What is the Cost of Living in Vietnam?

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Title photo of the cost breakdown of living in Vietnam: a middle-aged Vietnamese woman sitting next to exotic dishes of food, which she has for sale.

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.

A typical bustling street of Saigon. A young white woman walks ahead of an older white male. Vietnamese are wheeling and dealing everywhere around them on the street. This lack of personal space and crowd is something expats must get used to when living in Vietnam.

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:

Accommodation

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!

A street of Ho Chi Minh City, rows of motorbikes are parked outside modern-looking shops.

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.

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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.

Beef Pho, a succulent noodle-broth dish with beef. There are also some greens in there.

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.

Technology

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.

The panoramic scenery of Nha Trang, a beautiful sea-side town to consider visiting when living in Vietnam. The buildings look modern, boxy, almost like toys. The colors look art deco.







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.

Transportation

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!

Entertainment

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.

A bar at night in Ho Chi Minh City. Patrons are crowded outside, sitting in blue chairs, talking and drinking.

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.

Grand Total

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.

Accommodation: $450
Food and drink: $12/day, or $372
Technology: $24
Transportation: $100 (includes a one-way flight)
Entertainment: $50 (adjust upward if you love your liquor)

Cost of Living in Vietnam–Grand total: $996

A night photo of the backpacker area in Saigon's District 1. The place is jam-packed and there are overhead electric wires everywhere.

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:

What was your monthly cost of living in Vietnam? Did you find it more or less expensive than neighboring countries?

 

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48 comments on “What is the Cost of Living in Vietnam?

  1. Hi … need some advice.. my friend is planning to work there as an English Teacher and her offer is around $500 with a. free dorm .. basically she just need to worry about food..do u think thats gonna be ok to live by?

    1. I am an American man that lives near Quang Ngai City… I built a house in 2007 and just relocated there this year. I am 56 years old. Although mine financial situation is different I have learned that living in Vietnam can be very cheap. I personally think she will be okay.

    2. $500 seems a little low to me, personally. I wouldn’t take anything under $1,000-$1,500. I applied previously and was offered jobs between 2-3k, so I don’t really know what type of school is offering $500.

  2. Great info. when is the best time to go to Vietnam weather wise and are there cooler places to live there? Can a senior buy health insurance and what should I expect to pay?

    1. You can definitely buy insurance through foreign companies, but I’d recommend you visit a a site like Thaivisa.com for more info on insurance (pretty much covers most of SE Asia). Fall/Winter is the best time to visit Vietnam!

    2. Hi Bob, The best time to visit Vietnam is from the end of Winter to Spring (January to April) and Autumn (August to October). During the end of winter through to spring, the weather is pleasant, and reasonably dry. It is also off-peak season, so you can expect cheaper airfares and hotel rates.

  3. HI!! I SPENT 1968 IN DA NANG AN 1970 QUANG TRI..I ALWAYS ADMIRED THE BEAUTY OF VIET NAM, BUT NEVER REALLY HAD THE CHANCE TO MEET THE REAL VIETNAMESE PEOPLE BECAUSE OF THE WAR..I WOULD NOW LIKE TO RETURN TO DA NANG AN PICK UP MORE ON WHAT I WANT TO KNOW..BEING MILITARY AT THE TIME, EVERYTHING WAS ” OFF LIMITS ” TO US ALL..I HAVE BEEN LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES FOR 3 YEARS AN NOW FIND MYSELF NEEDING TO GO TO A PLACE WHERE MY LIFE BEGAN AS A 19 YEAR OLD..I AM RETIRED NOW, SO MY SPENDING WILL HAVE TO BE CLOSELY WATCHED..ALL OF YOUR COMMENTS HAD A LOT OF HELP IN ALL AREAS. ALSO, WHAT ABOUT THE MEDICAL CARE SITUATION IN DA NAG…ARE THERE ANY VA GROUPS THAT I CAN CONTACT THAT ARE LIVING THERE NOW.. THANKS FOR ALL THE GREAT INFO I WAS ABLE TO READ!!!

  4. minimum cost for living in Hanoi is about 250USD (for vietnamese), for a foreigner like you, it will cost more, but £776 is too much, maybe you are using expensive services

    1. Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I definitely am keeping it more “normal” and less budget. Whereas I know you could live for real cheap, many expats opt for some creature comforts 🙂

  5. Great article from the Banker, very well written and informative in every way.
    I am moving to Quang Tri to teach English, got a good deal, school provides housing and transport, looking forward to the new adventure having lived and taught in Bangkok for the last 3 rip off years.

  6. great article. thanks. one question – what will be the cost for two people and a baby?
    we want to live on the beach next to Hoi An.
    thanks again.

    1. Hi Valen, that’s a good question. They’re very similar in price, but I’d say Chiang Mai is just a tad cheaper because of accommodation. You can find a nicer place in Chiang Mai, for cheaper. I found food and alcohol, however, to be more expensive in Chiang Mai (not much more).

