Welcome to another article about the costs of traveling. This time we’re delving into the expenses of Vietnam, where I traveled and lived for two months as a digital nomad. During these two months, I kept track of our expenses, so that I can help you to create a Vietnam budget for your own trip. Let’s dive in!
Is Vietnam Expensive?
To cut to the chase and answer the main question: no, Vietnam is not expensive. In fact, Vietnam is cheap, from a privileged Western perspective. It depends a bit on where you travel and what you do, of course, but I found Vietnam generally to be very affordable. The costs are highest in the big cities: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In central Vietnam, traveling is the cheapest.
Of course, the costs below are a bit generalized, but they should give you a good idea of what you can expect in terms of day budget during your trip in Vietnam.
A Vietnam Budget Guide
The Cost of Accommodation in Vietnam
Hostel: From € 5 per night
Hotel room: About € 15 – € 75 per night
Apartment: € 250 + per month
Accommodation in Vietnam is usually not a huge cost, but you can, of course, make it as expensive as you want. My hotels in Vietnam were possibly the cheapest hotel rooms I have ever stayed in, I think. And the price-quality ratio is very good, a little money can get you a really good hotel room. If you are backpacking, a dorm room bed will set you back only a few bucks per night.
If you prefer more privacy, then a hotel won’t drain your budget. Our hotels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were on average around€30-35 per night, including breakfast. But in central Vietnam, we tried to keep our hotel rooms under €20 per night, without sacrificing comfort, and that worked out easily. In Phu Quoc, we broke the piggy bank and spent a few nights in a luxury resort, for €75 a night. You can, of course, make it as expensive as you want.
We spent a month in Hanoi as a digital nomad. We rented a one-bedroom apartment in the expat part of Hanoi (West Lake) for € 550 per month, via Airbnb. That is relatively expensive and can be done much cheaper if you do it outside of Airbnb. Because we only stayed for one month, we decided to keep things simple with renting via Airbnb. A friend of ours said that he also booked via Airbnb the first month that he lived in Hanoi, and in the following months he rented straight from the landlord, cutting the platform out. And that saved him about € 200 a month, I believe. I believe that he paid about € 250 a month for his (slightly less luxurious) apartment. Since we have quite a few requirements for our apartment, in terms of location, size, and facilities, we ended up spending more. :)
The Cost of Transport in Vietnam:
Bus: $15 per person (return)
Train: €8- €50 per person (one way)
Flights: €30- €65 (one way)
Taxis (Grab): From €0.35 (Grab bike) or €0.95 (Grab car).
Scooter Hire: 100,000-150,000 VND per day
We actually found transport in Vietnam to be surprisingly expensive, compared to other expenses. I do mean long distance-travel, here. I think this is because we usually booked last minute and were also tied to tourist transport.
Let’s start with the bus: we took a bus twice to get to Sapa and Cat Ba. I believe these buses cost us $ 15 each. We were transported in luxury buses, with seats that could recline all the way, had wifi, and an English tour guide. Ideal.
We also took the train twice: from Hanoi to Tam Coc, a short train ride of 2.5 hours, and a night train from Hanoi to Hue. We found the night train surprisingly expensive, especially compared to a hotel. The whole night train-experience was not one I’d recommended at all, but that is a different story.
Flying was not as cheap as I expected, but I will say that we did not fly with Vietjet (the national budget airline) but with Vietnam Airlines, the national airline. All and all I thought it was well priced, though. I just have enough respect for myself that I no longer fly with a budget airline if not necessary. ;-)
The means of transport that we used most in cities was GRAB, the Asian version of Uber. If you are unfamiliar: this is a taxi app that you can link to your credit card, with fixed prices, and where you can put in your pick up and drop off point and stops you from having to deal with taxi drivers who want to rip you off or do not know where you want to go. The minimum price for a ride with a car is 25,000 VND, and that is less than one euro. It is more fun to go on the back of a Grab bike. Is also cheaper, because that starts from 10,000 VND I believe (or maybe 15?). Even though you end up smelling like exhaust fumes, you must experience it once in that chaotic traffic.
Renting a scooter is one of the best things to do in Vietnam, and that costs you on average around 100,000-150,000 VND per day (depending on your location and the quality of the scooter). Word of warning: Traffic in Vietnam is chaotic, and I would not advise you to rent a scooter here if you have never driven a scooter. We have only rented scooters in quieter areas. Moreover, you might not be insured with you travel insurance if you don’t have the proper license. Hiring is therefore at your own risk.
The Cost of Food in Vietnam
Western food: 100,000 VND – 350,000 VND
Vietnamese food: 20,000 VND – 150,000 VND
As you can see above, Vietnamese food is generally a lot cheaper than Western food. You can score a Bahn Mi sandwich on the street for 20,000 VND, and you do not need more for your lunch (or dinner, even). Even if we went to a full dinner, I think we did not pay more than 150,000 VND per person, including drinks and dessert, when it came to Vietnamese food. We often paid less than that.
