Here we are, month 3 and exchanging Vietnam for Thaïland.
We knew this month would probably be a little more expensive, since we would have to include the price of a new bike, two plane tickets and Christmas and New Year where, really, we had no intention of keeping to the budget and planned instead to eat, drink and be merry in true european style. All added, we are not excessively over our target which is good news, since we still have a long way to go!
Big things this month that don’t count as normal day-to-day expenditure are:
– The Motorbike – We sold the first one (Desmond) in Vietnam for 8 million dong, which equates to about $380, then bought the new one (Miho) in Thailand for 13,000 baht, which incidentally also equates to about $380. So no worries to the budget there.
–The airfare – Hanoï to Bangkok, one way tickets with all taxes and booking fees included cost us $140 (for the two of us)
– The cruise on Halong Bay. While we had been anticipating having to shell out a small fortune for this expensive yet essential experience, it actually cost us nothing, owing to it being covered as a Christmas present from my awesome mother, so no change to the budget there either. If you do find yourself considering a Ha Long Bay cruise, our advice is to shop around a lot. Prices and quality of these cruises vary enourmously, and scammers and dodgy dealers abound so take some time to research the company you’re thinking of booking with to ensure that you get what you pay for. Trip advisor is a useful source for this.
–The Sapa tour – including guided mountain treks, a market tour and visits to minority villages in Sapa cost us $43 a day. That price is for the two of us and included all meals, local guides and hotel/homestay accommodation.
-Another train fare from Dong Hoï to Hanoï of around $55 for the both of us including shipping and packing of the bike.
–Christmas day – We could have kept this one in budget but had no inclination to do so. Especially after we located an Irish-run pub in Hanoi offering a full four course Christmas dinner, and having a bottle of Mr Bob’s all time second favourite whiskey in stock (Woodford Reserve, if you’re interested). All in we spent 1.5 million on dinner and drinks, plus a few other frivolous spends on the day brought the total Christmas day expenditure to about $100.
Including everything we spent $1,611 this month, which for a budget of $1,600 is close enough to again be considered a success. To be honest I’m even surprising myself reading this! We thought we’d spent much more.
Now that we have some time to look back at it, we wouldn’t really recommend taking an organised tour to Sapa. Take the bus or the train and work it out from there, there are many ways to do it, renting a bike, hiring a guide, and finding a hotel can all be done easily on arrival and for less than we paid for the tour. Plus you have the chance to choose your own accommodation and meals, whereas the company we chose made our trip very “cheap” by booking us in to some pretty grim places. The hotel in which we spent our first night had no form of heating, damp beds and windows that couldn’t be closed. At 2°C you can understand, it was like being in an eskimos fridge. When shopping around for ourselves we found some lovely comfortable places, some including a wood burning fireplace in the room, for just $10 per night.
We were also surprised to find that in places that the guide book had assured us were expensive such as Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park and Cat Ba Island, we were still easily able to find good hotels in the 10 to 15 dollar range.
Food stayed at a more or less level price for the entire trip, no big difference to be noted on this one, we can definitely assert that with a budget of $50 per day for two people, you can easily enjoy all that Vietnam has to offer.
Now we come to the second country, and one that we know from past experience is more expensive than most others in SE Asia (but still very cheap by European standards):
We landed in Thaïland the 05th of January which brought it in this month budget. While those first few days were spent in Bangkok, the daily spend came in at $45 per day. But this did mean being quite careful on our expenses and trying to stay in some very cheap, therefore not very nice, hotels. Where little extras are not so expensive, the food (and beer) in town can end up being much more than in Vietnam, restaurant and cafe meals can easily run to $20 or so for two people and a few drinks. The good thing with Thaïland though is that the street food scene is magnificent, at evening times the streets are awash with sellers offering tasty kebabs, spring rolls and all manner thai curries, all cooked freshly on the spot and often costing as little as 10 baht (around 30 US cents).
If you end up, like us, in Thaïland during the high season in December-January, you might want to plan for spending a little more. We are currently staying in a beach bungalow in Ko Samet, and at 1,300 baht per night, the chance of being in budget for January is shrinking from slim to none. This is something you need to know: if you come to the islands expect to pay a minimum of 1,000 BTH for a simple room! (around $30)
To read our previous budget posts you can click here: