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5 budget-friendly getaways near Saigon to escape Tet crowds

by Staff

From Ho Chi Minh City, numerous natural attractions await, from national parks and streams to waterfalls. Nguyen Quang, owner of a campsite, notes that the cost of these trips is just under VND3 million ($122) per person, spanning a three-day schedule, offering relaxation from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Here are 5 budget-friendly destinations that Quang recommended for nature travelers looking to steer clear of the crowds at the start of the year.

1. Bu Gia Map National Park in Binh Phuoc Province

Bu Gia Map National Park, spanning over 25,000 hectares in Phu Nghia Commune, Bu Gia Map District, Binh Phuoc Province is just 190 kilometers and a 4-5 hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City.

Bu Gia Map national park is filled with tall trees and meandering streams. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thi Hong

During this time of the year, with an average temperature of 26 degrees Celsius, the park offers an ideal setting for outdoor activities. The national park showcases a variety of tree species characteristic of transitional forests from the Central Highlands to the southeast region.

Visitors can explore the rescue center dedicated to the conservation and development of creatures, gaining insights into the ecological behavior and characteristics of primates and various animal species within the national park.

Additionally, camping beside Dak Ca Stream and Dak Manh Lake provides opportunities for fishing, cooling off, and savoring dishes such as wild vegetables and roasted duck with mac mat (clausena indica) leaves.

The cost of a national park trekking tour is approximately VND2.5 million ($102).

2. Dinh Mountain in Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province

Dinh Mountain is an escape just 70 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City.

The journey to the top, surrounded by greenery, leads to Tien and Da streams with five lakes suitable for bathing. The top of Dinh Mountain features pagodas like Hang Pagoda, Dai Tong Lam Pagoda, and Tay Phuong Pagoda, providing panoramic views of Long Son peninsula and part of Vung Tau beach city.

Caution is advised on the ascent due to multiple paths without clear signs. Hiring a local guide or exercising care is recommended.

3. Cu Lao Cau Islet in Binh Thuan Province

Also known as Hon Cau, Cu Lao Cau is an islet in Tuy Phong District in Binh Thuan Province, approximately 110 kilometers from Phan Thiet City and 240 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City. Accessible by boat or canoe in 40 to 50 minutes, the island offers calm seas and cool weather from the first to fifth month of the lunar calendar.

Cu Lao Cau features a white sandy beach and crystal-clear waters. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Le Ngoc Thang

Cu Lao Cau features a white sandy beach and crystal-clear waters. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Le Ngoc Thang

Visitors can opt for a day trip or overnight stay, bringing their own supplies as the island is uninhabited. A one-day tour, inclusive of round-trip boat service, seafood lunch, diving equipment for coral viewing, and a local guide, costs VND650,000 ($26) per person. Highlights include Tien Beach, Tien Well, Ba Hon Cave, Love Cave, Ca Suot Beach, and Nam Hai Temple.

4. Phi Lieng Waterfall in Lam Dong Province

Situated in Phi Lieng Commune, Dam Rong District, Lam Dong Province, Phi Lieng Waterfall is a destination 70 kilometers southwest of Da Lat city center and less than 290 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City.

Phi Lieng is a waterfall that cascades through seven levels, with the main level towering over 100 meters in height. To reach the base of the waterfall, visitors need to traverse a dirt road, which can be challenging during the rainy season. However, at the beginning of the year, which is the dry season, traveling to the site becomes easier.

Beginner trekkers are encouraged to select guided tours, which are available at prices starting from VND2 million ($81) per person.

5. Bidoup – Ta Giang trek

Spanning over 30 kilometers through Lam Dong, Ninh Thuan, and Khanh Hoa provinces, the Bidoup – Ta Giang trekking route starts at Hon Giao Mountain in Bidoup – Nui Ba National Park, Lam Dong Province, approximately 350 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City.

Tourists have the option to camp on the grassy hills in Phuoc Binh National Park in Ninh Thuan Province. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Anh

Tourists have the option to camp on the grassy hills in Phuoc Binh National Park in Ninh Thuan Province. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Anh

Before starting the trek, visitors need to check in with the park management. A ranger will guide the group through slopes, forests, and grassy hills. The trek concludes at Ta Giang stream in Thanh Son Commune, Khanh Son District, Khanh Hoa.

This trek is not suitable for beginners, and approval from the park management board is needed for trekking and camping in Phuoc Binh National Park. Once approved, a ranger will accompany and guide travelers to the end of the national park.

The terrain in Bidoup – Nui Ba National Park is mostly gentle slopes. As you pass through Bidoup forest, the altitude gradually decreases toward the Phuoc Binh area. Here, visitors will encounter a different terrain with grassy hills almost half their body height.

When trekking, visitors should bring their own food, drinks, and cooking utensils. The best time for the Bidoup – Ta Giang trek is from January to September, with an ideal period starting from March as it marks the end of the windy season.

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