Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide

cost of living in vietnam

Vietnam has emerged as a sought-after destination for expats, retirees, and digital nomads in Southeast Asia. Offering a superior quality of life compared to its neighbors, Vietnam entices with its delectable and diverse cuisine, affordable cost of living, and abundant teaching opportunities, particularly in the two major cities. Beyond urban centers, the country boasts captivating beach towns and picturesque mountain retreats, each exuding its own unique charm.

Ho Chi Minh City attracts a vibrant community of digital nomads and entrepreneurs, while Hanoi, in the north, is a hub for many educators. American retirees, drawn by the country’s allure and history, have settled in various regions of Vietnam.

Despite visa complexities, Vietnam remains accessible for those seeking permanent residency. The country’s ease of exploration and popularity among budget travelers contribute to its appeal. While the legacy of the Vietnam War is palpable, Vietnamese hospitality prevails, with locals often welcoming expats warmly.

For those privileged to retire abroad, Vietnam presents an enticing blend of rich culture and affordable living, making it an appealing destination for expatriates seeking adventure and fulfillment. For those eager to know what the monthly cost is to live in Vietnam, it ranges from $1,000 to $1,500 USD, ensuring that retirees can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank.

Now let’s dive into the finer details on the cost of living in Vietnam!

Why Live in Vietnam?

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

When considering why to live in Vietnam, several compelling reasons emerge. First and foremost, Vietnam boasts a rich culture, tantalizing cuisine, and an inviting lifestyle, all while being friendly to your wallet. Safety is a notable aspect, with concerns mostly limited to petty crimes such as theft, rather than violent incidents. The local culture is vibrant and diverse, offering a tapestry of traditions and festivals, deeply rooted in the country’s Buddhist heritage.

One of the most enticing aspects of Vietnam is its culinary scene. From savory pho to crispy banh mi, the country offers an endless array of delectable dishes to explore. Moreover, Vietnam’s landscape is as diverse as its cuisine. Stretching from the chilly mountains of the north to the tropical warmth of the south, the country’s varied climate ensures there’s a setting to suit every preference.

While iconic tourist destinations like Ha Long Bay draw crowds, many other cities offer equally stunning scenery without the overwhelming tourist presence. The choice of where to settle ultimately boils down to individual preferences in climate, culture, and cost of living.

Lastly, Vietnam offers a dynamic lifestyle that beckons expats from around the globe. Teaching English is a viable option for many, providing an opportunity to immerse oneself in the local community while earning a living. Despite occasional transportation challenges, Vietnam’s natural beauty – from majestic mountains to pristine beaches – beckons adventurers to explore its diverse landscapes and regional cultures.

Cost of Living in Vietnam Summary

Understanding the cost of living in Vietnam is crucial for anyone considering a move to this Southeast Asian gem. Compared to Western countries, Vietnam offers a significantly lower cost of living, making it an attractive option for expats and digital nomads alike. Your money stretches further here, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank.

Many remote workers flock to Vietnam precisely because of its affordability, alongside other appealing factors. However, it’s essential to exercise financial discipline to avoid overspending, even in a budget-friendly environment. Below, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of expenses, offering insight into the day-to-day costs of living in Vietnam for 2024. By understanding these costs, you can better plan and budget for your life in this vibrant country.

Expense
Cost ($ USD)
Accommodation (Dorm Bed)
$5-10
Accommodation (Private Room)
$20-40
Accommodation (Apartment Rental)
$400-600
Utilities (Electricity, Water, Gas)
$50-100
Mobile Phone
$5-15
Internet
$10-20
Restaurants
$3-10 (per meal)
Groceries
$50-100 (per month)
Housekeeper
$10-20 (per visit)
Public Transportation
$0.20-0.50 (per trip)
Car Rental
$20-50 (per day)
Fuel
$0.80-1.20 (per liter)
Gym Membership
$20-50 (per month)
Entertainment
$5-20
Miscellaneous
$20-50
Total Cost
$1,000 – 1,500 (per month)

Please note that these prices can vary depending on the location within Vietnam and the specific amenities or services offered.

