Considering a move to Vietnam? It’s easy to see why, as this beautiful country has incredible food, a rich culture and a tropical climate. It’s particularly attractive for retirees, but Vietnam also attracts its share of international students and skilled professionals.
One of the other main draws of Vietnam is its low cost of living, and this is what we’ll explore right here in this guide.
Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating, or moving to Vietnam for good, we have all the info you need to know. You’ll find out all about Vietnam prices for everything from rent and transport to meals out and healthcare.
But let’s start by looking at the currency.
The first thing to know about money in Vietnam is that the official currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND). But how does it stack up compared to other world currencies? Let’s do a quick currency conversion to find out:
- $1000 = 23,178,500 VND
- £1000 = 30,225,900 VND
- €1000 = 27,364,500 VND
- A$1000 = 16,722,099 VND
If the tens of millions of Vietnamese dong start to get mind-boggling, remember that you can always use an online currency converter. This can be a much quicker and easier way to work out the value of your money, compared to doing it in your head.
Need to convert GBP or another currency to VND? Don’t automatically go to your bank or nearest money exchange service, as you may not get very good exchange rates.
It’s often the case that a mark-up is added on top of the mid-market rate – this is the rate that banks use when trading with each other. With a poorer exchange rate, your money doesn’t go as far.
You’ll naturally want to get the very most from your money in Vietnam, but how do you avoid the terrible exchange rates offered by banks? Luckily, there are other options available.
Open a multi-currency account with TransferWise and you can send and receive money internationally with low fees. Crucially, you’re also guaranteed the real, mid-market exchange rate on every transaction, with no mark-up applied.
Now, TransferWise doesn’t currently cover sending to/from Vietnam. But, you can still save money using your TransferWise account when living, working or studying there. You can convert GBP or other currencies to VND with a tiny fee and the real, mid-market exchange rate – which also applies when you spend in Vietnam using your TransferWise debit Mastercard.
Because of the excellent exchange rate, this can save you money compared to using banks, even with the small currency conversion fee applied.
Vietnam is the 89th most expensive country to live in, according to the Numbeo Cost of Living Index by Country 2020.¹
But what does this mean in terms of real, day-to-day expenses? Let’s compare the cost of living in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with major UK cities, focusing on rent, eating out and transport:
|Comparing basic cost of living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant, three courses)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam⁵||£436.40||£16.54||£4.96|
The capital of Vietnam - Hanoi is where you’ll find most of the country’s history and culture. However, multi-cultural Hanoi is still a thriving urban centre boasting fantastic dining, shopping and nightlife. Plus, it’s just a short drive to the mountains, lush parks and tranquil countryside surrounding the city.
If you want a taste of more modern living and don’t mind a busy, densely populated city centre, move to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon).
It’s not the capital, but fast-paced Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam and a booming business district. Here, you’ll find super organised public transport systems, great job opportunities and every kind of entertainment and amenity you could wish for – from museums and shopping malls to nightlife and parks.
Leaving rent out of it just for now, here’s how much you can expect to pay in general living expenses in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi:
|Total living expenses in Ho Chi Minh⁵||Average cost|
|1 person, per month (without rent)||£355.87|
|4 person family, per month (without rent)||£1,263.55|
|Utilities, basic, for 85m² apartment||£53.58|
|Total living expenses in Hanoi⁶||Average cost|
|1 person, per month (without rent)||£342.69|
|4 person family, per month (without rent)||£1,214.45|
|Utilities, basic, for 85m² apartment||£53.16|
Just as important as the cost of living in Hanoi and other Vietnamese cities is the average salary. To give you an idea of how much you could expect to earn if you move there, here are some average annual salaries for a range of jobs in Vietnam:
|Salary averages for Ho Chi Minh⁷||Average salary|
|Salary averages for Hanoi⁸||Average salary|
One of your main monthly expenses is likely to be rent, wherever you live. But how much space can you get for your money in Vietnam?
Here, we’ll look at how much rent you can expect to pay in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi for both small and large apartments:
|Rental cost in Ho Chi Minh⁵||Average monthly cost|
|1 bed apartment in city centre||£436.40|
|1 bed apartment outside city centre||£307.68|
|3 bed apartment in city centre||£936.87|
|3 bed apartment outside city centre||£620.01|
|Rental cost in Hanoi⁶||Average monthly cost|
|1 bed apartment in city centre||£268.39|
|1 bed apartment outside city centre||£184.34|
|3 bed apartment in city centre||£564.69|
|3 bed apartment outside city centre||£367.45|
Healthcare in Vietnam⁹ isn’t free, so you will need to arrange private healthcare insurance before moving there. You’ll find that public hospitals and facilities are not always as well equipped or have the standards of healthcare that you’re used to, so you may want to consider private treatment.
In terms of costs, it is around £30 and £53 to see a private GP, while hospital costs vary considerably. You should be able to get a routine checkup with a dentist for free.
Motorbike is the most popular way to get around in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with over 50% of residents using one regularly.¹⁰
Walking and cycling are also popular, but public transport use is low at around 5-6% for each city. However, buses and trains are very cheap, costing just £5-7 for a monthly pass. The best way to travel across Vietnam (between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi for example) is by rail, although routes are limited.
There are a lot of universities in Vietnam, making it a popular pick with international students.
Among the major institutions is Vietnam National University, which has campuses in both Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, and Ton Duc Thang University. This Ho Chi Minh public university even features in the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities 2020.¹¹
If you want to study at Ton Duc Thang University, you can expect to pay tuition fees of around £743 - £1,320 per year depending on the course. This may rise to around £1,980 a year for English-taught degree programs.¹²
However, there are also scholarship awards available for international students who meet certain entry requirements.
Vietnam has an enviably low cost of living which, combined with the lure of its thriving cities, makes it an attractive place to live.
But even though Vietnam prices are relatively cheap, you’ll still want to be getting the very most for your money. This is why signing up for a TransferWise multi-currency account before your move could be a smart decision.
With your account, you’ll be able convert currency and spend on your linked Borderless debit card with bank-beating fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate. It could save you a small fortune over time.
So that’s the cost of living in Vietnam pretty much covered, from average rents in the big cities to healthcare costs across the country. After reading this guide, you should be all set to manage your money and understand the currency in Vietnam.
Chúc may mắn (good luck) with your move!
- Numbeo - cost of living index 2020
- Numbeo - cost of living in London
- Numbeo - cost of living in Manchester
- Numbeo - cost of living in Edinburgh
- Numbeo - cost of living in Ho Chi Minh
- Numbeo - cost of living in Hanoi
- Teleport - salaries in Ho Chi Minh
- Salary Explorer - salaries in Hanoi
- Expat Assure - healthcare in Vietnam
- Numbeo - traffic in Vietnam
- Shanghai ranking of world universities
- Top Universities - tuition fees
All sources checked on October 13, 2020
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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