Backpacking through Vietnam is an inexpensive way of seeing the country, so long as you follow some good common sense. Getting around by bus or train is a great way to see the countryside, however the latter tends to be a more expensive option.
With gambling at 20-thouand to one that's one heckava long-shot. But, when it comes to the conversion of one currency to another it can buy you a heckava good time in Vietnam. Especially if you're backpacking the country so you can save a few dollars. I mean Dong.
Before you can go converting currency Backpackers in Vietnam need to know a few things before they find themselves in Da Nang, Phu Quoc, or Saigon. Oops, did it again--I mean Ho Chi Minh City (often just wrtten as HCMC).
First things first, check with your doctor with regard to Malaria, Typhoid, and Cholera as there is a risk of contracting these illnesses here.
Got your meds and vacinations? Good, it's time to get down to the business of backpacking your way around. Twenty-thousand Dongs to the US Dollar might seem like a lot, and it is--but you don't want to be blowing them on things like train travel. This is one of the most expensive ways of getting around the country, believe it or not.
Sure the 1.5 million Dong price tag on a flight from Hanoi to HCMC might seem steep--but it's less than $75 to fly. Ah, forget it--you're backpacking, take the bus (an even cheaper option) instead.
However, if you do choose to take the train most long-haul trains offer both "hard" and "soft" sleepers and "hard" and "soft" seating--most Westerners would be most comfortable in the softer carriages. And whatever you do--don't leave your valuables in plain sight or alone in your berth.
Yet, before you can leave a place like Hanoi for parts unseen, you need to see it first. Located in the northern part of the country (it can get downright cold up here in the winter months), Hanoi is Vietnam's second largest city.
Forget about its size, Hanoi's a great place to see on a motor scooter, or by your own two feet. Visit the Old Quarter, the St. Joseph Cathedral, and the Turtle Tower out in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. Need something? You can get it at the Gioi Market, where they sell everything. No need to even pack heavy--you can get what you need for your trip right here--and then some.
Now that you've gotten your provisions you can go south towards Da Nang, located along the South China Sea. Buy something for everyone at the Han Market where you can get everything from flowers to local food, silk to snake wine.
No, I'm not making that last one up.
Da Nang brings you close to the Marble Mountains, as well as some spectacularly stunning UNESCO sites, and where you can get a birds-eye view from the cable car of the Ba Na Mountains.
Traveling further south (whether by bus, train, or plane) it's time to hit up HCMC. Once a former French colony you can still see remants of its colonial days, as well as visiting its War Remembrance Museum and taking a DMZ (de-militarized zone) tour.
This isn't your Full Metal Jacket Vietnam anymore--HCMC city of museums, so don't miss out the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and the Museum of Vietnamese History.
You can go even further south for a little rest and relaxation to Phu Quoc Island, located on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand (not even 15km from the Cambodian border and town of Kampot). What a tropical paradise this place is--and where you can get a Presidental Suite at one of the hotels for less than $170 a night.
Yeah, try doing that somewhere else in the world.
However, with all the SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and other activities you won't be spending much time in your room--so no need to spend that much on accommodations. One of the best things to treat yourself to would be the farmed pearls sold at Phu Quoc's Market.
With all the money you've saved backpacking in Vietnam you should have enough Dong to buy yourself two strands of pearls and bring me home one while you're at it too.