Costs to Live in Vietnam Details

Rent in Vietnam

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Renting an apartment in Vietnam offers a variety of options and considerations. The government’s restrictions on real estate ownership by foreigners mean that renting is the primary choice for expats and travelers. Typically, rental agreements are for six months to a year, with the possibility of extension.

In popular coastal cities like Nha Trang, rental prices can range widely depending on factors such as location, amenities, and the condition of the apartment. While basic accommodations can be found for as little as $300 per month, more upscale options with amenities like pools and gyms may cost upwards of $500 monthly.

The size and type of accommodation also play a significant role in determining rental costs. A private room in a Vietnamese home can be as affordable as $200 per month, while studio apartments typically range from $250 to $350 monthly. Larger flats with multiple bedrooms in desirable neighborhoods may command prices between $300 and $600 per month.

Utilities, including electricity and water, are often separate from the rent and can add an additional $50 to $100 to monthly expenses, depending on usage, particularly air conditioning.

Most apartments in Vietnam come equipped with essential appliances like washing machines, eliminating the need for additional laundry expenses. It’s advisable to explore various rental options and negotiate terms directly with landlords or through platforms like Airbnb to find the best fit for your budget and preferences.

Transportation in Vietnam

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Transportation in Vietnam primarily revolves around motorbikes, which are commonly used for commuting within cities. Renting a motorbike can cost as little as $40 per month, with deposits starting at $200. Alternatively, purchasing a second-hand motorbike ranges from $200 to $300, offering flexibility for longer stays and easy resale.

For those uncomfortable with driving, metered taxis and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Grab are readily available. Notably, Vietnam’s ride-sharing options extend beyond cars to include motorbike taxis, providing convenient alternatives for navigating through traffic.

Exploring beyond city limits is affordable, with bus fares to nearby towns averaging around $8 one way. Trips to neighboring countries like Cambodia or Thailand are also feasible, with bus fares starting from $12 and $40-$45 respectively. For travelers preferring faster travel, budget airlines offer competitive rates, with domestic flights as low as $20 one way and international flights to other SE Asia countries typically ranging from $50 to $100.

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Food in Vietnam

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Food in Vietnam offers a delightful fusion of flavors at incredibly affordable prices, making dining out an enticing option for budget-conscious travelers. Street food stalls abound, offering a vast array of dishes at ridiculously low prices. Even with all meals purchased from street vendors, expenses remain remarkably low. However, for those on an exceptionally tight budget, cooking at home proves to be even more economical.

A typical day of dining out in Vietnam can cost as little as $10 for two people, with options ranging from hearty soups ($0.80-$1.50 per bowl) to meat and rice dishes. Cooking at home further reduces expenses to around $5 per day, especially when opting for locally sourced ingredients like veggies, fruits, and grains. While grocery stores tend to be pricier than markets, they offer a more comfortable shopping experience.

To maximize savings, it’s advisable to stick to Vietnamese or Southeast Asian cuisine, as Western food can be notably more expensive. Vegetarians and plant-based eaters can enjoy even lower expenses, while meat lovers will find dining out still remarkably affordable. On average, a full-size street food meal costs between $0.80 and $2, with Vietnamese sandwiches and pastries priced even lower. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are abundantly available at very reasonable prices throughout the country.

Drinking in Vietnam

In Vietnam, indulging in a drink won’t break the bank, especially when it comes to beer. With some of the cheapest beer prices around, it’s no wonder many opt for a cold brew. A bottle from the grocery store typically costs around $0.50, while bars and clubs may charge slightly more, ranging from $2 to $3 per bottle.

For those with a taste for cocktails or spirits, bars offer a variety of options, particularly in tourist-heavy areas. Cocktails start from around $3, while hard liquor shots can be as low as $2 each. Wine enthusiasts will find supermarket prices surprisingly affordable, with local bottles priced at $5 and imported varieties starting from $10. Bars and clubs also offer wine by the glass, typically priced at around $4 per serving.

