Cost of living Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City for $724 a month

Ho Chi Minh City Hall
[Ho Chi Minh City Hall]

Here at I keep a cost of living tally for when I spend a month at a time in one location. I had heard from some online business friends that Ho Chi Minh City (AKA Saigon) is the new hotspot for online entrepreneurs, so naturally I had to go and have a look for myself. I was last here in 2005 on a one month whirlwind backpacking trip through Vietnam which only included 2 days in Ho CHi Minh City. This time around I got spend an entire month in Vietnam’s largest city which gave me a chance to explore more neighbourhoods and to get some work done while I am at it.

Here is my cost of living for Ho Chi Minh in September 2012, converted into USD.

Rent $264
Food – eating out $185
Groceries $61
Coffee $148
Transport $35
Sundries $31




Apartment in Ho Chi Minh City
[I lived in that Kermit-green building]

Like any other place rent is a huge variable. As I was only here for one month I wanted to find a place as soon as possible to avoid spending half my time in a guest house. In the end I found a room on craigslist for $250 a month (plus one night in a guest house.) The room was ensuite with a shared kitchen and lounge and the rate included a maid service for room cleaning and washing clothes. I have seen similar rooms online for $200 and of course you could go even cheaper if you lived further out. From that baseline the prices go to about $400 a month for a basic self contained 1 bedroom apartment, up to Manhattan prices for brand new luxury apartments.

If you are going to stay for a month of longer I would recommend booking into a hotel for a couple of nights first and look once you are here. Agoda is good for hotels in Ho Chi Minh City. For new visitors to the city here is my guide for where to stay in Saigon.


Bowl of Pho - Ho Chi Minh City
[Bowl of pho (chicken soup)]

One of the joys of living in Vietnam is for the food. Street food is everywhere here and even though the prices are double in central Saigon compared to the rest of the country, a bowl of pho (soup) will set you back around $2. Outside of District 1 you can find pho for $1. Saigon is the most international city of Vietnam so there are loads of eating options from around the world as well.

Sushi lunch - Ho Chi Minh City
[Having a day off the Vietnamese with a sushi lunch]


Supermarket - Ho Chi Minh City
[Supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City]

I’m not big on cooking for myself, and there really is no need to in Vietnam, so my grocery/household items was low. I had breakfast at home and lunch and dinner out. There was a western standard supermarket near my place with a combination local and international brand household products.


Cafe Latte at L'usine - Ho Chi Minh City
[Cafe Latte at L’usine]

As I discovered in Chiang Mai, I have a $5 a day coffee habit. There are worse habits to have and Ho Chi Minh City has one of the best cafe scenes I have seen anywhere, which was part of why I wanted to come here in the first place. Cafes double as an office for a few hours a day for me so HCMH is a great place to get work done.


Bikers in Saigon
[Transport in Saigon]

I lived in District 1 which, as the name would suggest, is very central so I walked everywhere most of the time and got motorbike taxis for longer trips. Public transport here consists of buses and motorbike taxis. The traffic is terrible and crossing the road can be quite an ordeal if you don’t know what you are doing. Having said that the traffic tends to move faster than in Bangkok because the traffic is mostly motorbikes. If you have the courage to take on the Saigon traffic you can rent a motorbike for as little as $60 a month.

Cost of living summary
I tallied this up after I had left and was surprised with how low the end amount was. Even with an accommodation bill of $400 and motorbike expenses of $90 (rental and petrol) the total amount would still be under $1000USD for the month. Working here was digital nomad friendly as well with wifi in just about every cafe I visited and very fast as well. I liked it so much that I will be returning soon for a 3 month stay.

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  1. A great post James. How many coffees a day for $5?

  2. Chris Schwarz says

    Vietnam is such a hidden wonder for digital nomads for 2 reasons: food & the internet. Even some of the smaller cities are all fibre backed – I had big plans when I was there last year but made the rushed decision to jump to Hong Kong.

