Minh Tran
Minh Tran

All about cost of living in Vietnam – Updated 2021

Table of Contents

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With incredible cuisine, rich culture, and a tropical climate, it’s no wonder that this beautiful country is so popular. Although Vietnam is beautiful to retirees, it also attracts students from abroad and professionals with specialized skills.

This guide will also explain the surprisingly low cost of living in Vietnam, another of its main attractions. You’ll learn everything you need to know about Vietnam prices, from rent and transportation to meals out and healthcare.

a picture of Ho Chi Minh city

Ho Chi Minh city at night.

The culture and lifestyle of Southeast Asia and Vietnam

It is not just an economic epicenter in Southeast Asia but also an important hub for expats. You can find alluring sights, a low cost of living, and friendly people in this warm climate.

Moving to Vietnam can provide you with plenty of cultural experiences and a meager cost of living if you have the privilege of retiring abroad.

Visit Hoi An

Walking in Hoi An.

No country in the mix is an exception, including Vietnam. Over the past few decades, Vietnam has gained a growing number of expatriates due to its robust economic and social development.

Vietnamese cities can have very different vibes based on where you choose to live. Ho Chi Minh city has a large population of digital nomads and entrepreneurs. There is a large number of teachers working out of Ha Noi in the north. You can find several teaching jobs in this city with well-paying salaries, and the food is diverse and delicious.

But the country has more to offer than its two largest cities. Beautiful beach towns, as well as mountainous towns, are worth exploring.

beautiful lanscape of Ha Long Bay

Travel in Hoi An.

In addition, many American retired soldiers who served in Vietnam did not leave. They have stayed and are living in every corner of the country. It can be tough to get a visa in Vietnam if you are not retired, but they aren’t impossible if you want to live there for the long term but are not eligible for a retirement visa.

Living in Vietnam: pros and cons as seen by expats

Pros

The cost of living in Vietnam is not high! However, its finance & housing index and cost of living index ranked HCMC as the leading city. In addition, Vietnam ranked first in HSBC research because it offers a good work/life balance, disposable income, economic security, career advancement, and potential.

HSBC’s survey confirmed that expats earn more money than the global average ($78,750 versus $75,966) and be happier with their jobs (79% versus 64% globally).

Compared with International expats, Vietnamese expats enjoy local career opportunities (68% as opposed to 51% globally) and flexible working hours (75% as opposed to 62%).

A high percentage of expats also claims that local Vietnamese people are friendly towards foreign residents in Vietnam compared to 64 percent in the rest of the world.

Friendly Vietnamese with exparts.

A high percentage of expats also claims that local Vietnamese people are friendly towards foreign residents in Vietnam compared to 64 percent in the rest of the world.

Additionally, expats can also easily make friends in the United States, according to HSBC. Vietnam ranked 4th in the HSBC survey. 90% of expat respondents said they were happy living in Vietnam in 2019.

Cons

In environments and sustainability, Vietnam ranked quite low (56th out of 60 countries). Despite its beautiful nature, Vietnam still ranks 50th out of 60 countries for environmental quality due to its excessive use of single-use plastics. The air quality in Vietnam is negatively viewed by almost 7 in 10 expats (69%).

Expatriates argue that 37 percent of the country's energy supply is a concern (compared with 18% globally). In addition, almost half (47%) of expats are unsatisfied with the availability of green goods and services in their countries (compared to just 21% in the global average).

Environmental issues.

Expatriates argue that 37 percent of the country’s energy supply is a concern (compared with 18% globally). In addition, almost half (47%) of expats are unsatisfied with the availability of green goods and services in their countries (compared to just 21% in the global average).

What it’s like to live as an expat in Vietnam

After being opened to foreign investors, Vietnam has risen to become one of the fastest-growing export markets in the world. As a result, Vietnamese investors have come from everywhere to take advantage of the country’s growth.

At the same time, there has been a rapid rise in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh city prices. Therefore, you may see a rise in property prices in central areas, while areas with a high concentration of tourists and expats are experiencing changes.

At the same time, there has been a rapid rise in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City prices. Therefore, you may see a rise in property prices in central areas, while areas with a high concentration of tourists and expats are experiencing changes.

