Finding affordable housing in Vietnam - How much should it cost?

This is the long awaited blog post on finding housing in Vietnam (requested by many readers of the classic Cost of Living in Vietnam post, and this new post is especially about the Ho Chi Minh City rental scene for expats.

As I've mentioned before, I live in an unfurnished two-storey house of about 70 square meters located in a tiny alley (I'll explain why below) which is less than a 10 minute drive from downtown District 1. For this I pay less than $200 per month including all utilities. For the past year, rent has been stable whereas the previous year it went up by $10/month.

I pay more for housing than the average single Vietnamese person pays, while paying far less per square meter than the average expat in Vietnam.

How (can I not get ripped off on housing)?

1. Have Vietnamese friends on your side, finding housing for you that they would be willing to pay for for themselves or their families. Not real estate agents who see each foreigner as a fat commission check (even when they are foreigners themselves), where the higher they can negotiate monthly rent the more money they earn. Agents are incentivized to get you into the most expensive housing you're willing to pay for. Friends want to save you money. The difference between the two methods can mean hundreds of dollars saved each month.

When you first arrive in Vietnam, consider staying in temporary housing, a guesthouse, or a hotel for three months or so, while you build a network of Vietnamese friends. Don't rush yourself into a 1-year contract.

2. "Nhà cho thuê". Memorize this Vietnamese phrase. It literally means "House for rent" and it's a sign that you won't have to pay extra for having some agent with a storefront market the house (or spam the internet). These landlords get less requests for their properties if they're relying on eyeballs on their signs alone. These are hidden gems. If you see a sign in an area (and it should be in an alley) that you'd like to check out then write down the phone number, name (the name is probably preceded by "A." or "C."), and address, then have a Vietnamese friend call for you, ask for the price, and then schedule an appointment to come check it out.

Also be on the lookout for "Phòng cho thuê" which means "Room for rent" which means you'd only be renting a single room in a house. You'll see these signs for guesthouses in the backpacker district as well. For most rooms for rent where the landlord lives in the house and is in charge of unlocking the front door, it will be inconvenient for you to come home after a late night of partying as someone will have to wake up to open the door.

Some other vocabulary:
"ở ghép" - This means a group of people are looking for someone to share a room.
"nữ" - This means the housing is for females only.
"sinh viên" - This housing is meant for university students. Any of these are probably not a good match for foreigners moving to Vietnam.

Spend time walking or leisurely bicycling through kilometer after kilometer of alleys and find as many of these as you can. Especially be willing to venture into dead-end alleys. For the same reason that you'd normally not go into them (which isn't due to any physical danger - Vietnam is generally really safe), for the people who actually live there it's a quiet place to live without the through traffic.

You can also find posters attached to light poles and other public areas although in that case you won't be able to immediately see the outside of the house.

3. Unfurnished housing. A rule of thumb is that furnished housing costs twice as much as unfurnished housing, even though the "value" you get from renting furniture from your landlord rapidly goes down as the price goes up. So at $300/month for a fully furnished room for rent, you could find a similar yet unfurnished room for rent for 3 million VND. A 4 million VND house would easily ask $400/month if furnished.

Picky about furniture? You will actually be better off buying your own and renting an unfurnished place. If you're concerned about not being certain how long you'll be here, just consider that the monthly savings could easily cover buying appliances, etc. in the 6 months your likely minimum shortest contract is for. If you do suddenly leave in 6 months you do have the option of selling your nearly new appliances. On the other hand, wait awhile before you move into your first permanent home and you might be fortunate enough to have new expat friends who decide to leave the country and give you their furniture and appliances! (One thing you quickly learn about being an expat is that we are an impermanent lot)

Oh, don't forget that you can actually affordably have custom furniture built for your home in Vietnam.

4. In general, not being too picky about having something in mind and finding something that matches it exactly. Did you willingly decide to move to Vietnam yourself? Then you should dispel any expectations of Vietnam changing itself to suit you on your arrival without having to conform in any way. If an international company sent you here to work then you might have an argument for being housed in more expensive expat housing.

