One of the many attractions of living in Saigon is the cost of living, which is lower than in most other big cities. Saving so much money on essentials allows you to either build up a big savings account or spend big on things like food and entertainment. Of course, the latter of the two things are also much cheaper in Vietnam than in most other countries.
Below, we’ve briefly summarized the cost of living in Saigon in 2019. We’ve split the cost considerations into sections for housing, food, transportation, Education and medical expenses. The costs are of course variable, so we’ve laid out a few “cost tiers” for each area.
Firstly, understand that you can find an impossibly inexpensive rental in Saigon if you are willing to settle for a windowless chamber with room only for a bed and a desk. If you are single and you are the type who spends all of their time outside, this may be for you, and it will probably run you only 100 USD per month.
Most expats go with a modern, furnished apartment in either District 2 or 7. Expect to pay 250-450 USD per month for a studio in this case, 450-650 USD for a one-bedroom, and 500-1000 USD+ for a two-bedroom.
If you want a bigger living space than that, you may want to think about renting a house. You can rent a traditional narrow Saigonese house in a local area with five floors of one room each, and it will probably cost you 500-850 USD per month. Or you can rent a villa for 1500-3500+ USD per month on a compound, depending on size and location.
Of course, renting with someone else and splitting costs is always an option. Many expats do this, as it is a good way to form tight bonds with other expats while at the same time saving on housing.
Food and Drink
Like with housing, the floor on food and Drinks budget is extremely low in Saigon. If you’re okay with eating inexpensive street foods or cooking your own rice, pork, or vegetable-based meals at almost every meal, you can scrape by at 150 – 200 USD per month for food. Some interesting street food places can be found in our article about ‘the 10 most overlooked street foods in Saigon’
If you want to eat a bit more extravagantly but are still okay with dining in the local style most of the time, expect to pay 300-400 USD per month. This means you can help yourself to any street food you want without really worrying about cost, and you can cook at home with good quality groceries such as beef, pasta, and butter. You can even afford to go out for a moderately-priced meal at an international restaurant once a week.
For many, one of the greatest perks of the comparatively low cost of living in Saigon is that it leaves a lot of leftover money for splurging constantly on food. And if you fall into this camp, you may want to spend 400-600++ USD per month on dining. This will allow you to go out to fairly nice places, including international eateries, almost every night. It will allow you to buy imported ingredients to cook whatever you want. And, importantly to many expats, it will preclude you from risking your health at unhygienic places.
These figures don’t include beer or wine costs. You can expect to pay 1.5-3 USD for a locally brewed beer in an ‘expat’ owned pub all the way up to 8/9 USD at a fancy rooftop bar or night club downtown. Craft beer is also very popular in Vietnam now and a 400ml glass will set you back around 4-5 USD.
For wine lovers, the cost of a bottle of wine is expensive compared to the price back in places such as the UK. Expect to pay anything from 20 USD for an entry level bottle in a restaurant.
You can of course spend more than this on food and drink, but the great thing about Saigon is you don’t have to spend a lot to have a great evening.
There are five main transportation options in Saigon: driving a motorbike, driving a car, ride-sharing (motorbike), ride-sharing (car), and taking the bus.
A used motorbike can be acquired for as little as 150 USD, and a new one can be bought starting from around 1500 USD. Obviously, these prices go up when considering more power or speed. Maintenance cost is also a very real consideration, as a used bike will probably cost some money each month to keep from breaking down. With moderate use, expect to spend around 50 USD per month on fuel.
If you only want to rent a scooter then the cost will be between 40 – 60 USD per month.
Cars are extremely expensive in Saigon to buy, thanks mostly to import taxes. Expect to spend around 70,000 USD on a new one (only 35,000 on a budget car), and half that on a used model. Fuel costs around 2.89 USD per gallon.
Some expats choose to rent a car which starts from 500 USD per month. If you would like a car and driver then you can add on an extra 300 – 400 USD per month.
Taxis and Ride-sharing
Ridesharing motorbike taxis are incredibly cheap in Saigon. You can check out the article on Ride-Sharing Apps In HCMC for greater detail, but we’ll summarize it here. Even without any discounts or vouchers, you can get around the city center for under a dollar. Or you can take a more extended 10km drive for maybe two dollars.
Ridesharing via car is more expensive, but it is still much cheaper than in most western countries. Trips around district 1 will probably cost around 1.50 USD, and a 10km ride will likely run you five or six dollars.
Taking the bus is obviously a bit more time and energy-consuming than more convenient transportation options. It is cheaper, though (only 0.25 USD per ride, even if it is a cross-city trip), and it is better for the environment.
If you’re not fortunate enough to have your company pay for your children’s education then you can expect to pay a small fortune for a top International school. Fees at these schools can start from 15000 USD at kindergarten all the way up to 30000+ USD for Grade 10-12.
If these are out of your price range then there are lots of schools in Saigon that are bilingual, such as the British Vietnamese International School or the new Emasi School owned by the Renaissance International Group. They offer an international English qualification as well as the Vietnamese curriculum. With a price range from 6000USD to 20000 USD, they are becoming very popular for many expats who have Vietnamese partners.
Some expats – especially those married to a local, choose a Vietnamese public school which can cost anything from 50 USD – 200 USD a month. There are some excellent Public schools in Ho Chi Minh City, but often they are difficult to get in. Even though things are improving, the teaching methods are still very primitive and school facilities haven’t been updated in a long time.
Health insurance is a necessity in Ho Chi Minh City – more so if you plan to ride a motorbike. Costs generally start around 50 USD per month for a healthy non-smoker in his 30’s.
Perhaps unfortunately, many expats in Saigon do not use insurance. They usually prefer to pay for medical treatment as the need for it arrives. However, if you do have an accident that requires surgery, the costs in an international hospital can be extremely high. How much it will cost obviously hinges on the severity of the problem being treated. We recommend always taking out a good health insurance plan.
The cost of living guidelines listed above are just that — guidelines. Actual spending will change from person to person. The guidelines also fail to take into account quality of life costs. Going to the movies, for example, will cost you 5 USD per person. Going to the zoo will cost you 3 USD per person. For more ideas of how much leisure activities may cost you, check out “5 Leisure Activities in Saigon that are Often Overlooked.”