Are you trying to figure out a reasonable Vietnam travel budget ? Read on for my detailed budget breakdown!
If you’re considering a trip to Vietnam, wow, are you in for a treat! Long overshadowed by the Vietnam War, this southeast Asian country is incredibly underrated and has a lot to offer. There are vibrant, bustling cities, incredibly delicious food (OMG the food!), very friendly locals, incredible landscapes, Instagrammable places, and no end of fun things to see and do.
And of course, if you’re a budget traveler, Vietnam is a steal of a deal. Even if you’re not a strictly budget traveler, you’ll appreciate the lower prices and the opportunity to splurge a bit without breaking the bank.
➡️The currency in Vietnam is the dong (yes, really). At the time of writing, 1 USD is equal to approximately 24,000 dong (abbreviated VND). However, we found it easiest to round up to 1 USD = 25,000 VND when making conversions in our head on the ground.
So, 500,000 dong is equal to about $20, and one million dong is about $40.
Cost of Travel to Vietnam
Matthew and I spent 11 days in Vietnam, visiting 5 cities and having the time of our lives – we adored Vietnam. We kept very careful track of every penny we spent, so we could give you an idea of what it costs to travel in Vietnam, so you can then plan out your Vietnam travel budget with some real numbers in mind.
About our style of travel: We definitely are mid-range travelers: we’re very budget conscious, we don’t like spending a ton on hotels, but we also don’t want to stay in hostels, we like restaurants as well as street food, and will definitely pay out for incredible experiences that might have a higher price tag, but don’t want to drop a bunch of money on any old thing.
With that in mind, here is our Vietnam travel budget!
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Of course, this depends a ton on where you are coming from. Flights from the US to Asia can be quite expensive, although flights from Europe, while often cheaper, can still be a lot.
I always plan my trip around the best flight deals, and for my American readers, the best place to find those cheap flights is through Going (formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights). They send you regular emails for amazing flight deals from airports close to you, so you can always fly for the best prices.
I love them and have been a member for years now – you can sign up to get email deals for free here.
Hotels in Vietnam are incredibly cheap, and we were looking for hotels (not hostels) that looked nice. Because the prices were so inexpensive, we were okay paying a little bit more for hotels with nicer décor or views.
Although we stayed in Vietnam for 11 nights, we only booked 7 nights at hotels. This is because we slept on night trains (saved money and time), and some of our nights were part of tours. I’ll talk about the tours later on, but since it was one price for the entire experience, I’m not counting them here.
We spent a total of 4,949,810 dong on 7 nights of hotels. This averages out to about 707,115 dong per night, or about $29. We were exceptionally happy with this cost, especially because we really enjoyed all the places we stayed.
These are the exact hotels we stayed at, and I’d recommend them all!
- In Hanoi, we stayed at the Hanoi Graceful Hotel
- In Sapa, we stayed at Homestay 715
- In Ninh Binh, we stayed at the Greenland Hotel
- In Halong Bay, we stayed at the Draha Halong Hotel
- And in Ho Chi Minh City, we stayed at the Bon Ami Hotel
Like hotels, we were blown away by how cheaply we could eat in Vietnam. There are little street food stands and restaurants set up all over the cities, and you could get a meal for as cheap as $1-3. A bowl of pho on the street, which you can easily find, was usually about 30,000 dong, or $1.25.
Sit-down restaurants will of course cost more than street food. We usually ate at restaurants for between 120,000-175,000 dong per person total, which works itself out to about $5-7. This included drinks, the meal, and sometimes an appetizer or dessert.
We had kind of a weird eating schedule and thus have a skewed total amount that we spent on food. For example, the afternoon after we finished our trek in Sapa, we were so tired that we literally just slept and rested the rest of the afternoon and evening, and just went to the bodega next door to grab some snacks for dinner.
We also had 3 dinners where we met up with some friends of Matthew’s brother (it’s kind of a long story, but the gist is that Matthew’s brother speaks Vietnamese, has visited several times, and has many friends and connections there).
Anyway! His brother set us up to meet with some of these friends, and they were all SO generous and just paid for our meals.
And of course, some of our meals were included in the tours we did, so I won’t separate those costs out here.
Our total food cost in our Vietnam travel budget was 3,125,000 dong for 12 meals, which comes out to 260,000 dong per meal (for two people). This is approximately $10 per meal, and $5 per person per meal.
Some meals were more expensive (we had a shockingly expensive but also shockingly delicious lunch at the Secret Garden in Saigon that came out to $30. This felt incredibly bougie, but also WORTH IT) and some were quite a bit less expensive, but that was our average.
Matthew and I like snacks. Maybe that’s the American in us – is it what it is! We really like trying new snacks and candy in foreign countries. If there was a little bakery, we’d pop in and grab something, and if we saw a little stand with a treat, we’d often try it just for fun. We stopped in convenience stores several times to check out any kind of Vietnamese candy we could find.
As mentioned previously, there were a couple nights that we were so tired we couldn’t even think about going out for a meal, so we just grabbed some munchie snacks from the convenience store next door and called it good.
