Vietnam Budget Guide – How Much Does It Really Cost To Travel In Vietnam?

Vietnam, lady on bike  

“Good Morning Vietnam!”

While Vietnam is most famous for being the staging ground of the Vietnam war, this battered land has thrown off the shackles of its troubled past and now welcomes visitors with open arms. 

Stunning mountain treks, karst limestone mazes, energetic cities and one of the finest waterfalls in the world, Ban Gioc, make Vietnam one of the most memorable places to visit in Southeast Asia!

But how much does it cost to travel in Vietnam?

In our reader poll, Vietnam was voted the cheapest country to backpack in Southeast Asia! If that combined with the treasure trove of amazing activities offered throughout the country isn’t enough to get you digging out your passport and searching for flights, I don’t know what is!

If you haven’t quite got your travel funds together yet, check out our guide on the best ways to save money for travel. Or if you’re ready to go, have a read of our budget travel tips to find out how to make your money go further while backpacking!

Hoa Lu - Ancient Capital of Vietnam.
With incredible landscapes and culture, Vietnam has everything a traveller needs!

Suggested Daily Budgets For Travelling In Vietnam

Shoestring Backpacker: $15-$30

If you are travelling on a shoestring budget, Vietnam is the country for you. Even if you spend less than $30 a day you can comfortably stay in great hostels, eat amazing street food, splash out on the odd tour and even treat yourself to a few heavy nights!

Living It Large Backpacker: $30-$50

This budget will afford you private rooms, daily tours, beers most evenings and more food than you can possibly eat. Vietnam is the gift that keeps on giving for backpackers with a little more money behind them! If you are short on time, flying across Vietnam is very achievable for the living it large backpacker. However, if time is on your side, consider taking sleeper trains or buses to save on accommodation costs!

Flashpacker: $50+

Honestly, unless you’re living like royalty, consistently spending more than $50 a day is a challenge in Vietnam. You’ll easily be able to afford private rooms in hostels, guesthouses and even hotels! Tours will all be easily affordable while almost any food and drink is well within your budget. 

If you are travelling on a flashpacker budget, there is very little in Vietnam that will be out of your price range. Even those craving some home comfort food will be able to find restaurants serving all their usual favourites!

Cost Of Backpacking In Vietnam – Quick Answers!

  • Cost of Street Food: 10,000 – 50,000VND (50 cents – $2USD) 
  • Cost of Local Food in a Restaurant: 40,000-100,000VND ($2-$5USD)
  • Cost of Western Food in a Restaurant: 120,000-350,000VND ($6-$15USD)
  • Cost of Water: 10,000-20,000VND (50 cents – $1USD) for 1.5 litres
  • Cost of Beer: 10,000 – 30,000VND (50 cents – $1.50USD)
  • Cost of a Hostel Bed: 90,000 – 350,000VND ($4-$15USD)
  • Cost of a Private Room: 300,000 – 600,000VND ($12.50-$25USD)
  • Cost of a Hotel Room: 300,000 – 1,200,000 ($12.50-$50+USD)
  • Cost of a Cyclo (Rickshaw): 100,000 – 200,000VND ($4-$8USD) per hour for one passenger
  • Cost of Scooter Hire: 80,000 – 120,000VND ($4-$6USD) per day
  • Cost of Long Distance Buses: 40,000 – 60,000VND ($2-$3) per 100km

Currency In Vietnam

As far as currencies go, Vietnamese Dong might be my favourite. That could be the nerdiest thing I’ve ever written but bear with me… 

The exchange rate is absolutely bonkers! At over 20,000VND to the dollar, $100USD is worth more than 2,000,000VND! Time to make it rain!

Vietnamese Dong
Vietnamese Dong

The second reason that Vietnamese Dong is my favourite currency is that, for those of us who have never really grown up, it has a great name. Especially after a few beers. There’s nothing funnier than watching a drunken backpacker throw his Dong about… 

Be aware that coins are pretty uncommon in Vietnam and are rarely accepted in shops. When they are used, it is generally for small purchases from ticket or vending machines. The largest coin available is the 5000VND coin, which worth less than the American quarter. 

US dollars are regularly accepted by most vendors, especially for larger purchases like tours and long term rent of rooms or motorcycles. This is common in cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh but always check the exchange rate you are getting before agreeing which currency to pay in!

Vietnamese Dong Currency Conversions

All currency conversions are correct as of July 2020. Unless something drastic happens, these should give you a rough idea of how much your money is worth in Vietnam!

  • $1USD = 23,000VND
  • £1GBP = 30,000VND
  • €1EUR = 26,000VND

You’ll be hard-pressed to find Vietnamese Dong in any great quantity outside of Vietnam. Places like the UK Post Office will usually have Dong in stock but they offer a poor exchange rate. Make sure you have USD with you to exchange when you get into Vietnam and get yourself a travel card. This is the cheapest way to withdraw your money from ATMs. 

bank card
Grab a travel card to withdraw money from ATM’s with fewer fees!

How Much Does a Trip to Vietnam Cost?

Cost of Street Food in Vietnam

10,000 – 50,000VND (50 cents – $2.50USD)

Much like the rest of Southeast Asia, eating street food in Vietnam is a fantastic way to save money. In fact, street food is so budget-friendly that it usually works out cheaper than cooking for yourself!

It’s not all about cost-saving though, Vietnamese street food is some of the most delicious you’ll find! Be it banh mi, pho or hand-rolled spring rolls, there is a cheap, mouthwatering option out there to suit every taste!

Cost of Restaurant Food in Vietnam

40,000 – 350,000VND ($2-$15USD)

Eating in local restaurants is only a little more expensive than eating at street food stalls. While local food still tastes great from a small restaurant, I personally miss the chaos that eating in a tiny chair by the side of the road provides!

The main advantages of eating in a restaurant are generally space and air conditioning. Sometimes restaurants can be a tad cleaner but that’s certainly not a guarantee, especially if you can’t see the food being prepped and cooked!

Western food is available across most of Vietnam but is often much more expensive than the local options. Expect to be paying around three times as much for a western meal when compared to a local favourite. It is worth noting that if you visit some more off the beaten track spots during your trip, western food will be hard to come by!

Local Vietnamese food in Hoi An.
Vietnamese is heaven for foodies!

Cost of Water in Vietnam

10,000-20,000VND (50 cents – $1USD) for 1.5 litres

You’ll find bottled water being sold in almost every shop, food stall and restaurant and it certainly won’t cost you a lot. Avoid buying it from areas with a lot of tourist traffic to secure the best prices. 

You’ll also find some hostels and hotels offering filtered water to their guests for even less money. Make use of this if you can. Alternatively, grab yourself a filtered water bottle to ensure you have access to clean drinking water wherever there’s a water source!

Cost of Beer in Vietnam

10,000 – 30,000VND (50 cents – $1.50USD)

Beer in Vietnam will not set you back much, especially if you stick to the locally brewed options such as Saigon Beer, Bia Hoi or 333. If you drink in restaurants, the price will be on the higher end and if you’re after imported beers, you’ll be looking at spending closer to 60,000VND ($3USD). Beer in a nightclub can often set you back 100,000VND ($5USD) so get your pre-drink on and avoid paying through the nose all night!

Bia Hoi Junction, Vietnam - Cheapest Place in Southeast Asia
Bia Hoi Junction, Vietnam

Cost of Accommodation in Vietnam

Much like other expenditures in the country, accommodation is super affordable in Vietnam. Thanks to sites like Hostelworld or Booking.com, it’s easier than ever to book your bed in advance. 

  • Hostel Dorm (per night)

90,000 – 350,000VND ($4-$15USD)

Hostel dorms are by far the cheapest way to get a bed for the night but is a $4 bed any good?

The answer is yes! 

Although there will always be crappy places for this price, the majority of cheap hostels in Vietnam are amazing. Just read the reviews before booking and if you’re unsure, book somewhere else. There is no shortage of high quality, cheap hostels throughout the country. 

A great place to get recommendations on places to stay in Vietnam is in the South East Asia Backpacker Community on Facebook!

  • Hostel Double Room (per night)

300,000 – 600,000VND ($12.50-$25USD)

The same amazing hostels that offer cheap dorms, often offer great private rooms as well! These are perfect for travelling couples or solo travellers looking for a change from dorm life. They offer peace and privacy without costing an arm and a leg!

Sure, you’ll sometimes find prices slightly higher than these, especially somewhere like Ho Chi Minh City, where prices are a bit higher anyway but those higher rates can easily be avoided. Just make sure to do your research before booking! 

  • Double Hotel Room (per night)

300,000 – 1,200,000 ($12.50-$50+USD)

Hotels in Vietnam start at around the same price as private rooms in hostels but the cost can rise quickly depending on how many stars you want from your hotel experience! 

Unless you are looking to be properly pampered, there is very little reason to spend into the high-end of this price bracket, let alone more. Most of the cheaper hotels are great quality but there will always be a shabby place that creeps up on you. If you don’t mind taking the gamble, you can often find hotel rooms even cheaper than private rooms in hostels!

Cinnamon Hotel, Vietnam
Hotels offer a taste of luxury for the backpacker.

Cost of Transport in Vietnam

Short Distance Transport

  • Taxis

12,000-15,000VND (55 cents – 65 cents) per kilometre 

Metered taxis are plentiful around all Vietnamese cities and make for a safe, cheap way to travel across short distances. 

Beware: Some taxi drivers have fast meters installed, meaning the price rises way quicker than it should. I actually got caught out by this in Ho Chi Minh City and it cost me over 350,000VND ($15USD) for a ten-minute journey! Being the fresh-faced backpacker I was, I had no idea what was going on, until years later I read about the most common scams in Southeast Asia!

Using Uber or Grab can be a great way to make sure you are not paying over the odds but generally, these are only available in metropolitan areas. 

Outside of Vietnam’s cities, you are more likely to find taxis without meters. In this instance, agree on a price before you get in the vehicle and make sure you haggle! If you are unsure of the going rate for certain journeys, ask in your hostel or hotel as they will know how much you should be paying for a given trip.

  • Motorbike Taxi

10,000 – 15,000VND (50 cents – 65 cents) per kilometre

Motorbike Taxis, known as Xe Ôm, are plentiful across Vietnam and providing you agree your price before jumping on board, can be even cheaper than taxis. As well as being cheaper, they are much faster when fighting through the frenetic Vietnamese traffic! 

Xe Ôm line the streets in Vietnam and often have signs hanging on their bikes to let you know they are open for business. If haggling for a ride isn’t for you, download the Grab app and book your rides through there. That way you know you’ll be getting a fair price. Even better, the driver will know exactly where they’re going and they will even pick you up from wherever you are!

It is worth noting that if you are carrying more than a single backpack, riding on a motorbike taxi can be a massive chore, if not downright dangerous. During my time in Vietnam, I rode on a motorbike taxi with my backpack on whilst carrying a small daypack in my left hand. As an experienced motorcycle rider, I assumed this would be fine and at home, it would’ve been (although somewhat illegal). Yet on the dusty, bumpy, pothole covered roads of Southeast Asia, it was more challenging than I had expected to stay on the bike with just one free hand!

  • Cyclo

100,000 – 200,000VND ($4-$8USD) per hour for one passenger

Essentially a bicycle rickshaw, cyclos were once as ubiquitous in Vietnam as small capacity motorcycles. These days they only exist in small numbers around popular tourist hotspots. Cyclos are certainly not the fastest nor the most cost-efficient mode of transport when you consider the distance covered but if you want a chilled way to see Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh then a cyclo is perfect! 

