VIETNAM UNDER P12,000 IN 7 DAYS – A FILIPINA SOLO BACKPACKER’S GUIDE TO EXPLORING ON A BUDGET 13



Warning: This very long post consists of more than 5000 words which I assure is worth reading until the very end. 😊

INTRO


Travelling to other countries has been a long time dream for me. Something I had thought about since I’ve discovered my inner wanderlust. That feeling of getting lost in an utterly peculiar place in the company of strangers whose tongues speak of an entirely different language from mine has always appealed to my curiosity. It’s scary but knowing and understanding other race and their culture, learning to speak their language and discovering their history are the things that defy whatever fear holding me back from venturing into this more precarious adventure. But this dream doesn’t come easy. I’ve spent years watching opportunities slip by to give way for more urgent matters involving work and family that I didn’t get the chance to turn this dream into reality until March of 2016 when I let nothing and no one to stop me from unraveling the secrets of Vietnam!


WHY VIETNAM?


After I realized springtime in Japan won’t be possible this year due to its more rigid travel policy (e.g. visa application), I opted for Vietnam out of the many countries in Asia particularly in the Southeast and East regions for the following reasons.

1. It doesn’t require travel visa.

– Travelling to Vietnam doesn’t require Filipinos visa. All we need is a Philippine passport valid for at least 6 months and we can be granted to stay for 21 days. You may be required to show your return flight ticket or your flight ticket out of Vietnam if you’re not yet to return to the Philippines.

2. It is relatively inexpensive.

– Vietnam is a socialist republic so prices are well regulated and kept at a minimum by the government. Plus, Philippine peso recently has a more competitive US Dollar value at PHP45.90 giving us quite an edge over Vietnamese Dong at VND22.800. (Rates during my travel)

3. Efficient Transportation System.

– Moving from one place to another is so easy in Vietnam may you be coming from the South or the North region with their inexpensive railway system that connects the two. They also have airports available in major cities so flying from one city to another is possible but not quite friendly to the pocket. Familiarizing their bus transport system to tour around major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh is another way to effectively save cost.

4. It is quite safe for a female solo traveler.

– Low crime rates against people of different race, color or ethnicity. Low crime rates against women. No recent reports of terrorist attacks. Pickpockets and scams were something I didn’t worry about since I am accustomed to more notorious evil here in Metro Manila.

5. Easy Way of Getting In and Out.

– Cebu Pacific has direct flights to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh to and from Manila daily and airfare is most of the time discounted at 50%-70%. Getting out of Vietnam to explore neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand can be done both by bus and plane and fare can be really cheap!

6. Vietnam pretty much has everything.

– This country is a melting pot of rich culture, religion and history. It also boasts of breathtaking natural wonders, Halong Bay for instance. Fun and adventure is definitely not the least to experience in this treasure of a land as it is home to Fansipan, the highest mountain in the Indochina region. Really. There’s plenty of things to see if only you know where to look.


SO HOW DID I MANAGE TO SPEND LESS THAN PHP12,000 FOR THE 7 DAYS I WAS IN VIETNAM?


DAY 1: HANOI AND THE SPECTACULAR OLD QUARTER

VIETNAM ON A BUDGET

Beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake

I flew to Vietnam via Hanoi leaving Manila at 10:30PM. I arrived at the airport at 12:45AM. It was a 3-hour travel but Vietnam time is one hour behind the Philippines. After getting past immigration security inspection without an incident, I walked to the front of the airport to have some of my USD changed to VND only to find no money changers available. Several local taxi drivers were there offering rides to my hostel or to the nearest money changers but I did my best to avoid them and instead chose to wait at the airport until morning. I took a nap keeping my valuables secured while I dozed off for the next 4 hours.

My phone alarm went off at 6AM quickly waking me up from my deep slumber. I looked at my stuff. None were missing. I immediately ran to the money changers lined next to one another in one of the sections in the airport to compare exchange rates and I was grinning from ear to ear when I saw the rate was VND22.800 to USD1 when I was only expecting VND21.000. Got my USD200 changed and went to eat breakfast at a Pho station paying only VND30.000 for one fully satisfying beef noddle soup.

My initial plan was to go on a 1-Day Halong Bay cruise on the first day but I knew it was no longer possible since travel time to Halong Bay takes about 4 hours and cruises normally start at 8AM so I opted to leave it for the following day and explore Hanoi and the Old Quarter instead. After finishing my meal, I grabbed myself a free map in the tourists lounge, walked to the bus stop located at the far east corner of the airport and hopped on bus no. 7 to take me to the city. I had downloaded an app (Hanoi Bus) prior to my travel which I found very helpful. It took 45 minutes to reach Cau Giay bus stop. From Cau Giay, I rode bus no. 9 to take me to Bo Hoc and from there walked 20 minutes to Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel (Downtown) in Ma May street. I paid for 1 night and after securing my bag in the luggage storage room, off I went to start my tour.

I went to see the rest of the Old Quarter, passing by Hoan Kiem Lake and the other notable landmarks. I ate lunch in Dong Xuan market sampling some street foods, paying less than VND50.000. I went to see the water puppet show before heading back to the hostel to take advantage of the free beers! It was such an eventful day that at 10PM I resigned to the comforts of my bed and my waking dreams.

Read: How To Travel Cheap In Hanoi And The Timeless Old Quarter

Summary Of Expenses Price VND
Bus Fare (No. 7 VND7000 & No.9 VND8000) 15.000
Food & Water 100.000
Water Puppet Show 160.000
Entrance Fees 70.000
Accommodation 1 night 150.000
Total 495.000

Points to remember:

  1. Water Puppet Show is something you wouldn’t want to miss while you are in Hanoi. Entrance Fee is VND150.000 and an additional VND10.000 is required if you want to capture the spectacular show on your camera. Buy your tickets early in the day if you want to watch it later in the evening.
  2. If you want to utilize the bus in going to your chosen hostel from the airport, asked the hostel staff about the name of the nearest bus stop and get detailed instructions if you are to take the bus from the airport. Although many hostels do include transportation details on their correspondences once booking is confirmed, it is still best to double check.
  3. Weather in Vietnam varies per region. I happen to have not prepared myself to the freezing temperature in Hanoi. I thought it was all sunny during my travel but turns out winter was yet to be over that temperature even dropped to 14-degrees. Worse I haven’t packed me a single jacket! I just have to applaud myself for not being used to baring skin that I had with me some of my long sleeves that I had used to layer with my top.

DAY 2: THE ENCHANTING HOA LU AND TAM COC IN NINH BINH

VIETNAM ON A BUDGET

Cruising Ngo Dong River marveling at the towering limestone karst

This day was supposedly for a 1-day Halong Bay cruise but since I needed to catch the train bound for Hue later at 7.30PM, I opted instead to explore the gems in the province of Ninh Binh (Hoa Lu and Tam Coc) located some 90KM south of Hanoi which would allow me to be back in the city at 6PM. Known as Halong Bay by the lands, this tour was the perfect alternative for not seeing Halong Bay.

I had the tour arranged with one of the tour agencies along Ma May Street on day 1 when I realized a day in Halong Bay would no longer be possible as it will consume a total of 12 hours and won’t get me back to Hanoi until past 8PM. Since I haven’t really researched about this place and I didn’t want to take chances, I signed up for the tour and got it for VND450.000.

I checked out of the hostel right after breakfast (free) and started the tour at 9AM taking my backpack with me. We visited the Lê King Temples (as what the guide called it but they were really called the temples of Lê Đại Hành and Đinh Tiên Hoàng) which was the center of the Đinh and Lê Dynasties for over a century before it was transferred to Hanoi by the King of the Ly Dynasty. Lunch later on was over a Vietnamese buffet consisting of fish, chicken and pork dishes overflowing with stir fried veggies and sticky rice. We also went biking along the villages passing by rice paddies while marveling at hundreds of limestone mountains dotting the entire land. The tour ended with a cruise along Ngô Đồng River passing underneath 3 caves as we witnessed lush vegetation, surrounded with towering limestone karst for the entire one hour. We made it back to Hanoi few minutes past 6PM giving me ample time to walk my way to the train station. I didn’t bother to have dinner. My stomach was yet to be emptied of that day’s lunch.

Summary Of Expenses Price VND
Tour Hoa Lu & Tam Coc 450.000
Train Fare Hanoi – Hue (Soft Seater) 492.000
Total 942.000

Points to remember:

  1. Tours in Hanoi are quoted in USD so you are best to pay in USD than converting the price to VND due to varying exchange rates and you might end up paying more. This is what happened to me. The tour rep initially quoted it for $26 but ended up agreeing to lower it down to $20. I didn’t have USD with me so I asked him to convert the price to VND but he valuated VND23.500 to $1. After much deliberation, he gave me the tour for VND450.000 inclusive of everything.
  2. Don’t bother about the more expensive $35 Hoa Lu-Tam Coc tour that some agencies offer promising better service like more comfortable bus or more delicious buffet lunch at a fancier restaurant as they’re pretty much all the same. Shop around until you find the best deal.
  3. If you are getting out of Hanoi on a train, it is best to book your trip in advance through reliable 3rd party services online especially if you are travelling during the holiday season. You can always buy tickets at the station in Hanoi a day or two before your travel but you might end up not getting your preferred seat like a lower berth on a soft sleeper as in my case. I was even lucky to get me soft seats for my preferred dates and time of travel to both Hue and Saigon as I was close to getting nothing at all.
  4. Another option of going to Hue which I overlooked is the sleeper bus. It seems more comfortable and cheaper at 200.000+ dong than the train’s soft seats.

DAY 3: AMAZING WORK OF ARCHITECTURE IN THE IMPERIAL CITY OF HUE

VIETNAM ON A BUDGETAfter more than 12 hours of train travel lying awkwardly in a reclined soft seat, trying real hard to get me a descent sleep over the boisterous chatter of old people which lasted until dawn, I arrived in Hue at 8:45AM. Breakfast was at 6AM over Vietnamese rice, a slice of chicken and spam sprinkled with roasted peanuts and other herbs drizzled with soy sauce which I bought for VND25.000 from the roaming food cart inside the train. From the train station I hailed a Mai Linh taxi to take me to Hue Backpacker’s Hostel which cost me VND30.000 just exactly what was stated on their website.

As soon as my stuff were all settled and I, having taken a much needed shower, off I went on a tour at 10PM using the bike which I borrowed from the hostel. With only a map, a bottled water and my DSLR in tow, I went to see 6 Emperor tombs – Tu Duc, Min Mhang, Khai Dinh, Dong Khanh, Duc Duc and Thieu Tri – and Tu Hieu pagoda. On my way back to see the other sites located across the bridge, I quickly stopped to get me Bon Bo Hue for lunch at 4PM (way too late Lunch). I resumed the tour exploring the Imperial Citadel and Thien Mu pagoda. On my way back to the hostel, I spotted a place situated by the river where flowers were in full bloom. I took few minutes to rest staring blankly at the tourist boats cruising the river. I then resumed to pedal my way back when it was about dark quickly stopping by a travel agency office to arrange my tour to Hoi An the following morning. I made it back at 7PM where I had pasta for dinner and free beers while laughing over some crazy quiz bee (one of the hostel’s nightly activities) at the bar. At 10PM, off I went to sleep the night away.

Summary Of Expenses                         Price VND
Breakfast 25.000
Lunch 35.000
Water 1L 10.000
Dinner 50.000
Entrance & Parking Fees 260.000
Taxi 30.000
Accommodation 1 night 150.000
Total 560.000

Points to remember:

  1. Hostels normally have bikes available to rent to their guests free of charge but if you happen to be with a hostel that doesn’t offer such, there’s plenty of bikes for rent around town for VND30.000 as well as motorcycles for no more than VND100.000. Detailed maps of the must see sites are provided. You may be required to leave an ID or your passport to rent either the bicycle or motorbikes.
  2. Hue is home to the famous Bon Bo Hue – it’s very own Beef Noodle Soup. It is available anywhere out of Hue but none could be more authentic than the ones found in the Imperial City.
  3. Some tourist sites require an entrance fee ranging from 50.000 to 150.000 Dong but others are free. I only bothered to pay to see the Imperial Citadel and Tu Duc Tomb and settled to view the other sites that require an entrance fee from the outside.
  4. If you need a dose of Vitamin Sea, some 14km away from the heart of Hue is Thuan An Beach. I planned to ride my bike there after seeing the Thien Mu Pagoda but it was already late so I just opted not to pursue it. I am reckless at times but I reckoned being out in the outskirts of a foreign land late at night is never a good idea. Would have been awesome to see a beach after coming from an extremely hazy days in Hanoi.

DAY 4: THE EXCITING MOTORCYCLE RIDE FROM HUE TO HOI AN VIA HAI VAN PASS

VIETNAM ON A BUDGETThey say that there is no better way to discover the beauty of Central Vietnam than to embark on a thrilling motorcycle tour from Hue to Hoi An via Hai Van Pass. Hence on my 4th day, I was on a quest to find out whether or not that’s true. I had it arranged the day before with Impressive Travel and got it for VND800.000 inclusive of English speaking driver, petrol & entrance fees. I didn’t bother to pay more for the seafood buffet lunch. This is probably where I paid the most out of my entire stay in Vietnam and I was halfhearted about my decision of spending that much for a transfer (Hue to Hoi An) that could just cost me around VND80.000 or less taking the bus. If only I can drive and had a driver’s licence, I would have been able to get it at a much lower price.

The tour started at 8AM journeying from the heart of Hue to the Old Fishing Village, Elephant Springs, Lang Co Beach stopping for lunch at a seafood floating restaurant, continuing the ride to Hai Van Pass to see the Old American War Bunker going down to Danang’s China Beach and Marble Mountain then finally arriving in Hoi An at 5PM. I checked in Hoi An Backpacker’s Hostel for 2 nights then went to explore the lively Ancient Town at 7PM after dinner and free beers.

Summary of Expenses           Price VND
Motorcycle Tour 800.000
Food (Breakfast was free) 140.000
Hostel 2 nights 320.000
Total 1260.000

Points to remember:

  1. They may offer you to add more for the buffet lunch at a seafood floating restaurant but I suggest you stick to the lower price. Anyways the floating seafood restaurant is along the way so you can ask the driver to drop by for lunch. This also gives you flexibility in choosing where to eat and how much to spend for your food.
  2. Try asking your driver if he would be kind to take you to other places which is not part of the tour. You will be surprised to see beautiful places only known to locals and kept hidden to foreign visitors. My driver was really kind to ask me if there is somewhere I still want to see but he might have seen the confusion in my face that he was happy to drive me somewhere really remarkable.

DAY 5: MY SON SANCTUARY AT SUNRISE, OLD WOOD VILLAGE, BEAUTIFUL AN BANG BEACH AND ORGASMIC FOODIE TOUR AT NIGHT

VIETNAM ON A BUDGETOne of the things I really love about Vietnam is the way they preserve pieces of their culture and religious heritage and one indisputable proof is the My Son Sanctuary which is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage sites in their country. It is a must see religious structure whenever you are in Central Vietnam. I chose to see it first thing in the morning on my 2nd day in Hoi An. It was a totally amazing experience. The tour which I got from the hostel also included a boat ride cruising Thu Bồn River back to the ancient town with a side trip to the Old Wood Village where I witnessed some awesome wood craftsmanship and the locale’s simple way of living.

I arrived back in the hostel at 12NN where I rested for several hours after eating lunch at a nearby restaurant. I resumed touring at 5PM where I rode a bike going to An Bang Beach. I witnessed a breathtaking sunset over the vast rice paddies on my way back. When I reached the ancient town bustling with tourists, I went on a food tour sampling several street foods to satisfy my palate with the authentic flavors of Hoi An.

Summary Of Expenses Price VND
My Son Sanctuary (Breakfast included) 450.000
DIY Food Tour – Dinner + Lunch 250.000
Total 700.000

Points to remember:

  1. Hoi An is known to be the best place for foodies in Vietnam that if you crave to get a taste of real Vietnamese cuisine then a trip to Hoi An would be the answer. Yet you can’t just walk around to find the real deal. What you can do is book for a cooking class or stay in local homes who would be willing to provide you with not just a bed you can sleep in but a closer look to their style of cooking and better understanding of their daily living.
  2. Skip the posh restaurants in the ancient town and head to the street food corner passed the Japanese Bridge. There you can find cheap home cooked meals. Also try the yummy Popsicles sold for only 10.000. Durian flavor was my favorite.

DAY 6: CUA DAI BEACH AND THE TRAIN JOURNEY FROM DANANG TO HO CHI MIN

VIETNAM ON A BUDGET

Beautiful sunset I took from the train

In the morning, I went biking in the ancient town one last time to snap me some photos of it less the crowd. The town was so serene in the early morning with only the local vendors getting on with their daily routines. I then pedalled 6KM to Cua Dai Beach to find out what has become of this once head turning stunner. The reviews online were true. There was really not much to be seen in this side of Hoi An other than the devastating truth that this once lovely beach is slowly being destroyed by erosion. I felt a bit of sadness while biking my way back to the hostel. I didn’t want to say goodbye to this lovely town just yet.

I took the bus going to Danang to catch the train bound for Saigon. I hired a motorbike to take me to the nearest bus stop. Danang was almost an hour away from Hoi An. I alighted the bus at the terminal and walked my way to the train station which took about 20 minutes. I ate lunch while waiting for my train to arrive. At exactly 1PM commenced my not so comfy train ride to Saigon.

Unlike the first train ride from Hanoi to Hue which had really nothing much to offer my eyes hungry for awe-inspiring scenery, the train ride from Danang to Saigon on the other hand took me to see the other beautiful side of Vietnam. I had not taken my sight off the window until it was dark snapping my camera some photos of the rice paddies stretching for several miles and the magnificent mountains towering over them. The local houses amazingly look exactly the same with one another. One thing I had noticed though are the tombs built in the middle of rice fields. I had seen several of those during my trip to Hoa Lu and in the morning of the train ride to Hue. Is that one of the reasons why Vietnamese rice is so tasty? (Kidding) After I had dinner, I tried real hard to get me some sleep for the next 8 hours amidst the indiscreet chatter of old people I was seated next to. (Laughing my a*se out) So much for backpacking!

Summary Of Expenses                     Price VND
Lunch 35.000
Bus Fare 30.000
Motorcycle 25.000
Dinner 40.000
Train 730.000
Total 860.000

DAY 7: THE BUSTLING HO CHI MINH CITY AND THE HISTORICAL CU CHI TUNNELS

VIETNAM ON A BUDGET

Ben Thanh Market and the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh

There was a slight inconvenience during my train ride to Saigon. A bridge connecting Bien Hoa and Saigon was destroyed when it got hit by a barge, disabling passage and will take months of reconstruction. I needed to get off the train from Bien Hoa and ride a bus to the nearest Song Than railway station to catch the train that would take me to Saigon. This transfer service was offered free of charge. The bus ride to Song Than station took 30 minutes and another hour train ride to Saigon that I arrived in Ho Chi Minh at 7:30 in the morning which is 2 hours late of my expected arrival depriving me of some time to rest.

I hailed a cab from the station to take me to Vietnam Backpacker’s Inn – Saigon where I left my stuff at the luggage storage then went to have breakfast at a local eatery. I then rode bus no. 13 from Le Lai Street to get to Cu Chi Station where I can hop on bus no. 37 to take me to Ben Duoc Tunnels. Travel from Ho Chi Minh to Ben Duoc Tunnel took almost 2 hours given the distance and traffic condition which during that time was moderate.

I had a wonderful time in Ben Duoc Tunnels. The guide was accommodating, very informative and he spoke good English. I just didn’t like the fact that he wanted to get the tour over and done with quick, asking us to hurry up when exploring inside the tunnels. The tour ended with a snack consisting of cassava with salted and sweetened ground peanuts for a dip which might have been the food the refugee ate while inside the confines of Cu Chi Tunnels. After exploring the tunnels, I went to see the rest of Ben Duoc, firing an ancient AK-47 at the shooting range and finishing the tour off with a delicious meal for lunch.

I rode the same buses going back to Ho Chi Minh and stayed in the hostel until it was dark. The heat was unbearable that I just wanted to lay in bed with the AC in full blast. I went out again at 6PM after taking a refreshing shower and when I felt my tummy was calling for another fill. I almost had enough of Vietnamese food, not that it wasn’t at all delicious but my mouth was looking for something my taste buds are used to. While walking to Ben Thanh market, my eyes saw a familiar figure which immediately put a huge smile on my face. It is not a sin to still prefer McDonald’s quarter pounder amidst the delicious Vietnamese dishes around right?

The night in Ho Chi Minh is very busy anywhere you look. Traffic is worse than Hanoi but the streets are equally full of life. Infrastructures are mostly modern. Only the famous tourist sites are ancient. Night market in Ben Thanh is very interesting with lots of cheap buys though I find prices in Hanoi cheaper. People are everywhere anywhere I looked. Guess it really is a habit for Vietnamese to unwind in the park or get a few drinks and a meal at a street food joint. It’s just fascinating to see a piece of their life in the lively streets of Ho Chi Minh while I was on my way to seeing the famous sites in the city.