In total, we spent 456,000 dong on 11 different snack occasions, and spent anywhere between 5,000 dong for a bit of fry bread on the street to 80,000 for a variety of chips, candy, and other packaged goods at a convenience store. This works out to $19 total, or about $1.70 on average per snack break.
We don’t drink alcohol, so our beverage consumption was entirely limited to water, and sometimes juice or soda.
Water is not safe to drink in Vietnam, so you must either buy bottled water or use a filtered water bottle.
We ended up buying a decent amount of bottled water from grocery stores or little bodegas on the street.
Generally speaking, you could buy a soda for about 10-15,000 dong (about 45-60 cents USD). If you’re buying water, 10,000 dong will get you a 0.5 L (16 oz) water bottle on the street, but if you buy from a grocery store, you could get a 0.5 liter bottle for 6,000 dong or a 5 liter bottle for 30,000 dong.
In total, we spent 342,000 dong on water, juice, and soda (about $14). This does not include anything we ordered with meals, it’s just drinks that we bought separately throughout the day.
We did two guided tours in Vietnam. One of them was a 2 day/1 night trekking adventure in Sapa. The other one was a 2 day/1 night cruise in Bai Tu Long Bay (just next to the very popular Halong Bay). Both of these tours were just incredible adventures, and I absolutely loved them. They were also both a considerable chunk of money and took up almost 40% of our Vietnam travel budget (but were well, well worth it!).
The Bai Tu Long Bay Cruise was approximately $170 per person.
The Sapa trek was about $85 per person.
Both of these tours included the tour guides, all meals, water, an overnight stay, and, in the case of the Halong Bay cruise, all activities on board the ship (e.g. kayaking in Bai Tu Long Bay cruise).
While you can definitely find lower prices for these activities, I was extremely happy with the quality of the experience and that both tours took us to places that were off the beaten path, without a lot of other people.
I also liked that I could book the tour online, and here’s why. I’m not a digital nomad where I can spend weeks or months on end in a country – I usually have 2 weeks at a time. So I want to have as many logistics as possible figured out before I go, and not waste my time arranging tours or logistics when I’m there.
And when we’re talking about big ticket experiences that I’ve been really looking forward to – like Halong Bay or trekking in Sapa – I want to make sure I book a good tour and have a fantastic experience. So generally, I prefer to read reviews and book ahead of time, even though I know I could probably book a tour for less money if I waited and haggled in the city.
Total Cost for Two People: $510
🏯Entrance Fees and Activities
Entrance fees were very nominal in Vietnam, and were generally between 30,000-40,000 dong per person ($1.25-$1.66). Some of the activities cost a little bit more – notable exceptions include the Trang An tour in Ninh Binh, Poem Mountain in Halong Bay, and the Bixeco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City.
In Hanoi, we spent 160,000 dong per person on 5 entrance fees (Ngoc Son Temple, Temple of Literature, Hoa Loa Prison, the Citadel, and the Military Museum). This total is equal to $6.67.
In Sapa, we spent 110,000 per person total on 3 entrance fees (Love Waterfall, Silver Waterfall, and a viewpoint), plus 175,000 on a herbal bath at our homestay during our trekking adventure. I also got a 50 minute full body massage for 350,000 (about $14). This works out to about $25.85 total.
In Ninh Binh, we spent 100,000 dong per person at the Hang Mua caves, and then 250,000 at the Trang An boat tour. This works out to about $14.50 per person.
In Halong Bay, we spent 250,000 dong per person as a crazy entrance fee/bribe to hike Poem Mountain via someone’s backyard. This was an exorbitant $10 per person (but worth it, in my opinion).
Finally, in Ho Chi Minh City, the entrance fees were a bit more. We spent 305,000 per person for 3 entrance fees: The Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum, and the observation deck of the Bixeco Financial Tower. These totaled up to be about $12 per person.
Total Cost Per Person : 1,700,000 dong ($70)
Transportation Around Vietnam
In the cities, we always used Grab or taxis to get around, if we weren’t walking. Grab is the alternative to Uber in Vietnam (you can read my full post about Grab in Vietnam here). Taxis and Grabs were extremely cheap, and a 10-15 minute ride across town generally cost between 30-40,000 dong ($1.25-1.70).
In Ho Chi Minh City, we paid 158,000 dong ($6.75) for a 35 minute ride from the airport to our hotel in district 1.
In Hanoi, we paid 127,000 dong ($5.40) for a 25 minute ride from our hotel to a train station outside the city. Another time, we paid 95,000 dong ($4) for a 30 minute ride across town during rush hour. We also booked a private transfer ($12) from the airport to the city (about a 45 minute ride) during a layover on the way to Vietnam because we were already exhausted and couldn’t deal with more logistics.
In Sapa, we paid 60,000 dong per person (about $2.30) for a 1 hour ride on a shuttle bus between the train station in Lao Cai and the town of Sapa.
Total Cost for Taxis and Grabs: 1,671,000 dong ($69) for 16 rides in Vietnam. The least expensive ride was about $1.25, and the most expensive was $12.
Pro Tip: Get an E-Sim card before you go so that you’ll always have data to use the Grab app.