Expect to pay the higher end of this range if there is more than one person but NEVER settle for the first price you are offered. If there is one person, somewhere between 80,000 – 120,000VND is fair but don’t haggle too hard. It can’t be easy for the cyclo rider to move not only themselves but a heavy bike and potentially a of couple passengers along for an hour at a time!

  • Buses

4,000 – 10,000VND (20-50 cents) per journey

While local buses in Vietnam’s cities are super cheap, they can be a little confusing to the uninitiated. You can get them from literally anywhere just by sticking your arm out. Knowing which routes they take and where to get off is a sort of black magic if you don’t understand Vietnamese!

Unless you are with someone who knows what they are doing, it’s easier to use Uber or Grab to hail a taxi or Xe Ôm, which will only cost fractionally more. Just by having one less beer in the evening, you’ll save more than the difference!

  • Scooter Hire

80,000 – 120,000VND ($4-$6USD) per day

If you have been planning on renting a motorbike during your Southeast Asian adventure, Vietnam is THE country to do it in. Not only is it cheap but it’s also super common for travellers to rent or even buy motorcycles during their travels. 

By renting the motorcycle for more than a few days, you can haggle for a much better price. For example, if you are planning on renting the bike for a couple of weeks, you can often get the price down to less than 50,000VND ($2.50USD) per day!

Small 50cc motorcycles are everywhere in Vietnam but are not exactly practical for riding outside of cities. Try to grab yourself something between 100cc – 125cc. These will give you enough power to ride long distances (albeit slowly) and are still light enough to easily be controlled on sketchy roads!

It is worth being aware that technically if you are riding a motorcycle in Vietnam, you are probably doing it illegally. Even with an International Driving Permit and a license in your home country, it is illegal to ride in Vietnam! The only way to officially be allowed to ride in The Land Of The Ascending Dragon is to get a Vietnamese motorcycle license. These are only available to travellers who have more than three months on their visa. 

But you know what they say, rules are meant to be broken. The questionable legality of riding a motorcycle in Vietnam doesn’t get in the way for thousands of backpackers who traverse the country via motorcycle every year!

The police are more than aware of what’s going on and if they catch you, they will demand you pay a “fine” – aka a bribe. A couple of hundred thousand Dong (does it ever stop being funny?!) will get you out of trouble but the best way to avoid being stopped is to blend in. Wear long sleeves, gloves, long trousers and a helmet. This will make you more inconspicuous and hopefully help you to avoid a run-in with the cops! 

Hiring a scooter is a great way to explore independently!

Long Distance Transport

  • Buses – Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh is $35-$80

40,000 – 60,000VND ($2-$3) per 100km

Bus prices vary across Vietnam, depending on which route you are taking, the class of bus you choose and the time of day that you travel. The nice thing is, whatever you choose, you won’t be spending a lot!

As a rough estimate, you can expect to pay between 40,000 – 60,000VND ($2-$3USD) for every 100km of your journey. For example, a good bus booked through 12go for the epic 1700km journey between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh will set you back just 800,000VND ($37USD) or $2.10USD per 100km. If that is not cost-efficient transport then I don’t know what is!

Some companies allow you to buy open bus tickets in Vietnam. These are essentially a hop on hop off bus service which allows you to see way more of the country without having to book tickets for each individual leg of the journey. A typical open bus ticket will set you back just over 1,000,000VND ($50USD) and is valid for a month. 

If you book an open bus ticket, make sure you check how and where to get the buses from. Some companies require you to let them know which bus you’ll be taking to where in advance, whereas others will let you turn up and jump on. Providing there is space of course!

  • Trains 

350,000 – 1,500,000USD ($15-$65USD) per overnight trip

It’s hard to give an accurate estimate as to the cost of train travel in Vietnam because there are multiple classes of train available. The very cheapest are crammed full of people battling over tiny hard benches whilst the most luxurious are like 5-star hotels on wheels. 

