Cost-of-Living in Vietnam: It's Really Cheap

Submitted by tomo on October 4, 2010 - 3:26am

UPDATE April 29, 2012! If you have a question about moving to Vietnam, working in Vietnam, or otherwise related to being a Vietnamese expat, please write your question on the forum instead.

UPDATE July 17, 2012! Follow-up article Finding affordable housing in Vietnam - How much should it cost? has been posted

So there's been a lot of chatter in the Saigon twitter community lately about the average income of Ho Chi Minh City and whether $600/month can get you a decent middle-class lifestyle here.

This is what it costs to live in Saigon, Vietnam's (and all of French Indochina's) largest, busiest city and commercial center:


For about $200 a month I get a two-story house split into four rooms (plus bathroom) where I live and work. It's not downtown but I can get there in five minutes flat (I've timed it). I've paid less for accommodations but most foreigners pay more, while getting less. Any newcomer to Vietnam should first stay in temporary housing until they can find housing that isn't targeted/price/marketed at foreigners, unless you're an ex-pat whose company pays for housing (this is another reason why ex-pat housing prices are inflated).

On the other hand, many local Vietnamese would consider my house extravagant and expensive. But Vietnamese, like their American counterparts, seem to think that homeownership is a God-given right and normally buy instead of rent anyways. Families that establish themselves here will buy a home even if it means living in the suburbs. For me, given how cheap it is to rent versus buy property in the inner city, it makes no sense to buy. In the US it makes more sense because rent is higher compared to house prices. My rent here wouldn't make a dent in a mortgage payment, but then again most Vietnamese don't take out mortgages. They buy their houses in cash, or gold.


Like many developed countries like Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, or most of Europe, car ownership is low here. The government is partly to thank for this because they tax imported cars 100%. Unfortunately, Vietnam's entrance into the WTO will change all that in a few years.

The way to get around in Vietnam is by motorbike. For $800 you can get a brand new Honda that will cost you three dollars to fill up once or twice a week. The streets of Saigon are jampacked with people who can not only afford motorbikes but who can afford fancy ones costing several times as much, up to $10000 after the government made high CC bikes street legal. To get a feel for how large the Vietnamese middle class is, one need only stand by the street and count how many automatic scooters go by.

Alternatively, one can flag one of the numerous taxis clogging the streets for about 50 cents (flag fall) or take a motorbike taxi costing 25 cents for short trips. Bus rides are 10 cents. The city bus takes you as far as the Cambodian border.

So for the price of insurance on a car in the states you can get around pretty economically here.


This is a land where food grows in abundance. So much so that we export to neighboring countries like the Philippines which are in shortage. Food is cheap here.

For $1 you can get a bowl of phở which many people in the North eat for breakfast every day. A set lunch for office workers consisting of a rice dish with meat, some veggies, soup, and some fresh fruit and iced tea will set you back from $1 to $2. Getting a coke or coffee outside could cost you less than 50 cents, the same price as a Vietnamese sandwich. The bread alone, a Frenchi-ie sub-sandwich roll is only 10 cents. Still, many families prefer to save money by cooking at home and shopping at local markets instead of supermarkets. Every person in this city is within walking distance of a market.

A feast with friends outside with a few beers, maybe some seafood, may cost each of you $5. A Heineken is $1. Local beers are cheaper. Homebrewed is even cheaper still, perhaps 10 cents a glass. It's no wonder many foreigners come here and instantly become alcoholics.

P.S. You aren't expected to tip at restaurants.

Cigarettes are not food but they're also cheap. A pack of Marlboros is $1 unless you're the idiot coming up with numbers for Local brands are cheaper. You can also buy a single cigarette for a nickel.


Just sitting on the street in Vietnam is entertainment enough. But if you want to escape to the cinema in the afternoon it will cost you $1.50, more if you want to watch Avatar in 3D. A DVD at the shop is 50 cents. And I've always had HBO, Cinemax, and Star Movies at home for free, included in rent.

Taking the bus to the beach will cost you $3. Staying overnight will cost you $10.

Taking a bus into the highlands will cost a few bucks. A bus to Cambodia costs $10. And flights to places like Singapore or Bangkok are about $50 each way.

The End

I'm not a parent but I could easily fit a family of four in my house. I already have maid and laundry service ($36/mo) but in this hypothetical Vietnamese family the mother would stay at home whereas the hypothetical middle-class American mother would be put to work. The kids could go to public school or private school. Private high school in Vietnam averages $90/year and university tuition ranges from $100-$250 or much more for the dumb but wealthy kids.

The middle-class family in Vietnam has choices when getting around, whether by public transportation, private transportation, or hired transportation. They can live in a big city while living in a big home and can spend more time with their children and less time on household duties. They eat well, despite basically starving not many years ago, and have many choices when it comes to protein. And they can choose to send their children to private school, while many of their children even go study abroad. It's not a bad life, really, for $600/month.

And in the smaller cities in Vietnam, life's even cheaper.

UPDATE: Global oil prices have gone up and although the state subsidizes gas prices, they are still higher at the pump compared to before. Still, bus rides on the Saigon Bus are 3000 VND when you buy a 30-ticket book. That means for less than $5 you could ride the bus somewhere every day of the month. Think of it another way: You can ride the bus 7 times for a dollar. So if you take bus transportation into consideration when choosing a place to live you can save considerably.

UPDATE April 29, 2012! If you have a question about moving to Vietnam, working in Vietnam, or otherwise related to being a Vietnamese expat, please write your question on the forum instead. Link to forum: Living and Working in Vietnam

Read the rest of this article...

