My favourite trip ever? A month-long backpacking jaunt around Vietnam, where my days were spent slurping up hot bowls of pho between massages, bike rides to the beach and visits to the most spectacular natural sites on earth.[related_articles]59102,57143,54637[/related_articles]
My time in the Land of the Blue Dragon was so good, in fact, that I sometimes worry no other holiday will ever top it — because the truth is that if you’re on a shoestring budget, there’s probably no better destination on earth.
Yes, Vietnam is cheap
First thing’s first: yes, Vietnam is cheap to travel in. Very, very cheap.
Generally speaking, AU$20 or $30 will buy you a private hotel room somewhere decent, while a bed in a dorm room should set you back AU$10 or less a night. Meals at street food stalls or markets rarely exceed a couple of bucks, a bottle of beer is around $1 and an overnight bus ride to a different city comes in at around $20.
That low, low cost of living means you don’t have to settle for a quick one week visit to Vietnam — if you’ve got the time, you could linger for a month or more. For reference, in my four weeks here I spent around AU$3000 (and that includes, oops, a large sum of money spent on getting clothes tailored).
There’s so much to see
But the reason I really love Vietnam is that it caters to every type of holiday. You feel like doing nothing but lying on the beach for a few days? Can do. You want to have late nights and lazy days getting massages and mango body wraps? Right this way.
More importantly, though, Vietnam is a culturally rich and fascinating country full of incredible sites. After all, this is the home of Ha Long Bay — still the most beautiful place I have ever been and the greatest spot you will ever kayak.
It’s where you’ll find the sleepy rice paddies of Sapa (great for hiking, if you’re into that), the serenity of the Mekong River and spectacularly unique spots like the technicolour Cao Dai Temple of Tay Ninh. You can indulge the senses at the country’s many incredible markets, or confront its blighted history at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Chu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants Museum.
Whether you’re after nature, relaxation, sightseeing, temples, party times or all of the above, Vietnam has you covered.
It’s stress free
The other thing about Vietnam? Everything’s just easy.
The country’s excellent traveller infrastructure makes getting from one city or town to the next a breeze, especially because the relatively compact size of Vietnam means you’re never more than a few-hour bus ride away from the next place you want to visit. Even the shape of the country — long and skinny — makes it easy to hit everywhere you want without having to make arduous, inconvenient detours. Just pick whether you want to go north to south or south to north, from there everything’s on the way.[related_articles]69261,62903,41005[/related_articles]
Then there’s little things like the cheap cost of taxis making it super simple to zip across town without having to wrangle with public transport, and never having to worry about booking things in advance because it’s easy to do as you go. I really can’t think of a single headache-inducing moment from my entire trip.
And, as a female (sometimes solo) traveller, it’s a massive plus that I never once felt unsafe in Vietnam.
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And then there’s the food. For my money, Vietnam’s got the best cuisine of anywhere in the world (well, maybe neck-and-neck with Mexico) — it’s fresh, healthy, delicious, varied and altogether, um, phonomenal.
(Lead image: Catherine Dionne)
Katie Cunningham is the former Features Editor at Junkee. She's currently travelling around the US and Central America.