Budget-friendly getaways near HCMC for National Day holidays

By Bich Phuong, Phuc Trinh   August 29, 2023 | 08:59 pm PT
With a budget of $40-$120 per person, travelers can explore a range of destinations near Ho Chi Minh City over a two-day itinerary.

These destinations, within 100 to 200 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, offer affordable options for nature-focused activities such as trekking and camping, providing an escape from the city's hustle and bustle. While not ideal for those who prioritize convenience, these locations offer memorable experiences and can be on your list for the upcoming National Day break (Sept. 1-4).

Nguyen Hien, a tour guide from a Ho Chi Minh City travel agency, recommends a one-day and two-night trip to these five natural attractions.

Cat Tien National Park

Distance: 148 kilometers from HCMC

Cost: VND1-3 million ($40 to $125)

Cat Tien National Park is in Tan Phu District, Dong Nai Province, reachable within about a 3-hour car or motorbike ride from Ho Chi Minh City. Encompassing over 80,000 hectares across Dong Nai, Lam Dong, and Binh Phuoc provinces, the park is rich in natural resources and biodiversity.

The park includes the Bau Sau biosphere reserve in its southern part, where the Siamese crocodile resides. This freshwater species is indigenous to Southeast Asia. Covering almost 1,600 hectares during the rainy season, Bau Sau accommodates 286 Siamese crocodiles. Bau Sau has gained global recognition as a significant wetland under the Ramsar Convention.

Đoạn đường vào rừng quốc gia Cát Tiên nhìn từ trên cao. Ảnh: Thanh Thu

While journeying across Cat Tien National Park, travelers can fully embrace nature's beauty. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Thu

Exploring Cat Tien National Park over a two-day period costs less than VND3 million. Depending on preferences, visitors can opt to stay in a homestay, resort, or camp overnight before embarking on a forest trek.

Cycling is also a popular alternative to trekking for traversing the forest. Other activities at Cat Tien National Park include crocodile-spotting boat rides in the Bau Sau biosphere reserve, exploring ancient trees, and observing nocturnal creatures.

Cat Tien stands out as one of the few places in Vietnam where wildlife can be observed in its natural habitat. This destination is home to endangered animals such as red-faced monkeys, pig-tailed monkeys, black-shanked douc langur, yellow-cheeked gibbons, and lorises, all of which are featured in the World Red Book of endangered species.

La Ngau River, Dong Nai Province

Distance: 192 kilometers from HCMC

Cost: VND1-2 million ($40 to $82)

Found upstream along the La Nga River and nestled amid the Tanh Linh Forest, La Ngau River offers a serene landscape, ideal for those seeking a respite from the digital world. Visitors here can partake in camping activities along the stream, indulging in pastimes such as stream bathing and kayaking.

Early mornings are recommended to enjoy the cool atmosphere before the sun's intensity grows. Caution is advised in the afternoon, as upstream water flow increases around 5 p.m.

Khung cảnh suối La Ngâu chảy qua rừng Tánh Linh. Ảnh: Bích Phương

The La Ngau River flows through the Tanh Linh Forest, forming an excellent camping destination. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong

Camping options include spontaneous camping sites or glamping services. Do Hieu, owner of Boo Camp in La Ngau, says that only two officially licensed camping sites exist, while the remainder are impromptu sites.

Full-service camping starts at around VND650,000 ($27) per person per night, covering meals. Reservations are necessary for service camping. As the holiday approaches, the availability of tents with good views decreases.

Bu Gia Map National Park, Binh Phuoc Province

Distance: 190 kilometers from HCMC

Cost: VND1-3 million ($40 to $125)

Found in the northeastern part of Binh Phuoc Province, in Phu Nghia Commune, Bu Gia Map District, Bu Gia Map National Park covers over 25,000 hectares. Within this expanse reside 105 mammal species, 246 bird species, and over 70 reptile species, including rare and endangered creatures such as red-faced macaque monkeys.

Coming to the national park, visitors can engage in trekking, marvel at groves of Bambusa procera and legume trees, and discover an array of tree species representative of the forest between the Central Highlands and southeast region.

Trekkers set up tents by Dak Ca Stream inside Bu Gia Map National Park in Binh Phuoc Province. Photo by VnExpress/Kieu Dinh Thap

Trekkers set up tents by Dak Ca Stream inside Bu Gia Map National Park in Binh Phuoc Province. Photo by VnExpress/Kieu Dinh Thap

Visitors can also explore the rescue center focused on preserving and developing organisms. The center provides insights into behaviors of primates and other animal species found only in the national park.

On their journey, visitors can camp by the Dak Ca Stream and Dak Manh Lake, both featuring clear waters. Visitors also have the chance to savor dishes of the S'Tieng ethnic minority, like bamboo-tube rice, roasted duck with macadamia leaves, banana wine, and their own version of grilled chicken.

Packaged tours of the national park are available for approximately VND2.5 million ($105). Travelers only need to bring their personal hygiene items beforehand. Another budget option is self-guided trekking, but it involves carrying your belongings and demands jungle experience, physical fitness, and endurance.

Mui Yen Cape, Binh Thuan Province

Distance: 237 kilometers from HCMC

Cost: VND1-2 million ($40 to $82)

Located in Hoa Thang Commune, Bac Binh District, around 4 kilometers from the Bau Trang sand dune, Mui Yen Cape remains an untamed destination of tourism amenities.

Characterized by gentle hills that extend into the Hoa Thang Beach, Mui Yen Cape's state and its location, around 15-20 kilometers away from the residential area, make it a self-sustained camping destination.

Mui Yen Cape provides a chance for visitors to fully experience nature in its raw state. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong

Mui Yen Cape provides a chance for visitors to fully experience nature in its raw state. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong

First-time campers can rent tents and camping equipment, with expenses totaling approximately VND600,000 to VND700,000 ($25 to $30) for a two-day package for two people. Visitors can either bring their own food or get seafood from stalls in Hoa Thang.

Traveling to Mui Yen involves traversing challenging terrain, including sandy slopes and paths with crushed stone and boulders. For a smooth journey, it's ideal to use a four-wheel-drive car.

Dau Tieng Lake, Tay Ninh Province

Distance: 80 kilometers from HCMC

Cost: VND1-2 million ($40 to $82)

Dau Tieng Lake in Tay Ninh Province is a popular camping spot recognized for its unspoiled beauty, verdant meadows, and fresh air. Rather than camping directly on the lakeshore, many travelers opt to explore Hedgehog Island in the lake's heart. Although well-known, the island lacks services due to the long boat ride, making it more appealing to those who enjoy exploration, nature, privacy, and calmness.

Hồ Dầu Tiếng chụp từ thuyền chở khách, đằng xa là Núi Bà Đen cao sừng sững. Ảnh: Thanh Tuấn

View of Dau Tieng Lake from a passenger boat, with the towering Ba Den Mountain in the distance. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tuan

Upon reaching Dau Tieng Lake, visitors can take the boat dock at Bo Ho junction, near Suoi Da church in Duong Minh Chau Town. This dock is exclusively for passengers heading to Hedgehog Island.

Parking for vehicles is available near the pier. From there, travelers can reach the island by trekking, walking, or buffalo-drawn carts. It is suggested to save the boat driver's contact details for the return journey.

Island locals offer dishes such as chicken, lang fish, wild vegetables, sweet potatoes, and roasted cassava. The cost is about VND500,000 ($21) per person per night, covering round-trip boat rental for 10-15 people.

go to top