Why Is Vietnam So Cheap to Live In

“Living in Vietnam can be a dream-financially – from cheap street food to affordable accommodations. But why, you may ask, is Vietnam so cheap to live in?

The cost of living in Vietnam is dramatically lower than in many western countries. With a combination of a low cost of housing, inexpensive local food and beverages, cheap transportation, and lower salary expectations, Vietnam has become an attractive and affordable destination.

Dive in for a detailed explanation to show why Vietnam’s cost of living is so delightful to your wallet.

Unveiling Vietnam: An Expat’s Paradise

With its rich history, cultural diversity, and mesmerizing landscapes, Vietnam has become a sought-after destination for globetrotters and expats. Here, in this piece, we’re going to draw an authentic picture of life as it is in Vietnam today.

Drawing a picture: Life in Vietnam Today

First, let’s talk about the cost of living. Why is Vietnam considered so cheap? Apart from its enchanting beauty, one of the major attractions of Vietnam is its affordability. Whether it’s accommodation, food, transportation, or entertainment, everything comes with an amazingly lower cost compared to many Western countries.

For instance, the cost of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant averages around 50,000 VND (less than $2.5 USD), and local market goods are often half of that. Here is a brief overview of the costs you might encounter:

ExpenseAverage Cost (VND)Average Cost (USD)
Main course at an inexpensive restaurant50,000$2.5
One month’s rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre10,000,000$440
Monthly Utilities (Electric, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage)1,00,000$44
Monthly Transportation Ticket200,000$9

These low prices are mainly due to Vietnam’s lower cost of goods and services, and lower wages compared to Western countries. This combination ensures a good life can be lived at a fraction of the price.

Expat Experiences: Upsides of Living in Vietnam

There are several reasons why expats find the country highly attractive. The biggest positive of living in Vietnam undoubtedly is the low cost of living, but it’s not the only one. Numerous expats enjoy the warm tropical weather, vibrant city life mixed with idyllic countryside landscapes, mouth-watering food, and friendly locals.

Healthcare, too, is quite affordable in Vietnam. Many expats mention how private hospitals and clinics in major cities offer high-quality care at a fraction of the cost compared to Western facilities. And while public transportation is preferred for its incredibly cheap rates, the adventurous ones can also take on the streets with their own motorbikes – an essential part of the Vietnamese lifestyle!

Furthermore, the cost of leisure activities and entertainment is another area where expats can save. From exploring resort town beaches to trekking scenic national parks, there are plenty of affordable attractions.

One cannot ignore the promising work opportunities, particularly in teaching English, tourism, and technology sectors, not to mention the thriving start-up scene. Plus, for some, there isn’t quite anything like the relaxed lifestyle coupled with a low cost of living that evokes a sense of overall happiness and satisfaction in Vietnam.

Demystifying the Cost of Living in Vietnam

Our journey to unravel the mystery behind the low cost of living in Vietnam begins with understanding the value equation. Many people wonder how is it possible for Vietnamese citizens and expats alike to lead comfortable lives without breaking the bank. The answer lies in balancing the quality of life and the cost of living.

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The Value Equation: Quality of Life vs Cost of Living

In terms of economic theory, the cost of living shouldn’t be measured solely by monetary expenditures but also by the standard of living that these expenditures afford. Vietnam ticks many of the boxes that determine a high quality of life. This incorporates affordable housing, low-cost transportation, and inexpensive food, coupled with a vibrant cultural life and stunning natural beauty. It’s not about scraping by on the bare minimal; rather it’s about thriving on an affordable budget.

Apartment Rents: High Living on a Low Budget

Rent is often the most significant expense in a person’s monthly budget. Fortunately, in Vietnam, this is not the case. A decent one-bedroom apartment in the city centre of Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi will typically cost between $500-$700 per month. And if you head further from the city center, the cost can drop below $300. The quality of these apartments can pleasantly surprise you, with most buildings providing modern conveniences like air conditioning, security, and even swimming pools.