Ha Noi from above.

The cost of living in Vietnam is affordable to move to for a single person. Even if you don’t mind living in a shared apartment and cooking at home occasionally, you can easily live on a budget of USD 1,000 a month. So even saving a little money would be a plus.

The prices of Ho Chi Minh city are unbeatable compared to the rest of Vietnam, even though it attracts the most foreigners. On the other hand, Da Nang, the third-largest city, has a rental fee and overall living costs around 30% on average.

At the same time, there has been a rapid rise in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City prices. Therefore, you may see a rise in property prices in central areas, while areas with a high concentration of tourists and expats are experiencing changes.

Ho Chi Minh city view at night.

Ha Noi

Ha Noi, with its mix of modernity and history, offers many employment opportunities. According to Economic Intelligence Unit’s liveability rankings for 2019, the city ranked 107 out of 140, placing it among the top five most improved cities.

A large number of foreigners live in the capital. Its versatility and a balanced blend of old and modern make the city a hit with tourists and expats alike. You can rent a swan for a paddle on the lake, go jogging or drink an iced coffee after landing at Truc Bach Lake, the area where John McCain landed after his plane was attacked in 1967.

Truc Bach Lake, the area where John McCain landed after his plane was attacked in 1967.

Truc Bach Lake.

There is a statue of Lenin in Ba Dinh that looks over skaters gliding in the park and elderly people exercising under canopies. We could go on and on!

To get to the point, what are the living costs like in this wonderful city?

Accommodation Costs

Rooms in shared houses typically rent for $200 – $250 per month. Depending on the room type, a monthly rent of $250 to 350 may apply for a room with a balcony.

Depending on the location, a one-bedroom small apartment will cost $230 - 340 a month. It does not include electricity or water (both extremely cheap).

Apartment in Ha Noi.

Depending on the location, a one-bedroom small apartment will cost $230 – 340 a month. It does not include electricity or water (both extremely cheap).

Because of an air conditioner, fans, etc., electricity will cost roughly $22 per month in the summer.

Transportation Costs

If you have an international driving license, you can get yourself a motorbike by ordering a car/bike ride (via apps like Grab), or if you don’t have an international license, you can take a taxi.

Although riding a bicycle in Vietnam may seem daunting at first due to the high traffic volumes and vehicles coming in from every direction, especially during rush hours, it will become second nature shortly.

Getting to and from the airport is by far the most affordable option. 7,000 to 9,000 VND ($0.3 – 0.4) is the usual fare on public transportation. If taken directly in front of the airport terminal, taxis, which linger outside a lot, are very expensive.

Getting to and from the airport is by far the most affordable option. 7,000 to 9,000 VND ($0.3 - 0.4) is the usual fare on public transportation. If taken directly in front of the airport terminal, taxis, which linger outside a lot, are very expensive.

Public transportation in Ha Noi.

No matter what method you choose, if you’re taking a taxi outside of the apps (such as Grab, Be, Go-Jek, etc. ), check with the driver beforehand to make sure the price is reasonable or that the meter is functional.

Groceries And Dining Costs

Vietnam is known for its cheap food; the general price of street food in Vietnam is about 25,000VND, which equals approximately $1. Below is more information about common food:

Banh mi baguettes cost between 15,000 and 30,000VND ($0.6 – $1.3).
A soup or fried rice costs about 25,000 to 45,000VND ($1.1 to $1.9).
A juice or smoothie costs between 20,000 and 40,000VND ($0.9 – $1.7).
A beer costs between 20,000 and 30,000VND ($0.9 to $1.3)
Black coffee costs 15,000 – 25,000VND ($0.5 – $1.1).

people are buying Banh mi baguettes

Buying Banh Mi in Ha Noi.

Western food prices are generally as follows, they may be cheaper at some fast-food restaurants:

Pizza costs between 120,000 and 200,000VND ($5.2 – $8.6)
Burgers cost between 70,000 and 160,000 rupees ($3 – $6.7)
A taco costs between $50,000 and $100,000 ($2.2 – $4.3)
For a fancy degustation menu, expect to pay anywhere from 600,000VND – 3,000,000VND ($25.8 – $129).
An alcoholic mixer costs between $60,00 and $100,000 ($2.6 to $4.3).

