Costs & Useful Information – Vietnam

We absolutely loved Vietnam, there is so much to do and it’s still fairly un-touristy in some areas, although still westernised enough for you to get by.

To see out travel guide and get some ideas for planning your own trip, see our “Suggested Itineraries” page HERE.

It’s one of the cheapest places we’ve ever been and we really splashed out as a result. We went crazy in the night markets, got massages every few days and ate and drank a lot, our average daily spending was £68 including all accommodation and transport.

Getting Around: You’ve got a lot of options for getting around Vietnam. See our “Getting Around” post by clicking HERE.

Accommodation: Hotels in Vietnam are usually pretty good quality and fairly clean, a 2 star hotel will cost around £13 and 3 stars are more like £21, use Hotels.com to get some great flash deals. We paid an average of £19.50 per night with a couple of fancy 4 stars thrown in.

Visa: If your traveling for 2 weeks or less then you don’t need a visa. For up to 30 days you can get an e-visa online HERE. You need to print off the visa, they will not accept a PDF copy, we didn’t know and ended up paying $10 at Sydney airport to use their printer!

Vaccinations: At the time of writing (December 2017) there are no vaccinations or and anti-malaria medication is only required if your going really far into the mountains.

Dress Code: Pretty much anything goes except for religious sites, although most provide sarongs for tourists to borrow for free.

Money: The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong, there are ATMs in all towns although you could struggle in small villages. Exchange rates in December 2017 below:

£1 (GBP) = VND30,300

$1 (USD) = VND22,692

€1 (EUR) = VND26,918

Suggested Itineraries for Vietnam

We’ve now spent a combined 6 weeks in Vietnam and we’ve got a pretty good feel of the place. But we could have spent 6 months and still not have seen everything Vietnam has to offer. We certainly plan to return in the future.

1 Week

If you only have 1 week in Vietnam then I would suggest that you chose one area of the country to focus on, either the north, the south or central Vietnam.

2 Weeks

If you have 2 weeks then that’s plenty of time to see the Vietnam highlights (places with ** next to them), obviously the highlights are just our opinion.

1 month

If your lucky enough to have a full month in Vietnam then you can see and do an awful lot, it’s possible to do our full list as long as you don’t mind moving about a lot.

Northern Vietnam (Our favourite region overall)

Hanoi** (Recommended 2 or 3 nights.)

Ha Long Bay** (Ashleigh’s Favourite) (Recommended 1 or 2 nights, it’s too far to do in a day trip and too expensive to stay any longer.)

Sapa ** (Recommended 1 to 4 nights depending how far you plan to walk, package tours fit a lot in.)

Ninh Binh(Recommended 3 or 4 nights, one full day in Trang An and one full day in Tam Coc there are day trips available from Hanoi if your pushed for time.)

Central Vietnam

Hue (recommended 2 to 4 nights depending on how interested you are in temples.)

DaNang (recommended 1 or 2 nights or could be done from HoiAn if pushed for time, it’s only a 30 minute taxi ride away.)

HoiAn ** (recommended 3 to 7 nights depending on how long you plan to laze around the pool and how many day trips you want to fit in.)

Southern Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City** (1 to 3 nights, it’s a lovely city but spend longer elsewhere in Vietnam.)

Phu Quoc(Sean’s Favourite) (4 to 7 nights depending on how much you love the sun. A bit out the way which is why we missed it out of the 2 week itinerary.)

This guide is only based on places we’ve been, there are still places in Vietnam that we are yet to explore. We will update the guide when we return (hopefully in the not too distant future).

Click HERE to read out “Getting Around Vietnam” post for more tips, and click HERE for our “Essential Info” guide including currency, average costs etc.

DON’T FORGET: If your traveling for more than 2 weeks you will need a visa, you can get one HERE.