  3. This is awesome! I love the idea of going somewhere for a month (or more) and renting an apartment to just BE there and experience the culture. It’s great to see how inexpensive Saigon can be. I didn’t get down there when I was in Vietnam last year, but I’d love to go back to Vietnam, so this is really helpful info. And that soup looks delicious!

    • Thanks Ali, yes slow travel is becoming my preferred method of travel these days.

      • Ken Clark says

        Have you since went back? I’m wondering how much to expect for a rental like two or three months? Are there cities that demonstrate the culture for photography? Planning on retiring soon and would love to do this style of travel. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Another great post, James! I love seeing how incredibly affordable it is to live in the countries you’ve highlighted recently. I can’t wait to get out to that part of the world and spend some time exploring.

  5. These summary of expenses posts are some of my favorites. Really gives a good run down and idea of what someone can realistically expect to spend. I’ll be visiting Vietnam in 2013 and can’t wait!

  6. I’m pretty sure I could live anywhere if there were BBQ pork ladies grilling at the end of my street!!

  7. Very useful information James. I’m thinking about spending a month or two in Ho Chi Minh City in the future, to do some exploration, eat a lot, and drink lots of coffee!

  8. This is very interesting, I just moved to Chiang Mai after reading about it on your blog and some others as well. Seems like Vietnam is a very good alternative, might try it next. How does it compare to Chiang Mai specifically?

  9. Love how you spent nearly as much on coffee and eating out – crazy!

  10. Hello, James, could you give me the address of the address of the Supermarket , i will move to ho chi minh city very soon. thanks

  11. Hi James!
    I am a Vietnamese girl aching for travelling as well. I am passionate about running a travel blog which just focuses on Vietnam. I have just written this post. I hope to get your comment! Thank you so much!

  12. Great post, James! My coffee habit is not quite as extensive as yours, so I think it’d be saving a bunch of money there πŸ˜‰

    Very useful tips. Pretty sure we’re going to move to Ho Chi Minh next!

  13. Great post, and beautiful photos, James. Love it.

  14. Great breakdown of the costs involved. I’m looking forward to spending a lot if time there later on in the year.

    Thanks for the post.

  15. cool! thanks for this post, really helpful. looking forward to return to Vietnam and hopefully stay there for about a month. glad you enoyed HCMC. πŸ™‚

  16. Been there once in Saigon in 1994, was in Vietnam for a month, travelling fr South to Hanoi. Beautiful Country and it was much cheaper during that time. Might just drop in to Vietnam the next time I go back to Malaysia to visit my family. (By the way, at present am a Swedish citizen). Thanks for the info about the cost of living in Vietnam. Interesting to see great changes in Saigon after all these years. Might be interesting to check out some charity organisations over there. To see in what way I can help while working on line.

  17. I really like HCMC and it’s definitely a place I’d like to spend a month. Thanks for giving the $400 USD / month as the base figure for a 1 bed apartment. I wonder how easy it is to find a non-shared central monthly rental that isn’t at expat prices.

    • It’s best to look for a place once you are in the city, as the places listed online are often catering for expats with expense accounts πŸ™‚

  18. Charmaine says

    Great Blog post, love the photos and up to date information. Heading there myself for a month in July and will work remotely. Love the idea of earning Australian dollars and spending Vietnamese Dong. The thing I am most looking forward to is a massage every day!

    Going to be staying in District 4 in my extended families apartment so that will save a chunk of money.

    Did you find it easier to meet people and make friends while you were there?

    • Yes it is so easy. I can say it for sure. Anyway, welcome to my country πŸ™‚

    • Hi Charmaine, I miss the massages!

      I found it easy enough to meet people as I was in some forums to begin with that had people living there.

      • Hi James,

        53 and wondering what to do.

        Would you help with a small amount of guidance?

        I live half the year in the Philippines, unfortunately i suffer from MS and my mobility is becoming somewhat challenging..

        I have help here, house mate/carer,but the food and the climate is taking its toll of late.

