Talking to a friend about travelling to Vietnam, he casually remarked that I could take out VND 2,000,000 (yes, two million) and easily survive with this amount for the 5 days I had planned to spend there. Converting this ridiculously inflated currency back into GBP, you’ll be relieved and surprised to hear that this only amounts to around £70, giving you £14 per day spending money.
Being lucky enough to go on a year abroad in Asia meant that flights were also wonderfully cheap (<£100 return!), making my trip to Vietnam one of the most economical holidays I’ve ever had. However, for those travelling from the UK, affordable flights can still be found if you keep an eye out for sales and fly during off-peak seasons. So despite the scary initial peak in your imagined holiday budget, keep in mind that you’ll spend less money once you’re actually there.
I spent 5 days in Ho Chi Minh City, which is plenty of time (if not, too much) to explore the city and surrounding areas. Being quite a sceptical person, I wasn’t quite sure that £14 a day would be enough to cover food and entrance fees to visit museums and attractions. I was wrong. Staying in a hostel that offers free breakfast is helpful – the one we stayed at (Eco Backpackers) gave free coffee/tea, which is halfway there!
Across the street, however, was a great little stall selling bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches – the best sandwich you’ll ever have) for around £1, that became our go-to breakfast spot.
Following the map painted on the wall of our hostel, we set off on our own little walking tour of the city. Viewing the Independence Palace from the outside was enough for us, although if you really want to splash out, it’s only VND 20,000 (~70p) to enter. We chose instead to visit the War Remnants Museum, around VND 10,000 (~30p!), which turned out to be more gruesome and graphic than we thought. I
It’s a sobering exhibition of the Vietnam War, but provided us with a new perspective on Vietnam’s history and the Agent Orange section was particularly haunting in depicting the consequences of chemical attacks. If you do want to visit, it’s worth noting that most sights close at around 11.45 and re-open at 13.30.
There is plenty to keep you busy during these hours though; for example you can stop for lunch at the Ben Thành Market, whilst also doing some light souvenir shopping to get away from the heat of the midday sun. We also walked down to view the Ho Chi Minh statue, where we discovered a cool little block of independent shops and cafes in a building just off the plaza strip. [For your reference: 42 Nguyê?n Huê?, B?n Nghé, Qu?n 1, H? Chí Minh, Vietnam].
I know I said that Vietnam was cheap, but you’ll find here a man charging you to use the elevator! Not sure if legit or some tourist con, but we took the stairs to explore the building.
On other days, we booked two tours via our hostel to explore the city outskirts, visiting Ce Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta, which cost only £3 per tour! It’s a perfect way to get out from the busy atmosphere of the city if you’re unsure about renting a motorbike, and incredible value for money.
Included in the trip to the Mekong Delta was a boat tour to spots along the river, (we visited a honey farm and saw a traditional tea ceremony), lunch and a paddle boat ride along the river that provided the most amazing photo opportunities.
On the last day, I did find myself in need of more money, but that can be blamed on spending too much on cheap alcohol and some unnecessary souvenir purchases. The small service charge from the ATM hurt a little, but I ended up withdrawing £3 worth of VND to last the rest of the day.
Overall, travelling in Vietnam is extremely cheap, and is somewhere I’d enthusiastically recommend. The only thing I wish I did spend more of, is time within the country to see more of Vietnam; the north, I hear is especially beautiful!
Images courtesy of Karmen Truong.
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