Vietnam is a hot destination for budget-minded (I didn't say poor) students. Commonly, young backpackers hit the shores in Southeast Asia and travel for extended periods of time, with Vietnam just one stop on an extended tour. Starting from bases like Hanoi's Old Quarter, Saigon's Pham Ngu Lao area, or over on Khao San Road in Bangkok, budget travelers have roamed the rugged highways and byways of Vietnam and broader Indochina for years, paving the way for high-end tourism. More remote areas are relegated to this hearty horde, and rural roads still beckon with the promise of friendships (often through shared strife) and broadening experiences.
Any discounts to be found in Vietnam and Southeast Asia come from hard bargaining or tolerance for the most basic accommodations, but it's not a bad idea to have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which offers substantial savings on rail passes, plane tickets, and entrance fees. It also provides you with basic health and life insurance and a 24-hour help line. The card is available for $22 from STA Travel (tel. 800/781-4040 in North America; www.statravel.com), the biggest student travel agency in the world. If you're no longer a student but are still under 26, you can get an International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) for the same price from the same people, which entitles you to some discounts (but not on museum admissions). (Note: In 2002, STA Travel bought competitors Council Travel and USIT Campus after they went bankrupt. It's still operating some offices under the Council name, but it's owned by STA.) Travel CUTS (tel. 866/246-9762; www.travelcuts.com) offers similar services for both Canadians and U.S. residents. Irish students may prefer to turn to USIT (tel. 01/602-1904; www.usitnow.ie), an Ireland-based specialist in student, youth, and independent travel.