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Vietnam is a beautiful country with a distinct identity shaped by its colonial past. And it’s a very economical country to travel in. For example, a bowl of Pho (beef noodle soup) is $1.10 USD. A cup of Vietnamese Coffee (super strong coffee with condensed milk, YUM) is $0.50. A hotel room can range anywhere from $5-$10USD.
It can be challenging for the first timer, but a little travel planning for certain aspects of your trip such as transport, accommodation, food and shopping will go a long, long way. Here’s what you need to know:
Like me, most budget travelers turn to low-cost carriers like Cebu Pacific or AirAsia to fly to Vietnam. It’s important to check more than one site before you book your ticket. Browsing a few sites can show you a great variety in price and help you find a better flight. You can use flight comparison sites such as this: Skyscanner, Flight Aware , and Expedia. It is also possible that non-budget airlines such as Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines provide a better deal, so don’t leave them out in your search for the best flight prices.
Flight prices fluctuate and sometimes, using the general rule of three-month advance purchase may not give you the best deal. Instead, it is imperative to watch out for seasonal flight deals and to follow the different airlines on Facebook to be in the loop for the latest promotions.
Accommodation can take a big portion of your budget when traveling. And if you haven’t sorted out yet where you going to stay in Vietnam, check out Agoda.com for a comprehensive list of hotels in all price ranges. But if most hotels are well beyond your budget, look into guesthouses or hostels instead. A bonus to staying in guesthouses and hostels is that they offer common areas like a shared kitchen where you’ll have the chance to make friends with travelers from all around the world. Price Range for a hostel in Hanoi is around US$2 to US$120 depending on the size and location. Alternatively, opt for a homestay with a local host, which you can look for through Airbnb or Couchsurfing.
Also, ensure that the location of your accommodation is central to save on transportation costs. When in Hanoi, you won’t go wrong if you pick the old quarter as your base. Before booking your accommodation, read the reviews. Lastly, accommodations that provide free breakfast will mean that you have one less meal to pay for each day, so do take that into consideration.
There are several choices available for transportation in Hanoi: cyclo, motorbikes, private car, taxis, buses, and the train. Almost any point in Hanoi can be reached using one of these modes of transportation.
This is Hanoi’s bicycle rickshaws. Passengers ride in the front cab while the driver sits behind the passenger. Cyclo cabs are made for two passengers, and it’s a great way for exploring short distances within Hanoi’s city center. A ride in a cyclo should cost you about VND 100,000 for an hour’s ride. Haggle the price down and agree on the price up front before boarding to eliminate any hassle or misunderstanding after. Take note, that only a few cyclo drivers speak English so take a map and your hotel calling card with you all the time.
This is a cheap and easy way to get around the city, you won’t have any trouble finding a Xe om (motorbike taxi) in Hanoi. An average journey in the city center costs around VND15,000 to VND20,000, while a trip further is around VND35,000 to VND40,000. Make sure you have a written address of the place you want to go to or a map, show it to the driver before boarding to eliminate confusion. This is a better alternative than trying to talk and be understood.
Hanoi’s golf-buggy-rescue eco-friendly Electric Bus tour is actually a pretty good way to get your bearings in the city. It traverses a network of 14 stops in the Old Quarter and around Hoan Kiem Lake. The main departure point is the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, and there’s another departure point outside Dong Xuan Market. A full journey around the Old Quarter takes around an hour, with a recorded English-language commentary as you ride.
Renting a car is convenient, but it comes with a price. Book a car with a driver from VND700,000 a day or depending on the location you want to explore. If an upscale hotel quotes you more, call one of the tourist cafes or travel agency to check the price.
Taxis are also relatively inexpensive and easy to find. You can hail one on the street or at one of the many taxi stands or ask the hotel staff to get one for you. All taxis have a meter and you should check the starting price and whether they are functioning right. The starting price is usually VND10,000 to VND12,000 and a ride for 15 minutes should not cost you more than $1.5.
There’s a series of bus stations are located in Hanoi, Buses in Hanoi are numbered and each one dispatching buses that travel only in a particular direction. The price of a bus ticket in Hanoi is from VND5,000 to 10,000 depending on the distances between the departure and the end point. The ticket will be handed out by a collector and you have to pay him in cash. If you plan to travel by bus, make sure you carry smaller bills.
Here are some important bus routes in Hanoi:
#07 and #17: These two are the public buses that stop at Noi Bai International Airport, the most important gateway in the North of Vietnam. The #7 bus will cross the Thang Long Bridge and head to Cau Giay while #17 buses go to the Old Quarter via Chuong Duong Bridge.
#33 or #02: These buses will bring you to the area near Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and from those areas, you can wander along the tree-filled boulevards like Dien Bien Phu or Le Hong Phong, before heading to Ho Chi Minh Complex.
#09: This bus will drop you at Hoan Kiem Lake and from that point, you can explore the lake’s areas and the Old Quarter on the downtown. These buses also stop at some checkpoint in Le Hong Phong and Dien Bien Phu Str., so that you can visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the areas nearby.
Food in Vietnam is reasonably cheap and there are tons of options to choose from. If your budget is tight, you can survive nicely on Vietnamese comfort food and street snacks. One of the most popular food in Vietnam and the most inexpensive is the classic pho (rice noodle soup with either beef or chicken toppings), with a price ranging from VND80,000 to VND90,000.
On a cheaper side, you can have fried or fresh spring rolls (rice noodles, shrimp or pork, herbs and veggies wrapped rice paper) is around VND40, 000 at most places. Street foods are cheap and good tasting too, with a price ranging from VND15,000 to VND40,000. If you are not into that then you can savor on fruits which you can find almost everywhere in Hanoi.
There’s enough to see and do throughout Hanoi for free so take advantage of that. And I am not talking about places that are second best to ones you need to pay to see — these include some of Vietnam’s most famous landmarks. Moreover, some are even eminently walkable.
It’s important to identify your objective – Is it for culture & history? Island hopping? Food trip? Shopping? Nightlife? Photography? Or simply just to have the time of your life? You can definitely do all these in Hanoi, but the importance of having an objective is to identify which ones to prioritize since you will not be able to visit all the places if you’ll stay for a short amount of time.
The main website I referred to in planning my itinerary was Vietnam’s very own Official Vietnam Tourism Organization and Vietnam Online. It contains information such as operating hours, admission fees, and directions via public transportation. You can either make your own itinerary or book for a private tour.
Here’re my suggestions for those who will visit Hanoi for the first time.
A: Hanoi City tour
C. Culture, Nature and Food Adventure
I hope I’ve given you some good ideas on how to plan your trip on a budget. Now I want to hear from you. How do you plan your trip in Vietnam? Share your experience by leaving a comment below. If you liked this post, do stay tuned for more adventures by following my Facebook or Instagram page!
Happy travels everyone 🙂
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