Reunited at Last
Shortly after we first started dating, Adi had already told me about his plans to travel the world. It was only after he officially booked his one-way flight did it really occur to me that our relationship was about to be put to the test. I had no doubt in my mind that I would eventually visit him in Asia–the only question was where and when. After five gruelling months of long-distance, we finally met up in Vietnam! We decided that we would cover the central and northern parts, as I only had two weeks of vacation to spare. This trip was extra special not only because I got to spend time with Adi but because I got to explore the country where my parents grew up.
If you haven’t already read Adi’s solo adventure in South Vietnam, check it out here!
Currency Info: In January 2019, the exchange of the Vietnamese Dong to the Canadian Dollar was around 17,472 VND to $1 CAD.
My round-trip flight with China Eastern from Toronto to Hanoi cost $1309.17 CAD. This was booked this a mere month prior to my trip, and departed around New Years. The entire journey took approximately 34 hours, including layovers in Shanghai (2 hours) and Kunming (13 hours!!!). Once I got to Hanoi, I took one last flight to Da Nang with Vietjet for $79.01 CAD, where I would finally meet up with Adi.
Food & Drinks
Vietnamese cuisine is a beautiful thing. Maybe I’m biased, because I grew up eating dishes heavily influenced by its culture. The two of us scoured blogs, vlogs, and diligently made notes from the likes of Mark Wiens and The Food Ranger for the best places to hit up. For the most part, food was ridiculously cheap. Travelling together allowed us to try more things and save money by splitting the bill. The following are examples of what we ate and how much they cost:
- Bún chả at Bún chả Hương Liên (Where Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain shared a meal) 40,000 VND ($2.29 CAD)
- Bánh mì̀ ranges from 20,000 to 30,000 VND ($1.14 to $1.72 CAD)
- AYCE Korean BBQ, because sometimes you just gotta take a break from Vietnamese food 186,000 VND ($10.65 CAD)
- Bún bò Huế 30,000 VND ($1.72 CAD)
- Bánh canh 40,000 VND ($2.29 CAD)
- Afternoon Tea at the Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake 288,750 VND ($16.53 CAD)
- Beer at the Beer Street in Hanoi 5,000 VND ($0.29 CAD)
- Avocado coconut ice cream (Kem bo) 10,000 VND ($0.59 CAD)
- Iced Egg Coffee 45,000 VND ($2.58 CAD)
- Salt Coffee in Hue 15,000 VND ($0.86 CAD)
Be sure to check out what made it to Adi’s Top 5 Eats in Vietnam!
There are endless means of getting around in Vietnam. We went the frugal route and opted for public transportation over taxis or private cars. Once we settled in a particular city/town, we used Grab (the Uber of SE Asia) for places that weren’t within walking distance–make sure to download the app before your trip!
- Da Nang to Hoi An: Local Bus 30,000 VND ($1.72 CAD) Fare is collected after you board.
- Hoi An to Da Nang: Local Bus 30,000 VND ($1.72 CAD)
- Da Nang to Hue: Rental Scooter with MotorVina 300,000 VND ($17.17 CAD) per person (includes luggage transfer)
- Hue to Phong Nha: Sleeper bus 110,000 VND ($6.30 CAD)
- Phong Nha to Ninh Binh: Overnight train 451,000 VND ($25.81 CAD) –be sure to double check your date and time!
- Ninh Binh to Ha Long Bay: Bus 220,000 VND ($12.59 CAD)
- Ha Long Bay to Hanoi: Bus 150,000 ($8.59 CAD)
For booking transportation within Vietnam, I suggest using 12go.asia as I found their website have the best prices for booking trains, buses, transfers. They are convenient and Adi has personally received great customer service from them. He was able to get a last minute partial refund from the overnight train ticket in even though he booked the wrong date.
We opted for Airbnb (sponsor us pls) and homestays during our time together in Vietnam. Not only was it affordable and allowed for privacy, it also gave us the opportunity to immerse ourselves with the locals. Bonus points for when breakfast was included. For those who have not tried Airbnb yet, sign up with our referral link and you will get $45 CAD off your home booking! You will also be supporting this website, win-win!