Hi Mimi,

You can always start out in a room-for-rent. This is much like a guesthouse. The alleys of Bui Vien in the backpacker area have them, as well as the quieter areas of Co Bac/Co Giang Streets across Tran Hung Dao. They should be $200/mo for a room, including utilities... it's like a hotel room. From there, you can look for longer term housing.

I will follow this up with a full post on finding housing in Vietnam soon.

Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks Tomo!

Looking forward to read your post on finding housing.

I can see that you do Drupal consulting. One of the reasons why we are going to Vietnam is to look for potential, talented (and cheap) web developers than those in Denmark. Any suggestions where to look? Do you maybe know someone?


Quan Phi (not verified)

Hi Mimi,
About the web developer, the quality is rather good and the price is reasonably low, as Vietnam's famous in outsourcing. If you want, I can introduce you to my friends which work in this field..

About the housing, I can suggest you one option: my grand-new mini hotel: htttp:// The room is fully furnished, clean and tidy; Facilities is new; the location is idea: in the center of Saigon, in the quiet and safety alley and the price is reasonable. Moreover, we're having promotion for Grand Opening and long-staying guest. Please contact me directly to have more detail.

Hope this will help,
Quan Phi,
Skype: quan1812
Yahoo: dongquan1812
Mobile: +84 126 468 7799.
Email: [email protected]


Hi Mimi,

Vietnam is a good source for software developers at many different levels of skill and salaries. The government of Vietnam strives to promote outsourcing to Vietnam as a way to really bring in money, as it isn't dependent on import costs like the other industries (manufacturing, textiles, etc.). One major problem with Vietnamese developers is language. I cover this more in my post about the challenges of outsourcing to Vietnam:

erica_v (not verified)

Hey, tomo.

I'm a single mom with a TEFL certification looking to stay in Vietnam for a few months, and possibly relocate. What are some, if any, issues I'd have being a single mother with a youngster?

Not to get too personal, but I'm the only parent listed on my son's birth certificate, so would I have any trouble traveling with him alone? I know in certain countries they get pretty paranoid about things like that and want verifiable permission from the "absent" parent to travel.

Also, if he were to attend school would it be likely that the best options were in bigger cities like HCMC and Hanoi?

Thanks for your insight,


Bruce (not verified)

Dear Erica,
I understand your concern, do not worry because I agree that with a TEFT you can basically teach in international schools. I can suggest a very reasonably priced place for your and your kid because I have been there for quite sometimes before I moved to Singapore for work. It is in Hanoi and not to exaggerate but it is exactly in the center of Hanoi. You might think that in Hanoi, everything is expensive. but if you know where to look, there are still places that are splendid in pricing and service. Contact me at [email protected] if you need rental service.

Yours sincerely



Dear Erica,

The TEFL certification will help you get a teaching job anywhere. I think being a single mother foreigner in Vietnam is not really common, although it might not be so different from other foreigners with kids here.

Regarding your son's birth certificate and the law, I really don't know. My guess is that if you've traveled to other countries with him, then Vietnam will be even less strict as they generally are (except when they're extremely strict - until you 'grease the wheels').

The bigger cities have many options for international schools. Keep in mind that a lot of the students at these schools are Vietnamese kids of rich parents. So outside of Saigon and Hanoi, there will be other international schools, but nowhere near the breadth of the two major poles.

Scotty (not verified)

I really enjoyed your blog. Of all the cost of living blogs for countries like Thailand, Phillipines and Cambodia this is the best no nonsense blog I have seen. I am an Americn expat and have been living in Panama since 1985. I came here for the same reasons people go to Vietnam the low cost of living. But since Panama uses the US currency I have founf that the cost of living is slowly being eaten away and am considereing moving to Asia. Iam a disabled veteren with a monthly income of $5700. Now if I can just talk my Panamanian wife into moving I think, thanks to your blog, I know where Id like to live... Scotty


I'm surprised to hear that your cost of living is being worsened due to Panama pegging with the US dollar, since the dollar has generally weakened against most of the world's currencies (Vietnam being a notable exception, which benefits Americans).

I can tell you that $5700 is still 10 times as much as a talented mid-level manager at a large corporation will make in Vietnam, 50 times as much as laborers in factories on the outskirts of Saigon. I'm not sure what exactly you get for your money in Panama, but you could live in a historic French villa with pool.... it's really hard to spend much money beyond the amount you can spent on overpriced rent here.

Scotty (not verified)

Hey Tomo I wrote to you awhile back saying Im thinking about relocating because of the rising cost of living in Panama. When I got here in 1985 housing was really expensive but they started building housing projects and I bought a small house without many amenities for $10K and my payments were $80.00 a month. Since I only had my military retirement to live on at the time this was a good deal. Well we have added on and improved the house since then and it is paid off.

But we are paying about $5.00 a gallon for gas and my food bill has gone through the roof and I help support my kids even though one is married and the other is in the University. I have already told my two university educated kids that in two years they are on their own because I plan on relocating.

Panama is building everywhere and you can still get deals on homes, good medical facilities and goods, great malls. All of which mean the cost of living is on the rise as well especailly food. Besides the adventure is going out of it for me and I always loved the beuty of Vietnam. I don't need to work (worked all my life don't intended to do it anymore) and now can afford to live at ease after all isn't that why we work and plan for retirement?

I was stationed at Vinh Long in the Delta, Phan Thiet on the coast and Lai Khe. But I did visit Da Lat once and liked what I saw, I like the mountains and cool temp. Hoping to make the move in a few years but still trying to convince my beautiful wife of 30 years to share the expierience with me.


