Finally! I’m a millionaire!!!
You might be wondering how I get here in Vietnam. Well, to make the long story short, I quit the people I used to work with exactly 1 year and 7 months from now. And I booked the cheapest flight to South East Asia from Oman, the Middle East from then on, everything is history. (Read articles: I’m a quitter and Flight WY0821 bound for Saigon to know more about my journey)
But do you have any idea how cheap it is to live here? How much is the cost of living in Vietnam? I’ll share to you guys my daily/monthly expenses which I tracked down ever since I lived here. It’s a sort of a guide to living a very comfortable life, I think, as an expat.
Before I start, let me remind you that prices might differ from one place to another. In my experiences, I used to live in Da Lat for a month and about 4 months in Hanoi. Living in the city and tourist places will be more expensive so I’d rather stay in a small town far away from the hustle and bustle, and that I am sure that things (like food, accommodation, motorbike etc.) will be a lot cheaper. Generally, there might be differences with the expenses but it’s very little.
I’m working here as an English Teacher and it’s easy to save money if you’re single, don’t have an own family yet, and not a breadwinner. In my case, I’m a breadwinner so it’s quite hard to save in the first place but later on, I was able to set aside a bit of my salary as my savings. (Read the article: Teaching English in Vietnam to know more about my job)
I’ll be honest to you guys, my first few months here was tough as I transition from one field to another. Plus, racial stereotype is still abundant. Most of the Vietnamese think that if you’re white, you are privileged. They think white people are able to teach English even without assessing their qualifications regardless of where they come from. Qualified people or teachers are not given a chance just because of their color and race. That’s the sad reality here! Although, there are still some that will value quality over race and color. I will tell you more about it in my future articles so stay tuned, let’s stick with the topic for now. haha 😊
Moving forward, as an English teacher you’re likely to make around 15-30 USD per hour in the urban areas and 10-15 USD per hour in rural areas. You are being paid in their currency which is Vietnamese Dong, they will convert before giving it to you. To give you an idea, 1 USD = 23,000 VND. Yes, you read it clearly. Prepare yourself to be a millionaire. Finally! 😊
Things are way cheaper here compared to other countries and literally, you need to have just a little, to live a comfortable life. So how really cheap is it to live in Vietnam?
Let’s start with…
The accommodation ranges from 150 USD to 1,500 USD. From a typical Vietnamese type of room to a luxurious one. It’s really up to you, where you think you will be comfortable staying in and within your budget. There will be a lot of options, don’t rush. And in my experience, you can negotiate too. Don’t be shocked if I will say that I stayed in 5 million worth of flat. I’m not messing around, but it’s not that much. 😊 When I was in Hanoi, I’ve got a simple private room in a shared house for only 3.7 million dongs equivalent to $160 per month. See photos below how does a 3.7 million room looks like. I lived with people from other countries like America, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the Philippines.
It’s not that big, but I’ve got a terrace which is perfect for a party. Overlooking the west lake in Tay Ho district and very convenient from shopping centers, schools, and bus terminals. But like what I’ve said, you will always have an option to stay in a bigger and more luxurious apartment. In my case, I have nothing to complain about. 😊
Water, Electricity, and Wi-Fi
Moreover, electricity only costs me from 200,000 – 350,000 VND (8USD – 15USD) and water for 40,000 – 120,000 VND (1.5USD – 5USD). Wi-fi connection is already included with the room in some cases like mine.
When I first came here, I don’t know how to use a motorbike. I do the typical ways of transportation here in Vietnam. It’s either you ride a bike, a bus, a taxi or a train. During that time I often use the Grab app from one point to another. And for me, as a first timer and still settling myself, I find it very expensive. I was doing part-time jobs on my first 4-5 months so I don’t have a permanent school or language center every time I teach. I need to hop in different schools to make a living. It’s quite hard but I enjoyed the experience.
Grab bike is what I usually use, it will only cost me from 15,000 – 50,000 VND ($0.65 – $2.00), Grab car is about 20,000 – 150,000 VND ($0.85 – $6.50), public bus 4,000 – 25,000 VND ($0.15 – $1.10), a taxi 20,000 – 300,000 VND ($0.85 – $13.00) and train is from 150,000 – 900,000 VND ($6.50 – $38.75). Grab bike and car vary from time to time depends on the weather and time, it’s quite high when it’s raining and rush hours. And fares for public buses, taxis, and train vary on locations.
