Vietnam is a country that is coming up on Indians’ tourism radar very quickly, thanks to its amazing Instagram Worthy locations, pristine beaches, direct flights, and Visa on Arrival, and most importantly, unbelievable currency exchange rate.
I was recently in Vietnam for 10 days and in this blog, I tell you everything you must know about planning your own trip to this amazing country.
Where is Vietnam on the World Map ?
Here it is – Vietnam is just below China and just next to Indian’s favorite foreign Destination – Thailand 😜
Time Difference ?
Vietnam is 1.5 hours ahead of India. So 1.30 pm in India would be 3.00 pm in Vietnam.
Best Time to Visit ?
There is never a bad time to Visit Vietnam, still the preferred time to visit Vietnam is from Dec to March, when it is not very sunny, neither heavily raining. You might also want to visit Vietnam during their new year (Tet) when they decorate the city pretty beautifully, just like Diwali here – It is usually in January end, or Feb start.
We were there for 10 days and found very minimal difficulties because of Language. Usually the people will speak little English that will be enough for a small conversation. If not, Keep Google Translate in your phone that would work just perfect !
If you are a non-vegetarian, Vietnam is heavens for you. The street food here is abundant and amazing and not very costly. We will talk about expenses little later. The few dishes you must try are Pho, Noodles, Egg Coffee, Coconut Coffee.
If you are a vegetarian, you still are good because there are many vegetarian restaurants in major cities, you just need to google them.
And if you are a bit skeptical and choosy and only need Indian food, worry not, there are many Indian Restaurants in all cities in Vietnam that serves all that you crave for – Roti, Naan, Kadhai Paneer, Dal Makhni, Biryani, Rayta, basically everything you get in India !
You can also carry the ready to cook Indian foods like Pav Bhaji, Paneer Butter Masala, etc and can eat with bread. We did it and it tastes just fine.
Currency in Vietnam is VND – locally called as Dong. And this is the part that will make you scream ! 1 Indian Rupee is equal to 300 dong, yes 300 ! So basically if you have 300 Rs you are a Lakhpati there ! and in 3000, a Millionaire. A nominal sum of 32,000 as of current rate will make you a Crorepati !!!
Super Cheap Country ?
Well, sadly no. Even though you are Richie rich there, the expenses there are in the same proportion. Don’t expect a water bottle in 30 dong as 30 rs in India. A water bottle would cost you 20,000 dong. Yes you got it right. Everything you buy is in thousands or Lakhs not ones or tens !
Lets look at prices of a few things there and compare in Indian Rupees :
Bread : 15,000 Dong – 50 Rs
1 litre water Bottle : 20,000 Dong – 60 Rs
Small Beer Can : 25,000 (Bia Saigon) to 35,000 (Heineken) Dong – 75 to 120 Rs
Vietnamese Coffee : 30,000 Dong – 100 Rs
Cappuccino : 60,000 Dong – 180 – 200 Rs
1 time meal per person in a Decent Local Restaurant : 150,000 Dong – 450 Rs
1 time meal per person in an Indian Restaurant : 200,000 dong – 600 Rs
Cab Fare for a 5 km ride (4 Seater) : 70,000 dong – 200 Rs (More To / from Airport)
Souvenir Items : Minimum 80-100,000 Dong – 300 Rs
Fridge Magnets : Minimum 25,000 Dong – 80 Rs (Bargain & Buy more for cheaper)
So basically it is comparable to what we spend in India, or even a little more for a few things, like cab.
Best places to see ?
Vietnam is not a huge country, you can assume it is of the size of the state of Rajasthan. But since its entire one side is towards the Ocean, it is having a beautiful coastal line hence super amazing beaches. Moreover, it has multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites, some of the biggest stuff in the world, some really amazing cities to walk and explore, and some huge Pagodas and Temples.
Some of the best cities, places to see in Vietnam are :
Ho Chi Minh City , Dalat , Hoi An , Hue , Phu Quoc , Vung Tau , Cat Ba , National Park , Hanoi , Halong Bay , Ninh Binh etc
Research well before and choose the best cities to visit, depending on the type of Vacation you are looking for.