My flight back to Manila was at 1:30AM and instead of riding a shuttle which I would normally do, I hired a cab to take me to the airport. I was thinking I had deprived myself of comfort for the entire week that it wouldn’t really hurt if I save myself the hassle just this time. I arrived 2 hours before my flight but the line to the check in counter took forever. Worse! My flight was delayed for 9 effing hours that I had to sleep in the airport again! Talk about luck huh. 😂

Summary Of Expenses                     Price VND
Food 150.000
Cu Chi Tunnel 206.000
Accommodation 135.000
Taxi to Airport + Hotel 150.000
Pasalubong 400.000
Total 1041.000

Points to remember:

  1. It is advisable to do your Cu Chi Tunnel tour on your own heading to Ben Duoc instead of the more touristy Ben Dinh. 2-way bus fare is VND26.000 and Entrance fee to Ben Duoc is VND90.000. If you are interested in firing a rusty gun then you will have to pay for each bullet for  VND30.000.
  2. You can utilize the bus going from one place to another or you can simply walk if the heat of the sun is bearable. Try visiting the Bitexco Tower where you can get a 360-degree view of the entire city.
  3. If you are headed to the airport, try riding the airport shuttle instead of hiring a private car or a taxi. Lets you save BIG. Just be mindful of your travel time as traffic can be really bothersome. Make sure to allot at least 2 hours.
  4. Aside from the Cu Chi Tunnel, I find nothing else worth seeing in Ho Chi Minh. You are better to insert a day in Mekong Delta or Siem Reap for a more worthwhile adventure.
  5. Airport staff strictly follows the rule and other airport guidelines in Vietnam. This happens to be my first out of the country escapade and I am used to the leniency of airport staffs in the Philippines when it comes to luggage weight that they no longer bother to weigh my carry-on luggage regardless if it is within the 7kg allowance or not. However it is completely different in Vietnam. I was over 3kg and being a Filipino who is used to being given consideration, I threw a bit of my not so amicable self to the counter staff which later on I realized was too immature given how she was just doing her job. (Sigh) Please!!! Don’t be an asshat like me. Perhaps that is one of the prevailing reasons why we progress slowly than our neighbors. We keep on bending the rules! 😀
VIETNAM ON A BUDGET

Trying to fit inside that tiny entrance to the tunnels


TOTAL FOR 7 DAYS: VND 5858.000 ($257 X P45.90 = P11,796.00)


Please consider the exchange rates during your travel. I just happen to be lucky that I spent less than P20,000 for this entire trip. See summary of expenses below below:

Plane Manila-Hanoi – P1800
Plane HCMC-Manila – P2800 ($60) *2-Way Plane tickets were booked October 2015 with Cebu Pacific at 50% discount
Travel Tax – P1620 (Seriously! Why do we have this?)
7-Day Expenses – P11796
Over Baggage Fee – P1147.50 ($25)

TOTAL: P19,163.50


TIPS FOR FIRST TIME OUT OF THE COUNTRY TRAVELERS:


  1. Consider opening a dollar account for more convenient travel instead of exchanging PHP to USD then to other currencies especially if you are headed to several different countries with different currencies. It is safer and lets you take advantage of the strong USD exchange rates. This I didn’t consider before travelling to Vietnam that I had to sleep in the airport and wait for a money changer until morning.
  2. Bring your credit card if you have one. It will save you when you run out of cash although there are some disadvantages like 3-6% extra charge and the worse, overspending!
  3. Always secure and have your passport handy. You never know when you’ll need it so better to have it with you all the time.
  4. Do ample research of the places you plan to go to in a certain country taking into consideration safety, transportation availability, weather and costs.
  5. Dress appropriately. Try to blend in. Scams tend to take advantage of tourists so better stay out of their radar by looking like you’ve lived there your whole life.
  6. Vietnamese is a tonal language just like many other languages in Southeast Asia. No matter how you read the word right but if you are not pronouncing it using the appropriate tone then locals will never understand whatever it is that you meant. Better for you to just let them read the word.
  7. Water is life. Food in both street food joints and restaurants is served without drinks. Water is not free. Best to buy a liter of water in a convenience store for 10.000 Dong and fill it up in your hostel before leaving for your tour. You may think I am such a cheapskate but you wouldn’t really want to spend over 100.000 Dong buying yourself water every now and then.
  8. Be careful with what you eat. Street food may be common and is cheap but observe first and see whether your stomach can take it in. If you have a weak tummy, don’t risk it. There’s nothing worse than getting sick of food poisoning when you are miles away from your loved ones who can comfort you off your pain.
  9. Maintain an open mind. You may find it odd but Vietnamese especially those who don’t normally interact with foreign visitors tend to be impolite. Not that they really are impolite or they mean to be impolite but they normally don’t say sorry if for example they have stomped on your foot or pushed you hard in the bus, they don’t say thank you or show gesture of gratitude if you did them a favor or say “Excuse me” if they need to get their luggage from the overhead bin and you happen to be on the way but they will simply brush you off and head on their way. If this happens to you, don’t feel bad. We simply have different cultures.
  10. Always put safety above everything else. Don’t ever dare compromise it for whatever reason. Yes! We only live once and life is best live at its fullest but that doesn’t give us the licence to be reckless. Have fun and dare go on an adventure you’ve never gone through before. Just make sure it isn’t something that will cut your life short unabling you to share your crazy stories to your younger generations.

