Vietnam is a backpacker’s dream. It’s safe, easy to navigate around and there are plenty of things to do. And if the wafts of delicious street food aren’t enough to allure you, the cheap prices will. Daniel and I spent 12 days in North Vietnam visiting the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, the infamous trekking town, Sa Pa and Cat Ba Island (the cheapest way of exploring Ha Long Bay).
Total Vietnam Budget
We spent a total of $807.59AUD for both of us – an average of $33.65AUD / $25.88USD per person per day exclusive of flights, our visa and travel insurance. We found this to be quite a comfortable budget that afforded us luxuries such as hotels and good food.
Our total cost inclusive of flights and our visa: $675.80 per person
Average per day: $56.31AUD / $43.31USD per person
Note: We cannot give a cost of travel insurance as we purchased travel insurance for the entire 4-month block of our SE Asia trip.
We flew one way from Perth to Hanoi via Kuala Lumpur and paid $189AUD per person without baggage. An additional 20kg of baggage cost us $35AUD.
Total spent on a one-way flight: $224AUD / $172USD
To enter Vietnam, visitors from most foreign countries require a visa.
To check if you need a visa, check out VisaHQ.
Arriving by air: The cheapest option for getting a visa is to first pay for a ‘Letter of Invitation’ into Vietnam. On arrival, you will then pay $25USD for the stamping fee.
My Vietnam Visa Pro charges $12USD / $14AUD for a 1 Month single entry visa which is the cheapest we could find on the market. The processing time is 1 business day.
Upon arrival in Vietnam, you will need:
- A printout of your letter
- 1 passport photo and
- $25USD in cash.
Crossing by land: Vietnam does not have a visa on arrival system so you will need to either organise a visa in advance before you leave home or purchase one from Cambodia or Laos before entering the country.
Total spent on visa: $37USD / $48AUD per person
We spent a total of $197.30AUD for 11 nights accommodation for the two of us. To keep costs down in Hanoi, we stayed in a dorm room for the first 2 nights. Every other night in Vietnam was spent in a private hotel room or homestay (Sa Pa).
This is a breakdown of what we spent at each place:
- Hanoi Zesty Hotel – $7AUD / $5USD per dorm bed (4 bed dorm)
- Elysian Sapa Hotel – $18.40AUD / $13.50USD for private room & bathroom
- Sapa Heavenly Homestay – 300,000VND / $18.60AUD / $13.60USD for private room & bathroom
- My Moon Hotel (Hanoi) – $25AUD / $19USD for private room & bathroom
- Full Moon Party Hotel (Cat Ba Island) – 200,000VND / $12.40AUD / $9.50USD for private room & bathroom
Our top picks from this list are: Sapa Heavenly Homestay and My Moon Hotel.
Total spent on accommodation: $98.65AUD / $75.87USD per person
Average per night: $8.97AUD / $6.90USD per person
Tips for cheaper accommodation: Unless it’s peak season and places are booking out, don’t book online. We found that we could arrive and negotiate a price for a room. Travelling with another person will also help keep costs down in places where there aren’t dorm rooms as you will still get charged the cost of the room.
Food and drinks
We love our food is so our budget always gives way to delicious food. We ate and drank through 3,375,463VND/$209.06AUD/$160USD. This is an average of $17.42AUD per day for both of us on food. We eat a meal each, Daniel gets a beer and I get a drink.
- Water – 26,000VND / $1.61AUD / $1.24USD for 5L bottle of water
- Beer – 15,000VND / $0.93AUD / $0.70USD
- Pho – 30-55,000VND / $1.86-3.50AUD / $1.43-2.69USD
Total spent on food and drinks: $104.53AUD / $80.39 per person
Average per day: $8.71AUD / $6.70 per person
Tips for saving money on food: I’m sure you’ve heard it before – eat street food. Cut down on alcohol to save money.
The cheapest way to travel between cities and towns is to take a bus. The buses in Vietnam are quite comfortable and may or may not have toilets (we’ve always been told that there’s a toilet on board but have never had a bus with a working one).
We took a bus from Hanoi to Sa Pa (return) one from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island. We also hired a scooter in Sa Pa to explore around.
Cost examples of transport:
- Taxi from the airport to hostel in Hanoi: 75,000VND / $4.15AUD / $3.19USD per person
- Bus from Hanoi to Sa Pa: 220,000VND / $14AUD / $10USD per person
- Scooter hire in Sa Pa: 77,500VND / $5AUD / $3.85USD per scooter
- Fuel for scooter: 35,000VND / $2.50AUD / $2.96USD per scooter
- Taxi to homestay in Sa Pa: 200,000VND / $12.40AUD / $9.50USD
Total spent on transport: 1,280,000VND / $80AUD / $61USD per person
Tips for saving money on transport: don’t book buses in advance or online. Wait until you’re in Vietnam and negotiate with the many agencies in the area.
Tours & Entrance Fees
Cost examples for tours & entrance fees (all per person):
- Entrance to Women’s Museum: 30,000VND / $2AUD / $1.50USD
- Entrance to Love Waterfall: 70,000VND / $5AUD / $3.80USD
- Guide for Sa Pa Trek: 225,000VND / $14AUD / $11USD
- Ha Long Bay Tour: 300,000VND / $20AUD / $15.40USD
Total spent on tours & entrance fees: 625,00VND / $40AUD / $31USD per person
There are 2 things that keep me going back to SE Asia – food and massages. Vietnam isn’t the cheapest destination for a massage but it sure beats what I pay in Australia. Yes, it’s an addiction. Daniel isn’t a fan so this is my spend entirely. A 70 minute massage including tip set me back 200,000VND / $12.40 AUD / $9.50USD.
Total spent on massages: 680,000VND / $46AUD / $35USD
Tipping culture: massage therapists working for other people usually aren’t paid or are paid a very minimal amount. Therefore, tipping is necessary. As an Aussie, I get the dislike towards tipping. I used to think that tipping should be discretionary and dependent on the quality of service – when the person goes above and beyond. That was until I was made aware of the wages. Please be mindful of this when tipping, even if it’s against what you naturally do at home. Or just skip out on these services altogether if you don’t want to tip!
That’s a wrap on everything we spent in Vietnam. Let us know if you have any other tips for keeping costs down. Please also feel free to ask any questions regarding our budget in the comments below.
Check out this post for more tips on Backpacking in Vietnam