How Cheap is Cheap?

Whenever a travel destination gets touted as “cheap”, the inevitable question gets asked: ok, but really… how cheap is “cheap”? 

October 3, 2019

Dining Out:


The Kooks are all about delicious food; fresh herbs, top notch French bread and all the noodles we can handle, hence the reason we chose Vietnam in the first place. We’re stoked about being able to dine out frequently without breaking the bank. Generally speaking, bánh bao, an absolute favorite of ours, cost about 10,000₫ (43 cents) each. Prices vary depending on the dish and location but a more elaborate and delicious meal like bún chả cá at a proper sitdown restaurant typically comes in at a whopping 30,000₫ ($1.30 USD) a person. Yes, food really is that cheap and it really is that delicious!



On the other side of our little place, is a living room turned coffee shop/art studio. If you know us, you probably already guessed that we’ve made good friends with the woman who holds the key to our caffeination needs. Every morning, with a surfboard under one arm, we wave to her as we make our way down to, what would be overhead for a baby, waves. When she sees us walking back, she knows it's time to brew up some coffee for the Kooks. As soon as we take a seat, we are immediately met with complimentary trà đá (Vietnamese iced tea) and not a moment too soon. That iced tea hits the spot after getting out of the ocean or, as we like to call it, the salty bathtub. We are so stoked that trà đá is served with basically anything you order in this country, including coffee. Then, the coffee. Vietnamese milk coffee is ice, a bunch of condensed milk and espresso. Not what we are used to but tasty nonetheless. Two tall glasses of milk coffee set the Kooks back 30,000₫ (65 cents each). All of this without leaving the comfort of our barista’s home! 



Unless your hair is Rob Machado length or longer, having weird, longish, in-your-eye length hair sucks for surfing. After wet hair in the eyeballs for several surfs, Arturo decided that he needed to do something about it. Yes, it was time for his first Vietnamese haircut; a legit point-at-the-K Pop star on the wall you most want to look like haircut, since we don't speak Vietnamese. So it was off to the back alley spot near our Airbnb. It looked slightly sketch but the barber was clearly in high demand. We attempted a walk-in but he shushed us away. A small child was recruited to translate and he relayed that we should come back at 3 pm. An appointment. The cost, 40,000₫ ($1.73 USD). We had finally reached an accord. We went to the beach, got back and still had to wait 30 minutes for him to finish up with some other dude. When it was finally Arturo’s turn, he was definitely worth the wait. He took great care with the cut, like a sculptor lovingly coaxing a masterpiece out of stone. Never having received such a quality cut in the states for less than $80, Arturo was more than happy to shell out the 40k, but when the slender barber leaned in to trim up his beard, the Kooks knew that he had earned the full 50,000₫ bill. This was a solid 45 cent tip and the barber was just as happy as Arturo.



Though we’ve been enjoying stuffing our bánh bao holes at all of our favorite spots around town, it’s also nice having a little kitchen so we can do some cooking at home. Although we eat meat when we dine out, much like back in the states, we mostly cook vegetarian meals at home. We’ve found that there are two approaches to getting our veggies: the big modern supermarkets, akin to back home, and the traditional open air markets. We typically choose to keep it local and hit up the rat market because of the  freakishly large rodents dodging and weaving around the vendors and over the mounds of produce. A kilo of mangoes runs about 22,000₫ (43 cents a pound) regardless of whether or not rats walked on them. Eggs come in a box of ten here rather than by the dozen which runs you about 20,000₫ (86 cents) and a Parisian-approved baguette for under 6,000₫ (26 cents). The best part of going to the market is experiencing all of the sights and smells that can only be found in Vietnam.

So, how cheap is cheap? Pretty damn cheap, but maybe not as cheap as this guy...

Vietnam, Month One

October 15, 2019


We slide into our regular booth at the coffee shop on our neighbor’s front porch and she completes my sentence mid-order, “two milk coffee,” she says, chuckling at our predictability... Read More

Suggested Reading

Fret not, the Kooks are here to help you budget for your Vietnam trip by letting you know just how cheap “cheap” is.



The studio apartment we’re currently renting through Airbnb is right smack in between a coffee house, which we visit daily, and a laundromat. Now when I say “laundromat”, imagine a small family home with half a dozen washing machines crammed into the living room. We can get five kilos of clothes washed and folded for 45,000₫ (about 18 cents a pound). The Kooks can't figure out how she does it, but our clothes come out cleaner than we ever thought possible. We’re talking stains that we believed were part of a shirt’s original design here! Our own laundry deficiencies aside, getting everything we own cleaned for less than three bucks is pretty sweet.



Bombing around town on our little moped (which we picked up second-hand for about $160 USD) is not only fun but also easy on the budget. Right now, the gas station nearest to us has gasoline for 21,060₫ a liter ($3.79 USD a gallon). After months of rolling around in our gas guzzling van, coughing up $5 a week for fuel doesn’t seem too bad. The only downside? Sleeping on it isn’t super comfy.

* Prices in this article are based on the city we live in, Đà Nẵng. At the time this article was written, we were getting about 23,000₫ to every $1 USD.