Vietnam Travel: Backpackers ‘Wing It’ on a Bigger Budget – Part 2

by Dwight

Flashpackers – Backpackers on a bigger budget

This Part 2 of 3 parts – A Lot of Valuable Information for Vietnam Travelers

In the 21st century, iPods & laptops make Asian trekking easier.

edward-r-yatscoffBy Edward Yatscoff

Part 2

We took a laptop and it was invaluable: for banking; as an alarm clock; checking e-mail and weather; searching for accommodation and sights; updating ourselves on travel warnings and scams; and as a telephone to talk, using Skype, with our children regularly. We also bought land-line time from Skype.

Many eateries, cafés, and just about all hotels/guest houses have free Wi-Fi; sometimes with a shared computer in the lobby. Dedicated Internet places offer Skype, photocopying, printing and CD burning. Bank account passwords and passport copies were uploaded to a server and saved in an e-mail. Internet maps provided locations of train and bus stations. If we got lost, we’d simply hop in a cab.

Only two types of plug-in converters were necessary for China, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Both had two cylindrical prongs, with one device smaller than the other. As they say in Southeast Asia: “same, same, but different.”

English books can be found in scattered bookstores or hotel book swaps. Books take up space so an e-book reader was the way to go. It’s small and can download stories in seconds with a decent Wi-Fi signal.

We got our first entry visa online direct from the Cambodian embassy. The remainder were applied for on the fly at foreign embassies. It’s cheaper and faster — except for China; the slowest at four days. They squeeze time-constrained tourists by steering them to an “express” option at double the cost.

Avoid visa-on-arrival letters. Pay close attention to visa time limits as some begin upon entry and others begin as soon as you receive them. The bar code on our Cambodian entry visa didn’t print out at home and caused some concern at the Phnom Penh airport. But they love tourists there and let me use their immigration computer. ASEAN countries are presently ironing out a unified “one visa.”

Do bring duct tape, laundry bar soap and a length of clothesline to hang out wet clothing, although your laundry can be done for a dollar or two per kilogram.

We took U.S. cash and Amex traveller’s cheques, which are useless to a thief. It’s a chore trying to cash them, however, because it requires a passport. We kept our passports and cash bagged in small packets and carried them with us most of the time. Other times we stowed valuables in a vault in the room or at the hotel desk, wrapped in a bag and duct-taped.

My debit card wouldn’t fit into a few ATMs in Vietnam and Cambodia, while others accepted it; however, you get a better rate for U.S. cash. Visa is not widely accepted at smaller hotels, so booking online as you go works well.

Don’t worry about being homeless for a night as there are more hotels off the grid than on. The more you venture farther away from touristy areas, the more you’ll need local currency.

Our budget was $50 to $60 per day or under $2,000 per month (food and accommodation with some transportation). We based it on $20 to $30 hotel rooms, with a flush toilet, private washroom, and pool. For the most part we stayed within the budget; often below it.

PART 3 – CONTINUED HERE

 

The Rough Guide to Vietnam (Rough Guides)
by: Mark Lewis
publisher: Rough Guides, published: 2009-10-19
ASIN: 1848360843
EAN: 9781848360846
sales rank: 192106
price: $12.21 (new), $11.60 (used)
“The Rough Guide to Vietnam” is the essential guide with clear maps and detailed coverage of one of Southeast Asia’s most enticing destinations. Using expert advice explore the best attractions of Ho Chi Minh City, roam the best Vietnamese markets, shopping, temples, national parks and then slow the pace down with a trip to the paddyfields of the Red River Delta. From the rugged mountains to the west to the South China sea to the east, the “Rough Guide” steers you in the right direction to find the best hotels in Vietnam, Vietnam restaurants, stylish Vietnamese bars, cafes, clubs and shops across every price range, giving you clear, balanced reviews and honest, first-hand opinions. This guide covers the unspoilt islands, pristine beaches and trekking opportunities that have long made Vietnam a travel hotspot, from magical Ha Long Bay to the hill-tribes of the mountainous north. Explore all corners of Vietnam with authoritative background on everything from Vietnam’s ethnic minorities to Hanoi’s impressive colonial architecture, relying on the clearest maps of any guide and practical language tips. Make the most of your holiday with “The Rough Guide to Vietnam”.

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