Vietnam is a beautiful place with a lot of nature and a rich local culture from the North to the South. Besides carefully planning your itinerary to make it to all of the beautiful destinations across the country and keep everything within a budget, here are the 11 ways to save money in Vietnam that you can use to have a great trip.
1. Travel During the Off-peak Season
The first decision you will need to make when planning a trip is when to go. This very much depends on your schedule, but if possible, choose a time that can give you cheaper flight tickets, accommodation, and other tourist services. As a budget traveler, you should know not only when the best weather in Vietnam is but also when Vietnamese holidays are because they are the peak times.
Vietnam is a tropical country so the rain and summer heat could be obstacles for your journey. It is best to visit Vietnam after the rainy season, from November to April. As for the holidays, Vietnam has the Tet holiday for about two weeks at around the end of January and February (depends on the Lunar Calendar), and students will have summer for about two months from June to July. Summer vacation peak in Vietnam is the time you definitely should avoid because of the weather and the crowd.
On the other hand, the Tet holiday is actually for family time to most Vietnamese, and this is a main traditional event you must experience so travel at this time is not a bad idea but make sure to book flight, train, or hotel early to get a good price. Some downside to traveling around this time is that most restaurants are closed.
2. Don't Buy Things You Don't Need
When planning your trips to other foreign countries, whose culture is completely unfamiliar to you, you will have the urge to buy many things and prepare yourself with everything possible. However, it is better to know what you should and shouldn’t bring along when traveling on a budget.
Vietnam has become an ideal attraction in Southeast Asia and the government also put in the investment to develop the tourism industry, so it is safe to say there are many options and convenience for you to choose from.
Many of the tourist attractions in Vietnam have English instruction signs, and there are a lot of tourist agencies with professional English-speaking tour guides. Other languages are also available such as French, Mandarin, and Japanese. Information such as price, address, and entrance fees are also widely available on the Internet (i.e., Foursquare, Tripadvisor, and Google Maps) with reviews and comments for you to refer to. In the main cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Danang, with enough research, you can freely travel on your own or hire a local guide to take you to places on a motorbike. If you are going to more rural areas, you will need a local guide to help you with the road and accommodation. Guidebooks would only be redundant, and they might be out-of-date.
Local guides can provide valuable insights to explore Vietnam
For health-related concerns, consult with your doctors in your home country about whether you need to take any medicine and buy them in advance. If your doctor said there’s nothing to worry about, then repellent is pretty much what you need to bring to Vietnam. In case you traveling to a humid area like the mountain or places with rivers and such near the place you stay, you should bring clothes with long sleeves and pants.
Find quality travel insurance plan for your Vietnam Travel
A sleeping bag is another thing you can write off your list. There are plenty of types of accommodation with relatively low prices for hotels, hostels, or local houses in rural areas (check out tip no. 6). In some places like Cu Lao Cham Islands in Hoi An, you can rent a tent overnight to explore more in the next day.
3. VISA Exemption
As an effort to boost tourism activities in Vietnam, the government has many policies to reduce the amount of time and effort for getting a visa to travel to Vietnam. You can refer to the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to see if your country is on the Vietnam visa exemption list. If your country is on this list, you can save yourself at least USD 25, which could be enough to get a decent meal and one night stay at a hostel.
4. Know the Exchange Rates
In Vietnam, the currency used in Vietnam Dong or VND for short. Some of the shops and taxi drivers may accept USD for payment, but you will have to bargain hard for the favorable exchange rate. It is best to pay in local currency. Check here for our Vietnamese currency guide.
Make sure you are up-to-date on the latest rates because you may save yourself not just money but time and tedious running around trying to find a place for money exchange. An ATM withdrawal in Vietnam will usually charge a fee of VND 30,000 - VND 55,000 and your bank may also charge a foreign transaction fee, and this fee varies for different banks. You need to check this with your bank beforehand.
Money exchange spots at airports are convenient yet do not offer attractive exchange rates
How to save money on overseas withdrawal?
• Use a fee-free card
• Use ANZ, HSBC, Citibank because they offer their customers fee-free transaction at their ATM’s in Vietnam.
• Use the home bank’s partner/sister banks in Vietnam because they may offer fee-free transaction or a lower cost transaction fee.
When exchanging currency, you will need to check beforehand the exchange rate in your country and in Vietnam to save a little more. You can check exchange rates in Vietnam with the Vietcombank exchange rate.
5. Choose the Right Transportation
When booking your flights, make sure to avoid peak time like national holidays in Vietnam because you will find cheaper tickets.
Once you arrive at the airport, you can take the airport bus to get to your hotel for about VND 20,000 - VND 40,000 (it depends on the kind of bus).
There are a lot of transportation in Vietnam you can choose from to get around places, but it is best to travel on foot because you will see more, experience more and save money on transportation fee. The bus is the least expensive means of transportation in Vietnam, in Ho Chi Minh City the cost for one trip is only VND 6,000/ticket. You can also share a taxi or travel in a group when renting a car to divide the cost. Make sure to check the distance needed to travel ahead of time so that you can do an estimate with the fare meters based on the rates posted on the taxi doors. It is best to pay with local currency. Read more about how to avoid common scams and annoyances when traveling in Vietnam.