If you are looking for Honeymoon or a romantic getaway – go to Halong Bay, Phu Quoc Star Fish Beach
If you are looking for Instagram worthy locations – Dalat, Da Nang, Hoi An
History Seeker – HCMC, Hue
If you are in Bagpacking mode : Ho Chi Minh City , Hanoi
There are direct flights from various cities in India to various cities in Vietnam. Indigo already had direct flights, and Vietnamese carrier Vietjet has recently started its direct flight from New Delhi to HCMC (South of Vietnam), and Hanoi (North of Vietnam), their two major cities – consider them as Bangalore and Delhi of India.
To find the cheapest months / dates of flights – use Skyscanner. I usually use it to find the cheapest month to travel to any destination from my city (Delhi).
Basically this is what you do – Go to Skyscanner. Enter your starting point, lets say Delhi (DEL), and in the Destination, choose ‘Everywhere’. Then move to date section, choose month and then choose cheapest month. This tells you the cheapest fare in the whole year to any destination from your origin city! Isn’t that cool !
Now, If you have chosen to go for Vietjet, as it is currently giving the cheapest direct flight fares from India, remember below points :
- This is a hand-baggage only fare. The maximum weight allowed per person is 7kg only (Strictly). The permitted dimensions of the hand baggage should be within : 56 x 36 x 23 cm
- You can buy check-in baggage separately. A 20 kg check-in baggage would cost you 3000 INR and you can buy it online while buying the ticket. You can even choose to buy it later, but do buy it online until few days before your flight, as it will be more expensive if brought at the ticket counter at the airport.
- This would be an economy class fare – so do not expect much leg space and luxury.
- The fare does not include food and alcohol 😐
- The total flight time is around 5 hours.
If you decide to fly by any other operator, make sure you check the baggage rules.
Indians need not worry much about the Visa of Vietnam. It is a very simple process. Read on –
- Go to any of these websites : Vietnam e-Visa , Vietnam Immigration, Vietnam Visa Govt or Vietnam Visa Pro (Cheapest service fees as of now), or google more – Check out the service fees are charging for 1 month single entry Visa (General case. If you plan to have multiple entries, check accordingly). Or try this recently initiated National Web Portal of Immigration (No service fees).
- Fill in the Details. You only need your passport information at this moment.
- Pay the requested amount online (Anything between 6$ to 18$).
- Usually in 1-2 working days, you get a letter that has your name along with 20 other people, that are allowed to enter Vietnam on the said date. You need to keep a printout of this paper.
- In the mail, there is one more form attached – this is the entry form. Take a printout, fill it and keep it handy. Don’t worry – if you forget, this form is available at the Visa Counter in Vietnam.
- Photographs : 2 photos are required, 4×6 cm – it will be mentioned in the email with complete specifications.
- Once your reach Vietnam, find the Visa Counter and submit the following –
-Filled Entry form
-25 dollars cash (per person) – Remember you must give cash in either Dollars or Dong
Just wait for your name to be called out, collect your passport with Visa Stamped and you will be good to go !
If you are a Bag packer / Solo Traveler – There are a plenty of good hostels in most of the cities you can try. The cost of a bed in Dormitory would be around 400- 600 per night.
If you are a family / group of people traveling – You can try Booking.com or Airbnb and book a complete apartment – these gives you more space, and even a fully functional kitchen for your use.
If you are a couple planning a Romantic time – Try to find a Hotel next to the Beach or some romantic resorts– some properties even have a private beach – and trust me the Beaches in Vietnam are super clean and super beautiful, and you’ll get shacks, hammocks and resting pods at every beach.
Sim Cards / Internet / WiFi ?
You can either pre-book your Sim Card via Klook, and pick it up when you arrive at the airport from a particular kiosk, OR, you can reach Vietnam and just before you exit the airport there are a plenty of kiosks that gives you good deals on Sim Cards – these cards are already activated and ready to use.
