First and foremost, to truly understand how we averaged these kinds of travel costs you need to understand my travel style. In a nutshell, we’re neither complete budget backpackers nor are we splashy with our cash. What we do spend money on, however, is on experiences.
Travel costs for Vietnam were cheaper than expected in some areas (transportation, sites, museums, etc.), but more expensive in others. Vietnam had a lot of big ticket items for us which really pushed the budget, but overall I think this is a reasonable budget for your “average” traveler.
Total Travel Costs for Vietnam
Total Spent: $2,826.90 CAD over 24 days.
Average daily travel costs for 2 people: $117.78 ALL in
How did we spend that money?
Transportation: 9,827,174 Dong / $541.90 CAD / 19% of our budget
Transportation is pretty robust in Vietnam. To get to and from the cities along the route we chose to take trains. You could save on costs a bit if you chose to take the bus (maybe 20-30% cheaper), but bus routes typically took longer. Our travel costs were also a bit larger as we would do overnight trains or full day journeys in sleeper carriages. In my opinion it’s better to be well-rested than in discomfort for a 12-hour journey!
Accommodation: 2,770,646 Dong / $152.78 CAD / 5% of our budget
DISCLAIMER! 5% of your budget on accommodation in Vietnam is not really realistic. Remember that in 24 days we had 5 nights of free accommodation thanks to cashing in my Aeroplan miles to stay at the Sheraton, had four nights accommodation included various tours and three overnight trains. That’s half of our time in Vietnam with free or inclusive accommodation. That said, accommodation in Vietnam was cost effective and mostly good value.
Food and Drink: 11,855,200 Dong / $653.73 CAD / 23% of our budget
If you want to save money, eat street food. I admit to being a little less brave. Our food and drink budget also got blown with a big booze binge in Bai Tu Long Bay. I’m pretty sure at least 5% of this came from our luxury cruise, ahem.
Sites (museums, temples, etc.): 1,360,00 Dong / $74.99 CAD / 3% of our budget
Museums are CHEAP! If you’re a culture vulture, this is the place to get your fill. There are the obvious war sites, but we also hit up some neat museums like the Women’s Museum in Hanoi and the FITO traditional medicine museum in Saigon, both which I’d highly recommend.
Activities (bike rentals, tours, etc.): 895,000 Dong / $49.35 CAD / 2% of our budget
Our activity costs were low in Vietnam only because the ‘special experiences’ were so much of our three weeks here. We didn’t rent motorbikes as apparently foreigners are more targeted by police for fines. We did do a free walking tour in Hanoi, but our cost here was in giving the young student a tip (he did a great job!). This also includes us going to the movies on a rainy day, a couple of sketchy spa experiences for me and a drink at the Sky Bar in Saigon (hint: getting a drink at the top of the Sky tower is only marginally more expensive than a ticket up).
Miscellaneous (souvenirs, haircuts, postage, etc.): 5,351,000 Dong / $295.07 CAD / 10% of our budget
Lots of unexpected costs came up for us in Vietnam. We were in need of haircuts, bought most of our souvenirs here, posted souvenirs home, had to buy some clothes as we’d damaged some and … the killer… sunscreen. Our sunscreen from home ran out and it is EXTORTIONATE in Vietnam. Grumble.
Laundry: 400,000 Dong / $22.05 CAD / 1% of our budget
We had laundry done three times.
Special Experiences: 18,804,600 Dong / $1,036.00 CAD / 37% of our budget
And the bulk of our budget!!! That said, I don’t regret a dime of it. We splashed out, for sure. This thousand dollars (Canadian) included an incredible full-day cooking course, a foodie tour on the back of motorbikes through Saigon, a three day-two night luxury cruise of Bai Tu Long Bay and a three day trek through Sapa Valley with the sassy Sapa Sisters.
What’s Not Included?
I said “all in” right? Well, what’s not included are the ATM fees that I racked up. Here’s the thing I was so irritated with in Vietnam – you can only take our 2,000,000 Vietnamese Dong at a time. In November/December 2014 that was around $100 CAD per go. We basically took out cash every two days, seeing as it’s a cash economy and all. I can’t bring myself to dig into the actual cost of the ATM fees. I don’t want to know. My advice? I know people say traveler’s cheques are dead, but if I could do it all over I’d have brought two or three thousand dollars worth of US traveler’s cheques and exchanged them at banks. I’d have saved at least a hundred dollars, for sure.
I included small souvenirs above, but I did not include our big-spenda souvenir … we bought a painting in Hanoi!!! How can you not? For a four foot by six foot painting we spent $140 USD. And we love it. LOVE it. Adore it. Can’t wait to have it framed and hanging in our living room. We know we’ll love this painting for life, but not everybody is going to make this kind of major purchase, so I’ve left it out.
Do you think our budget was extravagant? Ever been to Vietnam? Where did you save/splash the cash?