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Cost of Living

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So, you’ve been dreaming about moving to exotic Vietnam, land of golden sand beaches, ancient temples, and vibrant cities. But before you take the plunge, you’re probably wondering how much it will really cost you to live there. After all, Vietnam is known for being an extremely budget-friendly destination, but will your savings actually stretch as far as you hope? As an expat living in Vietnam, here’s the truth about what you can expect to pay for rent, food, entertainment and everything in between. Spoiler alert: it’s possible to live comfortably on $1,000 a month or less. Intrigued? Read on to discover the surprisingly affordable cost of living in one of Asia’s most alluring countries.

Overview of Cost of Living in Vietnam for Expats

Vietnam is an incredibly affordable place to live, especially compared to most Western countries. Here's an overview of what you can expect to pay as an expat living in Vietnam:


Rent in Vietnam is relatively cheap. You can rent a nice one-bedroom apartment for $200 to $500 per month, depending on the city and amenities. Utilities like electricity and water will cost another $50 to $100 per month. Many expats choose to rent a house, which can cost $500 to $1,500 per month depending on the size and location.


Eating out in Vietnam is insanely affordable. You can get a bowl of pho for under $2, a banh mi sandwich for $1, or a full meal at a local restaurant for $3 to $5. If you cook at home, you can get groceries for next to nothing. Fresh produce, meat, and staples like rice and noodles cost a fraction of what you'd pay in Western countries.


There are tons of cheap ways to have fun in Vietnam. You can see a movie for a few dollars, get a massage for $10, or have drinks at a bar for $2 to $5 each. Domestic travel around the country is also very budget-friendly, with bus or train tickets costing just a few dollars.

Housing Costs - Rent Prices in Hanoi vs. Ho Chi Minh City

If you're moving to Vietnam, housing will likely be one of your biggest expenses. Rent prices can vary significantly between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In Hanoi, you can rent a decent one-bedroom apartment for $300 to $500 per month. A two- or three-bedroom place will cost $500 to $800. Most expats live in the central districts of Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, or Dong Da. You'll pay a premium to be walking distance to the Old Quarter but cheaper rent further away from the city center.

Rent in Ho Chi Minh City

Rent in Ho Chi Minh City, especially in District 1 and District 3, tends to be higher than in Hanoi. A one-bedroom apartment starts around $500 to $700 per month. For a two- or three- bedroom place, expect to pay $700 to $1,200. The most popular areas for expats are District 1, District 2 and District 7.

No matter which city you choose, renting in Vietnam often means paying 3-6 months of rent upfront as a deposit, plus additional fees for utilities and internet. Most leases are for 1-2 years. If possible, get a local friend to view places with you, as some landlords may raise the rent if they know you're a foreigner.


Serviced apartment in Vietnam

Cost of Food - Eating Local vs. Imported Goods

When it comes to food in Vietnam, you have two options: eat like a local for cheap, or pay higher prices for imported goods. As an expat, you’ll probably end up doing a bit of both.

Local Vietnamese Food

If you want an authentic taste of Vietnam at a low cost, eat where the locals eat. Street food like pho, banh mi, and spring rolls can be found for just a couple of dollars. At casual local restaurants, you can get a filling meal for $3-5. Groceries from neighborhood markets and stores are also very affordable. Rice, noodles, fresh produce and spices are staples and cost little.

Imported Foods

However, if you have a hankering for cheese, wine, or packaged snacks from home, be prepared to pay a premium. Imported goods are highly taxed, so you’ll end up paying 2-5 times what you would back home. Western-style supermarkets like Lotte Mart, Big C, and Metro stock many imported brands and convenience foods, but at inflated prices.

An average day’s meals might look like:

  • Breakfast: $1-2 for pho, banh mi or coffee at a street cart

  • Lunch: $3-5 at a local restaurant for rice, meat and veggies

  • Snack: $1-2 for fresh fruit from a market

  • Dinner: $5-10 at a mid-range restaurant or $20-30 at a high-end place

  • Drinks: $1 beers at a bar or $3-5 cocktails at a lounge

So you can easily eat well for under $10-15 a day if you stick to local fare. But if you add in imported snacks, nice dinners out, and cocktails a few times a week, your food budget could easily double or triple.


Inside a private hospital in Vietnam

Healthcare Expenses in Vietnam - Public vs. Private Options

Healthcare in Vietnam offers an array of choices for both residents and expats, ranging from public to private options. Understanding the distinctions between the two can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your healthcare needs and budget constraints.