  7. hi…we are looking at settling down in Vietnam with a pre schooling child…what is the minimum salary needed in usd to run a average life.

    1. An average life is quite relative, but you can definitely get by quite nicely on $3,000 USD per month. That would give you a very nice condo/house and decent spending money. $5,000 and above puts you in the stratosphere of luxury.

  8. Your article has shown me you had plenty of experience of living in Vietnam. The basic cost is rent, living expenses, transportation, entertainment. With foreigners, spending about 1000 USD per month is quite reasonable, average living standards of the people of Vietnam will spend about half this amount.

  9. This is a good article, I appreciate the info. I used to live in Nha Trang, I’m 20 now and currently residing in the U.S. but I want to travel back to Vietnam to live for awhile. I speak fluent Vietnamese as well, would there be any work in HCMC or Hanoi for teaching english?

    1. Hi PJ, I update all the costs of living periodically. I was last in Vietnam one month ago, you’ll notice some mention of it (near the price of alcohol). Prices are definitely changing quickly in the big cities. I should say, they’re catching up.

    2. Hi Alex, unfortunately that is completely out of my field. You are best served by going there and checking the various location. I would think the Philippines is a more sensible option, as many speak English quite well.

  10. Hello-My husband is retired military and we are looking at paying off our debts and moving over to Saigon for a few years while saving money to come back to the US and have some options with the money we could save. I have done a lot of research on Saigon but my biggest issue is the best way for a married couple to find shared housing with an English speaking family. Any help would be great and any other help navigating the visa issue would help as well. I have been doing as much reading as possible but would love to hook up with and expat but just not sure. Thank you! Love this site so far that I stumbled upon.

  11. We are having 19 serviced apartment buildings provide more then 130 accomodations for foreigners in deffirent districts of Hanoi capital. But we mostly focused in Tay Ho – Westlake area. We have studios with range of monthly rental from US$ 250 – US$ 450, 1 bedroom apartments from US$ 400 – US$ 650, 2 bedroom apartments from US$ 650 – US$ 1,800, 3 bedroom apartments from US$ 1,700 – US$ 3,000. We are the owner of many private houses and villas as well.

  12. hi I am looking to move to Vietnam to live at present am living in Thailand and I am not happy I am paying 7000 baht for a shop house furnished am on an Australian pension can I live there and be happy ???

    1. If you’re happy in Thailand with that budget, you’ll be happy in Vietnam! It’s cheaper, in many more ways. The biggest drawback compared to Thailand, I feel, is the transportation infrastructure. If you’re okay with riding a scooter, though, you should be okay.

  13. I moved to Hanoi with my husband this past September, for his position at Air Mekong. I searched for two weeks, visited over 40 apartments and still didn’t find an apartment that was in our budget with our individual requirements. My agent wasn’t listening to what we wanted and tried taking us to over priced apartments. That’s when I did my research and found Image Group. The director, Mr. Thanh, listened carefully to what we wanted and found us an apartment the same day. We have lived this apartment for one year and found it is really comfortable.
    Chrissy Rajkovich, American

  14. Thanks for posting you costings.

    I really enjoyed Vietnam, I also heard that you can get working visas there quite easy if you are western so if (for example) you wanted to be a diving instructor you can work there legally quite easy compared to say, Thailand where most diving instructors are working illegally because it’s too difficult to get a visa.

    1. So true–and Vietnam has a certain old world charm. It almost feels like Bangkok a long time ago. Personally, I’m more attracted to Vietnam, but that’s maybe because my favorite author lived there (Marguerite Duras) 🙂

  15. I’ve spent a lot of time in Vietnam – 12 trips in 12 years. Your “on the road numbers” are right in the ball park from my experience. A friend just gave up a 3 bdrm / 2 bath penthouse on the 25th floor of a highrise in SW Saigon for $600 a month. Negotiating a long term rental will always be cheaper – not an option for most travelers. I spent about $1400 on a 3 week land tour to Hanoi – 3 nites, 1 nite HaLong Bay cruise, HoiAn – 3 nites, Saigon – 4 nites, Dalat – 3 nites, Angkor Wat Cambodia – 2 nites and Chiang Mai Thailand – 3 nites. Flights from Saigon to Hanoi, Hanoi to DaNang and DaNang to Saigon – not included, but still cheap. Open Tour buses are the best deal!! Cheers.

    1. $1500 for 3 weeks of vacation. is that including meals?
      Figure 1 month vacation is approximate $2500.
      You actually saving money by take a vacation, compare to monthly expense here in Texas. we spend about $3000 for rent and meal and transportation.

      1. $2500 is very expensive for a one month vacation, but I guess it depends on your mode of travel and what hotels you stay at. I backpacked and stayed in private rooms that cost between $10-15 / day. Food was an additional $10 a day. Add to that some drinks and transportation and you’re around $1500. At $2500 in spending, you’re definitely going a little more high end in my opinion.

  16. Great article especially for someone that is cost conscious. Being able to see the variations will give myself an others some great insight as to where we can plan to travel next. Much appreciated!

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