Edible Economics: Dining Out without Draining the Pocket

Experiencing local cuisine is a crucial part of living in any country and in Vietnam, this pleasure comes without a hefty price tag. A hearty meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs as low as $2. Moreover, street food in Vietnam is not just pocket-friendly but also a cultural delight, allowing you to explore various local delicacies for less than a dollar. A monthly food budget of $150 – $200 is enough to afford you regular restaurant meals and daily fresh market produce.

Transportation Tales: Getting Around for Pennies

The cost of transportation in Vietnam is incredibly low. A monthly pass for public transportation costs around $6. Motorbikes, the most popular mode of transportation, are even more economical with filling up a tank costing less than $10. Even taxis are impressively cheap, with typical fares ranging from $0.50 to $0.70 per kilometer. This makes exploring the city effortless and economical.

Investigating the Factors Contributing to Low Living Costs in Vietnam

Vietnam, often hailed as one of the most economical countries to live in, owes this attribute to several factors. In this section, we will explore some of these reasons, including the role of the country’s currency, cheap labor, and the differential pricing of local and imported goods. It’s a fascinating journey, so let’s dive in.

The Currency Clue: How the Dong Makes a Difference

The Vietnamese Dong, with all its extra zeroes, can indeed seem intimidating to a foreigner. But, it plays a crucial role in making living costs in Vietnam comparatively low.

Understanding the Vietnamese Dong: The Power of Zeroes

The name ‘Dong’ translates to ‘money’ in English. The large nominal value of the Đồng, denoted by all the zeroes at the end of it, simply reflects the relative weakness of the Dong against other global currencies. However, let’s not be intimated by the long chain of zeros. In fact, once you get used to it, it is quite straightforward. For example, 1 USD equals approximately 23,000 VND.

The Dollar-Dong Dance: Influence of Exchange Rates

The exchange rate between USD and VND strongly influences the cost of living for foreigners in Vietnam. Because the VND is weaker than the USD, foreigners with income or savings in dollars can afford a higher standard of living in Vietnam. Even upon conversion, their money tends to stretch further because of the exchange rate advantage.

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Labor Load: Impact of Affordable Local Labor on Livelihood

Along with the beneficial exchange rate, the low cost of local labour also contributes to the affordable living costs in Vietnam. Skilled labour such as house cleaning, cooking or gardening, surprisingly costs merely a fraction of what it does in more developed nations. This helps reduces personal expenses significantly for both locals and expats living in Vietnam.

Local vs Imported: Cost Chasm and Its Influence

There’s a vast difference in the cost of locally produced goods versus imported goods in Vietnam. Local goods, including most food items and many consumer goods, are usually quite cheap in comparison to imported goods which come with hefty import taxes. Therefore, persons choosing predominantly local products over imported ones can enjoy a very cost-effective lifestyle.

It’s interesting to note that this local vs imported pricing structure supports local businesses and also encourages foreign residents to adopt and appreciate locally made products and services.

Exploring Vietnam’s Healthcare: Quality Care on a Modest Budget

Vietnam is a developing country, and like many others, the structure of its healthcare system mirrors its status. However, there is an impressive dedication in the country to provide affordable and quality healthcare. Factors like the lower cost of living, reasonable hospital fees, and government interventions make healthcare services in Vietnam relatively inexpensive.

The Norms of Healthcare in Vietnam

The healthcare system in Vietnam is a mixture of public and private providers. Public health facilities are typically cheaper, with the government funding a significant portion of the cost. However, these facilities can sometimes be crowded and the quality might vary depending on the location.

Conversely, private healthcare providers offer high-quality services and are equipped with modern facilities. They also have international healthcare standards with foreign-trained medical professionals. Despite a slightly higher price, these fees are still considerably less expensive than in many developed countries.

As an example, let’s consider the cost of a general practitioner visit. As per Numbeo’s cost of living data 2020, the average cost of a GP visit in Vietnam is only 410,000 VND, equivalent to about $18.

Healthcare ServiceAverage Cost in Vietnam (VND)Average Cost in USA (USD)
GP Consultation410,000130
Dental Appointment250,000-1,000,000300
Basic Health Checkup600,000-2,000,000200

Additionally, the cost of medication in Vietnam is lower due to local pharmaceutical companies producing generic drugs. This significantly reduces the cost of living for local people and expats, especially those with certain chronic diseases that require continuous medication.

