06 Mar What you can do with a $10 travel budget in Saigon
You can become an “instant millionaire” when you visit Saigon. With the current conversion rate of approximately 22,700 Vietnamese Dong for every US Dollar, your pocket money can go a long way even if your travel budget is limited. Value for money is the reason why Vietnam is easily one of the best countries to visit in Southeast Asia, side by side with its fascinating nature and landscapes.
Even a small amount of 10 USD or 227,000 VND can go a long way in Saigon. In fact, this could be more than enough for a local Saigonese’ average daily expenses. Foreign travelers, however, have more options to spend it for. So, what can your $10 buy in Saigon? The list below gives you an idea of how far you can go with it.
If you visit Vietnam just for shopping, you will not be disappointed! Saigon is known for cheap but fair pieces of clothing. Go to Saigon Square and you’ll find dresses, t-shirts, printed pants, sportswear and small bags for less than $10 per piece. Bargain skills also work here!
With a $10 travel budget, you can get your tummy really happy for an entire day if you eat the local way! Combine local noodle soups or rice noodle meals ($1-2 per bowl) and a shot of Vietnamese milk coffee ($0.5) and you’re good with 3 meals for the day. Must-try meals are Bún bò (rice vermicelli and beef), Bún chả Hanoi (grilled pork and noodle) and the popular Phở (rice noodle soup). You can even squeeze in the budget a can or two of beer which costs $.05 to $1. Choose from Bia Saigon, Heineken and 333 Bia. If you prefer the healthier option, a fresh fruit smoothie or a che (Vietnamese dessert), each costing only $1, are ideal.
If you’ve been wandering around the city all day long and need a refreshing ending to your sweaty day, your $10 could give a decent satisfaction. Either try 60-minute massage or a reflexology treatment which costs $10 on average, or a complete nail spa for the same price. Doing a little research online to find spas with good reviews is worth the effort!
Mobile Internet Connection
Although you can rely on the fact that most establishments in Saigon provide a working WiFi connection, it’s still worth it to buy a local sim card so you can have mobile 3G whenever you are outdoors. With the travel budget of $10, you can have a local sim with high speed consumable data for 30 days. The cost is definitely more expensive at the airport so you might want to get it from local stores instead. Also, make sure that your phone is unlocked before you buy a sim card.
Want to be entertained for only $10? You have a lot of options to choose from. You can stay in the city and enjoy its local sites, or explore to its nearby provinces! A half day trip to the popular Cu Chi tunnels, used as hideouts, living quarters and supply routes for the Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War, only costs $5. You can also go southeast of Saigon for a whole day Mekong Delta tour including lunch and boat riding activity for just $10.
However, if you don’t want to leave Saigon, you can take a tour of Ho Chi Minh City. Popular architectural sites such as the War Remnants Museum, The Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Post Office and City Hall are close nearby within District 1 and require very little amount as entrance fee, if not free; you would probably spend most of your travel budget on food and drinks.
For $10, you can also buy a pair of cinema tickets with a bucket of popcorn. If you feel sporty, you can have a day-pass in a wall-climbing gym including shoe and harness rental. For the same amount, you can also enjoy a smoothie from the 52nd floor of Bitexco Financial Tower, the tallest building in Saigon while basking on the city’s skyline. Or better yet, spend it on a cocktail drink in a rooftop bar in the center of the city.
If you plan to go around Saigon on your own, you can take motorbike taxi services from Grab or Uber. A 7-kilometer ride costs only a little over $1. When taking this service however, internet connection and a local number is necessary so you can communicate with the driver (some of them can converse in English). The sedan option would cost around $4 for the same distance.
Feeling more adventurous? Try renting the motorbike and brave the streets of Saigon yourself. There are motorbike rentals in District one for $10, although you may have to shed more for fuel.
From the airport to District 1 and vice versa, you can take a Vinasun or Mailinh taxi which usually costs a little less than $10 per way.
Hunting for souvenirs in Saigon is not really hard. It has a number of exclusive objects that proudly represent its country that falls within your $10 budget.
The Non La (conical hat/straw hat) which is the cultural symbol of Vietnam only costs more or less $1. You can find various Non La stores in Ben Thanh and Bui Vien area. Since silk originated from Vietnam, you can find good quality ones for a cheap price. Bring home some authentic Vietnamese Silk for only $3-4 per meter. Its beautiful products such as scarves and clothes can also be good gifts to your friends and family back home. Vietnamese coffee is quite famous among coffee lovers. Bring some home for only $2 per 100 grams which you can get from local cafes or even grocery stores.
However, there will always be people who will try to overcharge you since you are a tourist. If you do not wish that to happen, find yourself a trust-worthy local guide to come along and they will know where would be the best place to buy what.
Final Tips to Stretch Your $10 Travel Budget
Now that you know what you can get for $10, you should also be aware that you cannot actually pay in foreign currency in Vietnam. Make sure that you change your dollars and be familiar with the notes of Vietnamese Dong, the largest of which is 500,000. Try to avoid paying with large notes if you don’t want to be short-changed. If have stayed longer in Saigon, you will prove that you can get by without spending too much.