Vietnam has become a significant tourist attraction over the past few years and not only for traveling but for living as well. Ho Chi Minh City, or most commonly known as Saigon, has become a hub for digital nomads, teachers and epats looking for something new. This is due to its abundant history, rich cultural heritage, and low cost of living. The cost of living in Saigon depends upon the nature of traveling, whether you are on vacation or setting up a residence here on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.
Staying in Saigon for a vacation can be cheap since you don’t have to sign a lease on an apartment or any rentals, hotels are plentiful and Air BnB’s popping up all over the city. Living in Saigon can cost a little more if you consider other things like food, insurance, education and traveling as well. But still, it is relatively cheap as compared to Europe or America or even other Asian countries.
Budget: $700 – $1500
The cost of living in Saigon can vary from $700 to $1500+. This range covers different kinds of living standards. For example, for $700 you can live a comfortable lifestyle if you only live like the natives. However, you can easily enjoy a little luxury with a budget of $1500, if you are not spending more than $400 a month on an apartment.
Before delving further into the breakdown of the budget, let’s discuss the most basic costs that are likely to occur no matter what your budget is. The biggest is renting an apartment and paying bills for apartment utilities, unless you have children – then you will need to budget a lot higher as fees are very expensive. The second is transportation and the third is food. Food is the least expensive one in this list and would cause you only a fraction of what you would pay in Europe or North America side, unless you are eating Western food everyday!
Living Options in Saigon
Just like any other city in the world, there are several options available in Saigon as well, which vary from cheap towards expensive. If you are on a budget and want to save as much as possible, then renting a shared house or a hostel room will be the best option for you. You can rent a shared house for as low as $200 per month with full maid service. If you want a lower price, you can find people looking for roommates on various Facebook groups.
If you want to go more towards the city center like District 1 and 3, then the rent can go up to $250 – $400 for a room in a shared house. District 2 and 7 is where you will find many foreigners. The renting condition here is almost the same as district 1 and 3, with more villas and apartments available. Price in the main expat areas can range from $500 for a 1 bed apartment all the way up to $5000 for a luxury Villa.
District 4 is one of the most affordable in all the options mentioned above. An important thing to consider while searching for accommodation is the location of your place of employment. If you are getting a good deal in rent, but your office is far away from your apartment, you won’t be better off. The money you will be saving on rent will most probably be spent traveling to and from work. When you’re renting an apartment, be sure to ask about the management fees before signing a lease.
Bus travel is the cheapest way to travel in Saigon and will cost you less than $1 per ride. You can get standard taxis or Grab which is like a Vietnamese version of Uber, but using it for the long term will not be a budget-friendly option. There are other options as well, like taxi bikes and cycles. If you want to have more independence, then getting a motorbike of your own would be a nice option.
It’s also very cost-effective, a full tank of fuel will cost you around $5 and will last you an entire week. When purchasing a bike, you can either buy it from an expat who is leaving the country or from a dealer. Even though the investment is high, if you take care of it well, then you can easily get a reasonable price when you move on.
Utilities depend on the accommodation that you are renting. If it comes with central air conditioning, then your electricity bill may cost up to $100 depending on how often you use air conditioning. However, if you’re using just a fan, then it will be as low as $20 to $40 at most. Water is also not very expensive and can cost you around $10-$30 a month.
Food is one of the cheaper things on your budget. You can always find affordable food vendors around the neighborhood. A bowl of Vietnamese pho will cost you around $2. If you want to go for more filling food, then we suggest that you look for com tams. These are family-run restaurants and offer rice with meats with a lot of side dishes. Even though com tams offer very little variety, there are usually many similarly run restaurants in the same street giving you plenty of options to choose.
All in all, living in Saigon is very affordable and will be an excellent experience for anyone who wants to try something different. A little word of advice for those who want to enjoy Vietnamese culture in its true sense; try to live in a more local neighborhood and you will be amazed how different everything is there.
If you would like to find out more about life in Vietnam then you can visit our popular blog section here.