Many of my friends back in America have asked: how much does it cost to live in Ho Chi Minh City?
The short answer: my total living costs are lower than my former monthly rent dues in San Francisco.
Aside from the cost, we believe Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) offers more opportunity, value, and quality of life than most other cities in the world for a young local, online or offline entrepreneur, or expat.
To make it easier for everyone, we’ve put tallied up our own costs to show the basics about the cost of living and quality of life expectations in Ho Chi Minh City. I know of other expats spending less than $400 a month and others spending more than $4000. It depends on your needs and wants. You might find on other older blogs that say their costs are lower than what we have here, but prices since 2012 or 2013 have risen considerably.
For an “average” expat in Vietnam, I would consider these to be reasonable average monthly expenses in Ho Chi Minh City. You can definitely go lower or higher.
Misc. Expenses (phone plan, events, random stuff at Circle K): $50
I live in a local Vietnamese neighborhood in District 3. There are very few foreigners around. The house is a tall and narrow building. The design and furniture inside are modern. The total rent is $1200 including all expenses and a part-time maid. I live in one room and Airbnb the other rooms to help cover costs. Without Airbnb, my individual rent for one bedroom would be $300.
If you want to live in a studio or one bedroom in a Western style high-rise in a central location, you can expect to pay at least $500 for just the rent.
I eat breakfast at home. Lunch and dinner are always at restaurants. An average meal at a restaurant or cafe in Ho Chi Minh City will set you back anywhere from $2 to $8. $1 meals can be found in Ho Chi Minh City, but are getting less common unless you go for street food. Prices are moving a bit higher and it’s not uncommon to have a dinner than is $10+.
I use Chopp.vn for breakfast grocery and bulk home supplies delivery (CP0B6K for 40,000 VND off your first order).
Coffee and Drinks
A daily juice, coffee, craft beer or cocktail will average anywhere from $1.50 to $10. I’ve found drink prices to be in line with Western prices here, especially if you find yourself at cafes with great WiFi and working space. Coffee culture in Vietnam is on another level compared to other countries, so be prepared to spend decent Western-level prices in this category if you enjoy your daily cup of caffeine.
I use UberMOTO or GrabBike 90% of the time to get around. The rest of the time I use UberX.
Over 3 months, I spent $229 on 216 rides. Each ride cost an average of $1.06.
If you’re living in Vietnam long-term, it’s probably worth investing in your own bike to bring down costs. If you’re living in Vietnam for less than 6 months, it will make more sense to use Uber or Grab to get around. The cost of a rental and petrol is $80 a month. For $800-$1200 you can get a new Honda that will cost you five dollars to fill up once or twice a week.
Even though I’m living in Ho Chi Minh City indefinitely, I chose not to get a bike. For me, it’s convenient to get around the city without having to think about bike maintenance, parking, and gas.
I spend $9 a month on my phone plan, $20-$30 for activities like boat rides along the Saigon River and cover charges at bars, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Cost of living summary
I didn’t arrive in Vietnam with a budget, though I can already find some areas to cut costs. Even with an accommodation bill of $300 and transit expenses of $80, the total amount fell under $1000 each month living in Ho Chi Minh City. Compare that to a minimum of $2500 a month in San Francisco, the last city I lived in.
Working here without an office is manageable, and sometimes even preferred, with fast WiFi and excellent drink and food in just about every cafe I’ve visited. For anyone hoping to keep costs low or to live a frugal lifestyle without compromising modern comfort and amenities of a cosmopolitan city, Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) is definitely a city to consider.