The cost of travel in Vietnam varies from pocket change to the platinum card, depending on taste and comfort. Asc etics co uld just about get by on US$10 a day, while a conventional budget traveler can live it up from US$20 to US$25. Midrange travelers can have a ball from US$50 to US$100 a day, staying comfortably, eating well and travelling comfortably. At the top end, spending US$200 or more a day, anything is possible. Foreigners are frequently overcharged, particularly when buying sou?venirs and occasionally in restaurants. Rapacious bus and taxi drivers will o ften bump up their rates to several times the Vietnamese price. However, don't assume that everyone is trying to rip you off. Despite widespread poverty, many Vietnamese will only ask the local price for many goods and servic es. The off icial curr ency may be Vietnam dong (d), but th e US dollar is pr et ty widely accepted. In tourist centers, most hotels will accept cither, while other businesses may prefer dong. As you venture off the trail, make sure you are packing plenty of local currency. Rooms start from as little as US$3 to US$5 in busy to urist centers. Spending US$10 to US$20 will boost the comforts quickly, and rooms will general ly include air-con, satellite TV, fridge and hot water. Make the step up to US$50 and three-star frills are available. At US$100 and above, it's five-star territory. Don't be afraid to negotiat e for a discount if it is low season or if numbers are down. Dining out is where Vi etnam comes into its own. Surf ing the street stalls and markets, meals can be found for between US$0.50 and US$1. Local restaurants are more comfortable and you can eat well for between US$1 and US$3.50. Then there are the Vi etnamese gourmet restaurants, where you can still only spend around US$10 with drinks; with the right wines you could easily spend US$50. Domestic flights are relatively expensive compared with some countr ie s, in the region. A one-way ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is around US$110. Trains are great value and overnight sl eepers are a g oo d way to cover long distances like Hanoi to Hu e or HCMC to NhaTrang Bus travel is a bargain by Western standards. Public buses b etw een major destinations have f ixed fares, but when travelling by bus i n r emo te areas overcharging is the rule. For maximum flexibility, many travelers prefer to rent a car or 4WD and go exploring with a guide. Costs run from abou t US$25 around town to as much as US$100 a day upcountry (includin g the driver's food and lodging). A guide costs fro m US$20 lo L'S$4(), dep endin g on the destination.
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