Honestly, you want to avoid the cheapest trains. You might save yourself a few dollars but the hours of discomfort really aren’t worth it. Your best bet, especially for longer journeys, is to stick to either soft or hard sleeper carriages. These will have 4 (soft sleeper) or 6 (hard sleeper) beds per compartment. While the hard sleepers will be cheaper, you get less room and thinner mattresses. The soft sleepers, by contrast, have much more comfortable mattresses and give you enough room to be comfortable and to keep all your stuff close by!

Trains in Vietnam are slow. Slower than bus travel in some cases but in exchange you get a chilled out, comfortable ride (providing you don’t choose the cheapest options). Spend your time reading, watching films or just enjoying the views as you roll through beautiful landscapes!

Below we have listed some of the most popular train routes through Vietnam, their cost, journey time and distance covered. These should give you a rough idea of how much you’ll be spending if you choose the train.

Hanoi – Sapa – 350,000 – 1,500,000VND ($15-$65USD) – 8 hours – 320km

Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh – 850,000 – 1,500,000VND ($35-$65USD) – 35 hours – 1700km

Da Nang- Hue – 150,000 – 300,000 ($6-$12USD) – 2.5 hours – 103km

Hanoi – Phong Nha 450,000 – 900,000VND ($20-$40USD) – 9.5 hours – 495km

Ho Chi Minh – Nha Trang -350,000 – 1,100,000 ($15-$50USD) – 9 hours – 411km

  • Planes

600,000 – 1,200,000VND ($25-$50USD)

Flying domestically in Vietnam is amazingly affordable for even the most budget-conscious backpacker. With flights from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City starting at around 700,000VND ($30USD), a time-strapped traveller can travel the length of the country in hours rather than the days it takes on buses. 

While flying is fast and cheap, you won’t save on accommodation costs like with overnight buses or trains so bear that in mind when planning your trip! However, if time is more important than money, flying could be the answer to your problems!

Air Asia plane
Flying can be a good option for those short on time.

Cost Of Activities In Vietnam

This is by no way an exhaustive list of activities in Vietnam. Trust me, neither you nor I have the time to go through every tour! Instead, this is a small sample of the most popular trips for backpackers. By reading through these you’ll get a good idea of how much you’ll be spending on activities within Vietnam!

For more inspiration of how to fill your days in this fine country, check out our suggested Vietnam itinerary!

  • Sapa Trek350,000 – 1,500,000VND ($15-$65USD) per day

Trekking in Northern Vietnam’s Sapa is quite simply, stunning. Dramatic mountains, dense green foliage and rice paddies all vie for your attention. Remember to watch your footing, especially if it’s been raining. The trails can get pretty precarious at times!

Treks are significantly cheaper if you book with a local guide when you arrive in Sapa town, starting at around 350,000VND ($15USD) per day. For multi-day tours, this will include your accommodation in homestays en route!

Expect to pay around three times more if you book in advance through a tour operator or hostel. If you find a really cheap tour through a tour company or hostel, be wary of them. The cheaper companies often don’t use sustainable practices and may not pay the homestay hosts their fair share. Check reviews on TripAdvisor to make sure you know what you’re getting before you part with your cash!

The advantage of booking in advance is that your transport is usually included too. This leaves you to enjoy the trip without worrying how you’re going to get there and back!

  • Halong Bay Cruise3,000,000 – 9,000,000VND ($130-$400USD) for a 3 day 2 night cruise

When it comes to natural wonders in Vietnam, Halong Bay is one of the crown jewels! At the budget end, expect to pay just a smidge over 3,000,000VND ($130USD) but prices can rise quickly, especially if you are after a luxurious cruise. 

It is worth noting that the high-end cruises aren’t really that much nicer than the midrange options. However, there is a gulf of difference between most budget options and the midrange alternatives!