Hope you found this useful

Ashleigh

Getting Around Vietnam

In our experience, countries are either easy to get around or cheap to get around, but very rarely both. Vietnam is one of these rare places that’s cheap AND easy. There are lots of options for getting around:

Budget Airlines:

Vietjet is the main budget airline operating in Vietnam, check skyscanner.net for latest schedules and prices.

Hanoi and HCMC are the biggest airports with regular flights everywhere else in the country.

Train:

I wasn’t impressed with the train in Vietnam, I thought it was overpriced and even though you can’t technically smoke onboard, nobody listens to that rule it felt like everyone in our carriage had a cigarette at some point.

Trains were also quite dirty with a lot of cockroaches, I’m glad we weren’t onboard all night. I’d recommend the bus over a train any day.

Tourist Bus:

Often cleaner, faster and cheaper than the train. Seats are more like mini beds, comfortable for me but Sean was a bit too tall to get a proper nights sleep. There are toilets onboard and regular meal breaks. Tickets can be booked at any tour operator and usually include hotel pickup in a mini bus to take you to the main bus station.

A really good way to get around Vietnam, especially longer journeys.

Local and Long Distance Bus:

The cheapest and most regular option, but can be slow depending on the number of stops and the main bus station can be a little bit out of the way.

Inner city buses tend to run every few minutes and are really cheap, though it can sometimes be difficult to spot the bus stop. Also, make sure your on the correct side of the road for the bus to stop! We made that mistake in Hanoi and we’re left on the wrong side with a slightly red face!

Taxi/Driver:

Unlike a lot of places, the taxi drivers don’t try to rip you off, they are really cheap and always easy to find. A driver can be hired for the whole day for around 900K.

Hanoi – Vietnam

If I had to vote for a city with the most character and charm it would be Hanoi. Its unique compared to any other city I’ve been to and it’s safe to say that I will certainly be back.

Things To Do:

First of all, I know it’s kind of a cliche but getting completely and utterly lost in the old quarter was my favourite thing to do in Hanoi. I made myself a little rule that I was never allowed to go straight forward at a crossroads and before long I had absolutely no idea where I was. I resisted the urge to look at google maps and kept going.

The little side streets and alleyways in Hanoi are full of surprises, and it’s fun to not have a clue where you’re going next. I stumbled upon ‘Christmas Street’ while I was there in December, which was so much fun.

The old quarter hugs the Hoan Kiem lake, it’s really pretty at night and busy with a lot of other tourists that think the same.

The St Joseph Cathedral is close to the lake, built in 1886, it’s one of the oldest cathedrals in Vietnam. We went there twice, once during the day then again at night when the Christmas tree was lit up.

A little outside the old quarter is the Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum, we didn’t go inside the museum because it was about to close but the mausoleum is worth the 30 minute walk. (See cover photo.)

North of the old quarter is the Ho Tay lake and the Tran Quoc Pagoda (also closed when I arrived, didn’t have much luck at all in Hanoi!)

Where To Eat:

We only had one sit down meal in Hanoi and it was at Little India, the food was good and prices weren’t bad.

Other than that we mainly ate street food, there are so many stalls around the old quarter and they smell so good that it’s hard to resist.

Getting There:

The number 86 leaves from the airport (just past the taxi stands) every 30 minutes, it takes around 50 minutes depending on traffic and costs 30K. Ask the conductor to let you know when your in the old quarter.

It’s worth noting that on the return trip, the number 86 wasn’t listed on the bus stop along with the other buses that stop there. Don’t worry it will stop for you. Google maps has the route you just need a little faith.

Where To Stay:

I wouldn’t stay anywhere other than the old quarter in Hanoi. We stayed at the Central Park Hotel which was £20 per night on hotels.com. Rooms were ok (not as good as other places in Vietnam for the same price, but they never are in the capital) and the location was absolutely perfect.

Ninh Binh – Vietnam

Surround by rugged limestone mountains, Ninh Binh is only a couple of hours from Hanoi and has breathtaking scenery. It can be done on a day trip from Hanoi or you can easily spend 3 or 4 days exploring the local countryside.

