If you’re a budget backpacker then you are looking at the right country. Backpacking Vietnam is one of your best choices because the country is easily one of the most budget-friendly in the world even when you’re backpacking Asia. That means that you can spend as much time in the country as you want (and most people extend their time here) without worrying about breaking the bank.
Personally, Vietnam was a country that I hate, until I fell in love with it. Many pick strong sides about the country either completely loving it or hating it. It’s just one of those places. However, most people do love to travel Vietnam and I have a feeling you will too.
But with so much to see and do how do you even begin to plan your trip? Luckily Vietnam caters to tourists in many ways. It’s a breeze to travel through either by bus or by motorbike, it’s relatively easy to communicate, and everyone travels on the same path so it’s easy to make friends (either North to South or South to North).
Our best advice is to make sure you give yourself enough time to see all of the country. I’d say a minimum of 2 weeks, but even that makes for a tight schedule so I’d follow my Vietnam 3 week itinerary instructions below. It’s easy to get a month long so I recommend getting one and being able to extend your stay if you need to (as you’ll probably want to!).
Travel to Vietnam can be easy or complicated but once you’re in Vietnam its quite simple. Vietnam is known for its night buses, and they’re dirt cheap. They have the best sleeper buses in SE Asia so your chance of getting a decent night’s sleep is pretty good. I recommend buying them as a package. You simply pick which destinations you want (or may want) to go to as the price changes based on how many places you want to visit. You pay up front and get the tickets on the spot. Then at each new destination, you call a day before and let them know you want on the next night bus. Some I even booked day of and only once was I not able to get on that night’s bus. For $45USD I took 5 buses. Keep in mind that when taking night buses it means you don’t have to pay for accommodation!
A lot of travel in Vietnam is through the country by motorbike if you’re feeling a little adventurous. You’ll find plenty for sale either in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. I was definitely too much of a chicken to try but heard so many good things by others who chose to explore .
For the most part you can walk pretty much anywhere in Vietnam if you’re staying in the central areas (which you can do so cheaply). Or taxis are very affordable. Be careful to not get scammed, it’s best to take the green taxis because they’re metered. You can also get taxi bikes through Grab (it’s like Uber but in Asia).
FOOd in Vietnam
Vietnamese food is delicious and the best of it is found on the streets. There are plenty of sit-down restaurants that you can find both local and international dishes for a reasonable price, but you will save much more if you choose to eat at the street stalls. Don’t worry about not speaking the language, they usually have pictures up or attempt to translate below them and you can just point. I highly recommend you try Bánh mì, a baguette loaded with different meats, cheese, eggs and veggies. You’ll find it everywhere but mostly in the South. Street food should cost $5 and under.
Days 1-3: Ho Chi Minh city
Fly into Ho Chi Minh City – the craziest city in the world! – and spend a couple of days exploring this chaotic city. Visit the War Remnants Museum, slurp on Vietnamese pho and sit in packed little street cafes watching the world go by. Oh, and don’t forget to organise a trip to the amazing Cu Chi Tunnels, where you can actually crawl through a network of underground tunnels that were used in the Vietnam war. Well worth doing!
Day 3-4: Mekong Delta
Is the Mekong Delta worth the 5-hour voyage west of Ho Chi Minh? If you’re keen to see how locals live and work on the Mekong, then yes, definitely. We did a homestay on the Mekong Delta and visited floating markets, a crocodile farm and stayed overnight with some locals. It’s not mind-blowing, but it is interesting. This can be organised from Ho Chi Minh and includes return travel.