Western food in Hanoi

Western food in Ha Noi.

Entertainment Costs And Options

You may see locals dancing, running, or lifting weights in parks; the Tay Ho District offers a variety of gyms, including modern gyms with swimming pools and kickboxing centers. A six-month membership costs between 3 and 5 million VND ($129 and 215).

locals dancing in parks

Dance group’s performance in the park.

Additionally, the gym offers yoga courses as a popular option. A seasonally affordable pool, like Thang Loi or Be Boi Ho Tay in Westlake, costs 80,000VND ($3.4) in the summer. The locals and foreigners alike frequent the local cinemas, with an average ticket costing 100,000VND ($4.3).

You can dance, drink, and organize pub quizzes and concerts at various pubs and clubs if you prefer to party. It costs from 50,000 – 200,000 VND ($2.2 – $8.6) to enter the temple.

Travel Around Ha Noi: Options and Costs

Northern Vietnam is easily accessible if you’re based here. Cat Ba Island and Halong Bay are two of the most popular destinations for expats. One night and two days on a luxurious cruise typically cost between 2,000,000VND and 3,000,00VND ($86 and 129).

Several cozy homestays are available for up to 200,000 VND ($8.6) during Ninh Binh’s summer season. An overnight stay in one of these resorts costs 800,00 VND ($34.4).

Ninh Binh tourist destination

Spetarcular view of Ninh Binh.

With its highest mountain and locals dressed in traditional local clothes, Sapa is a popular destination in the North. The cost of a night in a fancier lodge is at least 500,000 VND ($21,5).

Ha Giang can also be explored easily by bus, motorbike, or “easy riding” tours, which allow you to travel as close as you like to Chinese borders. For a 3-day tour, expect to spend about 3 to 5 million VND ($129 to 215).

Ha Noi’s pros and cons as a place to live and work

PROS

Many expat-friendly places to stay in this big expat community.

Traveling during your free time is possible.

Living is cheap in comparison to salaries.

CONS

Congestion in the streets.

Environmental issues about air and water.

A wet and cold winter.

Ho Chi Minh City

A city in the South has come a long way since becoming an important symbol during the Vietnam War. It is named after Ho Chi Minh, sometimes referred to as Uncle Ho, and is a bustling metropolis known for its heavy traffic, renowned brands, and skyscrapers. The top one is 461.2 meters (1,513 feet) high.

Adding to its reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in the world to live in, Sai Gon ranked 3rd on an InterNations list of the top 25 places to live in 2020, in which 15,000 expats expressed their opinions on the quality of life, safety, and more.

People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City

People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City.

Same as Ha Noi, Sai Gon is divided into districts. District 1, with its French architecture, old pagodas, lively bars, restaurants, and Ben Thanh Market, is most interesting from the expat’s perspective. A large number of expatriates live and work in District 2.

If you wish to learn more about the history of the city, take a trip to District 3, home to the War Remnants Museum, and District 5, where you can discover the Chinese quarter in HCMC.

District 5, where you can discover the Chinese quarter in HCMC.

Discover the Chinese quarter in District 5, HCMC.

After spending some time in HCMC, you will quickly understand why it is known as the “Pearl of the East” or the “Big Market”.

Nothing is missing! So how much does this energetic city cost to live in?

Accommodation Costs

Compared to Ha Noi, the average rent is equivalent to or slightly more expensive; a modern apartment will also command a higher rent. If you want to keep your electricity bills low, it is essential to pay attention to the kW price. Make sure to pay between 3,000 and 3,500 VND.

Compared to Hanoi, the average rent is equivalent to or slightly more expensive; a modern apartment will also command a higher rent. If you want to keep your electricity bills low, it is essential to pay attention to the kW price. Make sure to pay between 3,000 and 3,500 VND.

Apartment in Ho Chi Minh city.

Unfortunately, this rate is determined by your apartment landlord and is not regulated. You should, however, try to level with them as much as you can now that you know the recommended amount.

Transportation Costs

Motobike is the quickest and most convenient way of getting around the city in Ho Chi Minh. A motorbike is available for about 150,000 VND a day ($6.5).

