Having lived in Vietnam now for a total of 10 months, I’d thought I’d put together a quick and concise overview of the cost of living in Vietnam for the typical single expat.
I have many local and expat friends here and socialize regularly; I know Vietnamese and expat business men so have some idea as well into the cost of starting and registering a business in Vietnam, however I’ll save that for a separate article.
Vietnam is still arguably one of the cheapest places for the aspiring expat to set up camp for a few months or longer if they so wish. It’s relatively easy to still live a good life here on $1000 per month, even less if you’re really careful and don’t drink and eat out too much. I’m a pretty minimal guy so this budget is ok for me; if you’ve got some expensive habits though like anywhere your costs will soon escalate quickly.
The US$ hovers at around 21500 VND with the British pound at around 33500 VND. (Vietnamese Dong)
This means your money goes quite far, especially if you’re prepared to shop around and live a more ‘local’ existence. I’ve traveled through Saigon and up to Da Nang where I now call home for the time being. Prices here are similar to the other two big cities, Hanoi and HCM however some things like motorbikes are more expensive to buy and hire here-don’t ask me why!
Rental and Utility prices in Vietnam
In Da Nang expect to pay anything between $200-700 for a decent apartment, with average beachside apartments being around the $300 per month mark not including utilities. This is similar to HCM, although there is more fluctuation here due to the greater abundance of properties.
Websites such as chotot.vn are a great place to start looking for properties but make sure you take a Vietnamese friend along to view and use common sense and gut instinct. The three major things to look out for in my experience are:
Speakers-Yes Vietnamese like it loud and random public announcements at 5am are very common; I learnt this the hard way.
Roosters and Dogs-Vietnamese love their birds, and noisy roosters are everywhere crowing at all hours of the day or night. The same goes for dogs. They are often tied up outside houses for hours on end and left barking and nobody seems to care. Try and take a stroll around your prospective neighbourhood during the day and night before signing anything and moving.
Avoid the flashier western owned real estate companies who will always be a bit more expensive. I pay just over $300 per month for a nice western style one bed place. My utilities are around $2 per month for water and garbage collection (yes that’s $2..) electricity is a little more pricy at around $35 per month but varies considerably depending on how much you use your air-con. Internet is cheap at around $7 per month for 10mb/s and is fairly reliable. Cable TV is about the same and the to tend to come as a package; the man providers being VNPT and Viettel.
So for around $350 you can get yourself a decent one bed place with all your bills, not too bad at all. Of course you can spend a lot more. I have friends who prefer to house share and have a large 7 bed villa. They rent out their spare rooms on AirBnB and split everything else so it’s pretty cheap.
When I first came to Vietnam i shared a place with a guy for a few months but now prefer having my own pad. In regards to contracts it’s a little dicey-most want you to commit to at least six months with a deposit and two months up front. Month by month places are available however and are a good option if you’re not too sure on your future plans. The best area to live in Da nang if you’re an expat in undoubtedly the My Khe/An Thoung area near the beach.
It has a good mix of locals and international people and some really good restaurants and a few bars right next to the beach. There are some 350 hotels in Da Nang and many will offer you a reduced rate for a month or more. It still works out cheaper to get an apartment though and the lack of a kitchen really started to annoy me when I arrived as I love to cook.
Food and Drink Prices in Vietnam
If you want Western or a fancy hotel then expect to spend similar to UK or US prices; maybe marginally cheaper.
A good burger or pizza here in Da Nang will set you back around $6-7. Vietnamese food is of course cheaper. Staples such as the Banh My (sandwich/baguette) is 10k VND throughout the city so around 45 cents. Com Ga (chicken rice) another very popular dish will set you back about 40k VND, add an extra egg or 2 for an extra 5k.
Other popular dishes are Com Chien (friend rice) at around 35k. You can add various meets, vegetables and eggs to this for an extra 2-10k. Don’t forget to order the Tra Da (iced tea) very refreshing and normally free at most Vietnamese joints.
Good Western food can be found at Luna Pub on Tran Phu street and at the newly opened Burger Bros joint in the popular An Thoung expat area. There’s also a French restaurant here and a Spanish tapas place that are also good over on An Thoung 4; all worth a look.
Personally I tend to cook at home as the supermarket prices here are cheap for fruit/vegetables and meat. A decent steak will cost you $1 with a chicken breast even less, so it makes sense to eat at home at least a few nights per week if you can cook.
So how much is a beer right? Well dirt cheap actually…
I found HCM to be cheaper than Da nang for beer, but only slightly so. You will pay between 15-35k for a local beer (Larue) in most of the restaurants and bars here, so it’s fairy cheap. Spirits with a mixer will be between 45-70K depending on the establishment, the nicer bars and hotels obviously charge a lot more however it’s still fairly cheap.
Soft drinks are really cheap, with a can of coke around 7k and water even less. It’s not advisable to drink the tap water here so most people buy 25 liter bottles for their homes. These cost around 15-20k so less than $1, not too bad. Tra Da (iced tea) comes free with most drinks and meals at restaurants and comes highly recommended as a refreshing alternative to water or beer.
Getting a Motorbike
I’ve covered this in detail here in another article.
Whilst not as good as neighbouring Thailand for clothes; good threads can still be found here, especially if you’re looking for some custom made goods.
A shirt off the shelf will set you back around $15-20 at somewhere like Ninomaxx or The Blues-but it won’t cost a hell of a lot more to go to somewhere like Hoi An and get something made up. They’ll make anything for you here from shoes to bags, suits to dresses so bargain hard and get yourself kitted out on the cheap.
Gyms are really cheap here, with an average of about 20k a session or around 150k a month ($8)
If you want something really fancy then there are the 5 star hotel gyms like the Novotel and California fitness that cost the same if not more than back home-i tend to steer clear of these though as you can get all you need at the cheaper joints.
Ah the dreaded visa run.
One of the biggest costs of living here and one of the most annoying is the visa situation. The situation changes constantly as do the prices for renewal and the rules, so it’s frustrating. Im in the process of updating my article getting a visa for Vietnam here so take a look for some more info. So there we have it; a brief overview of the costs involved when living as a single expat in Vietnam.
Feel free to ask me any question below.