Why you should plan a trip to Vietnam post-COVID
Updated: Aug 3
If you're like me, you've been daydreaming of your next big trip since the pandemic started. I know some people have already traveled internationally, but there are many of us who can't travel or don't want to until the pandemic begins to subside. Living in Vietnam, there's no chance for international travel. The borders have been closed since March of 2020, and there's no telling when they'll open again (although there have been whispers of opening to vaccinated tourists in the late summer/fall - we'll see!)
Because of this, all my travel in the past year has been domestically in Vietnam. This means I've been able to see a lot more of Vietnam than I would have if there had been no pandemic. I fell in love with the country as soon as I got here, and I think it's an underrated country that's great for travelers, especially if you're traveling on a budget! Vietnam is also very family friendly. The Vietnamese love children, especially foreign children. There is something in Vietnam for everyone - cities, mountains, beaches... You name it, Vietnam probably has it! Here are my reasons that you shouldn't hesitate to book a trip to Vietnam when the borders open.
Vietnam is CHEAP
Who doesn't love a destination where you can get more bang for your buck? Vietnam is one of the cheapest destinations in South East Asia - more affordable than neighboring Thailand while still offering an amazing experience. You can easily travel on a budget for $15-20 a day, or you can bump your budget up a little and have a more midrange experience for $30-50 per day. Here are some examples of what you can expect to pay while traveling in Vietnam:
One night in a shared hostel room: $3-7
One night in a budget hotel: $12-15
One night in a three-star hotel: $40-60
Coffee from a local cafe: $.75-1
Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich): $1-1.50
Bowl of Pho or Bun Cha (Vietnamese meat soups): $1.50-2
Average Western meal (burger or sandwich and fries): $6-8
Western meal at a more upscale restaurant: $10-13
Beer in the supermarket: $.50-1 per can
Bottle of wine at the supermarket: $4
Beer at a local Bia Hoi: 50 cents per glass
Beer at a restaurant: $1-4 (ranging from Vietnamese mass-produced beer to craft beers)
Local city bus ride in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City: 25-50 cents
Motorbike taxi in the city: $1-2
Car taxi in the city: $2-6
Bicycle rental in Hoi An: $1
Motorbike rental for a day: $4-6
Long-distance bus for traveling between cities: $6-10
Train between cities: $10-40 (I paid $40 for a 16 hour overnight sleeper train from Da Nang to Hanoi)
Domestic flight: $20-50
Things to do
Museum visit in one of the cities: $1-3
Cooking class: $15-30
Day boat trip in Ha Long Bay: $20-30
Vietnam is probably the easiest country that I've traveled to if you're on a budget. When I was solely traveling here, my daily costs averaged around $20, which included accommodation, three meals, several drinks with friends in the evening, and something to do during the day. I wasn't scrimping or cutting costs on anything and was having an awesome time.
Cooking class in Hoi An
Lots to see and do
Now I know this can be said of so many countries, but I feel like it's particularly true in Vietnam. The country is long and skinny - approximately 1050 miles or 1700km from north to south. That's about the same as the distance from New York City to Orlando. Think about all the different landscapes in between those two cities. It's exactly the same in Vietnam. In the north, you have the mountainous regions of Sapa and Ha Giang as well as the famous Ha Long Bay and the capital city of Hanoi. The central area has lots of nice beaches, the imperial capital of Hue, seaside city Da Nang, and the charming colonial town of Hoi An. The south boasts the largest Vietnamese city, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong River Delta area, and more beautiful beaches.
You can easily plan a trip to see a little of each region, or you could choose to focus on just one area in the country. No matter what you choose, you're not going to be disappointed! If you want to know more about some of my favorite places in Vietnam, check out this post!
Vietnamese people love sharing their country with travelers. They are especially proud of how well they have done handling the pandemic, and I'm sure when international travel resumes they'll be very excited to show their country off again. Most young Vietnamese people speak conversational to fluent English. The older generation knows less English (from my experience) but are more than happy to have a conversation through Google Translate. Despite only knowing a few words of Vietnamese, I haven't had too many problems with the language barrier, especially in the more touristy areas.
You'll meet loads of cool people
While Vietnam is on the Southeast Asia backpacker trail, my experience here has been that many of the travellers I've met here are a bit older than the stereotypical gap year backpacker of Australia or Thailand. Many of the travellers I've met here are in the mid-twenties to early-thirties demographic - people who have come here to teach English or quit their job at home for a late gap year of sorts. No matter who they are, where they come from, or why they're here, I can guarantee you will meet some awesome people here as well!
I had never really had Vietnamese food, or any type of Southeast Asian cuisine for that matter, before traveling here. Vietnamese food has been a wonderful surprise! I've had so many different dishes that were all absolutely amazing. Some of my favourites are banh mi - a Vietnamese sandwich that typically is filled with pork, pate, cucumber, carrot, and cilantro; bun cha - a soup dish from Hanoi with grilled pork meatballs and noodles; and cao lau - a noodle dish from Hoi An with pork and greens. The classic staples of meat with vegetables stir fried with rice or noodles are always good as well!
A totally different travel experience
Especially if you've never been to Southeast Asia, your trip to Vietnam might put you completely out of your comfort zone - in a good way. Prior to this, most of my traveling had been through Europe, and let me tell you that nothing could have prepared me for the chaos that is Vietnam. That being said, you'll get used to it very quickly, and I found the change of pace to be very new and exciting! There's nothing like crossing the street for the first time in front of no less than 25 motorbikes. They probably won't stop for you, but they also won't hit you - Vietnamese drivers are very good at avoiding obstacles in the road. Vietnam is noisy, the traffic is crazy, and there are so many unique smells and sights - like a family of five all on the same motorbike.
While it may not be the first place on your radar, you should definitely consider a trip to Vietnam post-COVID. It's an affordable and interesting destination that has a lot to offer. The food is good, the people are friendly, and it's not overly touristy. Vietnam has something for everyone - if you're looking for something that's completely different from an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean or museum hopping through Europe, I can guarantee Vietnam will not disappoint.