        I assume a similar arrangement could be found in HCMC but i wondered what the Vietnamese attitude is to the disabled and disability?

        Many thanks in anticipation.

        I do not intend to cross the road without due haste or numerous bodyguards!


        • Hi Jamie, thanks for dropping by. The food in Vietnam is amazing but gets hot in HCMC as well. I’m not sure what the home care situation is like here so I couldn’t give you an answer on that one. I have met Americans living in Chiang Mai in Thailand that are on the pension and living there for the home care support, just incase that is a city you haven’t thought of.

          Best of luck to you


          • Thank you James,

            I lived in Thailand for a while,north south east and west as you do.

            had a couple of relationships but the jealousy and the crazy behavior broke us up..

            I hope the Vietnamese women are a bit more level headed and leave the kitchen knives in the kitchen.

  19. welcome to my country,

    You are very friendly, i would like to make friend with you.

  20. Nice work, James! That’s not a bad place for $264 a month. I’m not exactly a spendthrift but I couldn’t do that well. The good thing about HCMC is that there is plenty of cheap western-friendly food. Even Cambodia doesn’t necessarily have that.

  21. Hi friends.I have been around our Globe few times BUT seldom have i seen such a great lively bubbly friendly place filled with happy people such as HCMC VN.and it didnt cost me an arm& a leg..REALLY.
    a reference in itself.GREAT LIFE, as it should be….cheers adam

  22. cost of drinking and night club entry fees?? can you shed any light on that?

  23. Maria Cecilia says

    Great blog Mr. James,

    I’m heading to HCMC for 2 weeks in July. Already booked a hotel accommodation located in Pham Ngu Lao, District 1. I’m going on my own and this is my first time to go abroad, is it safe for me to just walk around for sight-seeing and take some pictures day and night? Any help would be highly appreciated.

    Thank you so much.

  24. Totally agree with you! After having been an expat for few months, I found out that Vietnam is an ideal destination to live as an expat! I also just wrote a sharing article here:

    Hope that we can share something in common! I would love to dig deeper into expat community for my own research! Would love to be in touch with you!



  25. Hi James,

    I just had to laugh so hard when seeing the picture of your accommodation, since that’s where I’m writing from just now. We also saw this place on craigslist and it’s still $250 USD a month. There’s a really nice alley with food vendors close by and a big supermarket about 10 minutes on foot.

    Greetings from the Kermit-green building πŸ˜‰

  26. Love Saigon….rented a brand new Honda Wave 2 years ago for equivalent $50/month from a guy in Bui Vien area. I’ve motorcycled all over the world and Saigon has to be the craziest, most crowded place I’ve ever been for bikes.

    Love so much about Saigon: the people, the food and most definitely the nam oi, sugarcane juice. You can find the little sugarcane presses set up all over town…YUM.

    Also for any francophiles, Vietnam has some great petanque courts and players. I played many great games there, but the boys love to gamble so come prepared.

  27. Hi there, great post. I am planning to move to Ho Chi Minh by the end of the year. I want to be able to live on about 800 USD as you calculated in this post. Thanks for the info!

  28. Hi James,

    Very nice blog.
    I have one offer from Vietnam based company and they are going to offer 1500USD/month. Do you think is it suffucient?
    What is cost of living in general @vietnam.

    Basically I am from India. Please can you let me know your suggestion


  29. Hi James,

    Thanks for sharing this post! We just moved to HCMC for a month and love it so far. We were just wondering:
    – Which co-working spaces did you work at?
    – Which forums did you use to meet people?

    Thanks in advance!

  30. Hello
    My daughter is going to Tra Vinh in Vietnam soon. We were wondering about cell phones. What would you recommend. She doesn’t have a phone with a sim card now. We heard that is the best phone to have and that it is super cheap in Vietnam.
    Any advice about cell phones would be great.
    My daughter is staying at the university so she has good accommodations but any other tips would be great too.