If you liked the Mekong Delta then there are a handful of expats living in Can Tho (city) not far from Vinh Long, but that's about it. There are a handful of random expats scattered throughout the delta but it's not what I would recommend to someone without a specific purpose, who could be independent without an English-speaking expat support network.

Phan Thiet (more specifically Mui Ne) is a feasible option though. A number of Western, especially Russian, expats living in Mui Ne. I toured the area to see what real estate opportunities there remains, and there's still a lot, although the central areas have skyrocketed in value already.

Dalat is really nice.

Linh Nguyen (not verified)

Hi Scotty,if you and your wife decided to move to VN later, try to go to DaNang, VN to see if she and you interesting to live on the beach, it is beautiful there, you can google to see the location. I love Dalat too, I used to come there in the summers to stayed with my ant and my cousins, but not too much things for me to do in Dalat, I loved there weather there, it was cool all the times. In Danang My Khe Beach or Bac My An Beach you both can walk, run on the shore for exercising, hoop on to the small boat, they take you to snorkeling $5, eat $5 a day. you don't have to by car insurance or medical insurance like here in US. When I realy sick I went to the doctor, it cost me $10 to see a doctor, or I can pick up some medicine at the market. Holtel there $20 a night oceant front hahaha I loved it, Borrowed a motobike from friend or my relative I went around town, I had so much fun. I want to take my husband and my daughter there some day, so they can have some good experiences like i did. We talked about it, maybe we will go there in March or April next year. That was so cool that you was stationed at Vinh long, Delta, I heard lot a bout it, but I never been there, I passed by Phan Thiet coast each time I took the train to go from DaNang to SaiGon, or the other way around, it was so beautiful there. Oh, if you go,here some tips for you, the airline ticket more expensive in summer around June-Aught and VietNamese Newyear "Tet", there are about $1400 to $1600 round trips, other wide it is around $1000$1200 round trips. If you go to DaNang, book the flight direct there, so you dont have to pay for another small fight from SaiGon to DaNang. Good luck to you and hope you find a good place for you and your wife in the years coming.

Alfaro Luis Alfredo (not verified)


I very impressed to read in your blog, honestly there are very very important questions and comments, thanks to work hard on that.

As others, I have quiet similar questions, basically I would like to know about this:

1. I am planning to get a Job in Vietnam, recently I have just completed a MBA from South Korea University, in Korea for example it is normal to get a salary around $3,000 - $4,000 USD but according with some experience from friends, and specially my girlfriend who is Vietnamese, they suggest different. My background is related with Accounting, Auditing and Finance and basically I feel confuse about how much should I consider for any bid related with my professional study, I do also very expertise working with over 6 years.

2. Living in the biggest cities such Saigon or Hanoi, is it normal to ask for a salary of $2,500 USD per month? , should I ask more? Should I ask less?

3. How about the facilities like: housing, insurance, in case of those options were offered by the employer, if it is, how much should I ask considering my background, I would like to know an approximation of that.




Dear Luis,

The job market for you in Vietnam will be very different compared to the market in South Korea, after you receive an MBA from a school there. In Vietnam, it won't matter much what school you graduated from and maybe not even what degree. If you apply to work for a Korean company (Koreans are doing a lot of business in Vietnam so it's quite possible) then the head of HR might recognize your school, otherwise it won't matter if you went to a top school or mediocre one.

Currently, there is a trend for Vietnamese people to get MBAs at the increasing number of business schools opening in Saigon with affiliations with foreign institutions. The quality may not be the same, but companies would like to be able to hire more Vietnamese managers and you will be in competition with them. The government is also forcing this kind of change to happen through some hasty policies, which will make it even harder for companies to hire you over a Vietnamese. You can compete by having real work experience in a foreign company. Your asking salary is certainly achievable, if you work for a foreign company which needs your specific experience and they see you are expatriating to Vietnam from another country. Your problem will be that you don't receive many job offers.

Benefits like housing and insurance may or may not be covered by your employer. Insurance generally is, although the Vietnamese national health insurance is not worth what you will pay into it as hospitals consider it as a second or lower class form of payment. But housing can be much cheaper if you take responsibility for it yourself. If you have a Vietnamese girlfriend it should be easy to find cheap housing.

micheal (not verified)

Hi Tomo,

I am a pharmaceutical importer, and I go to Vietnam for business. Is it possible that vietnamese pharmaceutical manufacturers such as glomed, DHG, increase their prices when it comes to people who want to export pharmaceuticals from there companies? What I mean is that is their prices usually different from what the will sell to locals on a wholesale price?

Thank you for your help.


In Vietnam, like much of the world, you will be charged what the seller thinks you can pay. It's possible they will charge you more than for a local company. You could consider opening a representative office in Vietnam and have it operated by local Vietnamese to get a better price, if that's the case.

JWest Hardin (not verified)

Hi all, I am a Canadian novelist, travel blogger and my wife and I produce write and photograph content for a youtube channel. I would very much like to spend six months in Vietnam to write, inspire and entertain when I leave my current perch in Bangkok Thailand. I like to stay in one place for the full six months I visit a country, I like to get to know the neighbors. I am urban oriented, I need ADSL , prefer to live in apartment/condo as opposed to house ( for security etc) We are big old world charm and tropical life style. Do you have any suggestions for the south of Vietnam where I can get amenities, convieniance mixed with culture and nice people on a budget of $2500 or less p/m.

Plus...please tell me about the tourist visa situation and the extensions I need to stay the six months.

My blog address is
email [email protected] youtube


In Vietnam $2500 is a rather large sum of money considering it's 25 times as much as many people make per month. ADSL is available throughout the country so don't worry about that. You may also want to get 3G for your phone or as a USB dongle. Apartments are far less common than houses. If you only plan to stay in Vietnam a short while, then you will probably go for a furnished house or serviced apartment. Living in an apartment means you will most likely not get to know your neighbors, and your neighbors will likely be other foreigners.

