I decided to break up my travels in Vietnam into two separate posts as they were very different. I started solo travel in South Vietnam and I would reunite with Shelly after months of long distance to travel the rest of Vietnam. Here is my budget breakdown, to give you an understanding of the cost of solo travel in South Vietnam.
Before we start, I visited four places in South Vietnam before I met Shelly in Da Nang. This is the route that I took:
Currency Info: In December 2018, the exchange of the Vietnamese Dong to the Canadian Dollar was around 17,472 VND to $1 CAD.
From Udon Thani, Thailand, I purchased two separate flights to save money flying to Saigon.
- Udon Thani to Bangkok with Nok Air $29.76 CAD
- Bangkok to Saigon with Air Asia $77.50 CAD
This method saved me over $100 CAD! If you bought one ticket (i.e. booked the connecting flights together), it would cost around $220 CAD for the same journey. The only drawback is that if you miss your second flight to due a delay with the first, you will be at fault, whereas if you booked it on one ticket, it is the airline’s responsibility to put you on another flight. The funny thing is, this almost happened to me as my Nok Air flight to Bangkok was delayed for over 2 hours. Fortunately I booked my flights with a 3 hour window (a pretty good rule of thumb) between them, and I was able to make my flight to Saigon.
Instead of taking a 12 hour bus ride from Nha Trang to Da Nang which would cost around 380,000 VND ($21.75 CAD), I booked a flight with Vietnam’s low cost carrier, Vietjet for 624,900 VND ($36.31 CAD). Little did I know that I would be getting my carry on bag weighed–and of course it’s over the 7 kg limit. This cost me an additional 330,000 VND ($18.89 CAD). I have flown several times with budget airlines, and this was the first time that this has happened. *insert Angry Arthur’s Fist meme*
Food & Drinks
The cuisine of Vietnam changes from region to region. For starters, food is much sweeter in the south. The use of sugar and coconut milk in dishes (influenced from neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Thailand) are more abundant in the food. Southerners also prefer their food to be spicier compared to the Northern Vietnamese. Make sure you try both variations of Vietnamese dishes from the South and North to see the difference!
Here are some eats and drinks I got while in South Vietnam:
- Bánh Mì̀ ranges from 20,000 to 30,000 VND ($1.14 to $1.72 CAD)
- Bánh canh 40,000 VND ($2.29 CAD)
- Cơm tấm 35,000 VND ($2.00 CAD)
- Bò né 35,000 VND ($2.00 CAD)
- Pho Bo 40,000 VND ($2.29 CAD)
- Vietnamese Pizza or Bánh Tráng Nướng 20,000 VND ($1.14 CAD)
- BBQ crocodile 70,000 VND ($4.01 CAD)
- Avocado shake 25,000 VND ($1.43 CAD)
- Kopi Luwak 80,000 VND ($4.58 CAD)
Make sure you check out what makes it to the Top 5 Eats in Vietnam!
Buses in Vietnam are a godsend, especially compared to my experiences with taking buses in Indonesia, Laos, and Cambodia (where I am currently writing this post). The roads are well maintained; buses are spacious and comfortable. Even for as short as a 4 hour journey–which was the case for Da Lat to Nha Trang–I took the sleeper bus. These buses have special seats in which you can recline almost all the way back. You get a seat all to yourself compared to the sleeper buses in Laos and Cambodia where you have to share with another person (no bueno for solo travellers).
All throughout South Vietnam my preferred mode of transportation had been sleeper buses and this is how much they cost:
- Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) to Mui Ne: 120,000 VND ($6.87 CAD)
- Mui Ne to Da Lat: 100,000 VND ($5.72 CAD)
- Da Lat to Nha Trang: 130,000 ($7.44 CAD)
For booking Vietnam’s buses, I used 12go.asia as I found their website have the best prices for booking trains, buses, transfers. They are convenient and I have personally received great customer service from them. I was able to get a last minute partial refund even though it was my fault. Read the travelling as a couple in Vietnam for more info!