    • Sim cards are cheap in Vietnam. You can get one with a month of internet access for $10. Mobile phone shops are everywhere as well but I bought mine elsewhere and have never looked here. Best to just bring an unlocked phone before you go.

  31. Andre' Mane says

    James I have a really long time internet friend going for a 3 month stay in HCMC.. She will be traveling alone and needs some sound advise on “safe area’s” where she can rent a place.. She don’t want to stay with others, she wants a private dwelling ((..apartment maybe etc..)) of her own close to public transportation… James she’s scared to death.. Please help if you can… She has about $3000 USD’s and some additional on the way to help her fund her stay, but safety is a very real concern.. Additionally, can you also tell us where NOT to go… That is important as well……. Thanks.. ~Andre’

    • Hi Andre, most of the city is safe but the best place to stay is in District 1. It’s where most of the historic buildings are and it is easy enough to walk around or get cheap taxi rides. There isn’t a useful public transport system so living centrally is another advantage. The only safety concern is phone snatchers, so don’t walk down the street talking on your phone. Other than that you will find it is relatively safe for foreigners.

      • Charmaine Thring says

        Hi James, this FB page is really good, albeit the expats do have a weird sense of humour. Lots of apartments are listed on there. If she would like her own apartment keep in mind that bond is 2 months plus 1 month rent in advance and you have to pay your own electricity. It is important that the house or flat owner register her with the police.

        D1 is very central.

        Make sure her bag goes across the body not over the shoulder as bag snatchers ride mopeds mostly. Be very vigilant in the backpacker area Pham Nuo Lao as thieves target newbies.

        Only take Vinasun taxis, they are all metered. They have fake taxis called “Umbrella taxis” by the locals and the metre will jump from the correct amount to a crazy amount upon reaching the destination. So tell her to always look for Vinasun, they are everywhere.

        Is she going for work for to travel?


      • Hello. I’m so thrilled to see your posts. I bave a few questions that I hope you can answer.
        I am very bad about losing the most important of my things, such as phone and passport! I’ve traveled by motorcycle extensively throughout South America and did so without a passport due to the fact that I had lost it in Panama. It was almost a nonissue. What is the passport and dochment situation like in Vietnam? Are you stopped or questioned or asked for dochments often or randomly?
        Next, I’d like to know what the more rural areas of Vietnam are like. Especially the rural areas outside of HCMC.
        And last, I wonder if you can tell me if man can make a living as a restaurateur, ie fine dining in HCMC?
        Thank you in advance for the replies I hope to get. Safe travels and enjoy your life!

    • Charmaine Thring says

      Hi Andre

      I wrote a reply for you and replied to James by accident. What James said plus my tips.


  32. Alexander Pendelton says

    Bookmarked for a later visit!

  33. Thanks for the awesome blog. Nice information.

  34. Hi James,

    I’m trying to find out what the cost of living is like VS an average income? What would a person earn say working in a coffee shop on average? Or any other average job? Was it easy enough getting a job?
    Your help would be so so appreciated! I would absolutely love to visit there! Blog was great, thanks so much for that!


  35. It all depends on the way you live. You can live super cheap or super expensive anywhere. In Vietnam you’ll pay much more for a car, iphone, computer, playstation, etc., than you would pay in America. So if you’re a gamer who likes to drive and use an iPhone, bring your wallet.

  36. Ho Chi Minh City can be quite cheap if you know how to save money. Living here in the city for less than $800 USD can definitely be done while still maintaining a decent lifestyle.

    The biggest cost will probably be accommodations, as the influx of foreigners has caused a lot of landlords to jack up the prices of rent in a lot of places, especially in D1, D3.

    Food is pretty cheap if you eat local food, western food is a rip off!

    Having grab and goviet makes traveling around the city a breeze and very affordable.


  1. […] James Clark who is much better with money than I am manages to spend less than $800/mo living in Saigon. […]

  2. […] Clark of Nomadic Notes spent $724/month – $24/day in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.Β  I once saw an ad to lease a BMW for more than […]

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