The cost of travel in Vietnam varies from next to nothing to the sky is the limit, depending on taste and comfort.
Ascetics can get by on US$10 a day, while a conventional budget traveler can live it up on US$20 to US$25. Mid-range travelers can have a ball with US$75 to US$100 a day, staying comfortably, eating well and traveling in style. At the top end, spending US$200 or more a day, anything is possible.
Foreigners are frequently overcharged, particularly when buying souvenirs and occasionally in restaurants. Rapacious bus and taxi drivers will often bump up their rates to several times the Vietnamese price. However, don't assume that everyone is trying to rip you off. Despite severe poverty, many Vietnamese will only ask the local price for most goods and services.
Rooms start from as little as US$5 to US$7 in busy tourist centers. Spending US$10 to US$20 will boost the comforts quickly, and rooms will generally include air-con, satellite TV, a fridge and hot water. Make the step up to US$50 and three-star standards are available. At US$100 and above it's five-star territory. Don't be afraid to negotiate for a discount if it is low season or if traffic is down.
Dining out is where Vietnam comes into its own. Surfing the street stalls and markets, meals can be found for between US$0.5 and US$1. Local restaurants are more comfortable and you can eat well for between US$2 and US$5.50. Then there are the Vietnamese gourmet restaurants, where you can still only spend around US$10 with drinks; with the right wines, you could easily spend US$50.
Domestic flights are relatively expensive compared with some countries in the region. A one-way ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is around US$100. Trains are great value and overnight sleepers are a good way to cover long distances like Hanoi to Hue' or HCMC to Nha Trang.
Bus travel is a bargain. Public buses between major destinations have fixed fares, but when traveling by bus in remote areas, overcharging is the rule. For maximum flexibility, many prefer to rent a car or 4WD to explore with a guide. Costs run from about US$45 around town to as much as US$90 a day upcountry (including the driver's food and lodging). A guide costs from US$30 to US$40, depending on the destination.
Whatever your budget might be, Vietnam is a dream deal. Live it up while you can.
Litre of petrol US$0.80
Litre of water US$0.55-0.70
Big BGI beer US$1
Souvenir T-shirt US$2
Pho Bo from a street stall US$1
Restaurant meal US$3.50-7
Hotel room with air-con US$10-20
Internet access US$0.30-0.70 per minute
Print film US$2.50-3.50
Two-kilometers taxi ride US$1