Be extra careful too when riding taxis, drivers usually scam first timers or foreigners. If you’re not in a rush and don’t have heavy luggage, I suggest you use public buses which is a lot cheaper. F.Y.I. buses here have specific pick up and drop off points. Try to download these apps like Tim Buyt, Hanoi Bus, BusMapHN to know more about it. Use grab, if you’re in a hurry and want some sort of convenience. Though I think riding buses is convenient too. It’s up to you.
If you’re planning to be here for a couple of weeks or a month only. I recommend you to rent a motorbike. Motorbike rental shops will allow you to have one for only $160 – $300 per month depends on the model. But if you’re going to stay and live here for a longer time, I suggest you buy a motorbike and sell it once you’re leaving. It’s perfect when you want to roam around and visit some interesting places. You can buy a motorbike from $250 to $600 depends on the model too. Though I knew someone who bought his motorbike for only $200. Try to look around before you decide to buy one.
As for gas prices, it will cost you around $3 – $5 or lesser for a full tank. Well, I don’t drive that much as my school is just a few blocks away from my accommodation. More or less you will spend $10 per month which is not bad.
Food and Drinks
This is my favorite part and I really find Vietnamese food, freakin’ delicious. And I mean it. I also like how they serve most of their food, it is served with raw vegetables, herbs, and spices. It’s cheaper and at the same time healthier.
If your stomach is not sensitive like mine and willing to try street foods, you can get a dish or a bowl of noodles for only 25,000 – 50,000 VND ($1.25 – $2.50). If you are looking for something fancier, you can get it from 50,000 – 120,000 VND ($2.50 – $6.50). Still cheap, isn’t it? Imagine if you’re doing groceries and just cooking your own dishes. You can save a lot.
Here are some of my favorite Vietnamese food:
Bún Phở with baby lobster, shrimps, fried tofu and quail eggs.
(25,000 – 50,000 VND or $1.00 – $2.50)
Bánh Mi is the typical sandwich here in Vietnam. It’s a baguette split lengthwise and stuffed with various flavors and savory ingredients. (10,000 – 25,000 VND or $0.50 – $1.00)
Bánh Cuốn, made from a thin, wide sheet of steamed rice batter filled with a mixture of cooked seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and minced shallots. (20,000 – 30,000 VND or $1.00 – $1.50)
My all-time favorite Bún chả. Grilled pork with rice noodle and a side dish of dipping sauce.
(25,000 – 35,000 VND or $1.00 – $1.50)
Cà Phê Trúng or simply called egg coffee. It’s a Hanoi specialty in which a meringue-like egg white foam topped on a Vietnamese coffee. (25,000 – 75,000 VND or $1.00 – $3.50)
Beers are only ranging from (6,000 – 8,000 VND or $0.25 – $.50 USD)
The monthly cost of living in Vietnam
|Amount in VND||Amount in USD|
Food & Drinks (Prepared meals)
Motorbike expenses (Gas, repairs, etc.)
Other expenses (entertainment, laundry, eating out, milk tea, etc. 😊)
By looking at the table, I’m paying $259.20 for all the necessary expenses every month and can be lesser. In other words, avoid beers, milk teas and eating out. 😊 Though it’s okay to reward yourself every now and then. If you are an ESL teacher and your salary is ranging from $1,000 – $1,500, you can tell that you can really save a lot. Sometimes, if you are really a hard-working person, just by doing part-time jobs you can get a maximum salary of $2,000 – $2,200 per month.
I’ve been to Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, and other South East Asian countries. I think by far Vietnam is the cheapest among any other ASEAN countries in terms of cost of living. And I’ve got three points to emphasize at this moment. First, if you want to try a different lifestyle and some changes in your life, you might have found what you are looking for here. Second, Vietnam offers tons of opportunities that may not fit others but might perfectly suit you. Lastly, Life is a trial and error exercise before you can reach your final destination. If you are unsure right now after reading this, it’s the perfect time to GIVE IT A SHOT AND RISK THE UNKNOWN. 😉