One of the biggest misconceptions about international travel is that it is expensive. Of course, certain elements of travel are expensive: you can’t get around the high cost of a plane ticket, and everybody has to pay visa expenses.
However, when you actually get to SE Asia, the costs of living (and traveling) are extremely low relative to Western standards.
In Vietnam, specifically, there are a great deal of goods and services that are shockingly inexpensive compared to back home. So, what exactly can you save money on compared to home?
1. Spa Services
SE Asia is the perfect place to pamper yourself, simply because the cost of all kinds of spa and beauty services is so low. Massages, haircuts, manicures, cleanses of all kind…they are significantly cheaper than elsewhere in the world.
In Vietnam, you can expect to pay under $20 for a 90 minute massage in a professional spa, and in some places can find this service for as little as $5. Manicures and pedicures are under $5 each, and haircuts in a professional salon are around $10-$15 (including shampoo and styling).
2. Juice & Coffee
In the Western world, and the United States specifically, we pay high prices for fresh pressed juice, and good coffee. On every block of every major city, you will see juice vendors that squeeze fresh juice of all kinds for great prices. You can expect to pay less than a dollar for a cup of fresh juice (pineapple, papaya, orange, apple…you name it). Coffee, especially in Vietnam’s coffee culture, is also insanely cheap; at a local stand, you can sometimes snag a cup for less than $0.25!
3. Name Brand Everything
Though a lot of the purses, clothes, and shoes are just knockoffs, there are some markets in SE Asia that sell clothes from the exact some factories that had slight imperfections (and were deemed unable to be sold).
For example, you can find very cheap H&M or Zara clothing at stores in Hanoi (typically called, “Made in Vietnam”). And, if you don’t mind the slight change in quality, you can buy a lot of “name brand” items for insanely cheap—all over Vietnam, vendors sell “North Face” products, “Nike” shoes, etc.
The reason for this is twofold…for one, local food is just generally extremely cheap compared to what Western tourists are used to. You can buy a meal for less than $2 easily. However, it also helps that you are not in any way expected to leave a tip; on an expensive meal, this cuts back on the price significantly. Make sure to check out our guide on Hanoi typical food prices.
5. Domestic Flights
Vietnam (and SE Asia in general) has some great discount flight operators that make flying within the country (and even out of the country to major cities) very cheap. Vietnam is a huge country to tackle, especially if you only have a couple weeks, so flying between HCMC, Da Nang, and Hanoi can make your travels much easier (forget about the 24 hour bus rides…yuck!).
Buying a last minute flight from Da Nang to Hanoi can run you as low as $40 (we’re talking buying it the day before). If you make plans in advance, you can get domestic flights for $20-$30 on AirAsia.