Public Healthcare in Vietnam

Vietnam has been investing steadily in its public healthcare system, striving to provide accessible and affordable medical services. As an expat, you are entitled to avail yourself of services at public hospitals and clinics. While the wait times can be longer compared to private hospitals, especially for non-urgent cases, the affordability factor is a significant advantage. A consultation with a doctor at a public hospital may cost as low as a few dollars.

Quality and Accessibility

In Vietnam, the public healthcare system is not just for minor illnesses and routine check-ups; it also handles complex medical issues and emergencies. Public hospitals often employ some of the country's most skilled and experienced doctors. In fact, it's not uncommon for challenging cases to be transferred from private hospitals, such as Hanh Phuc, to specialized public facilities to benefit from this higher level of expertise. Many of these top-tier doctors also work part-time in private hospitals. While the care quality and amenities in public hospitals may not match those in private facilities or in more developed countries, the medical expertise is often comparable. Registering for public healthcare is straightforward, involving minimal paperwork and a nominal fee. Given the longer wait times and less luxurious settings, some people who can afford it opt for private healthcare, which generally offers a more comfortable patient experience but at a significantly higher cost.

Private Healthcare in Vietnam

For those seeking quicker service and more specialized care, Vietnam’s private healthcare sector offers modern facilities with state-of-the-art equipment. The presence of English-speaking doctors is more common in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Private healthcare in Vietnam can be expensive, with consultation fees starting around $50 USD and daily hospitalization costs ranging from $200 to $500.

Waiting Times: Vietnam vs. Western Countries

One of the key differentiators between healthcare in Vietnam and in more developed Western countries is the waiting time for medical services. In countries like Canada, which has a universal healthcare system, waiting times for elective surgeries and certain specialist consultations can extend to several months or even years.

In contrast, Vietnam's healthcare system offers relatively shorter waiting times, particularly for immediate or semi-urgent care. The public healthcare system is less congested with long waiting lists for elective procedures. This is partly because of a streamlined healthcare administration and also due to the availability of private healthcare options, which many choose for quicker and more specialized services.

Insurance Options

To offset these high costs, many expats opt for private health insurance. Insurance companies such as Allianz, Bao Viet, and Bao Minh offer a range of plans, from basic to comprehensive. Monthly premiums generally range from $100 to $500, depending on factors like age, coverage, and pre-existing conditions.

Comparison with More Developed Countries

When compared to healthcare systems in more developed countries like the United States, Canada, or countries in Western Europe, Vietnam's public healthcare system may seem less advanced in terms of technology and specialized care. However, it offers affordability that many Western systems cannot match.

In terms of private healthcare, Vietnam is becoming increasingly competitive. The facilities and standard of care in private hospitals often rival those found in developed countries but come at a fraction of the cost.

Transportation - Getting Around Vietnam

Getting around Vietnam is generally very affordable. As an expat living in Vietnam, transportation costs should fit comfortably within your budget. Here are some options for getting from point A to point B:


Owning a motorbike is common and convenient in Vietnam. You can buy a used one for $500 to $1,500 or rent one for $7 to $15 per day. Fuel is around $1 per liter. While driving in Vietnam’s chaotic traffic can be daunting, motorbiking opens up lots of opportunities for adventure and exploration.


Vietnam’s bus system connects most cities and towns. Fares are usually under $10 for rides up to 5 or 6 hours. Most busses are fairly modern, some even offer WiFi and power outlets. Night busses with sleeper beds are great for long overnight rides.


Vietnam’s rail system is limited but scenic. Fares range from $5 to $50 depending on the class of seat. The Reunification Express runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, a journey of 30+ hours. Some routes offer comfortable sleeper cars. Trains provide an opportunity to admire Vietnam’s landscape and interact with locals.


Taxis and the Grab app (like Uber) are convenient for getting around cities and towns. Fares start around $2 to $5. Be sure to agree on a price before the ride or use the Grab app to avoid being overcharged. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, taxis/Grab are essential for navigating the traffic and avoiding the headache of finding parking.

Domestic Flights

For longer distances, Vietnam has a network of domestic airlines offering quick flights around the country. Fares range from $20 to $200 one-way. The more budget airlines like VietJet and JetStar often have good deals. Flying domestically in Vietnam can save a lot of time for trips that would otherwise require a full day of travel by bus or train.

Entertainment Budget - Bars, Restaurants, Activities

Entertainment is an important part of experiencing life in Vietnam as an expat. Fortunately, costs for dining out, nightlife and activities are generally very affordable compared to Western countries.