The main city in the south would be Saigon, of course. By far it is the biggest city with the most going on. If you would like to live on the beach, then either Nha Trang or Mui Ne. If you would like a cooler climate in the highlands, then Da Lat.

For 6 months, you can get a 3 month tourist visa and renew it once. You can renew without leaving the country and any travel agent can arrange it for you.

Afu (not verified)

Need help.... i got job offer from Vietnam at ho chi minh, and they give arround 1500USD, now i am stay here with my wife in Indonesia, what i am wanna ask, is it 1500$ is enough to live there ? and is it possible i bring my wife and my son together ? afraid do a wrong step..... thx

Rajesh (not verified)

Hi I am planning to shift to Bà Triệu, Hanoi, Vietnam in January 2012. I am looking an single bedroom apartment around this area for a cheaper price around 300 USD. Is it possible to find such an apartment? Please give me some ideas in finding such an apartment. thanks


Since this blog is SAIGONist, I can't say so much definitively about Hanoi. ;)

You should be able to find a "room for rent", similar to a hotel room, with similar service like housekeeping, from $200/month and up. Using that as a base, you can explore 'apartments', in small buildings. More expensive would be serviced apartments for foreigners.

Prabu (not verified)

Dear tomo,
The information in this post is very good. Actually I am planning shift to Vietnam in the beginning of Jan 2012. I got an offer in an university in Hanoi. Please give me some ideas about the cost of living in Hanoi. Which place is better to look for a house for rent? I live a mediocre life. I will be staying alone. Which is a better option? to share a house with someone or lookin for an individual house furnished? how much does it cost? Is there any possibility getting any Indian food?
Please give your comments.


Hi Prabu,
The cost of living in Hanoi is very similar to the cost of living in Saigon. They are the two large cities of Vietnam. Although Saigon is the economic center of Vietnam, there is still a large population and many wealthy individuals in Hanoi.

It's possible to share a house with other foreigners or rent a furnished room in a houuse (room for rent), which is cheaper than even a cheap hotel.

There should be many Indian restaurants since there are many Indians living in both cities in Vietnam.

wong peter (not verified)

Hello tomo, greetings from singapore,
i would like to semi -retired in vietnam, will i be able upkeep myself with a budget of US $ 1500/- a month, that must include rent for my room/apt etc, food, transportation etc. i do not intend to seek work but would like to do volunteer work for a charity home , maybe to teach english or anything that they may want me to do, just to be active. Thank you and like to hear your views soon. god bless always


wong peter (not verified)

Hello tomo, greetings from singapore,
i would like to semi -retired in vietnam, will i be able upkeep myself with a budget of US $ 1500/- a month, that must include rent for my room/apt etc, food, transportation etc. i do not intend to seek work but would like to do volunteer work for a charity home , maybe to teach english or anything that they may want me to do, just to be active. Thank you and like to hear your views soon. god bless always


wong peter (not verified)

Hello tomo, greetings from singapore,
i would like to semi -retired in vietnam, will i be able upkeep myself with a budget of US $ 1500/- a month, that must include rent for my room/apt etc, food, transportation etc. i do not intend to seek work but would like to do volunteer work for a charity home , maybe to teach english or anything that they may want me to do, just to be active. Thank you and like to hear your views soon. god bless always


wong peter (not verified)

Hello tomo, greetings from singapore,
i would like to semi -retired in vietnam, will i be able upkeep myself with a budget of US $ 1500/- a month, that must include rent for my room/apt etc, food, transportation etc. i do not intend to seek work but would like to do volunteer work for a charity home , maybe to teach english or anything that they may want me to do, just to be active. Thank you and like to hear your views soon. god bless always


wong peter (not verified)

Hello tomo, greetings from singapore,
i would like to semi -retired in vietnam, will i be able upkeep myself with a budget of US $ 1500/- a month, that must include rent for my room/apt etc, food, transportation etc. i do not intend to seek work but would like to do volunteer work for a charity home , maybe to teach english or anything that they may want me to do, just to be active. Thank you and like to hear your views soon. god bless always


Bruce (not verified)

Dear Peter,
My name is Bruce and I know a place that is perfect for you. I used to stay there before I get back to Singapore. The place is in Hanoi, in geographically speaking in the centre of Hanoi, with the rent of $1000 with aircon and free internet. I really like the place because the owner has unique design in the house, more like an European architecture Tuscan. And he is an English teacher so I guess that will help a lot in terms of networking. Please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] I am currently in Singapore and will head back to Vietnam soon. This is the website of the place

God Bless,


Bruce (not verified)

Dear Peter,
My name is Bruce and I know a place that is perfect for you. I used to stay there before I get back to Singapore. The place is in Hanoi, in geographically speaking in the centre of Hanoi, with the rent of $1000 with aircon and free internet. I really like the place because the owner has unique design in the house, more like an European architecture Tuscan. And he is an English teacher so I guess that will help a lot in terms of networking. Please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] I am currently in Singapore and will head back to Vietnam soon.

God Bless,


Prabu (not verified)

Thanks for the information. I have one last question. I am offered a package of 5000 US dollars. What is the exact amount tax i will be paying for this salary? I went to through different articles. But I am bit confused about the tax calculations. Please help me out in this. Thanks



I think your employer will pay your income tax for you. But at 5000 USD per month, you will be at the highest tax bracket.

