Travelling on a Shoestring Around Vietnam

Vietnam is a country of diverse cultures and splendid contrasts. It’s a good idea to work out what you would like to see before arrival and this will help you stick to your budget.

EXPLORE 2010-06-23 #55 - sailing away


All itineraries for travelling in Vietnam should include a visit to Hanoi. This bustling city combines the old with the new and there are plenty of activities for those who have to keep an eye on their expenditure. The city actually dates back to 1010 and for those who are interested the History Museum at 1P Trang Tien is a fascinating way to pass some time and learn more about the cultural diversity of the country. Many inhabitants of Hanoi start their day with their traditional T’ai Chi exercises on the banks of the Hoan Kiem Lake; in English this means ‘The Lake of the Returned Sword’ this exercise is free and a great way of starting the day. After catering for the body spiritual it’s time to take care of matters temporal and there are many cheap cafes around the lake where you can enjoy either traditional Vietnamese specialities or even a French continental style breakfast. 


The cheapest food to eat in all cities across the country is that which is bought from the ubiquitous street vendors. The Vietnamese food is nutritious and fresh and you can try noodles, banana leaf wrapped pork or a variety of soups. The further South you go, the greater the amount of chilli that’s added to spice the meal.

Steamed mussels. Vietnamse style


Look out for guesthouses rather than hotels. These are usually family run and rather basic but they are clean and most have air conditioning (for a small fee) The Manh Dung in Hanoi is recommended. Da Nang hotels are also recommended as they can been affordably booked though sites like Expedia. Sometimes, just walking around an area that interests you and then entering into a guesthouse and negotiating a price is the cheapest way of finding suitable accommodation.


Vietnamese traffic is slightly manic but for those brave souls who enjoy a sense of adventure then bike or motorcycle hire is one of the cheapest ways of getting around. Some companies will even ensure that if you are travelling by train or air, for example then you’ll still be able to pick up a bike at your destination; try to ensure that the company you are using is reputable as the last thing anyone wants on holiday is to deal with all of the problems of breaking down in a lonely mountain pass. Most bicycle hire companies have offices throughout Vietnam.

Flower Hmong women

The Train’s The Thing

The Vietnamese train system is cheap and efficient and probably one of the best ways to see the country and get to know its people. Most train tickets can be bought in advance, either from the local station or through a travel agent, though a booking fee will be added if you use an agency. The splendid ‘Reunification Railway will allow you to travel from the North to the South of the country and it’s up to you how long you wish to stay on board.

Photos via Flickr Creative Commons