It’s completely understated and it’s rival, Ha Long Bay, wins the tourists time and time again. But if your looking to get off the beaten path or your lucky enough to have plenty of time to do both, Ninh Binh is a perfect stop in your Northern Vietnam itinerary.

We had grand plans of hiring a bike and cycling for miles and miles around Ninh Binh, but our legs were still hurting from Sapa so we took the lazy option and got a taxi. Although, if we could have been bothered, the roads in and around Ninh Binh were quiet and flat, they would have been good for cycling.

Ninh Binh town was very nice but nothing we haven’t seen before. The main attractions close to Ninh Binh are Tam Coc and Trang An, we visited both, keep reading for info:

Tam Coc:

Tickets are 390K per boat, if you’re traveling alone, try to buddy up with someone to share the cost. The ride is around 2 hours and they allow 2 people per boat.

You can also walk Tam Coc for free. There are a few different routes, took us a while to find the first one, see photo below:

A taxi from Ninh Binh cost 80K each way, it’s around 10 minutes in a car.

Trang An:

Tickets are 200K per person, the boat ride is around 3 hours. They put 4 people in a boat and they just pair you up randomly, so there’s no need to try and find a friend on the way in.

A taxi from Ninh Binh cost 110K each way, it’s around 15 minutes in a car.

Fear Factor:

If your scared of the dark you will probably favour Tam Coc, Trang An has way more caves and they are tighter and darker. It’s not as bad as it sounds but I think you should still know about it before you go.

Getting There:

From Hanoi’s old quarter, take the No.8 bus to Giap Bat station, google maps has all the bus stops listed. It costs 7K/pp each way and takes around 30 minutes. It comes every 10 minutes all day.

From Giap Bat station take any bus to Ninh Binh, there will be people trying to get you on there bus, which is fine, we jumped on the first one and it cost 70K/pp, travel time is around 2 hours. There’s no fixed schedule but buses are regular all throughout the day.

To get back to Hanoi, go to the main bus station in Ninh Binh (Ninh Binh Bus, Lê Đại Hành, Thanh Bình, Tp.) and take any bus back to Giap Bat, then the No.8 back to the old quarter.

Where To Stay:

We chose to stay in the centre of Ninh Binh for easy transport to everything. The Queen Hotel was absolutely perfect, we only paid £16 per night and it was spotless. Breakfast was cooked to order and there were a few good restaurants right on the doorstep.

If you want to be closer to the attractions then Tam Coc has more options than Trang An, it also has plenty of restaurants and shops.

Where To Eat:

A few doors down from the hotel is Sole Food Restaurant, the chicken curry is out of this world, so is the sweet and sour carrot and potato curry. Portions are massive, but they can give you a takeaway carton for any leftovers.

Conclusion:

Ninh Binh is very much Ha Long Bay on land and if I had to chose, I’d still visit Ha Long Bay first, that’s not to say that we didn’t absolutely love Tam Con and Trang An, they were certainly worth the effort!

Sapa – Vietnam

Close to the border between Vietnam and China, Sapa is home to rolling hills and striking scenery. Local ethnic villages are full of culture and history.

If your planning a trip to Vietnam, we strongly recommend that you find at least 1 night in your itinerary to spend in this beautiful and unique location.

Things To Do:

Anyone visiting Sapa is expecting to see some amazing landscapes, the best way to do this is to go trekking through the countryside, from one small village to another. Walking is the main attraction here, difficulty can be adjusted to suit your own fitness level.

The Cat Cat tourism village shows how modern day villagers still produce fabrics in the traditional way. They also have performances in the music hall and a huge waterfall at the bottom of the village.

Getting There:

The long distance bus leaves from Hanoi twice per day, you will need to book in advance and a return ticket costs around £20 to £30. The bus is a sleeping bus with little beds for everyone and it takes approximately 5 hours including a meal break. There is a toilet onboard.

