Backpacking Around Vietnam and Self-Guided Tours of Vietnam.

by Dwight


Backpacking around Vietnam

Author: Andy Burrows

The coastal road that runs all the way from Ho Chi Minh City in the far south of Vietnam right to Hanoi, the northern capital, is quite flat and ideal for mountain biking. No wonder then that so many groups of young explorers set off on mountain bikes for extended journeys across the length of Vietnam.

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Places to stay along the way include the historical town of Hue with its famous cooking schools, and Hoi An, a world heritage listed place that sparkles of an evening under the glow of an infinite number of lanterns. The limestone cliffs of Halong Bay are off shore and therefore off limits to cyclists.

The streets of Hanoi however are a cyclist’s dream with their slow moving traffic and interesting lakes. Once in the national capital a number of very low budget accommodations can be found, for less than US$5 per night, per person. They are not all hardcore backpacker hostels, either.

Hotel guest rooms in Vietnam are very cheap so there often isn’t a strong need to take out dormitory style accommodation just to save money. On the contrary, a single or double room in an atmospheric and clean hotel will probably cost no more than one or two dollars more than a bed in a dormitory holding ten or more people.

During the wet season prices drop even further and great discounts can be arranged with simple negotiation and at all times of the year payments for food and lodgings can be made in the dong, which is the local currency, or the American dollar. Small denomination American dollar notes will go a long way in Vietnam and they are very handy for tipping.

How much does Vietnam cost per day? Lying on the beach costs nothing and there are plenty of people who are happy to stay at a heritage site like Hoi An and cycle each morning to the nearby beach, where elephants sometime swim in the water. Lunch can be had on the beach for no more than a dollar or two. Of an evening, a bowl of pho and some beers will cost no more than five dollars in total.

Accommodation in a bungalow in a town like Hoi An can be found for around US$5 but for around double that amount some very fine accommodations can be found in an air conditioned hotel with television and fridge. Most backpackers though would not be passing through Vietnam looking for those kinds of comforts. It’s enough for most visitors to secure something cheap and comfortable.

A lot of backpackers choose Vietnam as their most preferred Southeast Asian destination. They recommend it for its lack of crowds and persistently low prices. Even though a boom in tourism started in the 1990s the hectic scenes of Thailand have never eventuated in Vietnam. Vietnam has a similar vibe to Laos, but is a bit larger and offers a bit more diversity of experiences.

The beaches are superb, and some of the landscapes are quite amazing. Few people venture further north out of Hanoi but those who do discover the delights of the Sapa region and its fascinating hill tribe peoples. In general, all parts of Vietnam are full of friendly and outgoing people but the northern regions are particularly laid back and welcoming.

Motorcycle tours are another popular backpacker choice. Rental are available in Ho Chi Minh City and people tend to head north quite quickly rather than exploring the Mekong Delta, which is south of the city formerly known as Saigon. Conditions are ideal for motorcycle touring with sealed roads and plenty of roadside assistance in the form of well-trained mechanics for the length of most journeys.

Chinese New Year for Vietnam travel is a very busy period in Vietnam and really marks the height of the backpacker year here. Prices can be a little more at this time but there are still more than enough beds and rooms to go around. Some backpackers prefer to come to Vietnam towards the middle of the year but this may conflict with the wild weather of the wet season.

Budget flights into Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City are readily available and most of the regional carriers offer special prices throughout the year. Bangkok Airways is one of the many airlines that fly between the two capitals and this is a good option for travellers who are short on time as well as cash.

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About the Author

Caroline Whitbread is a freelance graphic designer and blogger who liked travelling around Vietnam so much that she moved to Hanoi.




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