There you go lovely people. This was a totally new experience for me. I was nervous at first but the nerves faded as I slowly learned to ride the flow while I was in Vietnam. Hope this inspires you. If you like it, don’t forget to give me a thumbs up or hit the share button. Until next time. Ciao!

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13 thoughts on “VIETNAM UNDER P12,000 IN 7 DAYS – A FILIPINA SOLO BACKPACKER’S GUIDE TO EXPLORING ON A BUDGET

  • Hi. I’m planning to solo-backpack in Vietnam and your entry is really helpful. This’ll be my first out-of-the-country solo travel and I have a few questions I hope you’d be kind enough to answer.
    1. Did you just bring PHP currency and have it exchanged in Vietnam? or did you have it exchanged to USD here in the Philippines, and from there converted it to VND in Vietnam?
    2. Where did you book your train/bus tickets in advance?
    3. Did you book your My Son Sanctuary Tour on the same day c/o your hostel?

    Thank you so much! 🙂

    • Keza M Post author

      Hi.

      1. I brought dollars here in Ph and had it exhanged to VND when I landed in Hanoi.
      2. I did not book in advance for the trains/bus but if you wanna secure a good seat or a sleeper then you can book with http://www.vietnamimpressive.com for a minimum fee.
      3. I booked my My Son Sanc tour a day ahead from by hotel. Go for the sunrise tour. There will be less tourists during those hours

      Hope this helps. 🙂

  • Jane

    Hello Keza! I’m visiting Hanoi soon but my flight would arrive at Noi Bai Terminal 2 at ~ 1 AM, I’m kind of iffy to travel from the airport to my hotel and I’m thinking of sleeping it out in the airport then head downtown the next morning. Did you stay at the sleeper pods? Which place at the airport did you stay to get some rest? Thanks! 🙂

    • Keza M Post author

      Hi Jane. The city is kinda far from the airport so if you don’t feel like paying more to arrange a transfer to your hotel, it’s better for you stay at the airport until morning. I wasn’t aware of any sleeper pods so I just slept on the benches in the receiving area. You can ask the authorities for a more comfy place to sleep in.. Good luck to you. Stay safe. And Have fun! 🙂

  • Aileen

    Yay! Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I will be in Vietnam on November 16-24. Its also my first solo travel abroad. Will follow your itinerary. But I’m planning to include MuiNe. Do you know a bus ride from Danang to MuiNe? 🙂

    • Keza M Post author

      Hi Aileen. There are sleeper buses which you can arrange with your hostel for a price of about 250000 but taking the public bus will also be a really nice option. There would be buses plying Mui Ne from the Da Nang bus terminal. Do check some sites on the web for updatd schedule. Have fun in Vietnam. And please mind that you might be going during the Tet festival so make early reservations to avoid inconvenience. 😊

      • Aileen

        I already booked a hostel for 3 days in Hanoi. What travel agency would you recommend? I’m planning to do halong bay day tour and visit ninh binh. Thanks! 🙂

      • Keza M Post author

        Dont get tours from the hostel. They tend to be a lot pricier. Try shopping around in Ma May Street. There’s plenty of tour agencies there. A daytour to Halong Bay should only cost $18 which u can haggle down to $15. Nihn Binh tours is priced at $25 which you can haggle down to $20. Have some dollar bills available whn you shop and ask what is included in the price you will be paying. Im suggesting for you to check the agencies when you get to Hanoi instead of booking them online as prices tend to double when booked thru the web. 🙂

    • Keza M Post author

      Good on you Oliverken. Mekong Delta was part of my original plan but I had to leave it for my next trip to Vietnam cause I was a day short for my original itinerary. 🙂