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Please help...first time solo traveller...

  • gabr13L

    Joined Travelfish
    15th March, 2012
    Posts: 4

    Hello people!! I'm planning on a first time ever solo adventure starting from Hanoi down to HCM City. I've read a number of post related but I can't seem to picture it out in my mind. I do no not have time restrictions however I do have financial limitations to about USD $1000.00 therefore would like to travel as cheap as possible in order to experience Vietnam.

    I'm more of a sight seeing, trot around, experience the culture and food kinda person so main places of interest would be Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh, also not forgetting the bike tours and places along the way down south if financial limitations permits.

    So I was thinking if you guys could advice me on what I can do therefore hoping if you guys could provide me with recommendations or suggestions such as mode of travel, accomodations and of course, things to take note of just in case. Much appreciated if you guys can help me out on my solo travel. Thanks!!!

    #1 Posted: 15/3/2012 - 15:59

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  • stefanw

    Joined Travelfish
    10th December, 2010
    Posts: 50

    Check out this article about Halong Bay. Gives good indication on price and quality (or lack thereof). http://www.travelfish.org/feature/73

    You should be able to see all the places you want to on that budget as the Open Tour bus system is pretty cheap and trains are as well. Accommodation is obviously up to you and how much you want to spend. Maybe US10-15 max, and if you want you can get rooms for more like $6.

    Bike tours etc can be pretty expensive if you are thinking of keeping to a budget of $30-40 a day. Although if it was to include meals, accommodation it wouldn't be too bad.

    Personally I would prefer to have a slightly shorter trip and have a higher daily budget so I am not constantly thinking about every 20000VND. If you spent 20 days going from North to South going to the main places you want and maybe a day in a few other towns along the way.

    #2 Posted: 16/3/2012 - 00:28

  • gabr13L

    Joined Travelfish
    15th March, 2012
    Posts: 4

    Hi stefanw, Thank you so much for the infomation provided. Much appreciated.

    However, I have another question and hope you guys could help me. Would it be easy to make reservations for accomodation on a day to day basis or would it be more advisable to do it online? Another would be the Internet connections in Vietnam, is it reliable?

    Please advice. Thanks.

    #3 Posted: 17/3/2012 - 11:52

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 939
    Total reviews: 2

    The only thing you will find for $6. a night is a hostel bed in Hanoi , and I think that a budget of $40. a day would be more realistic these days. Hanoi and Saigon are more costly than smaller towns. Hoi An seems to have good budget rooms - I paid $15. in 2009, but with inflation, I'm sure those places are more like $18. these days. While long distance buses are indeed very cheap in Vietnam, I suggest you research the safety of those buses (not to mention comfort issues, such as lack of restrooms). Vietnam's highways are not exactly safe places on which to travel. Please use the train to travel along the coast.

    I am a flashpacker myself, and have usually budgeted $50. a day for past trips. Vietnam has been experiencing between 18% and 22% inflation in recent months - I will be giving myself a little more for the next trip.

    #4 Posted: 17/3/2012 - 13:39

  • gabr13L

    Joined Travelfish
    15th March, 2012
    Posts: 4

    Thank you so much for your informative price gauge. Much appreciated daawgon.

    I've come up with a rough plan on where to go as I have limited down to 3 main places, so I was hoping if you guys can give me some pointers on my suggested itinerary. I'll be arriving on 30th Mar, hopefully.....so here goes =)

    Day 1-5, Hanoi attractions.
    Day 6-7, Ha Long Bay 1Night Cruise. (Birthday Treat)
    Day 7-8, Overnight train to Da Nang, proceed to Hoi An .
    Day 8-12, Hoi An attractions.
    Day 13-14, Overnight train to Saigon.
    Day 14-18, Saigon attractions.
    Day 19, Home sweet home...hopefully..

    Just a few questions and hope you guys could help me. For the train tickets and accomodations, possible to do on site or advisable to do online prior arrival?

    Much appreciated if you guys can help. Thanks! Travel safe...

    #5 Posted: 20/3/2012 - 13:59

  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
    31st December, 2007
    Location New Zealand
    Posts: 2088
    Total reviews: 20
    Places visited:
    At least 107

    I think that itinerary looks very reasonable. A decent pace which will allow you to see the sites without having to rush too much.

    In terms of accom, I would book your 1-2 nights in Hanoi . Once there and you get your bearings, you can either scout around for alternative accom, or extend the stay where you are at.

