Since opening its borders, Vietnam has in recent years become a major backpacking destination. Despite having a history synonymous with war and conflict, little evidence exists today of any of this. Instead of a war-torn country, what you’ll find is a vibrant land filled with possibilities. The Vietnam of today is a highly cultured and incredibly accessible country specially suited to travelers who are just starting to venture into Southeast Asia. With stunning vistas of soaring mountains, lush rice paddies and dense forests, there is a side of Vietnam to suit everyone.
For the past few years, many backpackers have made it a point to include Vietnam in their Southeast Asian treks because of the many adventures to be had here, not to mention the very low cost of accommodation, food, and entertainment. Here are some tips when backpacking in Vietnam:
- Try to eat as cheaply as possible. Part of the backpacking experience is trying all the local eats from the street which is cheaper than eating at restaurants. For about $5.00 a day, you can have delicious and filling meals and really experience authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Aside from eating the street food, make sure to try the fresh beer, or bia hoi. It’s inexpensive and utterly refreshing, and a nice change from soft drinks.
- Always ask for the price of services or merchandise. Many travelers have complained that they were overcharged for their meals because they never asked about the price. Ask beforehand and the locals will be too scared to rip you off. Forget to ask, and your morning bowl of pho may cost an arm and a leg.
- Pick your destinations wisely. With so many things to see and do, you might run out of funds or time before you get to do what you really want to do. You can go to Hoi An for architecture and food, Hanoi for a city you can live in, Ho Chi Minh City for culture and shopping, Mui Ne for natural scenery, and Halong Bay for Instagram-worthy pictures of the sea and the towering cliffs.
- Learn how to say no. Say it when drivers try to charge you extra for bags, when hotels want to keep your passport overnight, and whenever your instinct tells you that something’s not right, or when you feel that something fishy is going on. The trick is to say “no” two or three times, politely yet firmly to get someone pushy to back off.
- Take the buses, but be prepared. The night buses are fine, you just have to know what to expect. Bring a fleece jacket, a pillow, an eye mask and some ear plugs, and you’re good to go.
Any experienced backpacker knows that part of the adventure of traveling is looking for places to stay in that are fun and economical. Those who choose to save money by looking for a cheap place will always recommend staying in a hostel rather than spending the night in a hotel room. Aside from it being cheaper, a hostel will give you the opportunity to mingle with other travelers and make friends. Here is a partial listing of the best hostels that you can stay in while backpacking in Vietnam:
1. Hanoi Central Backpackers Hotel
Address: 16 Ly Quoc Su Street, HoanKiem, Hanoi
Cost: from $5.00 a night for a dorm bed to $30.00 a night for a private room with four single beds
This hostel is operated by two backpackers, and they have created a place like no other. It offers the comforts of home and a lot of freebies, so whether you’re staying in a dorm bed or in a private room, you get free breakfast, and free beer from 8PM- 9PM daily!
Bunk beds are available, and there are eight bunk beds to a room. Here, you can find an en suite bathroom, an air conditioner, free Wifi access and a personal locker. Private rooms have the same comforts as the dorm room, with additional access to cable TV so you don’t have to watch whatever everyone else is watching in the lounge room.
The hostel features a bar, a lounge area, and laundry service. They also organize daily tours of Hanoi City and Mai Chau village. They also offer Sapa treks and they’ll arrange it so you can stay with a family of tribe hill people and experience the way they live.
2. Hue Backpackers Hostel
Address: 10 Pham Ngu Lao Street, Hue
Cost: starts from $8.00 a night for a dorm bed
Situated in Pham Ngu Lao Street, this hostel is perfectly situated so one can explore the many sights that Hue has to offer. One may to choose to stay at an all-ladies dorm, a mixed dorm room, and a dorm room with queen sized beds.
The dorm rooms are air-conditioned and outfitted with an en suite bathroom. Lockers are located under the bed for convenience, and there is a small bedside lockbox to safely store your gadgets for your peace of mind. An environmentally friendly, single watt LED light is located by each bed. You also get a free breakfast which consists of eggs, fruit salad, or pancakes.
At the ground floor is the club house restaurant and bar where you can get meals, ice cold beers and soft drinks at low prices while chilling out to some tunes. There’s also free internet access so you can catch up with your friends online and keep everyone posted on your adventures.
3. Little Hanoi Hostel Le Thai To
Address: 48 Hang Ga Street, Hanoi
Cost: from $9.00 for a bed in a triple room
This is another Hanoi hostel that gets a lot of rave reviews from backpackers. Located in the Old Quarter, this hostel offers superb accommodation and friendly service.
Each of the hostel’s single, double, and twin rooms has traditional wooden Vietnamese furniture, an air conditioner, cable TV, and an en suite toilet and bath. Dorm rooms have bunks for four people, and are very clean and comfortable. Room rate includes free coffee all day long and a complimentary breakfast.
The hostel has Wifi access, a laundry room, a restaurant and bar, a common room, a kitchen and bike parking. They’re also running a special free pick up at the airport if you stay at least two nights, but this does not apply to people who book a bed in a dorm.
4. Hostel 96 Guesthouse
Address: 96 Bui Vien, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Cost: from $6.00 for a 4 bed private room
96 Guesthouse is a 10-minute walk from Ben Thanh market, and just a few steps from food stalls and bars. It’s also near the War Museum, Reunification Palace, and Notre Dame Church. It’s an excellent place to stay in if you plan to do some shopping or sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City.
Fitted with tiled flooring, air-conditioned rooms feature cable TV, a wardrobe, and an en suite bathroom with hot water facilities and even free toiletries.
The hostel operates a tour desk, convenience store, and a 24-hour front desk. Services provided include luggage storage, airport shuttle, and laundry. They don’t serve free breakfast, but there are many eateries nearby where you can grab a quick meal.
Indeed, Vietnam is a prime vacation spot for travelers who want to enjoy good food, great culture, and fun adventures on a budget. So plan your backpacking trip today, and have fun!