Also, there is free WiFi in most parts of the cities in Vietnam, in Hotels, Malls, in Cafes and any Restaurants. So basically the data of Sim Cards will only be used when you are on the go.
1. Basically, you get to one of these kiosks – preferably the official kiosk of the Main Network operators of Vietnam – Viettel, Vinafone etc.
2. The attendant will tell you the various deals of Sim card, there will also be a pamphlet that has all the details.
3. The various packages are different in terms of Data, validity and minutes of calling offered.
4. Choose the appropriate package that suits your requirements – example – 1 month validity Sim with 7gb high speed data and 20 minutes local calling in 400 Rs. This should be sufficient for a 10 day trip for 2 people. You can start the internet in one phone and use it in other phones by Hotspot.
5. Pay and get the Sim. The attendant will instantly take the sim out, put in your phone, do the settings, start the data an show you that it is working. It is also wise to ask the person to give a call from the new number to check if the number is active and the minutes are also credited.
6. They also tell you the codes you can use to check Balance, minutes and validity !
Currency Exchange ?
The preferred way of dealing with Currency Exchange is to convert INR to USD by any Agent, or at the Airport Kiosk that takes 0 commission (e.g. PNB kiosk at Terminal 3, Delhi), and then convert USD to VND on reaching Vietnam. I couldn’t find anyone in city that exchanges INR to Dong.
Carrying Dollars is also beneficial because –
-The Visa fees of 25$ at the Vietnam Airport can be paid in Dollars.
-Lot of shops in Vietnam accepts Dollars, they will even quote the price in Dollars seeing a foreigner.
-In case you are out of Dongs, it is easy to exchange Dollars to Dongs anywhere in Vietnam, like Hotels, and especially at Gold Shops where they give you a very good exchange rate.
Pro Tip : When you take Dollars from Rupees – Do not take small notes – take maximum of big notes like of 100$ , 50$- When you convert these to Dong, the higher value notes will be exchanged on a different (higher) rate, and the remaining smaller notes will be exchanged on a smaller rate.
Internal Transfers ?
So basically you mean how to travel between the cities? Here is a short guide –
–Flight – Vietjet is the low cost carrier of Vietnam, and trust me – Low cost means really low cost. A flight between two cities like Da Nang and HCMC would cost you around 1500 – 2000Rs, if booked a little in Advance. There are other Airlines like Bamboo Airlines, Vietnam Airlines etc that you can scout for your internal travel.
–Bus – An overnight Air Conditioned Sleeper bus is a great option in Vietnam as these buses are super comfortable. Unlike India, there are 3 rows of sleeper pods and each sleeping unit gives you Blanket, Water Bottle, Charging Station, and even free WiFi ! These are cost effective too, example a 6-7 hours Journey from HCMC to Dalat would cost you around 600 rs only. You can find buses via this link, or search with local Travel Agent shops when you are in the city.
–Train – Trains are a bit expensive in Vietnam, and the AC sleeper berths have fare comparable to those of Flights. You might want to try them through this link.
–Limousine – Yes, you read it right – There are Limousines for transfers between various cities. These limousines are not the ones you usually see in Badshah or Honey Singh songs – but these are Mini Vans with a seating capacity of 8-9. Trust me – these are super comfortable, comes with a charging point, free WiFi, great leg space, and the seats are no ordinary – they have the functionality of Massage too – Yes like the ones you see in Malls and Airports ! So while you travel you can get your back, neck, thighs massage complimentary – Isn’t that cool ?
Cabs – Ofcourse the most convenient way to travel. You can book these private cabs online via different travel agents (just google), or find one in the city itself. These cabs would comfortably pick you up from your Hotel / Airport and drop at the point that you need to tell them before hand. Make sure you bargain and fix the price before you confirm your booking. The drivers usually accept only cash, so keep cash handy.
Shared Cabs – You can use Klook to book shared Transfers between cities. Read the package details completely before you book. Klook is completely hassle free, cheap and you need not worry at all if your pick up will arrive or not – they are always on time !