Do you need to live on any given street, or really close to your work? Probably not if you can ride a motorbike.

In Vietnam, kitchens can range from spacious countertopped rooms to nothing but a sink. But a sink, anywhere with a water hookup, is the kernel of a kitchen. Any area with a sink can be turned into a kitchen with some tables and shelves. If the place is unfurnished, you can provide your own portable gas or electric stoves. Don't expect to find an oven, something most homes in this tropical climate don't have.

If you don't like how the rooms are arranged in a house, have you ever considered knocking down the walls and having the insides rebuilt to your liking? In Vietnam, this is actually an affordable option if you consider the savings compounded over more than a year. This includes adding new sinks or moving them around.

Do you need a pool in your apartment complex? If you did stay somewhere with a pool, keep in mind you would have to pay extra for it, when you could just live near a pool which you could go to when you felt like it. Despite the tropical climate, it's actually too cold to swim for many months anyways.

All that said, you should live somewhere you feel comfortable. If you have special requirements, even if they seem like normal requirements to you, it may take longer to find the right place or you may have to pay a lot more for it.

How much does a house cost in Saigon? Apartments for rent in Ho Chi Minh City


At the very low end might be a tiny, thin-walled (privacy is optional in Vietnam) room for rent with no private bathroom. In District 1, this might be $100/month. Outside of D1, maybe $25/month, but in this price range it would be more common for Vietnamese to share a room. But it's very unlikely this range of housing would suit a foreigner - if you can even find it such a place on your own.


Next up might be a small but furnished room for rent in District 1 from $100-$125/month. This would have a tiny bathroom in the room, but probably nowhere to cook. The small dimensions would make a lot of tall Westerners feel claustrophobic.


The Pham Ngu Lao backpacker district in D1 is full of guesthouses for rent for foreigners at around $200/month. These are generally furnished with beds, desks, closets, air conditioning, and a private bathroom. Like a hotel, there is housekeeping service included. On the other side of Tran Hung Dao, Co Giang and Co Bac Streets are full of these. Vietnamese would find similar housing for $150.

[ Alleys outside of D1 also have many one to two-storey small houses from 3 million VND (about $150) on up (unfurnished). ]


Old, non-luxury highrise apartments start from about 5 million VND ($250). For example:

  • - 1 bedroom apartment in D5, 10 minutes drive from downtown: 5 million
  • - 2 bedroom in brand new housing in the suburban districts: 7 million.
  • - 1 bedroom in an older midrise apartment complex 5 minutes from downtown: 6 million.

[ The outer districts (Tan Phu, Binh Tan, D6, D8, D12, D9) have a lot of brand new highrises being built. Meanwhile, there are very few buyers and the real estate market in Vietnam is in a deep slump. This means there is a vast oversupply of this kind of housing. ]


At this range you can rent a furnished four or five bedroom house for foreigners or a large serviced apartment (or what they will call "luxury apartments" here). This could be in District 1, District 2 (An Phu), District 7 (Phu My Hung), or elsewhere, and generally people (expats) go through agents to find these, although for apartments you can just walk up to an apartment building you like and there should be an agent on site so you could just cab it from highrise to highrise looking at serviced apartments.

You would also find houses for foreigners in The Ghetto (Thai Van Lung and Le Thanh Ton area of D1, which has many Japanese residents) in this range.

The bigger houses would be harder to find, but follow my instructions above.


Apparently, you can even pay this much for a crazy villa.

But anything above $1000 is outside the arena of value judgement when it comes to this blog post.

A note on online apartment finding services

While it would be really convenient if we could just use the same websites we used back home to find housing, unfortunately they don't work well here. While Craigslist does exist, it is full of a handful of real estate agents pumping their overpriced products. You can assume that anything on there is a ripoff.

