The most important thing I will take away from our visit to Vietnam is to always listen to that little voice inside telling you to explore, regardless of what anyone else says. I lost count of the number of people who said we wouldn’t like Vietnam and I’m incredibly glad we were able to prove them wrong.

Crazy, overwhelming, traffic like nowhere else, feeling like a walking wallet. We were told to expect all of these things both from people we met on the road and travel bloggers we admire and trust. The key thing to remember is that all of these people are entitled to their opinions but if somewhere interests you from afar, don’t be put off and take the time to form your own.

 

street vendor in Hanoi

street vendor in Hanoi

You will pay more for things if you’re not a local but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as we’d expected. We actually had one taxi driver reduce the price of a negotiated fare because our guesthouse wasn’t as far as he’d thought. After buying a couple of bottles of water in one small shop the vendor came running out after Paul with change we weren’t expecting, she’d given us a discount purely because we’d bought 2. We didn’t feel hassled at all by street vendors or taxi drivers. The only time we felt slightly overwhelmed was in the craziness that is Ho Chi Minh’s Bến Thành Market.

 

I sat on a plane from Vientiane in Laos to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi feeling more than a little trepidation. I’d let doubts creep into my mind and was really quite concerned we would hate our time there. Vietnam ended up being our favourite country in the whole of South East Asia and we’ve barely scratched the surface, I can’t wait to go back!

 

Enormous karsts of Halong Bay

Enormous karsts of Halong Bay

Stats for Vietnam

 

15 days on the road, our budget was £40 (1,259,27.76 Dong) per day.

 

£50.15   (1,574,095 Dong)    TOTAL spend per day

£10.14   (275,235.75 Dong)   per day on accommodation

£10.31   (324,666.67 Dong)   per day on food

£4.75    (149,818 Dong)        per day on transport

£19.96  (628,544.08 Dong)    per day on activities

 

We were over-budget by £152.25 but we knew in advance that would be the case . There were two reasons for this – the 30 day Vietnam visa for a British citizen is $60 which is a lot when you’re only in the country for two weeks. Secondly, we always planned to have a blowout luxury Halong Bay cruise and hoped to absorb the cost elsewhere in Asia. If we take this out then we would have been well under, you can do much cheaper cruises but it was a special treat for us. Vietnam day to day living is the cheapest we’ve found in South East Asia so don’t let this put you off.

Negotiating this is always fun!

Negotiating this is always fun!

Where we slept

 

7 nights in guesthouses – You can get a lot for your money in Vietnam. We tried not to be tempted by nicer places for the same price as we’d been paying elsewhere and stuck mostly to our standard budget rooms.

 

5 nights in a hotel – We got a great last minute deal in Hoi An for a lovely hotel with a pool, blissful after a hot and sweaty day wandering around.

 

2 nights on a boat – our fantastic Halong Bay cruise!

 

1 night on a train – Ha Noi to Hoi An night train. We always choose trains over buses where possible, at least you can walk around a train when you’re on it all night.

 

Top experiences in Vietnam

 

Halong Bay

 

It’s been a bucket list item for a really long time and we wanted to do it justice. Our cruise was worth every penny and the memories will last a lifetime. As someone reminded me recently, sometimes you simply get what you pay for. Read about Halong Bay here.

 

Cong Dam Fishing Village

Cong Dam Fishing Village

Night train

 

This is completely bizarre because it ranks as such an uncomfortable experience and also one of our favourites. We decided to take the sleeper train from Hanoi to Hoi An and despite going to book tickets 4 days in advance there were none available at all for the train we wanted. The only option was a 2nd class berth on a different train that would take 20 hours! We took it simply because we really wanted to get down to Hoi An as soon as possible. 2nd class sleepers in Vietnam have 6 bunks crammed in and you will rarely find that 1 bed equals 1 person, ours had 6 adults and two kids.

 

Paul making friends on our never ending night train

Paul making friends on our never ending night train

It was hideously uncomfortable, smelly and hot but it brings such a smile to my face every time I think about it. The family we shared with didn’t speak a word of English and our ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ Vietnamese only went so far. However, we managed to spend the entire evening and following morning playing with the kids and being mothered by their grandma. Paul drank beer with the dad and I sat peeling lychees with the kids. It was great fun and I can now even laugh about having the contents of a rubbish bag dropped on me by a cleaner when we were exiting the train in Hoi An. Bin juice is not ok!