Eating Out

You'll find no shortage of delicious and budget-friendly food options in Vietnam. A bowl of pho or com tam (broken rice) from a street vendor will only set you back around $1-2 USD. At casual restaurants, main dishes are usually $3-5 USD. Even at nicer establishments, you can get a full meal for under $10 USD per person. Some recommendations:

  • Street food stalls for classic Vietnamese fare like pho, banh mi, and spring rolls

  • Family-run restaurants for com tam, bun cha, or banh xeo

  • Rooftop bars for cocktails with a view

  • Craft beer joints featuring locally brewed beers for under $3 USD a pint


Whether you want to sip cocktails at a swanky bar or dance the night away at a club, Vietnam's nightlife scene has something for everyone at a fraction of the cost compared to Western countries.

  • Bia hoi corners - Fresh beer for just 20-50 cents a glass. Pull up a plastic stool and take in the lively atmosphere.

  • Dance clubs - Entry fees are usually $5-10 USD and include a free drink. Drink prices inside are also very affordable.

  • Live music venues - Catch a show at a jazz club or venue featuring traditional Vietnamese music. Admission fees are typically under $5 USD.


There's no shortage of activities in Vietnam to keep you entertained without breaking the bank.

  • Explore museums and temples - Most charge little to no admission fee.

  • Take a cooking class - Learn to make Vietnamese specialties like pho, spring rolls or dumplings for around $30 USD.

  • Go on a bike tour - Guided tours cost between $30 to $50 USD and include bikes, helmets, an English-speaking guide and lunch.

  • Relax at a spa - Hour-long massages are usually around $10 to $20 USD. Treat yourself to a full spa day for under $50 USD.

Monthly Utilities - Electric, Water, Internet

Monthly Utilities - Electric, Water, Internet

Living in Vietnam, your utility bills will likely be lower than what you're used to paying back home. Utilities like electricity, water, and internet are generally affordable for expats and budget-friendly overall.

Electricity in Vietnam is inexpensive compared to most countries. Running an air conditioner, electronics, and appliances shouldn’t put too much strain on your wallet. Expect to pay around $30 to $60 per month for electricity, depending on usage. Some apartment buildings include electricity in the rent. If not, you’ll need to set up an account with the local electric company to pay your bill each month.

Most expats in Vietnam have access to clean tap water, but some prefer to drink bottled water. Either way, water bills usually cost less than $10 per month. Bottled water is cheap and readily available for purchase if needed. Some apartments cover water fees in the rent as well.

High-speed internet in Vietnam has improved drastically in recent years. You’ll have access to broadband connections with major internet service providers. Plan on budgeting $20 to $50 per month for internet, depending on the speed. Many cafes and coworking spaces also offer free, fast Wi-Fi if you need to get some work done outside of home.

Compared to the West, utilities in Vietnam are refreshingly budget-friendly. Paying less than $100 total for electricity, water, and internet each month is common for expats. The low cost of living is just one of the many benefits of life in Vietnam.

Saving Money - Ways to Cut Costs as an Expat

As an expat living in Vietnam, there are several ways you can cut costs and save money.

Rent an apartment outside of city centers

Rent will likely be one of your biggest monthly expenses in Vietnam. Opt to live a 15-30 minute drive outside of main city centers and business districts where rent is often significantly cheaper. Many expats are able to find nice apartments for $200-$500 per month outside of city centers. You'll still be close enough to easily commute in for work or play, but will pay a fraction of the cost for rent.

Eat like a local

Enjoying delicious Vietnamese food is one of the best parts about living in Vietnam, and eating like a local is also much more budget-friendly. Street food and small local restaurants offer meals for $1-$3 per person. Even at sit-down restaurants, you can get a full meal for $3-$7. Compare that to $10-$15 or more per meal at Western-style restaurants catering to expats and tourists.

Use public transit

Vietnam's public transit systems continue to improve, with new bus and metro lines added each year in major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Fares are extremely affordable, ranging from 3,000-30,000 VND per ride (less than $2 USD). Using public transit when possible instead of taxis or rideshares is an easy way to save $100 or more per month.

Find free or low-cost hobbies and entertainment

There are plenty of ways to fill your free time in Vietnam without spending a lot. Check out museums, temples, and other cultural attractions which often have free admission or charge less than $1 USD. Enjoy Vietnam's beautiful beaches, hiking trails and natural scenery. Take up low-cost hobbies like cycling, photography or learning to cook Vietnamese food. Limit paid activities like tours, amusement parks or cinemas which can cost $10-$50 per person or more.

Following these tips can help reduce your cost of living in Vietnam by 30-50% or more per month. While life as an expat in Vietnam may require some adjustments, the potential savings and lower cost of living are well worth it for many. Let the adventure begin!