Local draft: 75-cents, enjoyed with a colorful international crew of merrymakers.
What you'll save on: Incredible cuisine (imagine luxe Asian fare prepared by a Frenchified gourmet chef who adores garlic) and the $1 motorbike-taxi ride across town (every passing motorbike can suddenly become a taxi).
Vietnam welcomed a whopping 15.5 million visitors last year, a 20 percent jump from 2017. This place is hot for expats, too -- the country’s infrastructure is finally at the point where it can comfortably accommodate First World expectations, and those looking for a more permanent vacation will find plenty of Western-style establishments to make connections and share tips on work and play.
Steamy Saigon is wild 24/7; Hanoi, the mellower option in the north, enjoys cooler nights and a relative degree of law and order. Vietnam’s cities aren’t big on sidewalks or heeding traffic lights, so getting around feels a bit like a game of Frogger. But once you get the hang of it, relax and enjoy an endless supply of cheap beer, dazzling street food, and diverse landscapes. Cost of living is low. Very low.
Before settling down, a great country-wide introduction is Intrepid Travel’s Vietnam Express Southbound expedition, a 10-day odyssey (from $1,205) that showcases this nation’s ancient and modern charms. The adventure includes overnights in a houseboat and nice hotels in Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City. It hits UNESCO heritage sites, rural open-air markets via motorbike, and Buddhist temples via riverboat.
If you need to splurge: Swing by the luxurious Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, a woody bastion of French flair that melds history and class like no other hotel. Built in 1901, this place oozes history, and has hosted such notable names as John F. Kennedy Jr., Charlie Chaplin, “Hanoi Jane” Fonda, Mick Jagger, and John McCain. The epic breakfast buffet, accompanied by swing jazz, is worth writing home about.