04 Jan What’s the Cost of Living in Vietnam?
We’re almost half way through our teaching contracts in Hanoi, Vietnam. In one way it feels like the time here has whizzed by in a blur of lesson planning and noisy classes but in another way it also seems like we’ve been here for much longer than four months. Isn’t that always the case when you stand still in one place for a while?
One of the things that has surprised me most about living in Vietnam is how much money we’ve been able to save so far. This is partly due to the amount of hours we work and a relatively high wage but it’s also down to the fact that it costs so little to live in Hanoi. In contrast to London, where we spent almost £1,700 a month on rent, bills, food and transport, we spend less than half that here in Hanoi.
Vietnam visas and insurance
Before we jump into this cost breakdown, if you’re heading to Vietnam then you’ll probably need an invitation letter for your Visa On Arrival, we recommend Vietnam Visa as they provide a professional, efficient and transparent service.
You’ll also need to buy travel insurance to cover your stay in Vietnam. SafetyWing, which offers comprehensive medical and travel cover, is a great option for longer-term stays because there’s no cap on the duration of travel and you either select an end date or let it automatically extend until you cancel. SafetyWing coverage starts at just $37 for four weeks and works on monthly auto-renewal payments, so you don’t have to pay a large sum up-front or worry about the policy expiring while you’re living in Vietnam.
So, just what is the cost of living in Vietnam?
Here’s a look at exactly how much it costs us to live here in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi; as always, we track our daily expenses using the fantastic Trail Wallet app. The figures below are based on what we spend in a typical month. Note that we arrived in the country with a three-month Vietnam business visa, which you can apply for online.
Although we looked at flats in different areas of the city including the expat area Tay Ho, we eventually decided to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Ba Dinh district, very close to the touristy Hoan Kiem Lake. We’re 15 minutes walk from the Old Quarter and it takes around 20 minutes to drive from here to our work. We love our apartment as it is large, light, airy and the building is set away from the city in a quiet area with its own private courtyard. We like living in an area with local people rather than somewhere full of other expats.
Like all apartments in Hanoi, ours is fully-furnished and has air conditioning which doubles as a heating system in the winter. It also came with a TV, microwave, hob and fridge-freezer as well as a lovely corner-sofa, a dining table and chairs, double bed and balcony. There’s access to a communal washer and dryer downstairs and we a have a small drying room in our apartment; there’s secure parking and a 24-hour security guard in our courtyard. We did spend a bit of money kitting out our apartment with a toaster, kettle, extra blankets and towels; the director of our language centre kindly donated a small electric oven to us too.
When you rent in Hanoi you’ll typically be asked for a deposit equal to one month’s rent and three months’ rent in advance. Water, sewerage, twice-weekly cleaning and internet are included in our rent; we pay the electricity bill separately each month. Everything is run on electric apart from our gas hob which we have a small gas tank for; there was one here when we moved in and it’s still going strong four months later.
After travelling for nearly a year and a half we were so pleased to finally have a kitchen to cook in when we moved to Hanoi. Although street food here is incredibly cheap and if you wanted to, you could eat out three times a day for as little as £5, we tend to cook a lot in our apartment and have most of our meals in.
We buy our fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk and bottled water from the local market which happens to be two minutes away from our apartment; prices are incredibly cheap and we can usually buy all of our vegetables and fruit for the week for under £5. Eggs cost just £0.07, mangos are £0.50 each, carrots are as little as £0.10 and a large five-litre bottle of water is £0.60. We also buy canned goods from FiviMart, which is a cheap Asian supermarket and we splash out at one of the few western stores, L’s Place, for home comforts such as nice bread.
We tend to eat out around twice a week and always make at least one trip to Joma, a delicious western bakery where you can get hot soups, wraps, bagels, cookies and cakes. We’ve also found our favourite Indian, vegetarian and Mexican restaurants and places to get vegetarian Vietnamese food.
I toyed with the idea of buying an electric bike but we finally decided to make do with renting just one motorbike to get around the city. Although I’m less scared of motorbikes than I was when we first arrived in Asia, I still wouldn’t trust myself to ride one so Andrew does all of the driving and takes me to and from work. On days when Andrew can’t take me to work I walk if my school is close enough or get a taxi if it’s right across town; a journey by taxi costs on average around £1-2.
Our language centre put us in touch with Mr Nguyen, who we rent our motorbike from and whenever there’s a problem with the bike he fixes it for free. We fill up the bike about once a week costing about £2.50 each time. We bought the best quality helmets we could find for about £15 each.
|Taxis (three times a week)||£20|
Entertainment and Extras
Most of our time here is spent either teaching or lesson planning but we do try to make time at the weekends to kick back, relax and enjoy the city. We regularly get massages which cost from £3 to £13 and visit the cinema which costs roughly £3 a ticket. We also like to take trips around the country when we can, to places like Sapa and Tam Coc. We’d love to go back and re-visit HCMC and try this fun tour in Vietnam, a unique company that provides opportunities for Vietnamese women to work as tour guides and has amazing reviews on Tripadvisor.
We’ve also spent money on occasional trips away to Kim Boi and Cat Ba Island, we’re also planning to go to Sapa for TET. Although our language centre paid for our work permits, we then had to pay a one-off fee for our annual visas. We’ve also had to stock up on warmer clothes as winter has kicked in.
|Massages (two each per month)||£24 (£6 each)|
|Visas||£172 (£86 each for 12 month work visa)|
|Cinema (once a month)||£6 (£3 each)|
|Trip to Kim Boi||£12 (£6 accommodation, £3 swimming, £3 fuel)|
|Clothes, haircuts, shoes||£72|
Total Monthly Living Costs in Hanoi
I’m amazed by how little it costs to live well here in Hanoi. I work less than half the hours I used to in London yet I earn almost as much and am able to save three quarters of my earnings because living costs are so low. Overall, the cost of living in Hanoi is similar in Ho Chi Minh, according to this cost breakdown.
Here’s the final total cost breakdown, note that entertainment costs below do not include the visas and clothes since those aren’t monthly expenses.
|Food and drink||£350||£175|
Have you ever lived in Hanoi? Do you live abroad? How do the costs of living compare to ‘back home’?