 

Hoi An

 

People either love Hoi An or hate it. A lot of folks think it’s too touristy and a parody of real Vietnamese life. We loved it purely because we took it for what it is, an incredibly stunning UNESCO protected town. Just in the same way as Luang Prabang in Laos, Hoi An is not reflection of modern life in Vietnam but a beautifully preserved example of an ancient port. The shopping didn’t hurt either! 

 

Picture perfect Hoi An

Picture perfect Hoi An

Hanoi old quarter

 

We spent hours upon hours watching life go by in Hanoi old quarter. Narrow winding lanes with crazy traffic buzzing all over, street vendors parading their wares on bamboo carrying poles and baskets, noise and smells. It is a magical place! Authentic is a very overused term when describing travel destinations but Hanoi old quarter is just that. Of course there are tourists just like ourselves but it doesn’t disrupt local daily life by being the sole focus, this was so refreshing compared to elsewhere in South East Asia. Just wander the lanes, embrace the crazy and take a pew on a corner with a Bia Hoi, you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

 

It may look like a stereotype but all vendors look like this - the hat is light weight and offers complete sun protection, the bamboo pole and baskets distribute weight

It may look like a stereotype but all vendors genuinely look like this – the hat is light weight and offers complete sun protection, the bamboo pole and baskets distribute weight for ease of travel

Always make sure to find out for yourself otherwise you might miss out on something magical. We still have so much to see and in hindsight we would have trimmed time off other countries in Asia to extend our Vietnam trip. Our verdict, we loved every minute and would go back in a heartbeat.

 

If you liked this post please let us know by clicking on the heart or perhaps leaving a comment

 

Never Miss a Post!

Subscribe to our mailing list to get updates straight to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing. Please check your inbox to confirm.

Oops, something went wrong! Please refresh and try again.

12 Responses

    • Maddie

      I really think that you and Brian will have a great time, especially since you’ve been to India and could see beyond the chaos to appreciate the beauty. In Vietnam you just have to let it wash over you, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Like Steph says, we liked different parts of the country but still have the same love and respect for it – magic place!

      Reply
  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Though I know we differed on a few of our impressions of Vietnam (while we didn’t *hate* Hoi An, it wound up being one of our least favorite places in the country) I took away pretty much the exact same lessons from the country. I was so worried that we would hate VN because of all the flack it gets online (its dissenters are far more vocal than its proponents, it seems!) and when we first arrived, we did worry our fears of it being a China 2.0 situation would be proven right. Thankfully we were able to adjust our approach to the country and wound up falling head over heels for it. It’s definitely in the top 3 places we have visited in the past year (though we love Thailand, Philippines, and Taiwan an awful lot too…) and is one of those places I’m desperate to return to!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Discovering the Quirky Side of TaipeiMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      China 2.0, I love it! It’s funny how our favourite countries are exactly the same as yours except your list has Taiwan and ours has Sumatra in Indonesia, we definitely need to take note and visit both of those!! I think you’re exactly right, you have to adjust your approach and enter with an open mind, it’s hard to do so when there is so much negativity but you might be surprised. You might also still hate it but at least you will have found out for yourself!

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Good luck, really want to hear how it all goes 🙂 Just keep an open mind, I was guilty of thinking in advance I wouldn’t like it and had to really try and snap out of it. Have fun in Hanoi!

      Reply
  2. TakingTheBigBreak

    Maddie, Loved your post. We are so super excited to be spending 3-4 week there in October. Just mailed away for our visas yesterday. Will be following in your footsteps! Would love your suggestions for places to stay as we haven’t book those yet. (Especially if you have family recommendations.) – Kathrin

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Hi Kathrin and welcome 🙂 We stayed in mostly budget guesthouses that probably weren’t that family friendly but we did stay in a wonderful hotel in Hoi An that was very reasonable and had a great pool that kids seemed to love. I’ll email you details. Have a great time! 🙂

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks 🙂 Ah the long train journeys are always fun, they certainly make for good stories though!

      Reply
    • Maddie

      That’s what we said – if you don’t like it just book a flight but still give it a go if you have that interest.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge

Like what you've read?

Sign up to get our monthly newsletter and blog updates straight to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing, please check your inbox to confirm

Oops, something went wrong!

Send this to a friend