Hidden costs are never a pleasant discovery, particularly after you’ve spent lots of money on a trip of a lifetime, and especially when the hidden fee comes in the form of visas. Luckily, if you have a UK passport like us you’re allowed fifteen days visa-free, so we’re here to give you a crash course guide to making the most of Vietnam in just fifteen days!
Getting in to Vietnam isn’t a problem from any of the bordering countries by either plane or coach, depending on how far your budget stretches. We flew into Ho Chi Minh City and decided to follow the usual backpacker route UP the country. Motorcycles are an incredibly popular mode of transport in Vietnam but we opted out; the impossibility of carrying bags, the insane driving and our lack of experience sent us opting for coaches instead!
Our local friend recommended that we use THE OPEN BUS Coach Company , which has ‘sleeper’ buses around Vietnam, following the usual route. These were essentially coaches with bed-like seats, reclined and in bunk-bed style all through the bus. They were bizarre, but incredible; we completed overnight journeys in relative comfort, although there were a few bumps in the road – figurative and literal ones!
IMPORTANT NOTE: There are many ‘Open Bus’ companies in Vietnam, but the original and therefore the best is ‘The Sinh Tourist’ (see hyperlink above.) BE WARNED that many of the other companies operate under the same name, so it’s important to go to the headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City and book through there, otherwise you get the bad-quality version of the Open Bus, where you get treated very badly. On one of the ‘fake’ buses which we accidentally boarded, the conductors separated the white tourists from the Vietnamese in an incredibly racist manner, so be careful to get the right company!
The type of ticket you get has different prices depending on the amount of stops you have. Our route was HO CHI MINH CITY to MUI NE to DA NANG to HOI AN to HUE to HANOI which consisted of over 1,700km of travelling for only £32GBP! This was definitely the cheapest transport we’d ever seen, and it was an absolute bargain! Yes, you have to sit on a coach for up to 16 hours at a time, but the price is definitely worth it!
WHAT TO DO?
Ho Chi Minh City: This bustling city is full of cultural activities, especially the Cu Chi Tunnels, which is the perfect place to experience the Vietnamese war. Tickets cost £7GBP (price negotiable with tour operators) and include transport and a tour of the tunnels. They were horrible claustrophobic, dark and sweaty inside, but it really makes you think about the conditions the soldiers were in. They also show you lots of the traps that the Vietnamese used against the Americans – they were brutal! Definitely an insightful day trip!
Mui Ne: This was by far our favourite place; we found a hostel for less than £5GBP a night with two pools, air-conditioning and excellent cleanliness. We took this as ‘rest and relaxation’ time; with cheap cocktails, beautiful weather, wonderful pools and a relaxing atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to wind-down and soak in the Vietnamese weather. Plus, an absolute MUST DO is the Mui Ne sunrise sand-dune trip, which is absolutely stunning! Check out the pictures on our Instagram!
Da Lat: Although we didn’t go, we’ve heard wonderful things about this scenic, mountainous region of Vietnam, and therefore recommend that you stop by – and share your pictures of it if you do! We love to learn more!
Da Nang: This was a stopover for us on the way up, and it turned out to be a little underwhelming; the ocean wasn’t particularly photogenic, and the area where our hostel was situated was a little rough. However, there was a wonderful pool available to use near the sea for £3GBP, and the weather was excellent!
Hoi An: This city is definitely worth a visit, particularly at night! The typical Vietnamese lanterns light up the bustling streets, and there are lots of handmade gifts for sale up and down the roads. Plus, this is the perfect place to get tailored clothing for bargain prices; Vietnamese silk and other beautiful materials are much cheaper here. We treated ourselves to beautiful silk dresses for bargain prices; just as your hostel staff to direct you to a good tailor, as there are lots of poor quality ones in between the good ones.
Hue: Another beautiful city, this time with a famous Citadel as its main attraction. We only stayed here for a few hours as the bus timetables made it hard for us to stay longer, so we didn’t get to see the beautiful architecture, but it’s another ‘to-do’ stop.
Hanoi: The final destination before we flew out of Vietnam was Hanoi, which was just as bustling as promised. Ha Long Bay trips go from here, but we missed out as it has a reputation for being ‘too toursity’ – plus, they weather wasn’t great for us. The city has cute markets on Sundays, however, which were fun to scour and situated on a street near lots of cultural performances. We loved it!
Happy travelling everyone!