Ivan (not verified)

I would like to know about the cost of living in rural VietNam. ...for a monthly budget of about 1600 Us dollars



You can assume that you can get everything I described that costs $600 in Saigon for less. Food, labor, housing should all be cheaper in rural Vietnam than in the major cities. I'm not sure how you can even spend $1600 US in Vietnam if you're living in the countryside as your entertainment options will be limited, and you won't be doing much expensive shopping. You can consider buying a house for your budget for a year.

Samantha (not verified)

Thanks for the great article, was exactly the information I was looking for.

I'm hoping to teach English in Vietnam in the future (after completing a teaching degree in Australia & getting a TESOL certificate). My partner's parents were both born in Vietnam but now live in Australia. Do you believe this would entitle my partner to dual citizenship? I haven't been able to find much on the subject online.

I hear so many mixed reviews of the country - the people are said to be very hospitable & friendly yet I've read that they really make fun of foreigners that try to speak the language. I hear it described as a great place to live by some, then others talk of theft, mugging, corruption, poor standards of living... It's hard to know what to believe.

Right now I'm just trying to work out if it really is a good place to spend 12 months teaching English. I'm looking for a new experience, but a safe and relatively comfortable one :)

Callie (not verified)

I think that your partner would have to be born in Vietnam to get dual citizenship. That said, as a traveler to Vietnam for 10 years, I volunteer for a nonprofit and meet all kinds of people. They are NOT hostile.
The worst behavior I've seen is out on the streets, vendors will try to give you an "american" price and you should just forget trying to get the same price as the avg vietnamese citizen on the street, they know you can pay and in the end, you will. I just rationalize that they need the money WAY MORE than I do. Most places don't have price tags like the states do so the price is basically up to the seller but everything is super cheap anyway.
I have hard of rates as high as $20/hr just for tutoring English at a University in Hanoi. The Vietnamese laugh at tourists who wear their backpacks on the front, but when you think about it, it's pretty insulting to have people come into your country with an unwavering distrust to think they can't step outside their hotel without getting mugged. Not saying keep your hundreds in there but just for the isn't necessary to do that. Keep a money belt or fanny pack.
Also, the Vietnamese people are the most warm and hospitable I have ever met. Families in the worst of poverty make huge meals and insist on feeding us every time we visit. I have made many, many friends with children and adults alike. From my experience, they LOVE it when I try to speak the language. From playing with kids, I've picked up counting up to 30 and when I count out loud in public I tend to draw a crowd of locals smiling in delight as they listen to a blonde foreigner loudly rattling off numbers (i'm sure mixing up a few occasionally as well). I've never felt like I was being made fun of, they love foreigners over there. There is a lot of poverty so a lot of people there do live in poor standards, think one bedroom house with a family of 6-10 all sharing. Hotels are average to 5 star, depending on what type of accommodations you seek. We tend to just find an average one, a luxury hotel isn't really practical when you step out onto a street with starving people. I nor anybody i know have never experienced mugging or theft of any kind, but we also did not make show of anything we had or bring anything of value (leave the diamond ring at the hotel or home). Locals are VERY helpful, I have had some help me haggle, figure out numbers, make conversation to practice their English, guide me in the right direction when I get lost (which is very frequently). Be polite, they will be polite back, just like in America. Hope this helps and enjoy your stay overseas!


Great to hear your questions.

While your partner is technically "VIet Kieu" by virtue of being a child of former Vietnamese citizens, it's impractical for your partner to actually get dual citizenship. What he can do is get a visa exemption for 5 years which makes it easier to stay in Vietnam, but without all the same rights as a Vietnamese citizen.

As for Vietnamese people making fun of foreigners for speaking Vietnamese, it's harmless. But it's true, the better you speak, the higher their expectations. At first, it will be very hard to make yourself understood.

Mugging is not an everyday thing. Corruption is always there, like the air. How you take this information depends on who is telling it, but the best way to know is just to come and see for yourself. Vietnam will be a developing country for quite some more time.

Vietnam is full of teaching jobs and not enough qualified teachers to fill them. Vietnamese people are willing to shell out so much of their earnings to educate their children. This makes Vietnam an ideal location for people from English-speaking countries who have an interest in teaching.

Thao (not verified)

I'll be travelling to VN this December and stay there for about 6 weeks. How much should I bring? I don't have to worry about hotel and taxi expenses. And I don't drink or party


Not paying for hotel will reduce your main costs. I assume that you are Vietnamese and can stay with some family.

Bring $10-$15 per day for food and drinks (you don't drink, but still you will want coffee or sinh to or other refreshments throughout the day, and you could also spend just $5 on food if you want) and anything else is discretionary.

Of course, you should have some emergency cash.

Anonymous (not verified)


Would like to know about mobile internet.

I bought a pre paid card call mobi when i am in vietnam for a week.

To use the internet, i almost have to top up 50,000 vnd or more per day.

Is there any alternative or cheaper teleco?

Many thanks.


Yes, you can get prepaid amounts of 3G mobile internet from 8000 VND to more than 200000 VND. With MobiFone, there are two speeds of 3G, I think 3.6 Mbps and 7.2 Mbps. You can pay by the day, by the week, and by the month, and by how many megabytes you plan to download. If you plan around 10 megs a day then get the 350 MB per month package. You can order the service via SMS or by going to MobiFone's office/sales center. This is all for pre-paid. Since you're visiting for a short time, then you can do pre-paid, weekly. If you go over the quota, then you pay per 10 kb, and the rate is cheaper than without any plan.

Anonymous (not verified)


I enjoy reading your post on living in vietnam. I am singaporean and would like to start a bubble tea (boba) business in HCM with capital of USD 30,000.