Here are the places that we stayed:
- Da Nang Airbnb for 2 nights at $45.10 CAD per night
- Quy Long Homestay in Hoi An for 2 nights at 300,000 VND ($17.17 CAD) per night
- Hue Airbnb for 1 night for $23.91 CAD
- Jungle Boss Homestay in Phong Nha for 1 night at 800,000 VND ($45.80 CAD)
- We chose this location for convenience over cost, as it was the departure point for our jungle trek the next day.
- Ham Rong Homestay in Ninh Binh for 2 nights at 299,162 VND ($17.12 CAD) per night
- Ha Long Bay Cruise with Aphrodite Cruises for 1 night at $350.86 CAD
- This was a splurge for us as we wanted to indulge in a luxurious cruise. The price is all inclusive and covered all our meals and activities on board. Staff were friendly and the itinerary kept us busy. Unfortunately, it failed to meet other expectations–the room was a bit cramped, set meals were average at best, and drinks were not included. In hindsight, Adi and I both agreed that we would’ve still enjoyed our time (and not break the bank!) had we booked a low to mid range cruise instead. After all, the views of Ha Long Bay would be the same either way.
- Hanoi Airbnb for 3 nights at $43.03 CAD per night
Keep in mind that these prices are for both of us.
Contrary to what some people might think, Vietnam isn’t just all rice paddies. From the breathtaking landscapes to the hustle and bustle of cities, there was never a dull moment. Below were some of our major activities and their respective costs (if any):
- Hiked up Marble Mountain 40,000 VND ($2.29 CAD)
- Explored the Am Phu Caves 20,000 VND ($1.14 CAD)
- Walked around the historic old town of Hoi An FREE
- Explored the ancient ruins of Mỹ Sơn 150,000 VND ($8.59 CAD)
- Walked around the Imperial City of Huế, the former capital of Vietnam 150,000 VND ($8.59 CAD)
- Rented a motorbike and drove from Da Nang to Hue via the Hai Van Pass 300,000 VND ($17.17 CAD)
- Explored caves, trekked and camped a night in the jungle with Jungle Boss in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park 4,500,000 VND ($257.55 CAD)
- Enjoyed the scenery of Trang An in a boat 200,000 VND ($11.45 CAD)
- Hiked up the Hang Mua viewpoint in Ninh Binh 100,000 VND ($5.72 CAD). Beware of parking scams; scooter parking is free at the entrance.
- Took a walking tour of Hanoi’s Old Quarter FREE
- Watched the train pass by in the very narrow Train Street in Hanoi FREE
- Learned about the women’s role in Vietnamese society in Hanoi’s Women Museum 30,000 VND ($1.72 CAD)
There is no shortage of free WiFi in Vietnam. However if you have the constant need to share to Instagram Stories or check-in on Swarm, then you can also grab a SIM card and data package from one of four major network providers. Adi went with Viettel and got unlimited data for one month, but speeds got throttled after 5.5 GB for 180,000 VND ($10.30 CAD).
Unless you hold a passport from of the ASEAN-member countries, chances are you’ll need a Vietnam Visa to enter the country. We found that the easiest way to obtain this is through the online Vietnam E-visa. It’s valid for a maximum of 30 days and is for single entry only. The fee is $25 USD and it takes about three business days to process. Just print the document out and present it at customs! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Other miscellaneous costs included:
- Laundry 105,000 VND ($6.30 CAD) for our wet/muddy clothes post-jungle trek at the Ninh Binh homestay
- ATM fees 55,000 VND ($3.15 CAD) with BIDV Bank. Make sure you don’t get any additional fees by using a debit card that doesn’t charge you for any foreign transaction fees. If you are from Canada, I recommend using STACK!
- Shelly’s lashlift and tint 230,000 VND ($13.61 CAD) by the lovely Mia
As always, I have vlogged our entire trip! Please check out the video below for a short montage of our adventures.
The Sum of Travelling as a Couple in Vietnam
Obviously the most expensive portion of this trip had been the roundtrip flight from Toronto. As this was a two week vacation for me, we also decided to splurge on the Ha Long Bay cruise and the jungle trek at Phong Nha. Aside from that we pretty much kept a backpacking budget, eating at cheap restaurants and staying at affordable homestays and Airbnbs. The cost of travelling as a couple in Vietnam came to $2486.63 CAD, which worked out to $165.78 CAD per day. But the memories? Priceless.