Expat Guide to Vietnam


Living expenses in Vietnam will differ depending on an individual’s lifestyle. Many expats manage to enjoy a good lifestyle without spending a fortune. The largest dents in an expat’s monthly budget will be in the areas of housing, schooling and western foodstuffs. Travel, phone and Internet costs remain low.

Like most countries, Vietnam has is fair share of temptations for an expat’s wallet. Being in Asia, there are lots of electronic gadgets that expats can spend their hard earned salary on. However, with a little financial shrewdness it is easy to live comfortably and save.

When shopping in Vietnam, expats will notice that different streets sell similar goods, for example there will be a “shoe street,” followed by a “stuffed toys street” and a “TV and audio visual street”. This system comes from ancient Vietnam when traders would set up their businesses close to their competition in order to cluster all similar services in one area. Today, it means that shoppers are able to go to one area for all their shopping and they can compare prices easily and bargain knowledgeably. There are also numerous malls and shopping plazas constantly being built or added to in the larger cities.
Cost of accommodation in Vietnam
The majority of expats moving to Vietnam do so on a short-term basis and therefore opt to rent property rather than buy. The cost of rent will vary depending on the standard of housing a person requires as well as the location of a property.

On the other hand, expats will find more and more modern apartment complexes are being built in Vietnam’s bustling cities and as a result there are more luxury accommodation options available to them. These condominiums and apartments come equipped with a range of facilities such as gyms, laundries and swimming pools. Naturally, rental prices are higher. 

As a rule of thumb, housing closer to the city centre comes at a premium and housing in outlying suburbs is more affordable.
Cost of transport in Vietnam
There are plenty of cost-effective ways to get around Vietnam. Expats can feel free to negotiate on taxi or motorcycle taxi fares in Vietnam. 

Most expats do not drive in Vietnam due to the chaotic conditions on the city streets. Those that do wish to have a private vehicle will hire a driver with knowledge of the local roads. 
Cost of food and eating out in Vietnam
Vietnam is a food lover’s paradise. Not only are there many Western restaurants to choose from, but there are also a huge range of great local restaurants, food stalls and street vendors that cook up amazing fare while the customer waits.

Sticking to Western food and Western restaurants will burn a hole in an expat’s wallet as many of the food items or ingredients are imported and the government levies high taxes on these goods. Eating Vietnamese food is cheap, tasty and definitely something to write home. 

Fruit and vegetables from supermarkets are also a lot more expensive than those bought in the marketplace.
Cost of electrical goods in Vietnam
Expats will find cheap electrical goods, particularly in the markets. However, many of these are inferior copies made in China.

Shopping at department stores and malls is one way to ensure that items are genuine and come with some sort of manufacturer’s guarantee; unfortunately this also means paying a lot more than one would expect to pay in the region, especially with Bangkok a cheap flight away.
Cost of living in Vietnam chart (Based on Ho Chi Minh City, 2015)(Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider and the table below is based on average prices)

Furnished two bedroom houseVND 12,000,000
Unfurnished two bedroom houseVND 10,000,000
Furnished two bedroom apartmentVND 14,000,000
Unfurnished two bedroom apartmentVND 10,000,000
Milk (1 litre)VND 30,000
Dozen eggsVND 25,000
Loaf of white breadVND 26,000
Pack of chicken breasts (1kg)VND 80,000
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)VND 31,200
Eating out
Big Mac MealVND 87,000
CappuccinoVND 50,000
Local beerVND 20,000
Three course meal at a mid-range restaurantVND 160,000
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile) VND 1,700
Internet (Uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month) VND 350,000
Electricity (average per month for standard household)VND 800,000
Hourly rate for domestic cleanerVND 60,000
Transport and driving
City centre bus fareVND 12,000
Taxi (rate per km)VND 7,000
Petrol (per litre) VND 22,000

 (According to ExpatArrivals)You might want to seeResidential Areas in Ho Chi Minh City