Please advice:
1. Typically how much expenditure once spend on food (self cook) and rental (studio)
2. How much is shop rental in HCM.
3. How much is typically a bubble tea cost?

Many thanks


This is going to turn into a post on doing business in Vietnam soon.

Bubble tea (Vietnamese tra sua tran chau) is quite popular in Vietnam with well-known chains such as Alo Tra and -18c. There are also a lot of really simple stands selling it in their neighborhood, and these probably only take hundreds of dollars to set up.

Vietnamese food ingredients are cheap, international foods are more expensive.

Rent varies greatly depending on location. Alo Tra has tons of locations in cheap places. Other brands may choose to be located in very expensive prime locations inside the food courts of new department stores.

Bubble tea itself can cost from 7000 VND to 20000 or more.

Anonymous (not verified)


For singaporean like me with knowledge of IT such as hardware and web development, how can i start a business?

Do i need to register a business? If yes, do i need local to be owner?


There are many Singaporeans doing business in Vietnam. The types of business range from food and beverage, retail, real estate, marketing, and of course software and IT.

Foreigners can open a company in Vietnam, but there are certain restrictions on industry. Fortunately, information technology is an industry which Vietnam's government wants to promote and they will let you freely open up such a company here. Yes, you need to register the business to be 100% legal. You don't need to be local to own it. If you have a local partner, then it's much easier to open a business here because there are fewer requirements.

For registering the company, there are many services which specialize in this. You can and should talk to a lawyer who can take care of this for you. It might cost a few hundred dollars and take a few weeks.

David (not verified)

Cost of living in Vietnam varies on what type of accomodation you want to live in and the type of food. You can rent a 1 bed room apartment slightly out of the city centre for 200-300USD/month. You can go to the supermarkets and buy food to eat for same amount. A normal scooter cost say 1,000 USD to buy and petrol money is dirt cheap like 50USD/month if you dont do a lot of driving. So all in all anyone on a budget of 1,000USD/month is comfortable living a moderate life style.
However if you go out and hang around all the main cafe/restaurants in Saigon then the cost could go up by a huge amount. For example in some places beers are almost as expensive as in the west. Restaurants too... so if you go out say 2 nights a week with 2 dinners and 4 drinks in a fairly fashionable/western type place that could easily add up to at least 50-100USD/month.


True that. Thanks for leaving a comment David.

Many room-for-rent places in the backpacker area (especially on Co Giang and Co Bac) are $200/mo or less.

Cooking at home is cheap and healthy. You can pay even less than supermarkets by going to local wet markets.

I bought a brand new Honda motorbike for around $800. If you have a day job and it's far, you can consider taking the bus (cheaper than gas).

Going out to Western restaurants is more expensive with mains starting in the $2.50 to $5 range, and up to $10 for the more expensive places.

The London Knowledge (not verified)

Hi tomo
great info here. thinking about stopping by on the way to Cambodia in November, any advice where to head for
will be coming from China, not thought how just yet, may even walk across the border ! lol

anyway any advice would be grealy appreciated


Travel in Vietnam from North to South:
Sapa by train, Hanoi staying in the Old Quarter, fly to Hue, train to Da Nang and taxi to Hoi An, down to Nha Trang, maybe Mui Ne, train to Saigon, and maybe a Mekong Delta tour.

CarlyD (not verified)

About how much does all that travel cost?

Anonymous (not verified)

Most of you will never be able to LIVE in Vietnam legally. You can VISIT here LEGALLY for a maximum of 3 months and after that you can extend your visa only 2 times before you must exit the country on a "visa run". That I know of, there are only 2 ways that a non national can live here legally. 1. Mary a national. 2. Any kind of work contract that you can use to obtain a work permit which must also be accompanied by a temporary residency card. Now...if you don't mind paying bribes and living a somewhat corrupt lifestlye as far as obtaining work permits, extensions, "visa runs" etc.., this is the place for you. Make no mistake about it...this is a CHEAP place to live, retire, etc...but you must become accustomed to paying bribes and accepting corruption as well as forgetting about ethics and morals if you plan to be here on extended stay. In this country...CASH IS talks and can get you anything you want no matter what it is. I have lived here for more than 2 years legally. I am married to a national and a great gal she is. I decided it was best for my life because I don't have to live corrupted, immoral and unethical. To each his or her own and I wish you all the best in your Vietnam adventures.

Binh Trinh (not verified)

Cheap place to live?? Give me a break! The price of 1kg (~2 lbs) of raw beef sold here in Vietnam is as high as in North America. A family of 4 go to a regular restaurant (not high end) and the bill will cost you easily 40 USD straight ahead. By the way, why don't you get married to a White gal because we Vietnamese look down on the Viet girls who get married to foreigners.


You're right about a lot of things. Cash is king, don't expect to use credit cards daily. Bribery and corruption are much more commonplace than in developed countries. You can minimize paying bribes by having a driver's license and following the law to the letter, and demanding a real traffic violation ticket if stopped by the police. Often times, they'll just let you go with a warning rather than write you a ticket as they were expecting to get a bribe.

Making a visa run is just a ritual for many who don't have a proper work permit. If you have a real job (teaching English may or may not count) then you should have a work permit.

Another route is to properly open a business.

And if you're a Viet Kieu, there is the Overseas Vietnamese visa exemption for 5 years, but you will still do visa runs from time to time.

bilal (not verified)

dear frnd,
hope all is well.. as the grace of GOD.

please explain in deep details to me about living in vietnam. im from Pakistan and i have done mba in textiles.

i want to settle there in vietnam with my family. i can bring vnd 240,000,000 please tell me what can i do with this amount? i dont know whether it is a big amount or no but pls explain my status there with this amount?

can i buy home there? can i do business there? what kind of job i can get there? hows the living in there for me as a Pakistani & family not working?


note:- pls contact me on my email directly on [email protected] it will be so nice of you, thanks.


