[Ho Chi Minh City Hall]
Here at nomadicnotes.com 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.
|Food – eating out||$185|
[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 (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.
[Having a day off the Vietnamese with a sushi lunch]
[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]
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.
[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.