Fitness & Activities in Vietnam

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

In Vietnam, exploring and staying active come at incredibly affordable prices, making it easy to immerse yourself in the country’s diverse offerings. Compared to neighboring destinations like Thailand or Philippines, tourist attractions in Vietnam start at unbelievably low prices, often as little as $0.5 per person.

As digital nomads living in Vietnam, we found ample opportunities to balance work with leisure activities. From exploring waterfalls like Ponglour and Datanla, to visiting parks and flower gardens, each experience was accessible for just a few dollars. Island hopping near Nha Trang, though slightly pricier at $60 for both of us, offered unforgettable adventures along Vietnam’s picturesque coastline.

Vietnam’s natural beauty and cultural heritage provide endless opportunities for exploration. From majestic mountains and pristine beaches to tranquil hot springs and verdant rice fields, the country beckons adventurers with its diverse landscapes. Additionally, numerous temples, coffee shops, hiking trails, and free nature-related activities ensure there’s something for everyone, without breaking the bank. Even visits to resorts for a day of relaxation can be accommodated within a modest budget, making Vietnam an ideal destination for budget-conscious travelers seeking adventure and relaxation alike.

School in Vietnam

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

In Vietnam, education is structured across five levels: preschool, primary, secondary, high school, and further education. The country is renowned for its rigorous education system, notably featuring “High Schools for the Gifted,” prestigious institutions with competitive admission processes. With approximately 20% of the national budget allocated to education, Vietnam has seen notable improvements in educational quality, resulting in high completion rates and low dropout rates.

For expats seeking education options for their children, private or international schools are popular choices. Approximately 40% of Vietnamese students are enrolled in private education, with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City boasting numerous international schools offering various education systems and language options.

International school fees vary depending on the institution and educational system, ranging from $4,500 to $35,000 in Hanoi and $4,800 to $36,000 in Ho Chi Minh City. However, Vietnamese universities do not rank prominently on the global stage, with none in the Top 500 according to QS World University Rankings 2024. As a result, many Vietnamese students opt to pursue higher education overseas. For those considering studying at a Vietnamese university, tuition fees range from $6,400 to $15,000, with private universities experiencing significant increases in tuition fees in recent years.

Medical Costs in Vietnam

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Healthcare in Vietnam presents both affordability and accessibility, but it’s crucial to consider medical costs and insurance coverage before moving. While medical insurance isn’t mandatory for entry, foreigners lack access to free healthcare, necessitating the importance of obtaining insurance, especially for those with pre-existing conditions or potential risks.

Insurance options typically cover a three-month period with a coverage amount of $35,000, starting from $100. It’s essential to ensure coverage for motorcycle accidents, although having a category A driver’s license is often required for full coverage.

Without insurance, medical expenses can quickly accumulate, with treatment costs comparable to smaller towns in the US. For instance, treating a broken collarbone may cost around $2,000. Private clinics generally charge higher fees, with doctor consultations ranging from $90 to $100. In public hospitals, seeing a specialist costs approximately $8, but scheduling appointments without Vietnamese language skills can be challenging.

Prescription antibiotics are commonly prescribed, available for purchase at hospitals or pharmacies for about $8. While services may lack a fixed price list, transparency can be limited for foreigners.

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Visas in Vietnam

When planning a trip to Vietnam, understanding visa requirements is essential. The most common visa is the single-entry three-month visa, with options for six-month and twelve-month visas, both single and multi-entry. For frequent travelers, a twelve-month multi-entry visa can offer convenience and flexibility.

It’s crucial to request the visa to be physically attached to your passport to avoid potential entry issues, as some travelers have been denied entry despite having valid visas.

For detailed visa information, it’s advisable to consult the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam website. For travelers on shorter visas, utilizing an online visa agent can simplify the process and ensure a smooth entry into Vietnam.

Communication & Internet Costs in Vietnam

In Vietnam, staying connected with loved ones and accessing the internet is both easy and affordable. Mobile phone plans offer efficient communication options, with prices regulated by the government, ensuring consistency across providers. While there may be slight differences in data allowances and service quality, overall affordability remains a key feature.