Motobike is the quickest and most convenient way of getting around the city in Ho Chi Minh. A motorbike is available for about 150,000 VND a day ($6.5).

Renting motobikes in Ho Chi Minh city.

Bicycle rental is an inexpensive way of experiencing Vietnamese life and experiencing traffic first-hand ($43 – 64.5 per month).

A ticket costs around 7,000 VND ($0.3) for the public bus, which is the cheapest alternative.

Groceries And Dining Costs

Ho Chi Minh city and the capital previously mentioned do not offer significantly different prices for Vietnamese street food.

street food in Ho Chi Minh city

Expart enjoys street food.

Entertainment Costs And Options

In general, Ho Chi Minh city offers the same entertainment options as Ha Noi. New arrivals should check out the backpacker’s area of Bui Vien street or the sky bars if you prefer quality and an ambient atmosphere.

Bui Vien walking street in Ho Chi Minh city

Bui Vien walking street.

It is easy to find good restaurants in the city center, especially Pasteur Street and surrounding areas. In District 2, the Thao Dien area is extremely popular with expatriates, who often live and entertain in this area.

Travel Around Ho Chi Minh City: Options and Costs

It’s a much more vibrant city here than in the far left-leaning capital, especially when it comes to nightlife.

Therefore, you may find it hard to adjust to Ho Chi Minh city at times if you live there. However, these are just a few of the places worth visiting:

Floating markets offer fresh food, fishing boats battle catfish, and farmers and orchards can be visited at the Mekong Delta, the world’s seventh-longest river. Depending on the type of boat and the services, a two-day, one-night getaway can cost anywhere from 500,000 – 3,000,000 VND ($21.5 – 129).

floated market in Mekong Delta

Floated maket in Mekong Delta.

There are beaches, friendly people, delicious seafood, and friendly people in Phu Quoc island, within an hour’s Ha Noi flight. Since it is a popular destination, plane tickets will cost between 40-140 USD for one-way travel.

Ho Chi Minh city’s pros and cons as a place to live and work

PROS

A greater chance for networking and job prospects.

The price of international flights is lower than from/to Ha Noi.

“Alive” city 24 hours a day.

CONS

Traffic looks chaotic and busy, longer travel times.

Environmental pollution.

A metro system is being built (as for Ha Noi).

Da Nang

Da Nang consistently leads in the rankings of the Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI), ranking among the twenty cleanest cities in the world. Da Nang is well-liked by expatriates, too, since it is a smaller, more “modern” city than the big cities.

Golden Bridge in Danang

Golden Bridge in Da Nang.

With mountains rising over the horizon, you get to live right beside the beach, where it is airy and naturally cooled. The base, which used to be part of the military, is now inhabited by retirees and digital professionals.

Given that Da Nang is not as big as the other two, shouldn’t live in Da Nang be affordable?

Accommodation Costs

Although the latter two cities are frequent destinations for expats to share houses, Da Nang is more affordable for expats due to its broader range of housing options and less stifling living conditions.

For a studio apartment with a view (35 - 40 sqm), you can plan on spending around 4 - 5 million VND ($172 - 215) per month and 5 - 6 million VND ($215 - 258) for a one-bedroom apartment. An electric kilowatt-hour costs about 3500 VND.

Apartment in Da Nang.

For a studio apartment with a view (35 – 40 sqm), you can plan on spending around 4 – 5 million VND ($172 – 215) per month and 5 – 6 million VND ($215 – 258) for a one-bedroom apartment. An electric kilowatt-hour costs about 3500 VND.

Transportation Costs

It’s not uncommon for expats to rent or buy bikes. Fortunately, the traffic in Da Nang is much calmer, although the speed is much higher.

Be careful when you are walking. An average motorbike rental costs around $70 per day. One million to one million and a half VND ($43 to $64.5) per month. The bus fare in Danang is 5000 VND for each of the five routes.

Exparts with motobikes.

Be careful when you are walking. An average motorbike rental costs around $70 per day. One million to one million and a half VND ($43 to $64.5) per month. The bus fare in Da Nang is 5000 VND for each of the five routes.

