A vacation to Southeast Asia is a bargain hunter's paradise, once you get past the airfare prices. Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City can provide travelers with worldwide cuisine, tailor-made shopping deals, and bustling nightlife, all on the cheap.
The U.S. dollar will get you about 18,685 Vietnamese dong (as of press time), and many travelers can comfortably get by on less than the equivalent of $50 per person per day. The region's countless options for affordable food, accommodations, transportation, and tours make sticking to a budget easy. The city's infamous street food carts offer delicious options for all three meals, but there are also plenty of higher-end establishments if you want to splurge.
Airfare from Los Angeles starts around $900 in April and May, and I found a three-star District 1 downtown hotel from $49 per night. For two people traveling together, base prices start at $2,143 for a week's vacation.
Let's compare prices to New York City, another major metropolis, commercial center, and major entry point for overseas travelers. Flights from Los Angeles start at $230 in April and May, and I found a three-star hotel in the Financial District from $175 per night. For two people traveling together, the base price comes to $1,685 for a week's vacation.
At first glance, Ho Chi Minh City seems more expensive—$458 more, to be exact. But let's take a closer look at your per-day costs. Realistically, travelers in Vietnam can expect to spend about $50 per day for food, attractions, and transportation. In New York City, that daily budget may be tricky (if not near impossible) to stick to. Consider that the average cost of a meal in the city is roughly $42; you're already planning for an inflated per-day budget. And back in 2007, the average price of a cocktail was $10. Going out for dinner and drinks could quickly cost you upwards of $100. Of course, there are ways to find cheaper eats, attractions, and transportation deals, but you've got your work cut out for you. That extra $458 in New York City may only go as far as a few meals, museum fees, drinks, and cab rides.
Consider, too, that Ho Chi Minh City provides the chance to travel halfway across the world for not much more money, as well as the opportunity to experience a different culture up close. Leaving your comfort zone and seeing a new country firsthand offers a whole host of benefits that can't be replicated stateside.
Once again, look at your travel habits critically when comparing possibilities. Do your tastes and activities tend to inflate your budget? How far will your money go once you're at your destination? Comparing average costs is a smart way to get the true value of your chosen location.