One of the most common reasons people choose to teach English in Vietnam is the cost of living compared to potential earning, but just how cheap is it to live and work in Vietnam? The cost of living in Vietnam varies depending on where you are, so we’re going to take a look at the two most popular destinations for ESL teachers:  Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Let’s kick things off with the capital in the north, which also happens to be the slightly cheaper of the two cities for living.  There is a bit of a range, depending on your lifestyle of course, but an average month will cost around 900USD to live pretty comfortably.  Let’s take a look at where that goes.

Cost of rent in Hanoi

There is an abundance of housing available for expats in Hanoi, and it comes in all shapes, sizes and with a range of price tags.  If you are looking to share your living space (either by living in a shared house, or splitting the rent with a partner in a flat) rent is fairly affordable. A budget of between 200-300USD will get you a nice room in a popular area.  If you are more interested in getting a flat or studio to yourself things will get a little pricier.  It’s possible to find a pretty nice place around the 300USD mark, but it’s pretty challenging to get anything cheaper than that.

Most flats and shared housing in Hanoi come with WiFI and cable TV included in the rent, and a fair amount include the cost of a cleaner and security guard.  They don’t include the cost of bills, though, which usually run around 50USD per person.  Because Hanoi is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, the cost of bills don’t fluctuate too much – almost as soon as you stop using the aircon it’s time to turn on the heating!

Cost of food in Hanoi

Eating street food in Hanoi is simultaneously delicious and cheap.  A meal on the street costs around 1.50USD, whilst a meal in a fancier restaurant will cost around 7USD.  With a mix of eating street food, nicer meals and cooking at home, the average eating costs are around 350-400USD per month.  Although this can be reduced as low as 130USD if you eat on the street for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Getting around Hanoi

There is a pretty poor bus system in Hanoi, with tickets costing around 0.40USD, and there is a rail system being built (though when this will be finished is anyone’s guess).  Because the public transport is pretty poor most people use a scooter to get around.  Renting a scooter is around 40USD a month, depending on the age and model, and petrol is cheap.  Uber and Grab have also made getting a taxi easier (and cheaper) than ever.

Entertainment in Hanoi

The nightlife scene in Hanoi is changing fast.  Just a year ago it was practically unheard of to have cover charges to clubs, barring the odd special night.  Now, they are becoming more common.  And with the cover charges the price of drinks has also risen.  A night out in the popular expat area will now cost around 20USD if you’re drinking beer.  Stick to the local areas and you’ll pay around 5USD for your night.  The cinema in Hanoi is also pretty affordable at around 4.50USD, Hollywood movies are usually shown in English with Vietnamese subtitles.

rent:           250-400

bills:           50

food:           350-400

transport:   60-100

Entertainment:   100

Total:   810-1050USD

The cost of living in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, is very different to Hanoi.

Cost of rent in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City

Rent in Ho Chi Minh City starts a little higher than Hanoi.  There is availability around the 250USD mark for a room in a shared house, but most starts a little higher. A 1 bed apartment varies massively in price, from 450USD to over 1000USD per month.  Most sit around 650-700USD, for a nice place with services, plus bill.  Everything in the popular Because Ho Chi Minh City is hot all year round, you probably won’t get a break from the aircon, meaning bills will be around 50USD per month, all year round.

Cost of food in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has loads of awesome street food, which makes it easy to keep food costs low.  Street food starts at around 1USD, but eating in a restaurant can vary a lot.  More affordable meals begin around 5USD, and there are plenty of option in the 5-10USD range.  Ho Chi Minh City has a lot more high end restaurants than Hanoi, and if you’re looking for somewhere special and a big blow out meal you can find awesome food at high end prices (upwards of 50USD).  Assuming you don’t have one of these special treats every month, and stick to a mix of street food, home cooking and cheaper restaurants, food costs in Ho Chi Minh City aren’t that different to Hanoi.  A budget of 350-400USD should be plenty enough.

Getting around Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has a much more developed public transport system than Hanoi, with over 130 routes.  It’s a cheap and reliable way to get around the city, with a one way ticket costing around 0.30USD.  However, lots of people still prefer to use their own bike.  Rental prices start around 45USD, and increase quickly if you’d prefer something a little more stylish (Vespa, anyone?). Uber and Grab are also really popular for people that don’t want to drive.  We’ve made our estimate based on a rented bike, Uber bike for nights out and petrol costs.  It’s likely you’ll spend closer to 100USD than in Hanoi, and double that if your rely more heavily on Uber.

rent:             600

bills:             50

food:           350-400

transport:   100