Opting for a data SIM card provides flexibility, allowing users to recharge as needed without committing to a specific provider. Prices range from as low as $0.40 for 50 MB to $20 for 30 GB, catering to various usage needs.

For internet access at home, many rental accommodations include subscriptions, but standalone packages are also available for around $15 per month. Internet speeds in major cities are reliable, typically offering satisfactory performance without frequent disruptions, unlike some neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

We’ve tested the top eSIMs on the market in Peru, and AIRHUB took the top spot. It’s the most reliable, giving us the strongest signal possible even at the highest altitudes and the deepest canyons of our hikes.

You’ll have the option to access multiple carriers when you sign up for an Airhub eSIM. Haven’t found any other eSIM that got that in the bag.

Where to Live in Vietnam

We rounded up the best places to live in Vietnam just for you.

Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, offers a blend of tradition and modernity. Unlike bustling Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi maintains a more spacious and traditional atmosphere while embracing modernization with its growing café, restaurant, and festival scene, including a prominent vegan community.

Tay Ho, located by the large lake, is popular among expats for its relaxed ambiance and quality rental apartments. Here, expats often gather to enjoy coffee by the lake, socialize, and attend English schools. Ba Đình, south of Tay Ho Lake, is emerging as a desirable area with increasing apartment availability, cafes, and restaurants, offering a mix of expat convenience and Vietnamese cultural experience.

For corporate expats and families, Tay Ho provides a comfortable living environment within proximity to the expat community. Alternatively, Ecopark, located 18km outside Hanoi, offers a peaceful and less polluted residential option for those seeking tranquility away from the city’s hustle.

Best Boutique Hotel in Hanoi

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Aira Boutique Hanoi Hotel & Spa, situated in the serene French Quarter, offers colonial-style accommodations with amenities such as an outdoor pool, fitness room, and garden, along with smart TVs, desks, and private bathrooms with free toiletries, most rooms boasting balconies and views of Hanoi’s landmarks, and guests can relish in daily buffet breakfasts.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, stands as Vietnam’s most modern, populous, and bustling metropolis. Despite its initial overwhelming crowds, the city’s chaotic yet laid-back vibe offers numerous advantages for residents. HCMC boasts a significant corporate expat population, with many multinational companies headquartered here. Renowned for its diverse and affordable street food, the city offers a culinary paradise.

Compared to the North, Southern locals are more direct, offering both benefits and drawbacks in interpersonal interactions. HCMC hosts a vibrant young population, fostering a creative and entrepreneurial atmosphere, reflected in its burgeoning hipster social scene.

Selecting a suitable neighborhood hinges largely on job location among the city’s 24 districts, where traffic congestion is prevalent. Proximity to work is crucial to avoid lengthy commutes, with expat concentrations in districts 1, 2, and 3. District 1 is popular among newcomers, District 2 is emerging as a modern hub, while District 3 offers family-friendly living options.

Our Favorite Hostel in Ho Chi Minh City

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Long Hostel, situated in the Backpacker area of Ho Chi Minh City (Pham Ngu Lao street), offers a centrally located accommodation with a family atmosphere, close to major sights, a lively day market, and vibrant nightlife, boasting dedicated and knowledgeable staff who provide exceptional service.

Da Nang

Da Nang, a coastal city, offers a harmonious blend of urban living and natural beauty, attracting both locals and expats. Divided into the beachfront expat area and the mountainous local side, Da Nang offers a relaxed atmosphere with abundant coffee shops, promenades, and leisure spaces.

Stretching along the city’s length, the beach offers pristine sands and clear waters, extending southward towards the less developed Hoi An. Despite rapid development with skyscrapers and hotels, untouched beach areas remain just a short drive away, alongside access to a vast national park offering hiking, waterfalls, and motorbike trails. The nearby Son Tra peninsula presents opportunities for scenic drives, hiking to ancient trees and Buddhist landmarks.