Groceries And Dining Costs

In Da Nang, the following prices are typical for Vietnamese street food: Banh mi baguettes cost between 10,000 – 20,000 VND ($0.4 – 0.9). For a beer, you’ll pay between 10,000 – 15,000 VND ($0.43 – 0.6), and for a “bia hoi” pitcher, you’ll pay 25,000 VND ($1.1). A bowl of noodle soup costs 25,000 VND ($1.1).

In Danang, the following prices are typical for Vietnamese street food: Banh mi baguettes cost between 10,000 - 20,000 VND ($0.4 - 0.9). For a beer, you'll pay between 10,000 - 15,000 VND ($0.43 - 0.6), and for a “bia hoi” pitcher, you'll pay 25,000 VND ($1.1). A bowl of noodle soup costs 25,000 VND ($1.1).

Street food in Da Nang.

There is no great difference in prices between Da Nang and the capital for Western food. Western supermarkets and some restaurants can be found in various locations across the city.

Entertainment Costs And Options

During your stay here, you must visit the beach! Scuba diving courses are between $75 and $100, PADI courses range from $260 to 350, and sea trekking tours are as cheap as $10!

During your stay here, you must visit the beach!

Beautiful beach in Da Nang.

Travel Around Da Nang City: Options and Costs

There is nothing more beautiful and closer to Da Nang than Hoi An town. With yellow walls, canals with boats, and quaint streets, it is nicknamed the “Venice of the East”. In Hoi An, you can find a variety of tailors that can take care of your textile and garment needs.

There is nothing more beautiful and closer to Danang than Hoi An town. With yellow walls, canals with boats, and quaint streets, it is nicknamed the "Venice of the East". In Hoi An, you can find a variety of tailors that can take care of your textile and garment needs.

Stunning lanscape in Hoi An.

On a bike, by bus, or by car, you can reach Hoi An from Da Nang in about 60 minutes. If you have a bicycle, you can also visit My Son Valley or the Hai Van Pass mountains. A group of ancient Hindu temples in My Son have earned it the nickname “mini Angkor Wat”.

A group of ancient Hindu temples in My Son have earned it the nickname "mini Angkor Wat".

A group of ancient Hindu temples in My Son.

Ba Na Hills, where people have been drawn worldwide by its new addition, the walking bridge carried by God’s hands, has also attracted attention.

Da Nang’s pros and cons as a place to live and work

PROS

Located near ancient Hoi An, near the sea.

The air is relatively clean, with occasional sea breezes.

There are many professionals who work remotely.

CONS

The expat community is smaller and more closely knit.

Da Nang is usually directly hit by typhoons during typhoon season.

Hue

During Vietnam’s long history, Hue was the capital, where generations of kings ruled for centuries. Even now, you can still see and experience the rich culture and ancient beauty and spirit of the city.

During Vietnam's long history, Hue was the capital, where generations of kings ruled for centuries. Even now, you can still see and experience the rich culture and ancient beauty and spirit of the city.

The view of ancient city.

The hidden city has been going through change as more foreigners settle down there, which has made it a favorite hub for expats.

Has Hue got the stunning cost of living it suggests it does? We’ll see.

Accommodation Costs

The price of Hue’s products makes it a competitive proposition. For those with a limited budget, it is the cheapest among the previously listed cities!

You can rent some houses for $300-400 per month, without water or electricity, that are full, basic houses. A studio apartment is around $220 per month, while en-suite rooms cost about $170 per month.

Apartment in Hue.

You can rent some houses for $300-400 per month, without water or electricity, that are full, basic houses. A studio apartment is around $220 per month, while en-suite rooms cost about $170 per month.

Transportation Costs

In contrast to Da Nang, Hue has almost nonexistent traffic and a traffic control center, so it is more organized than Da Nang. A striking difference between Da Nang and Hoi An is respect for pedestrian crossings. Those who want to learn how to blend in will find it helpful.

Motorbike rentals tend to range from approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 VND ($34.4-53) a month.

Motorbike rentals tend to range from approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 VND ($34.4-53) a month.

Renting motobikes in Hue.