Local Transfers ?
So basically you mean how to travel from one point in city to another. Here is another short guide –
Bus – Local Buses are cheap in Vietnam, tickets are like 4000 Dong ~ 15 Rs – comparable to India.
Grab Car – Grab is the best mode of transport in Vietnam, in all the cities. It is like our Ola, much more efficient and high end cars. You need not necessarily have a local phone number to use it. Just use it like our Ola/Uber and keep cash handy. A 5 km drive would cost you around 20,000 dong ~ 80 Rs. Its more to/from the airport. The Drivers are friendly and helpful and wont mind giving you a helping hand to put or take out the luggage.
Grab Bikes – In the same Grab app, if you are single (I mean in the trip), choose the Grab bike that is much cheaper and quicker. The same 5 km drive would cost 12,000 dong ~ 40 Rs.
Cyclos – As you see in the first image a little below – Cyclos are like our Rickshaws – but a lot cooler, as you have uninterrupted front view. This is specially cool for small distance local sightseeing, and the price can be negotiated.
Rented Scooters – Motorbikes are available on Rent in almost all cities. Though you need an International Driving License to drive it officially, the vendors still give it to you even if you don’t have one. I found a little risky as you can get in trouble if Police stops you for some reason, or any mishap happens. I suggest you to don’t risk, or take a wise decision. The cost would be around Rs 400 – 500 per day.
Local Taxis – Taxis are available like Autos in India, though less in Number, and they wont say no to any Destination. They run on meters so need not worry about the cost.
Hotel Travel Desk – The Hotel Desks will happily arrange cabs for you, though it might be a few thousands (Dong, not Rs) extra, but it saves you the hassle of finding one.
* In cities like Hoi An, the Hotels usually have complimentary Bicycles to go around the city.
Cost of Activities ?
There are lots of Activities in each city in Vietnam, and the price can be anything from 150 Rs to 15000 Rs. You can try Klook to book these, or check with your hotel for good deals. Lets look at some popular activities and their cost –
Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi Tunnel (900 Rs), Mekong Delta (1170 Rs), Saigon Skydeck (630 Rs), Water Puppet Show (1000 Rs), City Day Tour (800 Rs)
Dalat – Clay Tunnel (160 Rs ), Waterfall Canyoneering (5000 Rs), Alpine Coaster (500 Rs)
Nha Trang – Vinpearl Island (2500 Rs) , Hot Spring Mud Spa (3000 Rs), Scuba Diving (2700 Rs)
Da Nang – Bana Hills (2300 Rs)
Hoi An – My Son Sanctuary Tour (720 Rs), City Tour (1000 Rs), Cham Islands (2300 Rs), A O Show (2206 Rs)
Hanoi – Day Tour (2100 Rs), Halong Bay 2D1N (16000 Rs)
Phu Quoc – Snorkeling Tour (1200 Rs), Island Hopping Tour (4700 Rs)
Doing these activities is the one of the smart ways to experience the best of the city. Yes few of them are touristy, but they give you a really good experience with 0 hassle – as most of them include hotel pick up and drop, online payments, English speaking guides, planned itinerary, and in group tours you can even meet like minded travelers and make friends !
Choose the activities depending on your time, interest and budget – and Indulge !
Night Life ?
Night Life is pretty cool in major cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, Da Nang. These are the few things you can do –
- Go for Parties – Most of these cities have late night parties like we have in Bangalore. Search for local events in Facebook or find from your hotel and they will tell you the best disc to go.
- Late night pubs – Lot of pubs are open till late in the night with loud music being played and good crowd and good drinks. Example : You can try the Bui Vien Walking Street in Saigon (HCMC) and that gives you feel of Vegas !
- Night Markets – Cities like Dalat, HCMC, Hoi An have Night Markets that starts around 7 pm and runs till 11 pm. These are best for cheap shopping and good deals. Remember to Bargain as much as you can.