Western food is a lot more expensive, at least if you want to eat good western food. I think I have never seen a dish that was less than 100,000 VND. You can make it as expensive as you want. Usually, we paid around 150,000 – 200,000 VND per person for a Western meal including drinks and dessert.
I am a little less aware of alcohol prices because we do not drink much. Joris says he usually paid about 30,000 VND for a beer, and the rare times I drank a cocktail, I think they started from about 100,000 VND. Except for the one time that I was tipsy on (several) cocktails that cost 220,000 A GLASS. Wise financial choice, Milou.
The Cost of Activities and Excursions in Vietnam
Boat trip at Cat Ba: 500,000 VND (full day)
Boat trip Trang An: 200,000 VND (2/3 hours)
Entrance fees museums and attractions: 20,000 – 40,000 VND
One-day hike in Sapa: $40
The most expensive activity we did was a one-day hike in Sapa. It cost around 40 dollars per person. That is relatively expensive for Vietnamese standards of course, but Sapa is a tourist spot that runs on income from foreign tourists.
Our one-day boat trip at Cat Ba brought us to the same nature as Halong Bay, for a fraction of the price. If you take a one-night cruise through Halong Bay you’ll easily spend € 150 per person. We looked at the itinerary, realized that we saw about the same with a one-day boat trip in Lan Ha Bay, and spent € 18 per person (including lunch). Just sayin’.
Generally speaking, places that thrive on Western tourism are expensive. And let’s be honest, 8 euros for a three hours boat tour through extra-terrestrial nature is, of course, nothing in the grand scheme of your life. But you do get used to those cheap Vietnamese prices.
Sights that are also popular with locals are generally very cheap to visit. I mostly mean museums, historic sites, buildings in big cities … etc.
The Vietnam visa cost may vary depending on the length of your stay in Vietnam and also the way you apply for it. If you are lucky, your nationality is included in the Vietnam visa exemption list, and you may not need a visa for Vietnam. In case you need one, you will have 3 options to get it:
Get e-visa – you can get an online visa for $25 on the official government website. It is for nationals of 46 countries and valid for 30 days in a single entry for tourists only.
Get visa on arrival – get an approval letter online issued by the Vietnam Immigration Department and then get visa stamped upon arrival at Vietnam airport. You can get 1 month or 3 months single or multiple entry visa.
Get an embassy visa – get it at the office of Vietnam embassy/consulate. You can get 1 month or 3 months single or multiple entry visa
If you want to read more information about the three ways to get a visa for Vietnam, please read this post:
If you are in Vietnam for more than a few days, I would advise you to buy a Vietnamese SIM card. I have tried Viettel and Vinaphone. The first is more expensive than the second one, and I personally liked it better, because at Vinaphone I received a lot of text messages and other messages on my telephone from the network, which of course I did not understand (because: Vietnamese). I found the coverage and speed about the same. Unlimited Internet means something like 12GB, I think, after which your internet becomes immensely slow and unusable. After a month your SIM card ends (at Viettel, in any case), and you have to buy a new one because then you will not have a network anymore. I bought my SIM cards at the airport and at telephone stores.
I do not like massages myself, but Joris does, so he has had a number (without a happy ending, of course). He said that in the tourist spots he has seen offers for massages that were 150,000 VND for an hour. But to be honest, I doubt the quality of the massages at those places and those rates. In most cases, I saw massages at excellent salons priced at 300,000 VND. That seemed a bit the standard price and is also the price that Joris usually paid.
We love films and regularly go to the cinema during our travels. Similarly, in Vietnam, where we paid 105,000 VND for a cinema ticket at VGC (the most famous chain of cinemas). This was without popcorn and drink.
Total Daily Vietnam Budget
How much do you have to plan for a day budget for Vietnam? That depends on your travel style. We tried to stick to a daily budget of €30 per person in central Vietnam, and that always worked. In Hanoi and HCMC, we did not manage that, but that was also because we regularly ate western food. On the other hand, we traveled relatively slowly and were in one place for a long time, which reduced our costs. We also spent a lot of days just inside, working behind our laptop, which was also beneficial for our wallet.
If you are a backpacker who stays in hostels, you do the normal sights and you mainly eat Vietnamese street food, then you can manage with a daily budget of 20-25 euros, I think, excluding the amounts you spend for long distance bus/train/plane tickets. If you travel more on our spending pattern and our travel style (pleasant hotels and regular Western food), you will spend 30-40 euros per day, excluding long distance bus/train/plane tickets. These amounts are also exclusive of alcohol, because if you drink a few beers or cocktails every day, then, of course, it quickly adds up. If you do expensive tours (a Halong bay cruise of several days, for example) then you also have to count that on top.
I hope that this insight into the costs of Vietnam helps you and gives a bit of an idea for your Vietnam travel budget. All in all, traveling Vietnam is incredibly cheap for Western standards. But do not let that be your main reason to visit this amazing country. It is such a beautiful country, with special nature, nice people and delicious food. After spending two months there, it has undoubtedly become my favorite country in all of Asia. Have fun!
General Travel Tips
For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.