If you have your motorbike license with you and want to be more like a local traveler around town, you can rent a bike as well. It would give you a unique experience and save a little money on transportation on short-distance trips. If you are not sure whether you can drive or ride in Vietnam, check out our blog on Can tourists drive in Vietnam?
6. Affordable Accommodation
The same thing with booking a flight, you should book as early as possible and in non-peak time to get a good price.
The kind of accommodation you choose also affects a lot if you're traveling on a budget. If you are going to stay for long and budget travel, the best accommodation would be hostels. There are many hostels in Vietnam in districts near the center of a city; like those in Districts 10 and 3 in Ho Chi Minh City. An average night in a hostel in Ho Chi Minh City only costs about VND 100,000. Read reviews before you book.
7. Eat and Drink Like a Local
Foods and drinks in Vietnam are so diverse, from traditional Vietnamese foods to different cuisines from around the world, there are many options for local businesses on foods, street vendors, small local restaurants to fancy high-class ones. Walk out on the street, and you can find any Vietnamese foods you want, from pho (beef noodle soup), banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes), bun cha (vermicelli and grilled pork), to goi cuon (spring rolls). Eating at local restaurants or small street vendors will not only save you much money but also gives you the chance to enjoy the food in the most authentic ways. For your Vietnam experience to try Vietnamese foods and ride on the back of the bike with a local, check out our fun and exciting Saigon Food Tour.
Sit on a stool and try local Vietnamese food and drinks
If your favorite drink is beer, there is good news for you; beer in Vietnam is cheap, and you can find a lot of drinking places along the streets and especially along the canals. One can of beer is around VND 17,000, and a bottle of water is no more expensive, and you can find many local ladies at the stalls selling refreshments along the streets. For a fresh coconut, when in season, the price is about VND 10,000 per coconut. And you should not forget about Vietnamese coffee; you can buy it for VND 15,000+ per cup and enjoy that aromatic drink. Eating and drinking like a local are one of the best ways to save money in Vietnam and to have an enjoyable experience of Vietnamese culture.
Shopping lovers won’t be able to turn away when strolling down the streets in Vietnam. There are many tailors, fashion shops on the streets, such as those in Hoi An Ancient Town, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi.
Bargaining is the essential survival skills when shopping at Vietnamese markets
Another thing you can shop for is Vietnamese souvenirs. They are sold everywhere in tourist attractions, but to keep yourself from the high prices, and be practical about what you want and where you are going to buy it. Tourist attraction markets usually sell things at a higher price than other local markets, so bargaining is an essential skill that can come in handy. It is applied not only in these markets or souvenirs shop but also on other services you may find like transportation, food, drink, and helpful when buying things at local markets too. You will always have to bargain to get a good price, usually about half of what the sellers tell you. You can go to the Backpackers’ Districts (check tip no. 11) for advice on the average price of everything here or the staff at your hotel. Bargaining is one of the best ways to save money in Vietnam.
9. Visit Attractions with Free Entrances
Vietnam is famous for its nature and variety of activities you can do there; however, many of the places you visit are famous tourist attractions so they will come with a fee. If you want to save money on your Vietnam trip, you can check out places like the beaches, mountains, forests, doing activities in nature or visit public places like temples, churches, markets, and parks. Some of the places in Ho Chi Minh City that are not charged an entrance fee are the Saigon Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, Ben Thanh Market, and Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Walking Street.
You can send home a postcard from the Saigon Central Post Office
The Notre Dame Cathedral is another must-see attraction in Ho Chi Minh City
Check out our private motorbike tours with professional local guides
10. Get a Local SIM Card
Get a local SIM card and save yourself the roaming services. You can get one at the airport or some convenience stores. The most popular mobile service provider is Mobifone. You can buy a SIM card for VND 60,000 (VAT and activation fee added). With each recharge of VND 50,000, you will have another 30 days to use in your account. There are also tourist SIM cards for VND 200,000, which has already included some domestic and international minutes of voice, texts, and a mobile data plan. You can also buy the top-up cards of VND 50,000, VND 100,000, or VND 200,000 to continue their service. Check out our blog on Vietnam SIM cards for more details.
Skip this if you don’t travel to areas with no internet connection. Most hostels, shopping malls, convenience stores, and restaurants in Vietnam will have free Wi-Fi for their guests.
11. Know Where the Backpackers’ Districts Are
Bui Vien is a famous backpackers corner in Ho Chi Minh with lots of affordable hostels
Many people from other countries have chosen Vietnam to extend their trip to a temporary stay rather than just to travel, so there are areas where foreign travelers from countries around the world hang out. In Ho Chi Minh City, Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien streets in District 1 are considered to be the backpackers’ districts, which is famous for their bars and activities at night. The travelers here will understand the locals because they live and work in Vietnam for some time and thus can give you pieces of advice on food, drinks, bargain, prices, and things to do in Vietnam on a budget.
Our budget travel tips depend on your traveling style and how long you want to stay in Vietnam. But generally, if you have an idea when you can make your trip to Vietnam, book as early as possible and avoid the peak tourist season in Vietnam. Choose local transportation, affordable hostel in city center areas or backpackers districts for a lower price, eat and drink like a local, avoid spending too much in touristy areas on shopping or attraction entrance fee and last but not least, sharpen you bargain skills are ways to save money when traveling in Vietnam.
When visiting this country, don't get forget to check our blog for other Vietnam's insider travel guide and tips.