Have ever thought of going shopping with only $1 (US dollar)? In Vietnam, with each dollar, you can exchange for about VND 23,000 as of July 2018. With this amount of money, you are definitely able to purchase a few necessities:
2 bottles of water
1 bottle/can of beer or soft drinks
1 serving of street foods like Banh trang tron, sticky rice, sweet soup (tofu), Banh trang nuong, Banh trung nuong, and Bap xao
What else does $1 can buy in Vietnam that can give you more energy for a long day? Have you ever heard about Vietnamese coffee? Vietnam is the world's second-largest exporter of raw coffee, just after Brazil. In Vietnam, a cup of coffee has become an essential part of so many Vietnamese. With just $1, you can buy coffee from the convenient stores, or from street carts and small stalls.
One of the unique styles of drinking coffee in Saigon is “Ca Phe Bet” which means “drinking coffee sitting on the flat ground”. Every day, there are many young people gathering at some central parks, usually in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City, sitting on newspaper or cardboard and enjoy coffee while talking and sometimes singing. They often sit in groups. If you come here, you might be approached by university students eagerly asking to practice speaking English with, especially on the weekends.
“Ca Phe Bet”
Some recommended locations in Ho Chi Minh City for this unique kind of coffee experience are 30/4 Park, pronounced 30th April Park, (near the Notre Dame Cathedral and Independence Palace), Turtle Lake, and Saigon Municipal Theatre. However, make sure that you do not sit on the green grass and throw your rubbish in designated trashcans before leaving to keep the environment clean.
In Vietnam, people often enjoy two types of coffee: ca phe den (black coffee) and ca phe sua (coffee with milk). Black coffee is usually from Robusta beans made with an aluminum filter, not by a coffee machine. You can add sugar to adjust to taste. Milk coffee, or "ca phe nau" (brown coffee) like the Northern Vietnamese call it, is black coffee with sweetened condensed milk.
Vietnamese Black Coffee
Vietnamese Milk Coffee
The price for a cup of coffee varies a lot, it depends on the quality and location of that coffee. VND 40,000 is the average price for a cup at cafes. But this costs about $0.5 (~ VND 12,000) to have a cup of coffee from the street carts. But if you come to a coffee shop, you will need to prepare more.
Vietnamese coffee is well-known for its strong and adamant taste, so don't be surprised with your very first Vietnamese cup of coffee, it can keep you energized all day long.
The sweet and refreshing sugarcane juice is one of the must-try drinks you should have in Vietnam. The light sweetness and fruity flavor of the sugarcane mixing with the citrus of the kumquat juice will be perfect to cool your thirst.
A glass of sugarcane juice
Summer is also the season for tasting the tropical fruit in Vietnam. Every kind of fruit in Vietnam can be made into a delicious fruit smoothie. Not only strawberry-banana as most travelers know, we have a wide range of cool fruit smoothie: from guava, mango, strawberry to papaya, sapodilla, avocado, watermelon, etc. If you love a creamy taste, you can choose avocado. If you would like to drink something slightly sour, guava or mango smoothie is for you. The street fruit smoothie in Vietnam is slightly different which is used sweetened condensed milk instead of cream or plain yogurt.
A typical fruit smoothie store
You can find these drinks anywhere on the streets or in a fancy coffee shop. In the area of foreign travelers, Bui Vien - Pham Ngu Lao - De Tham Streets, there are many drink stalls. And for the same as coffee, the price for a cup of these drinks at the street stalls is around $1 (VND 23,000), but this can vary based on the fruits' origin and the season. Tropical fruits and fruits in season are usually cheaper than avocado or strawberry. If you drink at more trendy cafes, the price is about $2 (VND 46,000) per cup.
When you are hungry and you wonder what $1 can buy in Vietnam, check this list to see what you can fill your stomach with only $1. The Vietnamese baguette (Banh mi) is a recommended and filling option.
Vietnamese baguette is internationally famous and has become one of the best street foods around the world. A loaf of banh mi contains numerous ingredients, fresh herbs, and special spreadings that make it harder to recreate this overseas. A crunchy baguette is stuffed with meat, Vietnamese pork sausage, fresh cilantro, green onion, slices of cucumber, pickled carrot and white radish; added with some mayonnaise, soy sauce, and chili sauce.
The filling inside the Vietnamese baguette may vary, it depends on the personal taste of each person. Some people like a bread with just fried eggs and some herbs, slices of cucumber. You can ask the sellers to add or lessen some ingredients.
The price of each loaf of bread depends on the filling you want. Usually, with $1 you can buy the special Banh Mi with different kinds of fillings in Vietnam. A common loaf from the street carts is just from $0.5 (~ VND 12,000) to $0.9 (~ VND 20,000).
Vietnamese baguette is a popular food that you can find easily on any street corner. In Ho Chi Minh, there is a brand of Vietnamese baguette that attracts a huge number of travelers every day is “Banh mi Nhu Lan” at 64-66-68 Ham Nghi Street, District 1. A variation of the original Vietnamese baguette in Saigon filled with grilled meat and fresh herbs can also be found at 37 Nguyen Trai Street, District 1. It's sold by a street vendor at the beginning of the alley in the late afternoon and early evening hours.
If you ask us what $1 can buy in Vietnam for a souvenir you can keep and show off to your friends, it is definitely a Conical Hat. It is one of the most famous cultural symbols of Vietnam, originated from thousands of years ago.
The origin of the Conical Hat was closely related to the rice-growing history of Vietnam. In the past, Vietnamese farmers usually wore this kind of hat when they were working on the farms or paddle fields. Because the Conical Hat is broader than other kinds of hat, it can protect the farmers from sunburnt and rain. It can be also be substituted as a hand-fan or a basket for food and vegetables when going shopping at the market.
A farmer with Conical Hat
The Conical Hat is also worn with Ao Dai, the traditional Vietnamese costume, by young Vietnamese girls. This outfit pairing has become a familiar image and also a traditional beauty of Vietnamese women. It is usually one-hundred-percent handcrafted. The frame of the hat contains 16 round rims made from bamboo. The cover is made from palm leaves.
Today, you can come to Ben Thanh Market and choose a Conical Hat as a gift from Vietnam. Or you can easily buy it at souvenir shops. However, the price of one may fluctuate from $1 (VND 23,000) to $5 (VND 115,000), depends if the hat is plain or has paintings or sewing decorations.
In the modern society with technological advancement, people do not send letters as often as they used to anymore, and we are more familiar with the uses of e-mail or text message instead. As a result, stamp becomes a popular souvenir gift. The pictures on the stamps are carefully selected. Most of them reflect the famous stories of Vietnamese history. Some stamps have the images of well-known places and destinations in Vietnam.
The stamp has many different sizes, colors, and shapes. Each stamp has the price of VND 2,000 ($0.1) to VND 15,000 ($0.75). You can buy them in the souvenir stores around the central city or inside the Saigon Central Post Office and send a postcard there as well. Stamps and postcards are considered as affordable things you can buy in Vietnam.
The prices of everything from food, drinks, and gifts in Vietnam are much cheaper than in developed countries. This is a really good chance for travelers to enjoy Vietnamese cuisine and culture at the favorable exchange rates. With a tight budget, you are still able to have several interesting gifts for your friends and families.
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Outside of tourist areas 23,000 vnd will get you much more than a soda. Usually a bottle of soda Costa 8 to 9k