Renowned for its seafood, Da Nang boasts an array of beachfront restaurants and a thriving street food scene, offering unique Vietnamese dishes. The city also features a laid-back bar scene, with cafes abundant throughout. With living costs generally lower than larger cities, residents prioritize proximity to the beach while avoiding construction zones, as Da Nang continues to establish itself as a desirable expat destination.

Where to Stay in Da Nang

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Rom Casa Hostel Da Nang, centrally located in Da Nang’s tourist area, offers a vibrant atmosphere, a new backyard beer garden, and a focus on fostering connections among travelers while providing assistance with exploring Vietnam’s culture and history, with amenities including a unique space made from shipping containers, knowledgeable English-speaking staff, and proximity to restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and the beach, along with recreational options like surfing and scooter rides.

Hoi An

Hoi An, a charming coastal town, offers a tranquil alternative amidst Vietnam’s bustling cities while maintaining essential amenities and a growing expat community. Despite its tourist popularity, expats can find peaceful living just outside the city center, amidst picturesque rice paddies, with easy access to town via a short drive or walk.

The town’s allure extends to its nearby beach, providing residents with a high quality of life blending quaint architecture, coastal ambiance, and culinary delights. For digital nomads and expat entrepreneurs seeking a slower pace, Hoi An presents an attractive option, with a burgeoning retiree community adding to its appeal.

However, as a smaller town, ensuring reliable wifi in accommodations is advisable, as connectivity may vary. Despite this, Hoi An’s unique blend of charm, convenience, and coastal living makes it an enticing choice for those seeking respite from the urban hustle of larger Vietnamese cities.

Where to Stay in Hoi An for Digital Nomads

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

SnapStay Hoi An offers a cozy, environmentally conscious hostel, co-working cafe, and community hub just 250m from Hoi An Ancient Town, providing a social atmosphere, authentic Vietnamese experience, and fully air-conditioned spaces for working and socializing while actively participating in environmental sustainability initiatives.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang City emerges as a prime destination for expats seeking a beachside retreat in Vietnam. Boasting stunning beaches along its lengthy coastline, Nha Trang enjoys a warm climate year-round, tempered by its coastal position. This coastal gem exudes a relaxed atmosphere highly favored by locals and expats alike.

Unlike the bustling metropolises of Hanoi or Saigon, Nha Trang offers a more laid-back ambiance, with fewer crowds and congestion. While it retains some touristy elements, it remains relatively serene, providing expats with ample amenities and conveniences without the overwhelming urban hustle.

Where to Stay in Nha Trang

Cost of Living in Vietnam: The BEST Guide -

Azura Gold Hotel & Apartment, situated less than 100 meters from Nha Trang Beach, provides rooms boasting ocean views and amenities including a tour desk, 24-hour front desk, complimentary WiFi, and features cable TV, minibars, and en suite bathrooms with select rooms offering bathtubs, conveniently located near Sailing Center Vietnam and the Main Square.

Cost of Living in Vietnam FAQ’s

What’s the expat scene like in Vietnam? 

Vietnam attracts a diverse expat community, including budget travelers, digital nomads, and young entrepreneurs. While older expats and families exist, the majority fall within the 18-35 age range, contributing to the vibrant and dynamic expat scene in the country.

Is Vietnam safe for expats?

Vietnam is relatively safe for expats, but petty theft and scams are common. Traffic can be intense, especially in big cities, with motorcycle accidents being frequent. It’s recommended to have expat insurance or comprehensive travel insurance to cover accidents and unforeseen events.

Can you drink the tap water in Vietnam? 

Tap water in Vietnam is not potable. Residents typically purchase reusable 19-liter jugs for around 10,000 VND. For short visits, portable water purifiers like SteriPen or LifeStraw are advisable.

Finishing Thoughts on Cost of Living in Vietnam

Living in Vietnam offers significant savings compared to the West, but expenses can escalate without careful budgeting. Ultimately, your lifestyle dictates costs. This guide serves as a reference to manage expenses and avoid scams. For further insights, check out our other articles on Vietnam or comment below with any questions!


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