Sunday, January 22, 2012

Frugal Travel....Vietnam might be the place!

I was reading the Frugal Traveler this morning.  Author of the column, Seth Kugel, writes for the New York Times and is the "guru" of cheap travel.  You remember him...he was the one that blasted this blog out of the water last spring.  The article today is about Portugal.  Now that really is a place I would like to visit. But.....

In my world the Far East (excluding China) is by far the best buy for the frugal traveler right now.  We just returned from a trip to China and Vietnam. We visited Sapa, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the island of Phú Quốc in Viet Nam and Shanghai in China. If I were looking for the most frugal of all adventures, Vietnam would be my choice right now...that is what I know so indulge me.

  • Flight: $1450 (from Tucson AZ)
  • Rooms:  $20+ Sapa Boutique Hotel, $140 Grand Hotel Ho Chi Minh City, $20-$100 Hanoi, $150 Cassia Cottages Phú Quốc (included breakfast).  This is a resort so the price is higher but in this case I think it is probably a very good choice.
  • Trekking:  We booked our day hikes in the hotel we staying at.  We booked the guide after we had arrived. There are websites for treks with overnight stays in villages.  2 days 3 nights will cost around $170.  
  • Overnight train fare from Hanoi to Lao Cai $25-$78.  Connecting Bus (1 1/2 hr.) $2 one way.
  • Note:  A trip to Halong Bay could be another place you should put on your list.  
Sapa Rooms Boutique Hotel Lobby/Restaurant 

Night Train to Sapa from Hanoi

Valley below Sapa on the slope of the Hoang Lien Son range of mountains 
at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas.
Trek to Cat Cat Village
Cassia Cottages, Phú Quốc

I don't know when you last stayed in a $25 hotel room but it had been a very long time for me.  We stayed in a very small hotel in Hanoi called Hanoi Gecko.  The rooms were clean and the hotel was extremely small.  The hotel owner was there to greet us personally and the breakfast we were served in the morning was in a dining room off the lobby.  It was all just fine!  On the other end of the spectrum, we found the resort on Phú Quốco be very luxurious in Vietnam's terms and within a few years the price will probably be beyond our reach.  Our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City was indeed very nice but was not a 5* hotel.   All in all the trade off we made for the cheap rooms allowed us to upgrade in other locations.

Shopping Viet Nam is still very affordable and Hanoi Old City is very much like it has always been I think.  The charm of the way of life that reflects how the Vietnamese really live is still alive here as it is in Sapa.  The farther you go south the costs seem to go up.  

Market Place, HCMC

HCMC from the air.
A young frugal traveler that is willing to stay in less than *****hotels will find this to be a winner.  At least that is what we found.  Save up all your credit card points, keep a look out for cheap airline tickets or special...this could be the trekker adventurer's trip of a life time.


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