DIY or Guided Tour:

We chose to join the goodmorningsapa.com tour for around £70 each. I thought the price was reasonable, as it included transport, accommodation, all meals and guided tours. I’m glad we did join the tour because Sapa is huge, we would have needed to hire a motorbike if we weren’t on a tour bus and it’s so foggy in some areas that I’m sure we would have crashed and died. We also got to see more in our very short time here that we would have on our own.

What To Wear:

We visited during December and it was absolutely freezing. Luckily we bought coats and scarves in Hanoi the day before. You will absolutely need layers and long trousers to enjoy your trip to Sapa. It gets so cold that the hotels even have heated blankets!

Where To Eat:

All our meals were included within our tour package which meant we only ate at the hotel, but the food was fantastic and honestly it was so cold and foggy I didn’t really want to go outside anyway!

Where To Stay:

The H’Mong Sapa Hotel was beautiful, just outside town and right on the hillside. Views would have been amazing on a less foggy day. Rooms were clean and had heated blankets, (which you really do need).

If you want to stay closer to town then the area around the main lake is a good choice, there are lots of options in terms of hotels, restaurants etc.

Hue – Vietnam

Hue is a beautiful old city in central Vietnam, it took a massive hit during the war with America, but luckily a lot has managed to survive.

Surprisingly it has a very laid back touristy feel and I certainly recommend spending a few days here on your next trip to Vietnam.

Things To Do:

The big attraction is the old citadel, entrance is 150K and knees need to be covered in certain parts (although sarongs will be provided). Allow 3 hours to really see everything. It was fun to feed the fish in the main pond for 5K extra.

The XQ Embroidery Museum is free to enter and open daily, it’s on the southern side of the river and shows the work involved in producing some amazing pieces of art.

There are more temples and tombs in Hue than anywhere else I can think of, I won’t list them all but there are boats departing daily which will drop you off at up to 7 locations for 1 hour each then continue onto the next. A day ticket costs 180K including hotel pick up and lunch (excluding entrance fees).

Nightlife in Hue is great, especially at the weekend when a whole area filled with restaurants and bars becomes “walking only”, meaning tourists can relax without needing to watch out for scooters all the time. search for Phố Đi Bộ Central Huế, Chu Văn An, Phú Hội, Thành phố Huế, on google maps.

There are a few different markets in Hue, all within walking distance of each other:

A. The walking street night market, along the south bank of the river, aimed at tourists but also has some good street food.

B. Dong Ba Market, definitely aimed more towards locals but good for a spot of people watching.

C. Evening market next to the Gold Hotel, not sure what this is called but was good for clothes.

Where To Eat:

Vietnamese – We ate at a few different local places in Hue, our favourite was the Banana Mango Restaurant, 122 Lê Lợi, Phú Hội, Thành phố Huế

Indian – Always our favourite cuisine, we loved the Ganesh Indian Restaurant, 34 Nguyễn Tri Phương, tp. Huế

Italian – proper authentic Italian food, Risotto Restaurant, 14 Nguyễn Công Trứ, Phú Hội, tp. Huế Phú Hội tp. Huế

Western – Good pizza and a snooker table as well as 3 for 2 beer, what’s not to love at The Rustic Kitchen & Chill Bar, 46 Phạm Ngũ Lão, Phú Hội, Thành phố Huế

Getting There:

From DaNang the train takes just under 3 hours and costs around £15 for a soft seat of you pre-book online. It’s around 30 minutes walk from the main hotel area to the train station.

Hue airport is around 30 minutes away and a taxi will cost you 250K. Flights to Hanoi and HCMC leave a few times per day.

Where To Stay:

Most of the hotels and restaurants are on the south side of the river, the Hue Family Boutique Hotel was lovely. We upgraded rooms because I hate being without a window in my room, it makes me feel trapped. It only cost us £13 on Hotels.com including a made to order breakfast.