Accommodation in Vietnam is very cheap. A bed in a dorm can be had for as low as $3 CAD per night! I didn’t even choose the cheapest ones. Below are three hostels that I recommend:
Saigon: Long Hostel for 2 nights at 108,688 VND ($6.22 CAD) per night
This home-turned-hostel has a cozy atmosphere where it is easy to meet other travellers. The hostel is located centrally, within walking distance to the attractions in the city as well as many restaurants and bars. The beds are nothing to complain about. They really have a great breakfast as you have your options of omelettes, banana pancakes, along with Vietnamese coffee! The hostel also gives out free beers during their Happy Hour!
Da Lat: Cozy Nook Hostel for 4 nights at 180,000 VND ($10.30 CAD) per night
As the name suggests, it is cozy! I spent Christmas time in this hostel, and they provided a family feel with their nightly family dinners ($3 USD extra). They have a great common area where you can get coffee, tea, yummy sweets and chat with other guests. They have great beds and probably the best showers in all of Southeast Asia!
Nha Trang: Mojzo Dorm for 4 nights at 94,188 VND ($5.39 CAD) per night
The staff here were welcoming and helpful. They have happy hour with free beers on the rooftop and family dinners which makes it really easy to meet other travellers. The hostel is also located in a good location–minutes away from the beach, restaurants and bars.
While the North is home to the cultural capital, Hanoi and the breathtaking landscapes of Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, the South shouldn’t be overlooked either. The South is rich with history from the Vietnam War (or American War in Vietnam), and has a lot of beaches from Phu Quoc, Mui Ne, and Nha Trang. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to have a proper beach day as the weather was less than ideal when I was visited in late December. Below were some of the major activities I did instead:
- Took in the eye opening War Remnants Museum in Saigon 40,000 VND ($2.29 CAD)
- Learnt more about the Vietnam War at the Independence Palace (Reunification Palace) in Saigon 40,000 VND ($2.29 CAD)
- Went on the Cu Chi Tunnels tour 200,000 VND ($11.45 CAD) including the entrance fee
- Watched the craziness that is Saigon scooter traffic FREE
- Explored the sand dunes of Mui Ne in a tour 150,000 VND ($8.59 CAD)
- Walked in the Fairy Stream in Mui Ne 15,000 VND ($0.86 CAD)
- Got lost in the Crazy House in Da Lat 50,000 VND ($2.86 CAD)
- Enjoyed the countryside landscapes with a cable car on the way to Thien Vien Truc Lam Monastery and Tuyen Lam Lake in Da Lat 80,000 VND ($4.58 CAD)
- Took a peek of a back of a waterfall at Elephant Waterfalls in Da Lat 10,000 VND ($0.57 CAD)
- Exfoliated at the mud baths in Nha Trang 218,500 VND ($12.51 CAD)
Since I planned on being in Vietnam for a month, I decided to get a data plan from one of the main carriers of Vietnam, Viettel. I got unlimited data for 1 month but speeds got throttled after 5.5 GB for 180,000 VND ($10.30 CAD).
Most countries need an e-visa to visit the country. In Vietnam, there is one that is valid for maximum of 30 days and is only available for single entry. The fee is $25 USD and it takes at least 3 business days for it to process. It is pretty easy to get and everything is done online. The official website to get one can be found here.
The one other item that was included in this category:
- ATM fees 60,000 VND ($3.43 CAD) with Citi Bank. Make sure you don’t get any additional fees from your bank by using a debit card that doesn’t charge you for any foreign transaction fees. If you are from Canada, I recommend using STACK!
The Sum of Solo Travel in South Vietnam
Tourism in Vietnam is booming as its number of international visitors increase every year! It has gained a lot of popularity among backpackers due to its culture, beautiful landscapes, delicious cuisine, and most importantly really cheap prices. The country has been easy to travel around as there are an abundance of accommodations and tour agencies for booking tours and buses, and restaurants. The cost of my solo travel in South Vietnam came to $590.99 CAD for 14 days. This is a reasonable $42.21 per day.
If you compare my solo travel in South Vietnam to travelling as a couple in Vietnam, you’ll see that things varied significantly, in terms of budget and activities.