Backpacking Southern Vietnam is perfect for the budget traveler. The area has beautiful islands, a rich culture and delicious food. It also has a much warmer and consistent climate compared to Northern Vietnam. Whether you’re continuing down the coast or coming from Cambodia; there are some amazing places for you to check out in Southern Vietnam!
Mui Ne is located 5 hours outside of Ho Chi Minh City by sleeper bus. Tickets from the Phuong Trang or The Sinh Tourist bus companies will cost about ₫130,000 VND ($5.72 USD). Another option is to train and then taxi; refer to the Vietnam Railway for more information. The area surrounding Mui Ne has some of the most beautiful scenery you will see while backpacking Southern Vietnam.
- White Sand Dunes: For the photographers out there this place is a must see! Larger and more impressive than the red sand dunes; the white sand dunes are 27 km northeast of Mui Ne. Book the sunrise tour to avoid the heat and enjoy a beautiful sunrise from the top of the dunes. You can also rent ATV’s for ₫400,000 VND ($17.61 USD) / 20 minutes. Both morning and evening half-day jeep tours are offered for ₫160,000 VND ($7.04 USD). Don’t forget to bring lots of water and wear a hat!
- Red Sand Dunes: These dunes are the best place to capture sunset photographs in the area. They are smaller than the white sand dunes but only 4 km Northeast of Mui Ne. Sand-sledding is a popular activity to do here for only ₫10,000 VND ($0.44 USD).
- Fishing Village: The Lang Chi Fishing Village and the Mue Ne fishing Village are great places to experience the local way of life while backpacking Southern Vietnam.
- The Fairy Spring: The fairy spring is a beautiful stream surrounded by unique rock formations. It’s only 4 km West of Mui Ne and easily accessible by motorbike.
- Rang Beach: An excellent beach to go and relax for the afternoon!
Shop around town to find a tours to the places you would like to visit. The prices range from ₫70,000 VND to 180,000 VND ($3-8 USD) and vary from half days to full days. You can also visit these places by motorbike; but be aware that it’s a slow drive and you may be hassled to pay for parking. Check out our tips for Driving a Motorbike in Southeast Asia.
Sindbad: Offers a variety of food including Mediterranean, Turkish, Greek, Middle Eastern, and vegan options for a reasonable price. If you’d like to take a break from the traditional Vietnamese cuisine this is an awesome place to go!
Surfing Bird’s WOK: A local restaurant with delicious main courses and fantastic deserts.
Mui Ne Hills Budget Hotel: A private room will cost ₫273,000 VND ($12 USD) per night and breakfast is not included. They do however have a bar and restaurant that is affordable. Swim in one of the 3 pools, play games, book tours, and walk to the public beach from this hotel.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) is the largest city you will explore while backpacking Southern Vietnam. It has an international airport and is also accessible by bus or train. The endless activities and unique atmosphere made it our favorite large city in Vietnam.
- Cu Chi Tunnels: There are small tourist agencies all over downtown that offer guided day trips. The buses are roomy, air conditioned, and they provide plenty of water. Learn the history behind the tunnels and the Vietnam War from the local perspective. Crawling through the tiny tunnels and learning about how they lived during this time is a very memorable experience.
- War Remnants Museum: Take a few hours to explore and read about the history. The entrance is ₫15,000 VND ($0.66 USD) per person and it’s open daily from 7:30 am-12:00 pm and 1:30 pm-5:00 pm.
- City Tour: XO Tours has some fantastic 3 hour tours you can do in Ho Chi Minh City. Choose from trying traditional food, viewing the sights, night life, shopping, and more. The tours range from ₫1,090,085 VND ($48 USD) – 1,703,257 VND ($75 USD).
- River Boat Tour: Touring through Ho Chi Minh on the Saigon River is a unique way to see the city. These 2-3 hour tours will take you up and down the river to older parts of the city and to view a floating temple. There are also options to combine the Cu Chi Tunnels and The Mekong Delta in the same day.
- Mekong Delta: Don`t pass up a chance to see one of the most iconic rivers in the world! There are many tour options departing Ho Chi Minh city to visit the river. Most are a full day including food and water and cost around ₫2,500,000 VND ($110 USD).
- Can Gio Mangrove Forest: A beautiful way to explore the rural area around Ho Chi Minh and see tons of local wildlife. Most tours are a full day and are priced from ₫2,000,000 VND ($88 USD) to ₫2,500,000 VND ($110 USD).
Espy Pizza:The pizza here is delicious and cheap! They sell it by the slice so you can mix and match some of their homemade combinations.
Bep Me In: Traditional Vietnamese food at a fair price! If your in the area don’t hesitate to stop in to try a dish!
Kim Hotel: This hotel is in a central location, has friendly staff and is inexpensive. They can also arrange an airport shuttle for a good price. A private room will cost ₫500,000 VND ($22 USD) per night.
If you have time to travel down to Phu Quoc while backpacking Southern Vietnam I would highly recommend it. This island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country! You can easily rent a scooter and spend your days exploring beaches and towns. Flying to the Phu Quoc airport from Ho Chi Minh is the easiest and cheapest way to get there. Many hostels don’t offer an airport shuttle but are within a $15 USD taxi ride.
- Sao Beach: Renting a scooter and spending the day here is a great way to relax on the island. Its a 45 minute drive from downtown. Once you arrive you’ll see some small local shops and you can rent beach chairs by the hour. You can also rent Seadoo’s to take out on the ocean.
- Night Market: Spend the evening experiencing the island culture! If you’re a seafood lover you`ll have plenty of options with each restaurants catch of the day.
- Vinpearl Safari Park: If you enjoy going to the zoo this is an awesome place to spend the day. It’s about 50 minutes by bus or you can rent a motorbike to get there yourself. The entrance fee for adults is ₫600,000 VND ($26.42 USD).
- Phu Quoc Prison: The Vietnamese have a unique history and this prison is an interesting place to learn about! Be aware that this prison tortured their inmates and the displays can be graphic.
- Phu Quoc Waterfall: A short beautiful walk through the forest and along a stream. It’s not the largest waterfall in Vietnam by any means but its worth seeing if you have some extra time.
- Rory’s Beach Bar: Great drinks and beautiful sunset views! This little piece of paradise is right along the beach and within walking distance of most hotels.
- The Naked Table: A delicious Indian restaurant along the main street.
- Bup Restaurant: Delicious local food and friendly staff located near the night market.
- The Shells Resort and Spa: If you’re looking for a place to treat yourself while backpacking Southern Vietnam, this is it! You get your own private bungalow with an outside living area. The pools, beach, rooms and buffet breakfast were exceptional. The only down fall was that lunch and dinners were fairly expensive. A private room will cost ₫3,180,000 VND ($140 USD) per night.
- The Simplest Phu Quoc Village: This is an amazing and inexpensive guest house! You get to rent your own bamboo bungalow that has a sink, fridge, and air conditioning. You can rent a scooter from the reception and a private room will cost ₫500,000 VND ($22 USD) per night.
Click here for an enlarged version of the Phu Quoc Island Map