The value of goods….. and money.


Me and the gang

Vietnam has undergone heavy inflation which is making already poor people more desperate. Almost everything has gone up 20-25 % in the past couple of years. Even with this high inflation, Vietnam is still one of the most affordable places to travel. I encourage budget travelers to look at Vietnam as a travel destination, but also, not to be the ultimate Scrooge!!  The very first thing to keep in mind is the number of zeros in the Vietnamese Dong. One hundred USD is the equivalent of 2 million Dong. Because of that, some people will have problems with conversion and think things are more expensive than they really are.  Here is a typical example.

A family ride

A couple checks into my hotel for 1 week and puts all expenses on their room. Every morning they have breakfast, coffee and then go out. In the afternoon, one drinks coffee and the other polished off 2 beers. After wakening up and having another coffee, and an afternoon of fun, the evening is spent sitting in the front of the lobby drinking (this scenario will probably reflect a few readers of this blog;).  After a week it is time to check out and I present them with a bill of 2,500,000 dong. Looks outrageous doesn’t it? However, they ask how much in American dollars and it converts to about 125.00 US.” What” they say? “Are you sure”? “We have been here a week and have drank a lot”!! Yes that is correct…… The entire week stay cost less than a single night in a budget hotel in your country. With this in mind, I will tell you about one of my pet peeves……

Quy… so romantic and looking for a husband

I understand that many travelers are on a tight budget, however, there are limits as to how thrifty I can tolerate. Here is another common example. In our lobby we sell ice cold drinks. A bottle of water is 5000 dong (.25). Most of the stores in the neighborhood sell warm bottles for the same price, but there are some that sell for 4000 dong (.20). We serve a good basic breakfast for 25000 dong (1.25) but a person can buy a baguette with scrambled eggs inside for 15000 (.75). They then take breakfast up to the room making an awful mess as it is not respectful to purchase food elsewhere and consume in another food venue. Over the typical 3 day stay, the frugal couple have saved 36000 dong (1.80 US) but has cost their hotel to profit less as the room is tied up with people who think ( often mistakenly) that they are spending too much money and will not spend a dime on the very place they came to enjoy. These same people in order to save precious pennies will spend more time in the room using more energy with the air conditioning. Do you get the picture? Try to keep in mind that shopping for a budget hotel that saves you money, or eating at less expensive restaurants is understandable, but saving 5000 or 10000 at a time really does not add up to much compared to the inconvenience of shopping for the ultimate bargain. I cannot count how many times that young travelers walk around with sour expressions thinking everything is a rip off or too expensive from their mindset.

Sometimes there is no escape from dragon dances



A terrible hotel room….. roughin it











As of August 31st 2012, here are examples of average current prices of goods in Vietnam.

20000 = 1 us Dollar

                                         Local areas                              Both areas                            Tourist areas

Pho                                         20000                                                                                    40000

Beer                                        10000                                                                                    20000

Premium Beer                     15000                                                                                    35000

Cigarettes                             16000                                                                                    25000

Meal in restaurant             80000                                                                                    150000

Bus Fare                                                                               4000

Budget Hotel                      150000                                                                                  200000

3 star Hotel                         500000                                                                                1200000

Bottle of water                                                                 5000/10000

Motorcycle rentals                                                          100-120000

Blue Jeans                           100000                                                                                 300000+

Dental filling                       200000

Doctor consult                                                                   50000    (foreign partnered hospital)

Ultrasound                                                                         400000

Basic cell phone                                                                400000

Banh Mi                               10000                                                                                    20000

Common bicycle                                                               1600000


I guess my last point would be that it is so comparatively inexpensive to travel here that bargaining down hard ok, but keep in mind that Vietnamese will work for almost anything if they are in need of money. They are often will try to out bid each other and I guess that leaves the onus is on us to be fair. In the end you usually get what you pay for. I will end with another example:

Many people wish to enjoy the central highlands by motorcycle and there are many riders that will take a person. Hired from the street, the

OK… Ok… I never realized the irony until after the shot… sometimes I am so dense

current cost for a Dalat Easyrider is 70 us dollars a day and a rider from Nha Trang about 60. Included in this price, is your guide, cost of fuel, entrance fees, and decent accommodation. That is more than a fair price as if you deduct the room cost (15.00), fuel cost & maintenance (10.00) entrance fees (4 or 5.00), what remains of a Nha Trang riders wage is 30 USD. Now to be honest, 30 dollars is a fair wage here…… but wait!! We have not deducted his living expenses for the day!! Even if eating frugally (often the reason guides sit on their own), it will cost another 5 dollars…..then there is coffee and water…. Now he has to find a place to sleep…….. Well you get the picture right? These fellows might make 20.00 a day (that is 2.00 an hour for 10 hours) if they are lucky. People are so desperate for work here, sometimes I will encounter a rider who is working for 45 dollars a day and on a 5 day tour. This rider will be making less than one dollar an hour!! Odds are in order to save some money, the customer will spend time in venues or restaurants that are pricier but give a kick backs to the rider. The accommodation will be cheap and unsatisfactory, but you are getting what you paid for…. The poor fellow has to make money somehow.