Hi Bilal,

Textiles is a big industry in Vietnam. If you know what you're doing, you can make good money. I have some friends who have recently started exporting Vietnamese-manufactured textiles to the US. 240M VND is a considerable sum and more than most foreigners have when coming here. However, it will be difficult to buy a house as a foreigner due to laws. I wouldn't recommend spending it all on a house, although you could buy a house somewhere for less than 240 million.

There is a large South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan) community in Vietnam. I would suggest coming here and getting in contact, either through business associations, mosques, or just eating in one of the many restaurants in the Pham Ngu Lao area or around District 1.

Anonymous (not verified)

Hi, please share more of your opinion
240m VND= 12,000USD can buy a house in vn, is this a realistic number? i have searched, most of the average small in D7, D10 with 3 bed rooms, no A/C, not a very good neighbor, 3meters X 15 meters is in 1.5 to 2 billion VND. any comments.


If you want a fully furnished 3-bedroom home in Western style, with a/c and other major appliances, you will already spend several thousand dollars (at least $2000). You should consider the cost of a single room air conditioner being a few hundred dollars, so how many rooms would you want to have a/c?

For $12,000USD you would be at the edge of the city or in another city in a province if you want a large house.

If you are on a budget, then you should consider just renting a house or Vietnamese-style apartment, buy your own furniture and decide where you need an a/c unit.

teegee2814 (not verified)

i want to know what is the avg price to own a home in vn? 2-3 bedrooms in hcm?


As a foreigner, owning a home in Vietnam is difficult. If you marry a Vietnamese, then it's easy.

Prices even within Ho Chi Minh City vary greatly. It depends on the location (which district, how close to the city center) and quality. One can buy an apartment in the outer districts of HCMC with two bedrooms for a few hundred million VND, less than 1 billion VND. One billion VND is about $50,000. Then there are houses in the city center which cost more than $300,000. There is a housing bubble in Vietnam's major cities that has been going on for a few years without completely popping yet. Right now, condo sellers are having a hard time finding buyers at the prices they want to sell and banks don't want to lend money for housing mortgages.

James (not verified)

Thank you for the excellent information.  As a retired newspaper columnist and cultural consultant who also teaches Business English, I think Viet Nam offers a world of opportunities to learn, contribute, and live a meaningful life.  My retirement has arrived (although I still plan on being very active) and you have excited my interest.  Why not relocate?  Of course, with my modest retirement income (only about $1,200 US per month) I'm concerned about being able to live as well as the spoiled American I am.  May I ask what your thoughts are on this?Again, thank you, and the other posters, for the great input. Kindest Regards,Jim


Hi Jim,
There are a number of American retirees who live in Vietnam, many who were here back during the "American War". Some get a pension from a company on top of whatever social security the US still provides. There are many reasons to spend your retirement here (many of my relatives are also considering it). If you have a house in the US that's already paid for, then you'll have to consider selling it (bad time to sell real estate though) or renting it out. Still, rent in Vietnam can be cheaper than what you'd pay on taxes or condo fees on a home in America.

There's a huge demand for English teachers in Vietnam's cities. Teaching Business English is even better. I wrote a bit on what work people do here:

I'm not sure what your definition of spoiled American but I'd say most Americans live a spoiled life here.

jason (not verified)

I just came here for a week and i am seriously thinking of ways to end my life in the USA and move here. its so much better here.

Cool! Hope you do. If you have any specific skills you're trying to find a job for, give a holler and maybe someone around here can make a connection.
Paula Pond (not verified)

How safe would it be for a single US female to live in vietnam. 


Very safe.  It's much safer than most countries for a single female, and there are many single foreign females enjoying living here.  The main crime you may experience is a phone thief.  Just refrain from gabbing on your mobile while standing in the street and not paying attention.


My wife's been robbed and my mother's been mugged at knife point.  We won't go out at night anymore and had to hire a car and driver.  Yes, it's safer than Manila and Cape Town, but that's not saying much.

Expect to get ripped off for small amounts daily, to be harassed by taxi drivers, and to be cheated by police at some point.  I can guarantee you will lose a phone and your purse will be snatched at least once (probably by a guy on a scooter) and it's a 50% chance your home will be broken into.

It's not safer than most countries, just most developing countries...


My definition of safe: not dying, not going to the hospital, not bleeding.

Sorry to hear that somebody you know was threatened physically.  In the United States, it most certainly would have been at gunpoint.

In fact, there is little gun-related crime here compared to both developing and developed countries.  It's hard to get a gun.  There aren't carjackers everywhere.  No drive-bys.  No sectarian / separatist terrorism incidents.  No random bombings of embassies or world trade centers.


If you seriously are afraid to go out at night and seriously had to hire a car and driver for it, then you are just a paranoid fool.  

And if you really believe that there's anything near a 50% chance of your home getting broken into then you're either a liar or an idiot.  Please stop with the hyperbole.

Hauns (not verified)

WOW now that's telling the truth. i have never been there but i am looking at coming out there and seeing if i like it myself. do you have any idea on the price of farm land? i am looking at starting a hog farm if i like Vietnam because i want to semi retire in a Asian country. i had planned on the Philippines but i have changed my mind.

Quan Phi (not verified)

Hi Hauns,
About buying property (farm land ) in Vietnam for foreigners, there is no rule inform about this. However, as my knowledge, there is a law permitting the foreigners which permanently staying, long-working, and investing have right to buy house, rent house, rent property (farm land).