It might be possible to use waterways for urban mobility, a bike-sharing service, and more bike lanes. Hue provides ideal conditions for biking because of its weather, easy access to mountain roads, and beautiful views.

The city also adopted a Climate Action Plan to reduce the impact of urban development and identify adaptive measures.

Groceries And Dining Costs

Here, however, it is more challenging to satisfy Western food needs as the variety is not as large as in large cities, or the food is merely a non-authentic rendition of Asian food.

In addition, it should be noted that prices are not lower than in big cities because foreign products are always more expensive in Vietnam: pasta 84,500 VND ($3.7), pizzas 155,000 VND ($6.5).

Traditional food in Hue.

In addition, it should be noted that prices are not lower than in big cities because foreign products are always more expensive in Vietnam: pasta 84,500 VND ($3.7), pizzas 155,000 VND ($6.5).

Entertainment Costs And Options

Hue has a pleasantly quiet atmosphere. In general, the expat community loves exploring the cultures, histories, and nature of their host country. You should also consider visiting the tombs of ancient emperors.

Hue has a pleasantly quiet atmosphere. In general, the expat community loves exploring the cultures, histories, and nature of their host country. You should also consider visiting the tombs of ancient emperors.

The tombs of ancient emperors.

Travel Around Hue: Options and Costs

The Da Nang region is located just outside of Hue, and it is pretty easy to get up to Hoi An, the Hai Van Pass, or do a DMZ tour to see the sites of old battles. Approximately 500,000 VND is charged for a 1-day tour.

The Danang region is located just outside of Hue, and it is pretty easy to get up to Hoi An, the Hai Van Pass, or do a DMZ tour to see the sites of old battles. Approximately 500,000 VND is charged for a 1-day tour.

Hoi An at night.

Hue’s pros and cons as a place to live and work

PROS

Among these four cities, this is the cheapest!

Ideal for history, culture, and nature lovers.

A great option for families with children.

CONS

There aren’t as many English-speaking and expat services.

It could be too quiet and traditional for some people.

Hue can suffer severe flooding during the typhoon season as well.

Other costs:

Healthcare

You must secure private healthcare insurance before moving to Vietnam, as healthcare in Vietnam is not free. In some cases, it may be difficult to obtain quality healthcare through public hospital systems, so you may want to consider private treatment. 

doctors are checking patient

Heathcare in Vietnam.

Costs vary considerably from hospital to hospital when it comes to hospital visits, with a private GP being around £30 and £53. It should be free to see a dentist for routine checkups.

Q&A

Do I need a lot of money to live comfortably in Vietnam?

It can vary depending on a person’s lifestyle, but it is fairly easy to maintain your standard of living in Vietnam with about $1,000 USD per month. If you’re looking for an apartment and want to stay in the “inner city” area of Ho Chi Minh City that is surrounded by shopping districts and many other conveniences, expect to spend up to $500 USD a month on rent alone. Groceries are around $50-60 USD per week for staples like meat and produce.

What is the price of a house in Vietnam in USD?

As reported by Global Property Guide, the average price for an apartment in Ho Chi Minh city in the first quarter of 2019 was USD 2,028 per square meter. According to data from Q3 2019, Ha Noi apartments are approximately 28% cheaper than those in Ho Chi Minh city.

Ho Chi Minh city is generally more expensive than Da Nang, except for condos. Still, villas near the coast can command $300,000+.

Can foreigners live in Vietnam?

Although Vietnam is a small country, it has more immigrants than many countries. In fact, the Vietnamese government reports that there are over 500 thousand foreigners living in Vietnam.

Additionally, the number of foreigners living in Vietnam is continually increasing every year.

Two of the most popular places for foreigners to live in Vietnam are the cities of Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh city. These two cities have a large number of foreigners living within their borders.

Many foreigners live abroad for the purpose of working or looking for a job or business opportunity. In fact, by 2015, there were over 88 thousand foreign work permits issued in Vietnam by both Vietnamese and other foreign governments.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a cheap place to live that still offers many of the modern amenities and luxuries you’ll find in Western countries, cost of living in Vietnam is a great deal to consider. Furthermore, the cost of living is on the decline in Vietnam and it will likely only get cheaper as more foreigners are buying property, and establishing businesses.