    After that, I'd just organise things as you go. What I tend to do before arriving into a new town is to identify 2 or 3 places that I think would be ideal accom near each other so that when I get off the train/bus, I have an address to head towards as soon as I arrive. (That also helps deal with the taxi touts that try to pressure you into staying at their uncle's place). Go to the accom, check it out, and if its suitable, then stay. If not, there were be others in the nearby vicinity.

    Alternatively, because I carry a netbook when travelling, I go online the day before arriving and make a booking via email or Skype so that I know I have a room organised. (Don't pay ahead of time, just reserve the room). Leaving it til last minute means you have more flexibility in terms of when you travel. For example, once there, you might decide to leave Hoi-An a day or two earlier or later than planned.

    Same with trains/buses. Unless you are there during peak season or a major holiday, I would just book as you go.

    Going back to your itinerary...one idea to consider is to plan your Halong Bay trip a day or two earlier. In other words, 2-3 days in Hanoi, then Halong Bay, then back to Hanoi for another day or two. Why? You might find that the first 2-3 days in Hanoi is enough for you, but if you've booked the cruise, then you would have to wait around for another day or so. Doing the Halong Bay trip earlier gives you the option to come back to Hanoi for another few days, or move on to the Danang.

    Also - while in Saigon, you may want to consider a day tour to the Mekong Delta area (Can Tho, Ben Tre, etc. Don't book anything until you are there. Just pencil it in as an idea worth considering once you are there.

    Enjoy!

    #6 Posted: 20/3/2012 - 14:31

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 939
    Total reviews: 2

    The part of your itinerary that worries me is south of Hoi An. I know that I told you to use the train, but let me eat my words, please. The train trip from Danang to Saigon will be extremely long and possibly quite boring also. I just wanted to warn you - might consider flying that route.

    I am not a fan of Saigon myself (too many high rises, too much crime and much too spread out for me!) Everyone is different, so consider this a warning. You might consider adding Dalat in the Central Highlands - Vietnam Airlines serves Dalat from both Danang and HCMC. Another option would be to include Sapa when you're up north - Sapa is pretty awesome in my opinion.

    #7 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 14:04

  • Ally_the_Cat

    Joined Travelfish
    13th March, 2012
    Posts: 11

    I just traveled by bus from Saigon to Hoi An , it was a cheap way to travel, but extremely uncomfortable and really long (24 hours). I was thrown around quite a bit due to being in the back, so if you choose to travel that way, make sure you are in the front of the sleeper bus.

    I am on the same budget you are, and have found that it is not terribly difficult, with a few exceptions here and there. I have been just "showing up" for accommodation and have had no issues so far. Like busylizzy said, just have an address written down so you have a general area to explore. This has worked really well for me, and I have just primarily used the travelfish site to look for cheap "backpacker" accommodation. Don't forget to bargain! Especially if you choose to stay in one place for more than a day or two. I found a great little hotel near the Sinh Cafe bus station in Hoi An that offers decent rooms from $6-$10 USD. If you say you want to think about it, 85% of the time they will offer you a better deal.
    When you get to Saigon, I stayed at Saigon Backpackers Hostel at the end of Pham Ngu Lao. It had really great dorms with big comfy beds for $7-8 USD a night and includes a big breakfast. The staff was awesome and they recently remolded the "lounge" area and added a pool table.

    One thing to be wary of in HCMC is the motorbike thieves. I witnessed this first hand right in front of the hostel. They drove by super fast on a motorbike (usually two people) and attempted to grab a girl's purse I was with. She held on and only the strap broke. Besides scaring the hell out of her, she was really lucky to have not lost anything. The people at the hostel told us the thieves usually watch for the more drunk tourists to walk home from the bars and follow them on the bike and eventually make their move. I don't want to scare you, I had an awesome time in HCMC, but it is very real and something to be aware of. So don't wear a purse with a long string, lose dangling jewelry, wear your camera strap around your wrist, don't flash your valuables at bars, and never walk home alone at night. As long as you are aware of your surroundings you should be fine. I just wanted to share this experience with you, because I had not really thought it a reality until it happened right before my eyes.

    Safe travels and have an awesome trip!

    #8 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 23:08

  • gabr13L

    Joined Travelfish
    15th March, 2012
    Posts: 4

    Thank you guys so much for all this valuable information!!

    I've decided to folow busylizzy's advice..to organise as I go..researching and more researching and I'm getting a bit lazy..haha..anyway thanks again guys!!

    #9 Posted: 23/3/2012 - 09:22

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