‘Vietnam is affordable.’ – a common notion that many foreigners, who either want to visit the country for vacation or for business, know about.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned when visiting places you are not familiar, it’s the fact that you can never underestimate the money you’ll end up spending without budgeting. In every travel plans, budgeting is a crucial step regardless if you’re visiting a country notable for the high-end living or those which allows you to enjoy luxury at a lesser price.
I, and the rest of the Happy Cup Soul gang, are guilty of somehow failing this aspect. We initially tried, but there were still few misses.
Here are 3 things which first-time visitors like me should keep in mind when planning to visit the country.
Locals will offer you discounts, but you have to haggle better!
Haggling over souvenir items and local delicacies is common knowledge in Vietnam, and sellers don’t get offended.
Prices on display, especially on common market places like Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh city, can put up price tags triple the price of the actual one they offer for locals.
If you don’t speak their language, you’re automatically a foreigner, which means bigger chances of local sellers giving you higher prices.
Don’t hesitate to haggle for as low as 50% of the asking price. I tried doing it when purchasing candies and biscuits and they relented! Also, be very careful when they start offering add-on products at a lesser price. If you do the math, it is more likely that they are just adding the original price of the add-on goods to the discounted price of the main product.
Since it is your first time, haggle as much as you can! It is not a crime. If you still think the price is high, feel free to walk away. There are tons of similar stalls offering same products.
Grab Car or Motorbike Will Save you money. And time.
Vietnam’s main mode of transportation range from buses, motorbikes, private cars and taxis. But you’ll realize soon enough that motorbike is the king of the road around the city.
If you’re staying in the urban areas and don’t plan on spending time navigating through the myriad twist and turns of the streets (which can be confusing), then Grab car and motorbike is a great option. The price they offer is highly discounted compared to how much you’ll pay with taxi. Buses, are of course, more affordable, but then again, it’s not like you have all the time to wait for one to pass by your hotel.
One tip: Most, if not all drivers, do not speak English. So once they call, make sure you’re near a local and ask them to answer the phone and give instructions on where you are.
Don’t ignore supermarkets when shopping for treats and souvenirs!
Travel reviews and forums online will point you to popular sites like Dong Xuan in Hanoi and Ben Thay in Saigon when looking for wholesale and local products.
And while these sites do offer variety of authentic Vietnamese goods, the prices can also be tricky!
We have tried shopping for coffee in both markets I mentioned only to realize that the price we paid is double than how much they are sold in supermarkets! Lesson learned.
In general, I still think Vietnam is an affordable country. But you can’t let this knowledge fool you into mindless spending. Also, it would help a lot of you compare goods from one shop to another. They’re competitors at the end of the day so one will most likely offer you a better price range compared to the rest.