Vietnam. The southern city of Ho Chi Minh City is a hub of excitement, a city that buzzes day and night, where motos and bicycles jockey for position on the road wondering where all the cars are at. The former Saigon is really a brilliant city to visit, and folks we only have the weekend and a hundred bucks. So let’s do this!
As I start off this blog post, I am actually thinking this could be a really easy city to keep to a tight budget in. Accommodation and food is pretty cheap, and part of the thrill of the city is just being there, checking out parks and temples, and meeting people which is all FREE! Anyhoo, let’s see how we go!
So quickly the rules – we arrive early morning on the first day, leave evening of the second day. Airfares are not part of the $100 BUT accommodation is. The airport for Ho Chi Minh City is not close to the city and it can take up to 45 minutes to get into the city or more depending on the time of day and traffic. Its been ten years since I was in the city, so I decided I’d better check prices online and found that a taxi costs around $4.40 and a bus less than half that. There’s frugal and there’s frugal, but a taxi will ensure we get right up to our accommodation and don’t have to walk around town getting lost, which I kinda did when I was there (I took a bus/shuttle). Let’s do bus out and taxi in, and including tips let’s allocate $7. For an airport so far from town, that’s doing really well, and we still have $93 left.
We will need to sleep at night. Probably. Vietnam is famous for its mini-hotels, cheap, basic but clean and suitable accommodation, and comfortable enough. I stayed all through Vietnam in this kind of place, and I was always comfortable and there was only one place I wasn’t happy with across the country, and that was NOT a mini-hotel, it was part of my Halong Bay experience and was booked by the tour company.
Madame Cuc’s is a brand of mini-hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, and I stayed at Madame Cuc’s 64 (I think) when I was there. I would recommend them, the room was quiet, clean, had air conditioning and a TV and a decent bathroom. It wasn’t the Ritz but it really was great value for money. Anyways, today’s web search showed me loads of options, Madame Cuc’s has it’s own website, and well prices were lower at some places for a room but one room I found definitely in Ho Chi Minh City was going for $20USD. It’s really all you could need for a one night stay. It’s called OYO 47 Van Anh Hotel.
So then we still have $73! For the two days let’s take $13 for transport around the city. Buses will be less than 50 cents for a journey, and taxis won’t set you back more than a buck or two at the outside. So we still have a good $60 in our pocket at least I would say.
And then we have to eat. A good bowl of Vietnam’s most famous noodle soup, Pho, plus a drink and something on the side will not set you back much. I mean sure, if you want to eat at a touristy place you might, with drink, get to $10USD if you try. But you can probably have a soup and drink for a couple of bucks. We have two lunches, two dinners and one breakfast, so let’s give half over to food, $30, leaving us with $30. Really, that will be heaps I would think but there’s a little wiggle room for a burger or something more expensive, and water.
Then we have the free things to see. Firstly, hanging around in the parks watching life and people playing hacky-sack, even if you only have the two days, is a great way to spend a couple of hours. You WILL meet locals who want to practice there English and you can learn so much so easily about life in Vietnam – why wouldn’t you? The Main Post Office is a famous building (possibly designed by Gustav Eiffel) and is worth visiting. That is next to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which I believe is free too, and both interesting buildings.
There are so many temples around the place, you could do a day of temple spotting if that’s your thing. There is the Ba Thien Hau Temple, which I believe is one I visited, and the Giac Lam Pagoda (five storey) which is a really cool one to visit. But just walking around the areas of the pagodas you will see men playing chess in the street and life going on, it’s a wonderful city.
But we still have $30 to spend, and well, there are some sites you have to pay to see. There are a range of museums which, if they charge, will charge you $1 – $2 to enter. The War Remnants Museum paints a different picture about the conflict in the 1960s-70s in Vietnam to what we know in the west, and is worth a visit in my books. There is the Saigon Sky deck, which I don’t think was open when I was there, that might be worth a visit at $9USD or so though, it’s one of the more expensive Ho Chi Minh City experiences!
The Cu Chi Tunnels are tunnels used in the war, and can be visited from Ho Chi Minh City. You get to walk through the (widened) tunnels, and it’s a bit of a gimmick but I liked the experience. You may need to get a tour to them. I’m sure you could find something for less than $20. However, along with museums and losing at least half a day to the experience, it may be hard to squeeze in. My suggestion, on one day do Cu Chi along with some late afternoon park time, the other day a museum or two and the Post Office/Cathedral. The tunnels are not IN Ho Chi Minh City. Private transport I would think would blow our budget, but you may be able to combine with others at your hotel and get the cost to $20 per head or so. Entrance to the tunnels itself is a little under $5. In a tour that might be included in the price.
And so folks, Ho Chi Minh City is a city designed to be visited on a budget! And before you know it, 2 days have passed and it’s off home or somewhere else for another adventure! What have I missed here? Let me know! Thanks for popping by as always, and May the Journey Never End!