Since MetVuong is no longer up, another website worth mentioning is MuaBan. It's the online presence of a popular classified ads paper published daily or weekly. You can also go buy a copy for a few thousand dong. You will see lots of listings for housing and it will give you an idea of how they're described. Get someone to translate for you. But beware: nearly all of the phone numbers are for real estate agents and not the actual landlord. They may not know which ad you're looking at when you call and they will definitely try to show you some other properties instead. They will also want to charge you for the privilege. It's rare that they will ever find a house for you to move into, but they make their money by just showing you any house.

Otherwise, for the time being, just avoid any online real estate website for foreigners.

Abbey (not verified)

As I can see this post has been few years back, But I'm planning on getting Vietnam visa this coming year 2016 so I think the Vietnamese current livings will be different from the years that this blogs was post. Please is the life now in Vietnam still the same as you said 4 years ago? I want to come live there permanently but want to be living on a very low expenses even while I work so I can have a better savings to build a family, I'm single.

Abbey (not verified)

As I can see this post has been few years back, But I'm planning on getting Vietnam visa this coming year 2016 so I think the Vietnamese current livings will be different from the years that this blogs was post. Please is the life now in Vietnam still the same as you said 4 years ago? I want to come live there permanently but want to be living on a very low expenses even while I work so I can have a better savings to build a family, I'm single.

Abbey (not verified)

As I can see this post has been few years back, But I'm planning on getting Vietnam visa this coming year 2016 so I think the Vietnamese current livings will be different from the years that this blogs was post. Please is the life now in Vietnam still the same as you said 4 years ago? I want to come live there permanently but want to be living on a very low expenses even while I work so I can have a better savings to build a family, I'm single.

Caroline (not verified)

I am living in Hanoi and there are places where the police don't want foreigners, so I find it difficult to find a room or flat from Vietnamese... I think they have to pay a big fee just to rent for foreigners. What can I do?

Nils (not verified)

Hi all,

I am leaving Saigon and need somebody taking over the apartment I am renting.
Located in district 2, 85 m2, new modern construction, available from now, 2 bedroom, two bathroom, big living room with big open kitchen, 600 USD/ month, 2 month rent as deposit required.
Contact me either by mail
[email protected]
Or by phone
+84 93 6544207

kaise (not verified)

at first, as a foreigner you should show the vietnameses that you are traithfull and reliable. The vietnameses like straithfull and reliable people. If you had a vietnamese friend, he should tell the landlords as much as possible about your situation, but only about hard work, having not much money for first months, for example. Vietnameses will understand hard situations

Mike Trent (not verified)

Thank you for your detailed post! I also found myself quite confused in finding a house for rent in Ho Chi Minh City, but then, thanks to some help of my colleagues and a real estate agency, I could find an affordable house for rent which is in district 2. As far as I know, it's the landlord who gives the agency the commission, not the tenant.

Lynne (not verified)

Having JUST arrived two days ago, and having looked at some Sky Garden apartments, I really have to say that SG seem to me to be overpriced, for what we looked at. I think maybe they are seeing if the newbies will pay more than the market price. We looked at 71m2 apartments that were $700 a month.

MsTran (not verified)

Dear Lynne,

I was wondering if you are still staying in Saigon and wanted to look at some other apartments in District 2 (15 mins away from downtown). I have a 2-bedroom apartment located at The Vista in An Phu, district 2, with all furniture (European/Western-style) along with free use of their luxurious facilities. Please feel free to take a link below to find more details:

Kindly let me know if I could be to any help for you. I also have other apartments for rent. Looking forward to hear from you.

Best regards,


When you weigh the cost of something like a beer or a meal or the average monthly wage of its citizens, certain rents do seem overpriced. $700/month may be the going rate for a large serviced unit in Sky Garden.