If you are wondering which Halong Bay tour is for you, check out our guide comparing some of the most popular options!

Halong Bay, Vietnam
No trip to Vietnam is complete without a visit to Halong Bay!
  • Cu Chi Tunnels350,000 – 700,000VND ($15-$30USD)

A visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels is an eye-opening experience. Crawl through the tunnels that the Vietcong used during the Vietnam War (or as they call it in Vietnam, The American War). You won’t believe it from inside but these tunnels have actually been widened for tourists!

You’ll learn about the battle tactics and traps used by the Vietcong as well as some of the atrocities committed by the US army during this period. 

You can even try your hand at firing some incredible weapons but this does come at an extra cost. I had the opportunity to fire an M60 in their range but I saw backpackers shooting all manner of weapons from fully automatic AK47s to old school bolt action rifles! 

Book our recommend Cu Chi Tunnels Tour here.

  • Visit to the War Remnants Museum40,000VND ($2USD)

Combine a trip to Cu Chi Tunnels with a visit to the War Remnants Museum. I recommend doing this on a day when you’re not hungover like I was…

This sobering museum will show you everything you need to know about the Vietnam War and while it is obviously biased towards the Vietnamese side of the struggle, it is a lot more factual and less propaganda filled than I expected. 

Pay special attention to the Agent Orange exhibit. This might be the most moving thing you’ll ever see in a museum and it leaves visitors praying events like this never happen again.

I repeat, do not visit with a hangover. The Agent Orange exhibit alone is enough to send you over the edge. 

  • Motorcycle Trip of the Ha Giang Loop – 600,000 – 4,600,000VND ($24USD – $60USD per day, depending on tour length & style)

No matter whether you’re an experienced motorcycle rider or a total novice, there is an option for you when it comes to making your way around the Ha Giang Loop on a motorbike

The very cheapest way to take on this epic 350km road trip is to hire a bike and blast round at your own pace. This will set you back around 450,000VND ($20USD) a day. 

For those of you with less riding experience, a self-driving tour is a great way to do it. You rent a bike and hire a guide from a tour agency and then follow them as they lead you round this epic road trip! Prices for self-driving tours start at around 600,000VND ($24USD) per day but can rise much higher. 

The most expensive way of riding around the loop will be as a pillion passenger on an Easy Rider tour. For these, you can expect to pay upwards of 1,500,000VND ($60USD) a day.

A valley with mountains in the background, Ha Giang Loop, Vietnam
The incredible scenery on the Ha Giang Loop, North Vietnam.
  • Get a Tailor-Made Suit or Dress In Hoi An1,500,000 – 6,000,000VND ($65-$250USD)

Getting tailor-made clothing in Hoi An might seem like a strange activity in Vietnam but where else in the world can you get a suit or dress made for under $250USD?

Wandering around Hoi An you’ll see backpackers dressed in all sorts of whacky coloured suits and dresses, all made for a fraction of the cost than in the USA or Europe. It’s a weird rite of passage for backpackers but one that seems to be here to stay. 

If you get clothing made, it’s worth remembering that Vietnam is all about haggling! You can usually knock 30-50% off the original asking price for your chosen design. 

The only time you’ll hit the high end of this price range is if you are looking for exotic fabrics or particularly complicated designs. If you stick with simple fabrics (the colour can be as bonkers as you like) and with standard designs you can easily pick up a three piece suit for under $100USD or a formal dress for around the same price!

Suit up, friends!

Where to next? Check out the average costs for Southeast Asia here!

Do you have any tips to make travel in Vietnam cheaper? Head on over to our Facebook community to let us know and join thousands of like-minded travellers sharing hints and tips about travelling in Southeast Asia!

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since the incident, he has travelled in South East Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and is currently backpacking around South America. His first book 'From Paralysis to Santiago' chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident that changed his life and will be released later this year.