So here we are, on our second month of travel, still in Vietnam and still attempting to keep to our goal of a $1,600 per month budget .
As with last time we have managed to stray a little bit over budget, coming in at a total of $1.618. But it’s close enough that we can consider it a success! Yeah us!
This time around I decided to keep a written record of all outgoings along the way. Every hotel, every meal, every tour and every glass of Bia Hoi or replacement pair of socks has been recorded to give you a proper breakdown of the money we spend.
During this month we have been in a couple of locations: Nha Trang, Danang, Hoi An, Hue, Phong Nha, Dong Hoi and 2 little towns too (P’rao & Ho Xa). Prices can vary, and quality even more so, but every place we’ve stayed in this month has been between $10 and $20 USD for a double room with private bathroom. Cost incidentally is no guarantee of quality. One of the most expensive, at $18 per night turned out to be an utter dump (Wing Hotel in Hanoi, if we’re naming names. . ), and our two favourites for the month both came in at a bargain $10.
Here is a breakdown of how much we paid for our hotels (not a comprehensive list, as some towns we stayed in several hotels so we’ve just selected one from each major location to give you an idea). All prices are for a double room sleeping two people. Or as many people as you can cram in a double bed, if that’s your thing. . .
Nha Trang: $15 Comfortable, window with a nice view, aircon and fridge.Hotel had a free rooftop swimming pool.
Da Nang: $17 Very basic room, no window.
Hoi An: $18 Ground floor with private garden terrace, big bathroom and bath. Also the most comfortable bed of any hotel so far.
Hue: $10 Smart, comfortable and very clean room in a small family run hotel. One of our favourites, the staff were fantastic.
Phong Nha: $11 Room had two double beds and a fantastic mountain landscape view. No cleaning service in the room however, and beds were harder than a Scottish dockworker.
Dong Hoi: $11 Great hotel, nice view and a very helpful, English speaking receptionist.
Hanoï: $20 A great luxurious room with bathtub, huge bed, cable tv, fridge and computer. Oh and at another place as already mentioned, $18for an utter toilet.
We’ve found Tripadvisor to be a reliable enough source and it can save you a lot of time hotel hunting. In a country with so much wifi you’d be daft not to have a browse online before moving on to a new location and double check the reviews of the hotel you are considering!
Many hotels can be booked online before arrival, but then you’ll be likely to pay the full price, whereas turning up at the door and acting a little unimpressed can frequently bring the rate tumbling down. Especially if you plan to stay for more than one night.
Food on the whole is pretty cheap in Vietnam, especially if you’re happy to brave the local places and take your chances with mysterious menus printed exclusively in Vietnamese. You’ll usually pay a little more at the venues catering towards tourists, and more still if it’s western food you seek but even so, it’s still going to be significantly cheaper than an equivalent meal back home. Perhaps a little paradoxically, this is actually how we sort the serious from the amateur out here. Some will boast loudly and often that they only ever eat local food, and will tell anyone who’ll listen that they “didn’t come to Vietnam to eat bloody lasagne”. But other travellers know the score, and after several weeks in the wilderness eating noodle soup and suspicious ‘meat’ skewers, are more than happy to tuck in when they rock up to touristville and see cheeseburger & french fries on the menu.
Oh and by the way, all food is fantastic in Vietnam! The local grub changes with every town you visit but it’s always delicious, and the western fare (when you can find it) is generally on a par with what you’d expect at a restaurant at home. I guess the French must have had time to teach a little European cookery to the locals before they vacated the country.
A reasonable budget for two people is $10 to $20 per day on food and drink. Yes, it can be done much cheaper but this amount comfortably allows for the odd extravagant meal or drinking binge (you’re on holiday after all).
Now you might wonder where the rest of the money went this month?
Transport can prove quite an expense when travelling in Vietnam. Having a motorcycle means we don’t need to take buses or shell out for organised tours to visit out-of-town locations, but we still need to pay for fuel. Petrol here costs just over $1 per litre and our little bike will do about 40km per litre (on a more modern bike and carrying a single rider, 60-70 km/ltr ought to be possible).
On a couple of occasions it’s also been necessary to recruit local guides for reaching obscure or remote places. Motorcycle guides in Vietnam call themselves ‘Easyriders’ and are to be found in any place where there’s a reasonable concentration of tourists, but particularly prevalent in the towns of Dalat, Hoi An and Hue. They’ll take you on any journey you choose, from a half day scoot around town, to a month long tour of the entire country, stopping at all the sights and reeling off the local history and folklore as you go. You don’t need your own bike for this, the Easyriders will happily carry you and your luggage on the backs of their own, but if you’ve got your own machine then he’ll carry your bags and you can follow along at a leisurely pace. If you find yourself in Hoi An, we recommend a chap called Chou.
For an Easyrider guide you can count $25 to $35 per day, out of which he will pay his own food, accommodation and petrol.
We’ve also had to resort twice to using the trains, when weather conditions weren’t conducive to several days of 10 hour motorcycle rides.
The train journeys are a little more expensive in Vietnam than in other places I’ve visited in Southeast Asia, but still very cheap by European standards. Costs are lower if you’re willing to put up with the hard benches and crowded conditions of the third-class carriages, but we preferred to pay a little extra for the comfort of the soft-sleeper bunks. Besides, taking an overnight sleeper train means one less night in a hotel, so you’re clawing back some of the train fare right there.
To ship the bike, including crating, handling and 1lt of fuel (tank has to be drained before loading on a train):
Nha Trang to Da Nang: 400.000 dongs (19$)
Dong Hoi to Hanoi: 600.000 dongs (28$)
For us (in soft sleepers):
Nha Trang to Da Nang (should be a 10hr journey, ours took a little over 21hrs!): 575.000 dongs(27$) pp
Dong Hoi to Hanoi (13hr journey): 575.000 dongs(27$)pp
Of course there has to be other expenses, little pleasures, entrance fees, etc. They have been added up to our total budget (like the trousers and top tailored in Hoi An, the village tour and cooking class, the entrance to the tombs in Hue, to the citadel, to the caves in Phong Nha, etc…)
Vietnam is perhaps a bit more expensive than some other countries in SE Asia but a 50 to 55$ budget for 2 is easy enough to keep up with.
See you guys for our 3rd month in January, which looks like being a mix of Vietnam & Laos.