Vietnamese people also have a holistic approach towards health and wellbeing, whereby the use of herbal medicines and traditional methods like acupuncture are widespread. Such natural treatments are often much more affordable than western medicines and procedures.

Navigating the Vietnamese Market: Shopping Economically

Whether you are moving to Vietnam for work or just visiting, knowing where to shop and what to expect in terms of pricing can make a significant difference in your spending habits. The good news is, Vietnam offers a host of shopping options which are affordable and suit everyone’s budget.

Local Markets: The Best Deals for Your Dongs

In Vietnam, local markets are where you can stretch your dongs the furthest. Not only are their prices significantly lower than what you would find in supermarkets, but they offer an array of local produce, meats, and spices that are fresh and of good quality. A kilogram of fresh vegetables can range from 20,000 to 50,000 VND (Vietnamese dong), which is approximately $1-$2. Surprisingly, even things like clothing, kitchenware, and household items can be bought for reasonable prices at these markets. It is also worth mentioning that bargaining is a common practice here, which can make your shopping experience even more economic.

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Here is a brief listing of prices of daily essentials at local markets:

Product Price (VND)
1 kilogram of rice 10,000-20,000
1 doz eggs 30,000-35,000
1 kilogram of chicken 70,000-100,000

International Supermarkets: Comparing Costs

On the other hand, international supermarkets like Metro, Big C, and Lotte Mart provide an extensive collection of international foods and household amenities. While their prices may be a bit higher than local markets, they often offer promotions and discounts which may slash costs drastically. To give you an idea, a loaf of bread could cost you around 20,000-30,000 VND, equivalent to $1-$1.5. Fresh dairy products, bakery items, and canned foods are also quite affordable.

Bear in mind, although imported products can be more expensive due to import taxes, they’re still significantly cheaper compared to other countries.

Here are some average prices of goods in these supermarkets:

Product Price (VND)
1 liter of milk 20,000-30,000
500 grams Pasta 40,000-50,000
500 grams of cheese 80,000-150,000

Whether you prefer the hustle and bustle of local markets or the more orderly supermarket setting, Vietnam offers a cost-effective shopping experience, making it an affordable place to live or visit.

Breaking Down the Budget: Typical Monthly Expenses in Vietnam

The cost of living in Vietnam is relatively inexpensive compared to many other countries. Vietnam’s cost of living is largely influenced by its lower cost for most expenditures, which includes rent, groceries, eating out, and travel expenses. To understand this better, let’s break down the typical monthly expenses in Vietnam at various living standards.

Average Costs for Various Living Standards

Let’s classify the living standards into three sections – Budget, Mid-range and High-end lifestyles.

Budget Living

A budget lifestyle in Vietnam typically caters to those who are looking to save costs or live on a shoestring budget. This involves living in a smaller apartment, shopping at local markets, reducing dining out, and limiting entertainment expenses.

ExpenseAverage Cost
Rent (one-bedroom apartment in city outskirts)$200 – $300
Groceries$100 – $150
Transport$20 – $30
Utilities$30 – $50

Mid-range Living

A mid-range lifestyle balances both comfort and cost savings. It involves residing in better-equipped apartments in convenient areas, eating out more regularly, enjoying more leisure activities, and using more diverse transportation.

ExpenseAverage Cost
Rent (one-bedroom apartment in city center)$400 – $600
Groceries$200 – $300
Dining Out$100 – $200
Transport$50 – $100
Utilities$50 – $100

High-end Living

A high-end lifestyle caters to individuals who wish to experience luxury living, opting for high-priced apartments in premium locations, dining at fine restaurants, and regular entertainment and leisure activities.

ExpenseAverage Cost
Rent (premium apartment)$800 – $2,000
Groceries$500 – $800
Dining Out$300 – $500
Transport (private)$200 – $400
Utilities$100 – $150

As you can see, regardless of your lifestyle, Vietnam offers a cost-effective living experience. Of course, individual costs may vary depending on personal lifestyle and choices, city, and consumption habits.

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