I sometimes find it ironic that the same people that will stand up for cheap child labor and unfair employer practices will come to Vietnam on holiday and mistakenly (or perhaps not) practice the very thing that they stand against….

It is very easy to forget how small the large numbered currency is and as easy to become the ultimate “Cheap Charlie” without meaning to….. Be Aware and take a wallet conversion card…. It will help! You can find a good walet card on this site


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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

18 thoughts on “The value of goods….. and money.

  1. Hi There
    I would like to travel to Vietnam this year and would like to know when is a nice time to visit Vietnam and which areas are nice to stay.I will be travelling with my husband and 4 year old son,we would like to stay in area where there is nice shopping places and we would also like to spend a few days a the beach to do the water activies.

  2. I’ve been to India and stayed at 3 star hotels, it must be customary at most hotels to save on electricity. They only have available hot water couple of hours in the morning and evening to take a shower. Turn off AC circuit breaker to your room when you leave and need to ask them to turn it back on when you return if they forget. During the night they will turn off the AC, leave the ceiling fan and some lights switches on for bedroom/bathroom. It sucks when you’re trying to charge your Smartphone, Camera, & Tablet overnight. lol It’s an experience of frustration, laughter, and WTF!

    1. Power is the most expensive utility in Vietnam. The same probably applies in India. It is also frustrating to find the drinks in your room fridge get warm because they are on the same circuit

    1. ?There are tailors and clothing makers everywhere in Vietnam. Even on Bui Vien st in Saigon you can get a good bargian. Hoi An has so many tailors it will confuse you and the prices are quite a bit higher than the rest of the country.

  3. Hello, I am visiting Vietnam next week, I will be in Ho Chi Minh right next to the market. Please do you know the rough price of clothes, trainers and hair extensions? I have been told they can be very cheap.
    Also, what currency would you advise me to take with me? USD or VND?

    1. Coincedednce…. That is where re I am now. Bring any of the major currencies. It is easy to exhange. I canhot comment about the things you want to purchase except to say that clothing and personal items are inepensive. The prbem is that the Ben tThamarket etsa lot of vstrs and you wl ae tbargan hard. The outering of stores have f used prices so you can get an idea of how much to pay

  4. Hi my partner and i are looking to spend 7-10 nights in vietnam in january 2014 we are not sure whether to stay in miu ne or nha trang. We want nice relaxing beaches in the day but some shopping and nightlife but not to much hussle and bussle. Can you recommend a resort and hotels. I do fancy alittle luxury. Thanks

    1. Nha trang has much more to do and see. Most of the hotels are close to the beach but there are few resorts. Mui ne is all about resorts but not a lot to do in your spare time

  5. Hi Owee,

    Can you recommend a very good hotel (our honeymoon) near the backpacker area of Saigon please.

    Many Thanks,

  6. I will be moving to Vietnam on Jan 6th. I have an apartment above my new office on Diem Biem Phu in District 3. I need to find out where i can buy a good Queen Size air mattress. If you know of any place that sells them please let me know. Also looking to meet new people and make new friends. I will be in Vietnam at least 6 months and perhaps 1 year. Thanks, Chris

  7. people do go on budget holidays and have to look after their money,if your not on guard you will get ripped off ie taxis from the airport ,and other things,but you do get what you pay for,you carnt beat vietnam it has everything for everyone this will be my forth time this march.

  8. A lot of Budget travellers are very nice people and I inderstand the need to save money, but what kind of impression are you givin by walking 10 minutes to buy warm water, and then requesting ice from the people that have cold water available for 5 cents more?

  9. Unfortunately, when you cater to the budget traveler, you will get some extreme cheapos. Putting the dollar equivalent on your menu might put things in perspective for your guest. Using the a/c for an extended period would have an additional charge. Do you also find the extreme cheapos are the biggest whiners too? I don’t mind paying a fair value for anything. What I hate is being ripped off though. It’s just one of the pitfalls of life. I certainly won’t let it ruin my vacation!

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