Ayeshah (not verified)

Great piece Tomo... wish I had read this earlier... we are paying a stupid amount of money for our place and it just doesn't seem right... now I know better ..thanks


Thanks Ayeshah. Well, you are not alone - most foreigners probably do overpay and thus create a little market for real estate marketed to expats.

disco (not verified)

Very interesting to read and compare the experience in Vietnam with that of Japan. It is common here to have to pay 1 - 2 mo "key money" on top of the 2+ mo deposit, and 1+ mo commission to the real estate agent (which is paid every 2 years with the contract renewal). It is also required to have a guarantor (family in Japan, or your company), or else have to pay about 1mo rent to a company to provide that service. Considering a nice 70 sq meter place in Tokyo runs about $3200/mo, the move-in cost can be pretty nuts. High rise "mansions" are generally ok with foreigners, but smaller buildings often are not.

Most places can be found online, but the websites are fed by agents who access a central database, and don't necessarily take their advertisements down when the place is rented. I'd love to create a website that bypasses the agents and gives access to the database in real time, but I suspect changing the way things are done here is nearly impossible. Given the lack of online resources for renters in Vietnam, perhaps creating a venue from scratch is more achievable than trying to break down the well established status quo here in Japan.


Here, the landlord usually pays the agent as a finder's fee. Of course, it's passed onto the tenant as a hidden tax in the form of higher prices.

You're talking about 2 months deposit + 2 months key money + 1 month commission + 1 month guarantee? Paying 6 months rent before you even move in!

There's a lot of websites in Vietnam, but they all suck, mostly because there's no central database. Nobody has more than a handful of properties to list, or only list phone numbers of agents. I've considered the idea before...

Mike (not verified)

Interesting post but I think your high-end prices are very much on the low side. If I could find a luxury serviced apartment in District 1 for $400 / month, I would be very happy! I know that Sailing Tower for example is upwards of $2,500 / month.


Well, $2,500 is certainly a lot of money relative to most other properties in the city, but I believe that price is also for a 3-bedroom flat. Sailing Tower are also trying to be the most expensive address in the city, so I guess it makes sense. You'd find much cheaper prices at the other address that was trying to be the same, Saigon Pearl. A 3-bedroom apartment at Saigon Pearl was $800-$900 at the height of the property bubble, but now that the last tower is online and there's much more inventory looking for tenants, the prices have dropped.

chris (not verified)

Living in Vietnam website advertises house's for rent , some privates ones too.

Tyler Watts (not verified)

Great overview Tomo! Completely agree with the recommendations. The only problem that your method encounters is the requirements for renting to foreigners can be prohibitive for houseowners and their willingness to take in a foreigner.

The place we are at now agreed to do the paperwork to rent to a foreigner but likely only because our landlord is the neighborhood representative for our ward.

Of course there are some places willing to work around these ridiculous rules as well.


Thanks Tyler! Yes, absolutely right and I should've mentioned that.

Some people even think or claim that a certain district, like Phu Nhuan, is legally off limits to foreigners. Of course this is bull. But your landlord is supposed to register you with the local police (by bringing them your passport) and it's more of a hassle to register a foreigner than a local.

It's not uncommon for landlords to have a good relationship with the local police if they're registering tenants often. Sometimes, the police will just suggest foregoing the registration requirements altogether!

Anonymous (not verified)

This is interesting Tyler... I'm in Saigon for a year for work, been here 2 days and I'm expected to find a place within the week, and i'm finding it pretty confusing. It also means I don't have the 3 months up my sleeve to look around, if I'm going to sign a 12 month lease.

The agents I've talked to so far are adamant that a 2bedroom place somewhere fairly central (doesn't have to be big or pretty) doesn't exist for under 600, yet the prices seem to be arbitrary - the same price for a small box on the canal near the bridge at phu nhuan, as for a larger, nicer, apartment in Q3, 2 blocks to Q1, or for a 3 story house + terrace in Q1? Do people bargain rent prices?

If I had a Vietnamese friend to talk to the landlord for me, do they then have to negotiate with the landlord as to whether they will rent to a foreigner, etc? Do landlords sometimes refuse to rent to you once they find out it is for a foreigner?

Any thoughts/advice on this would be great!

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