DaNang – Vietnam

Previously a small port, DaNang is growing into one of Vietnam’s trendiest cities. With its golden beaches, convenient location and international airport on its doorstep, DaNang attracts more and more tourists each year.

Things To Do:

1. The Marble Mountains are about 10 minutes from DaNang and about 25 minutes from HoiAn, you can’t visit central Vietnam without spending a few hours here. The area is famous for marble sculptures. Entrance is 15K.

2. Take a night time cruise along the river. Cruises leave after sunset from the pier next to the Novotel Hotel, prices range depending on which boat you take but they are all under £10 and there’s no need to make a reservation.

3. Visit the Linh Ung Pagoda, we walked from our hotel, it was a 5 hour round trip and we have a lot of blisters to show for it, but we were glad we made the journey, temple is absolutely incredible and there are some fantastic views of DaNang along the way.

4. The beach is a lot nicer in DaNang than it is in HoiAn, if your coming for a beach holiday then one of the many beach resorts in DaNang could be a better option.

5. Get a good view, the best one we found was from the Sky36 bar at Novotel, drinks are crazy expensive so we just took one photo and left, photo below:

Where To Eat:

Indian – Veda’s Kitchen, Lo 19 – 20,, Pham Van Dong, Quan Son Tra, An Hải Bắc

Western – Cabanon, 24 Trần Quý Cáp, Thạch Thang, Hải Châu

Everything – Di Lusso, 14 Bạch Đằng, Hải Châu

Breakfast – Bread of Life, 4 Đống Đa, Thuận Phước, Q. Hải Châu

Where To Drink:

Budget Friendly – Babylon, 40 Bạch Đằng, Thạch Thang, Q. Hải Châu

Splurge – SkyBar 36 (Novel Hotel), 36 Bạch Đằng, Thạch Thang, Hải Châu

Where To Stay:

We stayed in the Thu Bon Hotel not too far from the river front, it’s was a perfect budget hotel, clean and basic. We booked through Hotels.com for only £13 per night.

We’ve also stayed in the Novotel Hotel in DaNang, it was absolutely amazing, probably one of the best hotels we’ve ever stayed in (this is when we were employed of course), I think the current price is around £110 per night including breakfast. The thought of paying that now makes my eyes water, but we enjoyed it at the time.

HoiAn – Vietnam (Part 3)

HoiAn is located in central Vietnam, it makes a great base for a long list of day trips. I’ve listed our favourites below.

I’ve split our HoiAn entry into 3 sections, click on the links below to read:

Part 1: Things To Do,

Part 2: Where To Stay/Eat and anything else that you need to know,

Part 3: Day Trips From HoiAn, (You’re reading now)

Day trips from HoiAn:

1. My Son Temples, around 1 hours drive from HoiAn. A half day trip can be booked from $9 (excluding the 150K entrance fee) and includes a bus ride there, boat trip back and a light lunch.

2. DaNang and the Marble Mountains, we decided to stay over in DaNang but it can easily be done as a day trip from HoiAn, its only 30 minutes in a car. To read our DaNang post click HERE.

3. Cham Island, about 30 minutes by speed boat off the mainland. Cham island is known for fishing and snorkelling. A full day trip including hotel pick up and lunch will cost around $35.

4. Tra Que Farming Village, this one can be done without a guide, it’s only about 20 minutes cycle from HoiAn beach or around 40 minutes from the old town. You could combine it with a cooking class and take home some new techniques.

5. Day trips to Hue are also advised but I think it’s too far for one day, your better off spending a few nights in Hue. Click HERE to read our dedicated post. (Coming Soon)

Tour Agencies:

We have used www.vmtravel.com.vn a few times now, they are competitively prices and have great customer service.

I hope you enjoyed our HoiAn trilogy!

Don’t forget to read HoiAn Part 1 for things to do inside HoiAn old town and Part 2 for everything you need to plan a great trip.