We’ve just finished blogging about our month in Vietnam, so here is a rundown of what we spent and also some practical information about visiting the country.
Saigon – 3 nights
Phu Quoc Island – 4 nights
Saigon – 1 night
Dalat – 3 nights
Nha Trang – 2 nights
Quy Nhon – 3 nights
Hoi An – 3 nights
Hue – 2 nights
Ninh Binh – 2 nights
Hanoi – 2 nights
Halong Bay – 1 night
Hanoi – 2 nights
Getting around Vietnam is very easy, partly due to the country’s narrow shape. While there are some possible detours, most ‘must see’ locations are on the way to somewhere else. Bus is the most popular way to get around the country, with the ‘Open Tour’ system dominating. Essentially this means you can buy a ticket for the whole length of the country in either Hanoi or Saigon, and hop off whenever you want. To move onto the next place you usually just need to confirm a space on the bus the day before.
We didn’t use the open tour this time, instead booking bus tickets as we went. In the south of the country we recommend Phoung Trang – not many tourists use these buses but they are very efficient and good quality.
For the rest of our trip we took the train. Vietnamese trains on the whole are punctual and clean though not the most modern. For 2 trips we took AC soft seats, which were fine, and for one we took soft sleeper. These are arranged in cabins of 4 berths, so if there are 2 of you, you share a cabin with 2 strangers. The setup is very similar to sleepers in Russia and China.
For local transport we either used taxis or rented motorbikes. A lot is written about rip off taxis in Vietnam but I can honestly say we were not scammed once. The way to avoid being scammed is stick to reputable brands – in Saigon it is Vinasun and Mai Linh, ignore any other companies, elsewhere we mostly just used Mai Linh (which are nationwide). If we couldn’t find one of the above we just made sure to flag down a moving one. Ensure the meter is on and keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t going up too quickly. A useful addition is to have a GPS app on your phone so you know whether you are being taken for a ride! Fares around a city are rarely more than 100k, for short distances they are usually around 30k.
As for motorbikes, if you are seeing many sites around a single area, they work out better value than taxis or a car and driver. Expect to pay around $5-6 a day for one. Extreme care is needed with motorbikes, as our home driving licences are not valid in the country, and thus no insurance is either. Essentially if you cause an accident, you are liable and there would be no getting out of it. Luckily accidents are rare and traffic runs surprisingly smoothly considering the volume of it. Petrol is fairly cheap, but in more remote areas be prepared to fill your bike up from Pepsi bottles filled with petrol sold by the roadside.
What Did We Spend?
These costs are over 31 days.
Accommodation – £396.18
Eating Out – £284.38
Transport – £159
Groceries – £47.77
Attractions – £239.66 (a large chunk of this was for Halong Bay)
Shopping – £30.97
Alcohol – £64.75
Coffee & Snacks – £25.92
Petrol – £4.76
Miscellaneous – £92.21 (Visa costs are a large chunk of this)
TOTAL – £1345.60
£43.41 per day over 31 days
£1 = 35,000VND, $1 = 21,000VND
Guesthouse Room – $7-20
Bottle of Beer – 10,000 – 30,000 VND (Over 30k is very expensive)
Banh Mi – 10-20,000VND
Bowl of Pho at small restaurant – 20-30,000VND
Bottle of water – Under 10,000VND
Haircut – Under 50,000 for a mens cut
Taxi – 30,000 for a average trip in a city (2-3km)
While English is widely spoken, it is by no means spoken everywhere. It’s never too much of an issue as Vietnamese people are very friendly and happy to communicate with sign language and smiles when need be. As with all languages if you can only learn one word make it thank you – in Vietnamese this is cảm ơn (roughly pronounced ‘gam-urn’).
The huge advantage with written Vietnamese is that it uses Latin script so it is is a lot easier to read than Chinese or Thai, and you can quickly start to recognise items on menus or on shop fronts. Word of warning though, they never sound anything like they look so if you read a dish phonetically to a waiter, you’ll likely be met by a blank face.
Utterly fantastic. I could write a whole post (and may do) about Vietnamese food but honestly it is a struggle NOT to eat well, whether you go for street food or restaurants. Some of our favourites though are:
Pho – World famous noodle soup, usually with beef (Pho Bo) but also with chicken (Pho Ga)
Banh Mi – the best street food ever, a fresh baguette with pork pate, grilled pork, pork roll, picked veg, coriander, mayo and chilli.
Banh Xeo – fried rice flour pancake with pork, shrimp and beansprouts, usually eaten with lettuce and dipped in nước mắm (fish sauce with sugar, vinegar and chillies)
Banh Chung – sticky rice filled with pork and mung bean, wrapped in banana leaf and cooked slowly, giving the rice a lovely porky fatty flavour.
Bun Cha – delicious grilled pork with rice noodles, herbs and sauce
Sorry about the lack of accents on the dishes, I realise this isn’t how they should be written but it’s just easier for something like this.
There are so many other dishes, many specific to various regions, so check out our other Vietnam posts as we’ve talked about a few more!
Is it Safe?
Absolutely. While I’m sure there is *some* crime, it never feels anything less than perfectly safe to walk around day and night.
That said, it’s always wise to keep bags secure as we were warned in Saigon about ‘drive by’ bag snatchings. Generally though, like most of Asia, it is very safe.