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What Does it Cost to Live in Vietnam?

Ho Chi Minh City So you are thinking of moving to Vietnam, or spending at least a few months a year there, and want to know how much it costs to live in Vietnam. The answer to this can be “how long is a piece of string”, after all you can live like a king or a pauper in this diverse country.  Your budget will vary depending upon where you choose to live, for example living in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City is much more expensive than living in the outer suburbs, and on whether you choose to live like a local or prefer all the imported comforts from home. This article is intended to give you an indication of what it costs to live in this beautiful country to help inform your decision.

Accommodation:
You may choose to rent for a while first before deciding where to purchase your new home, which is always a good idea if you aren’t sure exactly where you want to settle permanently. The cost of rental accommodation tends to be inflated for foreigners, so it is well worth taking time to look for long-term accommodation, particularly in the larger cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.  It is possible to find a 2 story house with four rooms that is unfurnished for US$200 in Ho Chi Minh city but this will take some searching. If you are looking for a furnished place it will cost about twice that of an unfurnished apartment, but certainly takes the hassle out of finding furniture for your new home.

The cheapest rooms can be found for US$25 a month, but it is unlikely these will suit your needs. For a basic furnished apartment that has 2 bedrooms in the suburbs of a major city it should cost about US$350 a month.  If you would like a bigger family size home with some more luxury fittings closer to the city the price may vary from US$400 to US$800 per month. It is of course possible to pay much more for a luxury villa as well, with some renting for over US$10,000 per month. If you choose to live further out of town or in a smaller town costs for long-term accommodation can easily halve or more.

Food and Beverages:
The food in Vietnam needs no introduction, it is renowned for being fresh and flavorful thanks to great local produce.  If you choose to eat at local places you can get a bowl of filling pho (Vietnamese soup) for US$1. A set lunch that can be delivered to your office will cost about US$2. For dinner at a local restaurant with some great seafood will set you back about US$5. If you prefer to eat at more “western” restaurants the prices go up considerably with US$20 for a meal in a nice restaurant quite standard.

Local groceries are quite inexpensive, particularly if you buy fresh local produce, it is possible to feed a family on about US$100 a month.  If you to purchase imported luxury items, then this will be more expensive.

Beer is relatively cheap in Vietnam, with a locally brewed Heineken at a local bar costing about US$1, imported bottled beer can cost twice as much. Coffee is a relatively expensive addiction, costing about US$2-3 a cup whereas a bottle of mid-range wine can be purchased for about US$10.

Utilities:
Utilities generally are included in the cost of long-term rental accommodation, this will include water, electricity and even Cable TV. To supply electricity, water and garbage services to a 85m2 apartment  it will cost about US$50 per month.

Telecommunications are relatively cheap, with broadband internet possible from about US$15 per month.  To make a call from a mobile phone will cost less than US 10c a minute.

Transport:
If you want to own your own car in Vietnam, it can be an expensive venture due to the high level of taxes on imported vehicles, so only the very wealthy tend to own or rent cars. The cost of a vehicle in Vietnam can easily cost more than twice what it would in a Western country, with a  VW Golf starting from about US$50,000.

For the adventurous, the best way to get around the country is by bike.  Motorbikes are widely available, relatively inexpensive and the vehicle of choice for the growing middle class.  You can purchase a new Honda motorbike for about US$800. To fill up the vehicle it will cost only a few dollars. You can even rent a motorbike for about US$60 a month.

Taxis are abundant in most large cities and towns and are relatively inexpensive.  For a dollar or two you can cover most short distances around a city or town, with a US 50c flagfall rate and about another US 50c per kilometre.

Other Costs:
The cost of a maid varies depending upon the size of your house and family but can cost from US$40 a month.

By far your biggest expense living in Vietnam will be accommodation. Once that is covered, it is quite feasible to live very comfortably on about US$500 a month. When you combine that with a lovely tropical climate, some spectacular beaches and a welcoming culture, it certainly makes Vietnam an attractive location to live.