From the peaceful rice valleys of Sapa in Northern Vietnam stretching to the bustling city of the Ho Chi Minh in the south, Vietnam is home to a wealth of attractions and amazing cuisine that will attract both budget and luxury-seeking travelers. Guest Author Chloe with Go Go Budget Travel offers her tips and an itinerary with her budget travel guide to Vietnam.
Budget Travel Guide to Vietnam
When it comes to Southeast Asia countries, Vietnam is easily our guest author’s favorite pick. Once a lesser-known destination, Vietnam has become more and more popular among tourists in recent years. With its beautiful nature and cultural diversity, Vietnam attracted 10 million visitors in 2016, an increase of 26.0% from 2015.
This post contains affiliate links.
But how do you navigate this beautiful country? Thanks to guest author Chloe with Go Go Budget Travel, we’ve got you covered with this complete budget travel guide to Vietnam with tips and must-see and do places for one weeks’ trip to this historical and beautiful country.
Day 1: Hanoi, Vietnam – Where Locals Eat
Days 2 – 3: Must do activities in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Days 4 – 6: Sapa, Vietnam’s remote northwest mountains
Days 7-8: Top 3 attractions in Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Day 1: Hanoi, Vietnam – Where Locals Eat
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, with so many local food and restaurants for you choose from, travelers might find themselves lost in choices.
Luckily, when we visited Hanoi this time, our local friend Ha Linh brought us around to eat the best local food in Hanoi.
3 must eat delights recommended by the locals:
Address: 10 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
2. Square Cake (Bánh Chưng)
Address: Along the street of the Old Quarter
3. Egg coffee
Fragrance Café & Restaurant
Address: 35 Gia Ngu Street, Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Apart from trying out all the delicious food, do remember to visit iconic sites like St Joseph Cathedral, Ba Dinh Square, Ho Hoan Kiem and more! For a more complete street food guide in Hanoi, check out my blog post here.
Days 2-3 – Halong Bay, Vietnam
Hạlong Bay, in northeast Vietnam, is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Many travelers face the same question when they are considering a trip to Halong Bay: “Should I stay in Halong Bay cruise overnight?” The answer is a definite YES!
Must-do activities in Halong Bay
1. Enjoy the sunset and sunrise, and kayaking at the same time
Halong Bay is the most beautiful during sunrise and sunset moments. And you only get to see them if you stay overnight cruise. During these moments, the beauty of Halong Bay truly reveals itself. What’s more, you get to go kayaking in the quiet and serene bay as the sun sets. Truly amazing indeed!
2. Visit Sung Sot or “Surprise Cave”
Situated in the center of the UNESCO World Heritage area, Sung Sot or “Surprise Cave” is on Bo Hòn Island, one of the most spectacular and largest grottoes of Ha Long Bay. The cave is beautifully lit by different color of lights. One of the best advantages of choosing Halong Bay cruise overnight is that you get to visit the cave during the earliest hour, as soon as it opens.
3. Make your own spring rolls on the cruise
The cruise caters all the meals you need and light refreshment such as fruits. To be frank, I didn’t have high expectation of the food but to my surprise, everything tasted fantastic and fresh! What’s more, there’s a Vietnamese Spring Rolls making session. It is very easy to do and pretty fun making your own spring rolls!
Keen to find out more about Halong Bay? Check out my blog post here and watch the video below!
Days 4-6: Sapa, Vietnam’s remote northwest mountains
Located at 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level in Vietnam’s remote northwest mountains, Sapa is famous for both its fine, rugged scenery and also its rich cultural diversity. It is a quiet mountain town and home to a great diversity of ethnic minority peoples.
Must-do activities in Sapa, Vietnam:
No better way to explore Sapa than trekking. Sapa is orientated to make the most of the spectacular views emerging on clear days; overlooking a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides. You’ll find yourself being surrounded by cascading rice terraces, endless greenery, and amazing fresh air. Once you’ve stepped out into the lush fields, you’ll understand the Sapa area’s real charm.
2. Animal Watching
While you are trekking in the field, you’re bound to encounter a lot of animals. On the hill, you’ll see a buffalo sitting in the paddy field. Along the road, you’ll see horses passing by. Out of the blue moon, you may see domesticated pigs looking for food. The animals are gentle and won’t attack unless you provoke them. So just watch them quietly and enjoy the peace together.
3. Visit Cat Cat Village
Nestled in a beautiful valley about three kilometers from Sapa Town, Cat Cat, the old village of ethnic groups, attracts tourists from all over the world for its distinctive customs and practices which have been lost in almost ethnic villages.
Days 7-8: Top 3 attractions in Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Located on the Southern end of the Red River Delta, Ninh Binh is around 2 hours drive from Hanoi. It is blessed with diverse topography of both mountainous and coastal areas. It can be said that the province contains all the scenic quintessence of whole Vietnam within its relatively small size.
Not only that, Ninh Binh represents typical rural villages of Northern region with vast green paddy field, expanding mountains, and poetic river that flows to the horizon.
Ninh Binh’s history is also worth mentioning: the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th century, Ninh Binh is a venue of relics that reflect its 1000 years of history and development.
Top 3 Attractions in Ninh Binh
1. Hang Mua Pagoda (Mua Cave)
Down a sleepy road between rice paddies, this cave is truly impressive at the peak. It offers panoramic views of the rice paddies as you climb up the zigzags stairs. There are in total 450 steps but the height of the cave looks a lot more than that.
2. Trang An Boat Ride
If you’ve heard the beauty of Halong Bay, Trang An is the Halong Bay of the land. It has spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. And – best of all – there are very few tourists, so you can really enjoy the serenity of nature.
3. Bai Dinh Pagoda
Bai Dinh Pagoda is a religious complex covering a total area of 539 hectare, a size of more than 800 football fields combined! Located in the mountainous area, the peak of the pagoda offers breathtaking views. When you finally reach the top, you’ll be able to see a beautiful temple with gorgeous scenery as a backdrop.
How much does it Cost? Budget Travel to Vietnam
As Vietnam is a really cheap country to travel around, I spent around $450 USD for my entire 1-week trip. Such a budget really allows you to sleep in a comfortable and beautiful hotel, eat hearty meals 3 times a day, and pack your days with awesome activities!
- Hanoi: $50 USD
- Halong Bay Tour: $120 USD
- Sapa Tour: $180 USD
- Ninh Binh: $100 USD
Total cost: $450 USD
If you have more time to spare, you can go further north to Dalat, Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh. Personally I really recommend Dalat. Check out my complete Vietnam Travel Guide for more! Happy travels!
Quick Tips to Visiting Vietnam
- Currency: Vietnam Dong (click here for current conversion rates)
- Visa: Many countries have Visa exemption between 15-30 days. You can check out whether you’re the lucky one here. If you need to apply for a Visa, the best method is to apply online.
- Safety: It’s generally very safe to travel in the Northern and Central Vietnam. However, as it gets to the South, things become trickier and people are more cunning. Be careful of thieves in Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh.
- Climate: Depends on region. Summer is extremely hot and humid, while winter is rather cooling.
- Best SIM cards: There are four Telco companies in Vietnam and all of them offer similar services and pricings. A 5GB/30 day package cost 100,000 VND (around $5 USD). However, I still recommend Viettel as it has the largest network and most customers, closely followed by Vinaphone. Avoid Mobifone and Vietnamobile if you’re heading off the beaten track.
Guest Author Chloe is a Singaporean Value Investor and the founder of GoGo Budget Travel, an Investment & Travel blog geared towards the adventurous, off the beaten path-loving travelers. Whether you’re looking for investment knowledge, wealth management ideas, latest market news, to travel tips & tricks, Chloe shares her investment and travel experience so you can get on the road quicker, longer and better. Explore the world with GoGo Budget Travel.