How Cheap is it to Live in Vietnam?
Live it up in Vietnam for $4000 per year
It’s not hard to save money in Vietnam. If you’re an ESL teacher you’re likely to make around $15-20 per hour. You can easily save half of that if you take advantage of Vietnam’s low cost of living. I’ve lived in the country for almost 2 years now. After settling in, I discovered just how little I needed to live an amazing life in Vietnam. So how cheap is it to live in Vietnam? With a bit of initial work and spending, it’s possible to live off of $4000 per year — and the best part is, you can avoid cooking and cleaning, and basically live the life of Riley.
The balance of sweet, salty, sour, bitterness and umami – along with combinations of soft, crisp, and crunchy textures – makes Vietnamese food something special. It’s also considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world.
If you eat local food, you can fill yourself for $5 a day without having to pick up a kitchen utensil.
- Breakfast: Egg sandwich and coffee – $1
- Lunch: Rice, vegetables, meat, soup, and free iced tea – $1
- Dinner: Spring roll and noodles with grilled meat, plus a drink – $3
Rent in Vietnam obviously varies depending on where you live, but a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom house outside of the city center should be about $300 per month. I’ve seen some smaller but certainly livable ones for $150 a month. Live with a spouse or roommate and that cost gets chopped in half.
The cost of utilities depends on how you handle the heat. Cranking the air conditioner will certainly boost costs, but I usually pay about $25 a month for electricity. Sara and I leave the air-con on throughout the night, but don’t run it during the day.
Our water bill is only about $3/month, but the water is not drinkable, so you’ll spend another $1.60 per month on drinking water.
High-speed internet costs around $10 a month.
For $2.25 you can get a house cleaner to come in for 1.5 hours. If you really want luxury, you can hire someone to shop and cook for you, but it’s not really necessary with all the cheap food options available.
Transportation in Vietnam is best done on a scooter. You can buy one for only $200. On top of that, you’ll have repairs and maintenance – about $5 per month. Gasoline for a scooter is very inexpensive. I spend about $2.25 per week, but I use it multiple times everyday.
Vietnam requires westerners to have a visa while in the country. This means a bit of traveling every 3 months to cross the border into Cambodia. If you can find a wife who’s willing to work, like I did, you’ll save a bit of time and money here, but most people just go across the border and head right back into Vietnam. It’s not a difficult task, but the four visas that you’ll need per year will cost you about $280 in total (including four $20 visas for Cambodia).
After that, you are just spending money on entertainment. If you like the bar scene, you will spend about $0.62 per beer. If you want to see a movie, the cheap night is only $2.25 for a ticket to a new release in a modern theater. I like to spend my time hanging out in cafes and playing Chinese chess. That costs me 50 cents for around 3 hours, including a coffee and as much iced green tea as I want.
Keep in mind, this is the least amount that you’ll need. A nice meal at a proper restaurant might cost you $9. A weekend trip to a coastal resort might be another $60. Furthermore, if you want to live for this cheap in Vietnam, you have to live like a local. Western products that aren’t made in Vietnam are often quite expensive due to import taxes. If you can’t live without your bottle of Frank’s Red Hot, you’re going to be making bi-monthly trips to the import shop in Saigon and paying about $5 for a small bottle. Perhaps you can get by with a bottle of tương ớt (Vietnamese chili sauce), or just buy a mortar and pestle and pulverize one of the many fresh chili peppers that usually come complimentary when you buy your vegetables from a local market. Just be careful not to make too much and burn your mouth. In Vietnam, a little goes a long way.