- Massage – Vietnam has lots of Massage parlours in every city every street that are open till little late, and offer Full Body Massage, Foot Massage, Head Massage etc. They usually have the ‘Menu’ kept outside the shop but they will give you further discount if you show interest.
- Walk on the Beach / Riverfront – Vietnam has a huge coastal line so most of the cities like Da Nang, Nha Trang offers you amazing beach front. The beaches are clean, not very crowded, and safe. Walking along the beach is a good activity to do in Nights, or anytime actually!
- Explore the city – Cities like Hoi An gives you an amazing feel in night – full of lights and lanterns. Its mesmerizing ! So if nothing, walking in the city is also a great thing to do when in Vietnam.
Vietnam is great for shopping buffs ! Read on –
You can buy Fridge Magnets that are sold in various designs, few quite different and cool !
Cloths are stylish, and of good quality – buy them from the Markets like Ben Thanh in HCMC, or Dalat’s night market.
If you are looking for super stylish designer wear, Hoi An is the place for you. It has an array of designer wear shops and trust me you’ll love the styles – still unseen in India.
There are stores that can even tailor the dress by your fit and give you in 1 day – Try in Hoi An, HCMC, Hanoi.
There are a lot of Buddha Temples and Pagodas so you can take home the appropriate Religious stuff from here.
If you visit Marble Mountains in Da Nang, there are interesting Marble stuff to take home.
Buy lanterns from Hoi An. They’ll just make your house look more beautiful and elegant.
The Vietnamese hat is a good souvenir to take home.
Beer is cheap in Vietnam. There are a number of brands as we have in India, and the most famous one are – Bia Saigon (3-4 different versions) , Huda (Cheapest), Larue, Heineken .
The small can of Beer costs –
Bia Saigon – 25000 VND ~ 80 Rs
Huda – 15000 VND ~ 50 Rs
Heineken – 35000 VND – 110 Rs
You basically get all kinds of Alcohol – Wine, Vodka, Beer, Rum etc – so need not worry 😉
Apart from the basic stuff, here are some tips when traveling to Vietnam – I bet these will make your travel much easier !
Download Grab App – Download the Grab App from Play store or Apple Store for your local transfers. You can choose from 4 seater cars, 7 seater cars, Bikes, or even rent cars for the whole day. The drivers would usually take cash, but you can link your credit card also.
Download Klook App – Klook is the best app to do activities and for a lot of things in Vietnam. Here is a short guide how to use it:
1. Download the Klook app when you are in India, register with your email ID and Do Not Forget to link your phone number when in India only, since at the time of payment a verified phone number is must and in case your Sim is not getting Network, you will not get the OTP and your transaction will not be complete.
2. Go to Account – Promo Codes – Enter T99J3L.
You get a flat Rs 250 Discount on your next purchase of any Klook Activity above 1000 Rs.
3. Share your Referral code to other Members in your group. Once they sign up using your code, they all get 250 Rs discount coupon, and you will get 250 Rs discount Coupon from each one of them once they complete an activity. This can be smartly used if you are doing multiple activities in Vietnam and get 250 Rs off on every purchase. If you are out of phone numbers, you can actually put any phone number of your friends / relatives in India, give them a Whatsapp Call and get the OTP !
In Klook you can
-Buy tickets of various activities (Example : Clay Tunnel Dalat, Bana Hills Da Nang, Vinpearl Nha Trang, Skydeck HCMC etc)
-Book cabs for airport transfers , city transfers , local sightseeing (Example : Da Nang Airport Transfer, Limousine between Dalat & Nha Trang etc)
-Join group tours (Example : Hoi An Day tour, Hanoi Day Tour, Mekong Delta Tour)
-Buy Sim Cards
-Book Hotels in app via Agoda, Hotels, Booking – Get Discounts or credits.
-Book Cars for rental
Download Google Translate – Very very useful ! Specially when you have to deal with shopkeepers and cab drivers. You can use it either from text to text, text to speech, or even image to text – and it works seamlessly.
