The cost of living in Vietnam definitely favors the social butterfly,as a night out will definitely be much cheaper than neighboring Thailand. But, whenever I create a new cost breakdown for living abroad, I always start with a disclaimer: Your expenses will always vary based on your lifestyle and where you are in the world. And it’s no different in Vietnam.
While you may find some significant variations between apartments in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, or Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, never has the cost of living varied more than in Vietnam!
The country itself is vast and varied
which means prices are vast and varied as well. Vietnam is not Japan yet, but it’s on its way to becoming one of the most developed nations in Southeast Asia. For the time being, it’s still a steal compared to Western prices, but I have a feeling it won’t stay this way for long. As with any place where poverty is more prevalent, extra caution is always advised.
The cost of living in Vietnam varies between North and South.
In general, Northern Vietnam is cheaper than Southern Vietnam, but that sentiment really only applies to the major cities. There are also big differences between living in heavily touristed areas, such as Hoi An’s old quarter, and less touristy areas just a few miles away.
If you want to move to Vietnam to save money, or simply to enjoy a high quality of life while spending less than you would back home, you’ll have no trouble finding what you’re looking for – you just may have to really look. The following cost of living in Vietnam will give you an idea of what you’ll be spending:
My hotel stays from north to south went like this: in Hanoi, about $12.50/night. In Da Nang (central coast), $14/night, and in Saigon, $15/night – all for the exact same type of room with the same amenities. Each of these rooms had an en suite bathroom, WiFi, a double bed, and sometimes a great view!
In Hanoi, $500/month will get you a swank one bedroom apartment right in the primo Hoan Kiem Lake district.
In Hoi An, staying just 2km outside the city center will save you hundreds of dollars, with 2-bedroom houses renting for just $450/month. Da Nang is even cheaper, with a fully furnished one-bedroom within walking distance of My Khe Beach costing just $350/month.
The cost of living in Vietnam runs the gamut.
Saigon is more expensive, but only if you require an apartment with lots of nice Western amenities like 24/7 security, covered parking, a pool, laundry on-site, etc. A really nice two-bedroom will probably cost around $1200 month, which could feel cheap or expensive depending on where you’re from back home.
That being said, I’m a firm believer in the power of big cities for finding budget accommodation – you can find anything if you look hard enough, and it’s true in Saigon as well. A one-bedroom for $450/month shouldn’t be hard to come by, and you can find something even cheaper if you look.
Food and drink
While I can’t promise you’ll be able to find a nice 5-bedroom house for $200/month, I can promise that you will always be able to find cheap, delicious food and drink while living in Vietnam.
Noodle soup is everywhere, and while the ingredients and flavors vary from north to south, the price remains around $2.50 or less. If you haven’t had pho before, soup may not sound like a real “meal,” but trust me – you’ll be beyond satisfied, and in many places you can ask for a free refill.
Most street foods cost $1
and even a large sandwich will only cost you around $1.50. I love my coffee–an expensive latte at a top establishment will cost you $2.5, and it goes down from there. A great meal at a certified TripAdvisor restaurant will cost you around $6.
As far as other types of food, I think the most I ever paid for a meal in Vietnam was $8 – and that was actually for Indian food! You can certainly spend more at nice restaurants in Ha Noi or Saigon, but it’s easy to spend less than $3/meal if you’re on a budget.
The cost of living in Vietnam earns big marks too when it comes to booze
Alcohol is magnitudes cheaper than neighboring Thailand, especially if you order “fresh beer” which is home-brewed and may or may not give you a hangover. Bia Saigon and Bia Ha Noi can be found for around $0.40.
A local double-whiskey on the rocks will cost you $1 at local-style bar. I’ve noticed some local bars charging $1.50 now, so prices definitely are on the rise for hard liquor.
Like everywhere else in Southeast Asia, cell phone service is super cheap in Vietnam. You can get a SIM card for under $5 (80,000 Duongs), and a data plan for the same amount. Local phone calls and text messages cost around $0.01 per minute or per text.
All in all, I spent less than $10 on cell phone service – including data – for the entire month I was living in Vietnam. I recommend getting Mobiphone service–for $6 a month (120,000 Dgs) , you can get a 1.5 GB data plan. The merchant you purchase your SIM card from may not know how to activate this, but many others do, so find a SIM card seller who knows how to set you up on the proper data plan.
Internet service for your apartment or house will cost around $14/month. Computer service is really cheap too – I had to have my computer fixed while in Da Nang, and a new hard drive, new battery and cleaning cost around $90.
Quite affordable! A taxi from the airport in Ha Noi is $15, but only because the airport is about 30km from the center of town. In Saigon, my taxi from the airport was only $7. Inner-city rides on mototaxis will range from $2 to $7, depending on how far you’re going. Taxis should start their meters at 11,000 Duongs, which is roughly 50 cents; taxi fares shouldn’t cost you more than $3-4 for an average ride.
Buses and flights between cities are super cheap as well.
You can take a sleeper bus between Ha Noi and Da Nang for $10, or fly between the two cities for $35!
Renting or buying a motorbike is another great option for getting around Vietnam. I rented a motorbike from my guest house in Da Nang for $3/day. You also easily buy a used motorbike on Craigslist for less than $250.
Gas prices will always fluctuate, but you can expect to pay between $1.14 and $1.26 per litre. This is one area where Saigon is actually cheaper than Ha Noi!
Cheap if you’re interested in tourist attractions, expensive if you want to sip cocktails on the 50th floor of the Bitexco Tower every night.
Attractions like monuments, museums, temples, and beaches are super cheap if not free to see. You can see five different tourist sites in Hoi An for $6, or hit the Cham Museum in Da Nang for $2.
You can also do a bicycle tour of Vietnam for $3,000 if you’re so inclined, but in general everything from day trips to Ha Long Bay ($35) to semi-private food tours of Saigon ($60) is pretty affordable.
It’s difficult to budget for “forever,” so let’s say you’re going to spend one month in Vietnam.
What follows is an estimate of the cost of living in Vietnam, created by taking the median prices from various cities. Those totals also account for what I think you’ll need to spend in order to have an awesome time in Vietnam.
Food and drink: $12/day, or $372
Transportation: $100 (includes a one-way flight)
Entertainment: $50 (adjust upward if you love your liquor)
Cost of Living in Vietnam–Grand total: $996
To control your cost of living in Vietnam, you could easily spend less on food if you stick to street food and don’t drink. You could spend less on transportation by walking more and only taking buses between cities. You could also cut your accommodation costs in half by staying in dorm rooms in hostels or in non-expat districts.
But hey, spending less than $1000 for your a month? Not too shabby!
A few resources you may be interested in:
- Top 10 Best Paying Countries For English Teachers
- Dating in Vietnam got a lot easier with Vietnam Cupid!
- 10 Ho Chi Minh City Survival Tips
- Book your hotel/hostel stay with Agoda and save money today
- Banker in the Sun’s Southeast Asia Living and Working Guide
What was your monthly cost of living in Vietnam? Did you find it more or less expensive than neighboring countries?