45,000- ₫135,000 VND ($2-$6 USD) per day. This ise a very affordable way to explore the country side and smaller towns. Check out our tips on Driving a Motorbike in Southeast Asia.
Taxi: Make sure to haggle with your taxi driver beforehand. You can offer about half the asking price. Taxi meters are becoming more popular in which case it is more difficult to haggle. Be cautious they aren’t driving you in circles or the long way to up the meter. In the event of a disagreement the driver may pretend not to know English; so its important to agree on everything first to avoid being scammed.
Hire a Private Driver: Hiring a private car and driver will costs about ₫ 1,023,000- ₫1,250,000 VND ($45-$55 USD) per day. This can be convenient when you’re in a large city or area and there are many attractions to visit that are far apart.
Trains, Buses or Flying: These are generally inexpensive ways to travel around Vietnam depending on your distance and timeline. Uber is also getting popular in the large cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. This is a great alternative to taking a taxi but be careful with the language barrier.
- Take advantage of transportation included with tours to get from one destination to another.
- Use accommodation that offers free breakfast.
- Don’t be afraid of eating at local restaurants a little off the beaten path.
- Rent a motorbike for the day and go to the tourist attraction yourself instead of booking a tour.
Vietnam’s weather varies dramatically from North to South. In the Northern region bring a lightweight raincoat, quick drying pants, and a fleece. If you’re trekking or hiking then also add a warm hat and socks to your packing list. Pack your typical beach clothes for southern Vietnam. For more packing tips check out our Southeast Asia Packing List.
The Vietnamese language actually changes throughout the country but these are just a couple key words to help you out!backpacking Vietnam
The Vietnamese people working in the tourism industry were friendly and helpful, however you might experience other locals giving you a hard time. Do your best not to take it personally and remember that the income and standard of living is even lower here than other places in Asia. Nomadic Matt has an article titled Why He’ll Never Return To Vietnam. It’s a good read to prepare you for some things you might come across while backpacking Vietnam. All in all; it is a beautiful country and many of the locals are very helpful and friendly. bac