🚈Trains & Vans
We took the train or a van to get between cities in Vietnam three times: Hanoi to Sapa, Sapa to Ninh Binh (which was actually two separate trains: Sapa to Hanoi, and then Hanoi to Ninh Binh), and then Ninh Binh to Halong Bay.
The first two were night trains, and the last one was an evening luxury van. All of our train and luxury van experiences were excellent. I loved taking the night train – it saved us so much time and I slept incredibly well. Because it’s not a high speed train, the train sways just a touch as it moves along, and there’s a little bit of background noise from the track. Both of these things lulled me right to sleep and I slept like a baby.
Plus, it takes around 7 hours to get from Hanoi to Sapa, so it was awesome to not have to waste practically an entire day to get between cities. Finally, you saved money, because the train also functioned as your hotel for the night.
While we didn’t ride on a night bus, I did see a couple in Vietnam, and they also looked really nice. The seats were all set up to be reclining quite nicely, with your legs propped up, and it actually looked really comfortable as well.
The night trains and the luxury van we took all cost between $13 and $20 per person.
I booked all our trains and vans (you can also book buses too) through 12Go Asia – you can compare times, itineraries, and prices easily to find the best option that works for you.
Total Cost for Train and Van for Two People: $136
We rented scooters three times in Vietnam – once for a day in Sapa, once for a day in Ho Chi Minh City, and once for a few hours in Ninh Binh. We paid 250,000 dong in Saigon, 60,000 in Sapa, and 40,000 in Ninh Binh, for a total of 350,000 dong ($14.50) on rentals.
In addition, we also paid 60,000 and 80,000 for gas for the scooters ($5.80), and we also had to pay for scooter parking and bike parking. Parking was usually anywhere between 4,000 dong and 10,000 dong (16-40 cents). We paid about 60,000 total on parking (about $2.40), which included around 8 different parking occasions.
While trains and buses are great ways to get around one region of Vietnam, I wouldn’t take a train directly from, say, Hanoi in the north all the way to Ho Chi Minh in the south. By car, that would take about 30 hours. Instead, you can get really cheap flights between Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City. A one way flight costs between $50-80 per person and takes about 2 hours.
Our cost: $100 for two people
We spent quite a bit on souvenirs, mostly for other people. We brought little things back for our four girls, plus a bunch of fun things for my parents, who were watching our kids for the 2 weeks we were gone. We also picked up some things for several other friends and relatives.
I won’t include the totals in this Vietnam travel budget since what you spend in this category will vary significantly (and also because it’s 100% a discretionary category), but I’ll note some prices here:
We bought a water buffalo stuffed animal (60,000) and an embroidered purse (50,000) for our daughters. We bought several bowls made of coconut and lined with seashells for around 30-50,000 dong. We bought several sets of serving spoons made of colored seashells for about 200,000 dong each.
The biggest thing to remember when buying any kind of goods or souvenirs is to haggle! If you’re a foreigner (and especially if you’re a westerner), you’re going to get massively overcharged for items in Vietnam. Aim to get your final price closer to 50% of their asking price. Don’t feel bad about haggling; sellers won’t accept a deal that is actually bad for them.
The Totals for our Vietnam Travel Budget (for 2 people)
|Cost in Dong
|Cost in Dollars
|Hotels (7 nights)
|NA (paid in $)
|Entrance Fees and Activities
|Taxis/Grabs (16 rides)
|Night trains + intercity vans
|NA (paid in $)
|Scooters (+ gas and parking)
|NA (paid in $)
|Total For Two People
(not including $)
|Total Per Person Per Day
|Total Per Person Per Day
(Excluding Halong Bay + Sapa Tours)
Other Good Things to Know about Money in Vietnam
Cash is King
You will need to pay for cash for just about everything in Vietnam (including many hotels!). Plan to bring two debit cards (in case one doesn’t work) and pull cash out of the ATM regularly. We found most ATMs would let us pull 2-3 million dong ($80-120) out at a time .
Tipping in Vietnam is not expected or customary, and some places the guides are forbidden from asking. You can choose to tip, if you want, though.
Pickpockets are common in Vietnam, so keep your wallet secure and your purse in front of you. Be aware that snatch and grabs from people on scooters can and do happen, so keep your belongings secured from anyone scootering by as well.
Phones are a common target for the scooter thieves; try not to walk with it out.
While I wouldn’t haggle for meals, if you’re hiring a guide informally (ie not through an agency) for a service, or if you’re buying any goods from street vendors or markets, definitely haggle! The price they quote you is massively upcharged – I’d aim for ending at around 50% of their opening offer.
Vietnam Travel Budget – The Wrap Up
Overall, I felt great about our Vietnam travel budget – we had tons of great experiences and were able to travel without really paying too close attention to how much we were spending while still keeping to a really moderate travel budget.
Plus, cost of travel in Vietnam is so economical that it’s really easy to travel for much less than what we spent – choose more basic hotels or stay in hostels to cut your accommodations down to 10-20 per night, eat primarily street food and groceries to keep your food costs closer to $5 per day, and choose different options or skip entirely the expensive tours.
Traveling to Vietnam was incredible, and worth every penny!