Download Currency Converter – Useful specially if you are not a math wizard. Honestly even the greatest of Math Wizards would get confused in Vietnam once – as Vietnamese deal with only thousands and lakhs and millions – there is no tens in their dictionary !
So when you go shopping in Vietnam, the shopkeepers would usually carry a calculator, and would just write a number on it when you ask ‘How Much?’ pointing at anything, lets say 250000. Open the Converter and set it as VND to INR, enter 250000 – This will give you in INR – 800 Rs . Now remember that in Vietnam, Bargain hard – which I think is in blood of every Indian. So lets say you want that product in 250 Rs. Open the converter again – switch the conversion from INR to VND, put 250. This gives you around 80000 VND. Take the shopkeepers calculator and put this number – 80000. Stay firm – read his/her mind, a bit of “Come on… ” “Its good price … ” and the shopkeeper will bulge. If not, increase the stakes !
Currency Notes – The currency notes in Vietnam are of high denomination with many zeroes, so it is easy for us Indians to get a little confused as for us the maximum is 3 zeros. In Vietnam 3 zeroes are minimum ! The maximum denomination note is of 5 Lakh ~ 500000. So be very careful while paying for anything in cash, or taking change back as the notes look similar and the zeroes are confusing.
Tea : I bet 99% of you reading this are habitual of waking up with a cup of Ginger tea. If you are wondering how will you manage in Vietnam without tea, worry not – Chaayos (and other brands too) have launched an instant tea mix.
All you need is boiling water ! Just empty the sachet in a cup, add boiling water (Electric kettle is there in all Hotels), stir and Voila ! You have your cup of tea ready – and it tastes exactly how you make tea at home. This tea has sugar and you can also buy the pack that has less sugar / no sugar.
Check out this link on Amazon for Girnar Instant Tea.
Credit Cards : Credit Cards are accepted in most of the places except local shopping and cabs. Also at few places they might charge you 3-5% extra for using card.
Adaptor – If you only plan to charge your phone, you do not need adaptor in Vietnam – The charging points are similar to ones in India. However, if you plan to use your laptop, or Iron, or anything that has a 3 pin socket, you must carry an Adaptor.
Few more things
–>The cities in Vietnam are super clean, so it is expected from the Travelers also to keep the city litter free and use Dustbins.
–>The locals are super friendly and they will usually help you in best possible way.
–>The traffic is sensible, honking is less, and the traffic signals are followed properly.
–>It is expected to wear appropriately when visiting Temples and Pagodas.
Our Trip Details
So just to give an idea, this was our itinerary and our trip cost
We covered 5 cities in 10 days – Delhi – HCMC – Dalat – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Da Nang – HCMC – Delhi
We got return flight ticket in 13500 INR per person for DEL-SGN-DEL. (I booked in November for Travel in Feb)
Visa cost was 6$ + 25$ = 2200 Rs per person
Our Average hotel stay per day was around 2000 Rs (for 3 people). We took Decent 3 star hotels focused more on proximity to things to see, and less on luxury.
Shopping Expenses was around 2000 INR per person – We got many souvenirs, Fridge Magnets, few clothes, and few Lanterns from Hoi An.
Our food expenses weren’t much and we mostly had Indian food – Average expenses per person per day on food was 500 – 700 Rs.
We did a few Activities like Vinpearl Nha Trang (2300 Rs), Dalat Clay Tunnel (150 Rs), Bana Hills (2000 Rs), Skydeck HCMC (630 Rs)
For Internal Transfers – 600 Rs per person in Luxury Sleeper bus from HCMC to Dalat, 500 Rs per person in Limousine from Dalat to Nha Trang, 2000 Rs per person in Flight from Nha Trang to Da Nang, 2200 per person in Flight from Da Nang to HCMC.
Overall, our 10 day trip to Vietnam including everything was under 50,000 Rs per person !
Few pics from our travel, not to tease you, just to inspire you 🙂
Hope the information in this blog was helpful for you to plan your trip in budget, and the tips were useful. In case you need any further information you can drop a comment, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Whatsapp me anytime on +91-9884281425.