If you intend to live in downtown of Saigon, Vietnam, I can give you a suggestion for long staying room for rent, that is Bao Ngoc hotel

Glad if you have chance to live in Vietnam.

Quan Phi
Bao Ngoc hotel


I think the price of farm land is much cheaper than any other land because it's "zoned" for farming, and it's not allowed to be developed for housing. But I'm not sure how a foreigner can buy farm land. I have heard of foreigners setting up companies to do small scale agricultural business though. In the highlands of southern Vietnam, all sorts of crops can be grown. Otherwise, there is the Mekong Delta. Good luck.

travis (not verified)

i think i'm gonna run away and come live there. sounds awesome.

3forcomlink (not verified)

Cost of live in Vietnam is very cheap, if Vietnam is where you not yet come, now please you come with us, at here you will have chances to discover new culture, ways of thinking, history, custom and life style. if you need help about house for rent, you can contact us at add : Living in Vietnam
We will help you. Thanks,

Leah (not verified)

I would like to move back to VN with my family, I have been in us since 1981, and I need to find work in the IT field if I move back home, what is the montly rent for a family of 4 people?

Quan Phi (not verified)

Hi Leah,
You have not mentioned which exact place/city you're going to move, If you are going to long staying in Saigon, Vietnam, you can consider our mini hotel. The price for double room is from 540-600usd/month. We have promotion in Grand Opening month and promotion for long staying guests. Your family can rent 2 or 3 rooms. Please check our website: or contact us directly for good rate.

About the IT job in VN, IT field in Vietnam are strongly developing, so you can confidence that you will have a job in Vietnam with good salary (compare with average salary in Vietnam, not your country)

Hope this help you,
Quan Phi
Bao Ngoc Hotel.

Bruce (not verified)

Dear Leah,
I am currently staying in Hanoi for a rental price of $1200 per month, the place is exactly in the centre of Hanoi and I am not exaggerating. They offer a room with Tuscan design for families as well. The host is extremely helpful and kind family. I really want to help you. Please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected]
This is the website
Hope this helps :D



IT is a major industry in Vietnam. I will write more about Vietnamese IT in the future. You can consider opening an IT shop here if you have the proper experience. Rent depends on what district of Ho Chi Minh City, how many square meters, furnished or unfurnished, and whether you pay the local or foreigner price. If you're Vietnamese, you should try not to pay any "foreigner tax". If you've moving here with your family, you should not rent a furnished place for a long time because buying furniture and appliances will be an investment that pays for itself in just a few months. You should consider selling furniture and large appliances instead of shipping them to Vietnam, when it's cheap to buy that stuff here.

Anonymous (not verified)

am planning to arrival to Vietnam on 15-07-2011.
I have a Visit Visa in my Hand.
So could you please provide a cheap house for rent.

Ali (not verified)

Hi dear

I'm 25 and unfortunately living in I.R.Iran. I leaving here because of culture, low income and having no relation with US and other countries. here, I worked in railway station and could save 15000$. Now, I'd like to come to vietnam and study or launch a bussines. What's your recommand?

yours sincerely   


What would you want to study?


I would recommend saving a little more money in order to start a business, and you will probably need a partner.

clarence (not verified)

Hello, I am thinking about moving to Vietnam maybe next year, I live in the Philippines right now, and I am retired US Navy vet, I live pretty good here but I want to live there because of the culture, I kind of a globetrotter in training, I Think I would love it there since I am already use to the climate and Asian culture, where do you recommend I live, I have a budget of $1300 per month give or take, by the time I decide to move I will have money saved, but I also have my own insurance and do they have any US military bases over there. Thank you and God Bless


Vietnam is quite different from the Phils. To me, Vietnam is a lot more culturally Asian than Filipinos. There is no Clark in Vietnam, and the country is not primarily a sex tourism destination. While VN and the US are no longer enemies, I don't think they are going to allow the US to have military bases here. But there is also little chance of war or terrorist groups. $1300 is plenty.

JAy (not verified)

Hi Tomo,

I have just arrived in HCMC and have a question about finding a place for $200 a month. Could you send me an email?




Jay, I don't have any way to email you..

3forcomlink (not verified)

I am Peter and come from US . Now, I am living and working in Viet Nam, I hve lived in Viet Nam for 5 year. I feel interesting when Living in Vietnam. Cost of living in Viet Nam is very cheap if you do not belive, Please come to us: Living in Vietnam


Peter, where are you really from? You're definitely not from the US.

3forcomlink (not verified)

I am Peter and come from US . Now, I am living and working in Viet Nam, I hve lived in Viet Nam for 5 year. I feel interesting when Living in Vietnam. Cost of living in Viet Nam is very cheap if you do not belive, Please come to us

bluekite2000 (not verified)

I used to live in Saigon but now I m back in the States.
I dont know how it costs you so little. A beer at a club is 5usd already and its hard not to go out every nite.
By the way my house in D1 is for rent. The link is here Email me [email protected] if you are interested


Hey, thanks for stopping by. I guess you are a friend of Kevin. The place looks nice for a storefront, but this blog isn't quite that advanced yet. ;) I don't club much and when I do we usually buy the obligatory bottles of liquor rather than beer, although beers at expat bars are around 30-50k. But that scene is such a small slice of Vietnam.

bluekite2000 (not verified)

hey i m back in saigon now. if you are free for coffee let me know. i was at barcamp a few months ago presenting on an iphone app but i dont think we met.

gregschlom (not verified)

Hey Tomo,

I just saw your comment on Hacker News ( Not many HNers in Saigon...

What about a coffee or a drink next week?



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