Several months ago I posted my expenses based on tracking them for 4 month.
Expenses in Vietnam
I’ve used YNAB for a few years now, from back when I was living in Australia. When I moved to Vietnam my YNAB usage…
That was a high level look at how much I’m spending. This is a more detailed look at the various categories of spending and what someone who moves to Vietnam might expect to pay.
I live in Saigon, which is the most expensive — but also most cosmopolitan — part of Vietnam. In Saigon you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $7,000 a month in rent.
That doesn’t really narrow it down much, does it?
There are 4 types of housing and 3 types of areas in Saigon that a foreigner would consider, all of which affect the price you might pay.
Old style local Apartments
The rent is cheap (probably under $200 a month) but, honestly, you wouldn’t consider living here unless you are single, under 30, and adventurous. And maybe not even then. I’ve never met a foreigner who lives in a local apartment building like this.
Modern apartment towers
Over the past decade, a number of more modern apartment buildings have sprung up. They are often built by Singaporean or Australian designers and are much more likely to appeal to foreigners. So far, they’ve largely targeted the higher end luxury part of the market, so rents are on the order of $900-$1,200 a month for a 2-bedroom apartment. But for that price you’re living in the same building as movie stars: these are 5-star apartment complexes, with 24-hour security, cafes on the ground floor, and so on.
Recently there have been a few more mid-market projects started as the Vietnamese middle class swells but most of them aren’t online yet.
There are also an increasing number of old-style apartments that are being refurbished to modernise them and make the more appealing to foreigner tastes. (More on this below when I talk about houses.) But these are primarily in District 1 and I feel like the prices charged right now are exorbitant for what you get. Think: a studio for $600 a month.
The traditional Vietnamese row house is the best value for money, in my opinion. You can get a 4-bedroom house for $600 or $700. Yet most foreigners don’t live in one.
Partly, it is because you’ll be the only foreigner around. No one will speak English.
Partly, it is because low-level crime is still fairly common. There are lots of stories of things being stolen from outside the house. (One night, thieves came and stole all the potted plants outside the houses.) Burglary isn’t exactly common but you’ll meet many people who have had their homes broken into. Laptops, TVs, cash laying around, and scooters are all targets for burglars.
Partly, it is because the traditional design of the houses is a poor fit for foreigner tastes. Sure, it is a 4-bedroom house. But each bedroom is very small — barely big enough for a queen-sized bed. You won’t find “open plan kitchens” or airy family rooms. They may not have as much natural light as you’d prefer. The bathroom will be cramped and won’t have a separate shower stall or a bathtub. You might not have good water pressure or consistent hot water. (It might rely on gravity from a tank on the roof and rely on solar heating of the water.)
As more foreigners consider living outside the luxury apartment complexes — and as the Vietnamese middle class continues to expand — I’ve seen a few places refurbished to be closer to foreign tastes but they still aren’t very common.
In general, it is easy to find an apartment: there are only a handful of major apartment buildings and they always have open units. Finding a house you like requires more searching.
The top end of the market is a villa. This is a private house surrounded by a wall, providing a privacy and a modicum of security. They all have gardens (though the garden may be small) and, if you’re willing to pay more, will have a private pool. These usually start at $1,700 and go up from there.
If you have a family (and can afford it), these can be a great choice. But if you don’t have a family, they are almost certainly a waste of money. Most of these are 5, 6, or even 7-bedrooms.
They are also not common in the central parts of the city, so you’re more likely to live on the outskirts if you want a villa.
There are three basic areas of Saigon: the center, the “old” fringe, and the “new” fringe.
The center is District 1, District 3, and parts of Binh Thanh. Prices are the highest here because you’re closest to the heart of the city. There are a number of serviced apartments in these areas for $300 but they are pretty tiny and you’re likely to go stir crazy after staying in them for a while.
Rent on a house might be $600–700. Rent on a two-bedroom apartment might by $1,100.
The “old” fringe are places like District 4, 5, and 10. They are only a 10–20 minute drive into the city center. Very few foreigners live in those districts because they have very little in the way of modernised housing. I’ve met a handful of foreigners who live in District 4 but none at all who live in District 5 or 10.
The “new” fringe are Districts 2 and 7. These are totally new developments. Every building is less than 5 years old and more are going up all the time. Rents are cheaper. District 7 is especially good value for money, where you can rent a 3-bedroom, 220 square meter villa for $1,300 a month. But you pay for that with a much longer drive to the city center. The traffic from District 7 is especially bad.