Vietnam / Cheapest Country to Live (and Work).
Vietnam is a backpacker’s paradise. For foreigners, it’s one of the best and most affordable places to reside. There is a lot to see and do in Vietnam, despite the fact that it is still somewhat of an undiscovered gem when it comes to affordable places to live and explore. Vietnam is a place for travelers seeking adventure and beautiful landscapes to explore and delectable native cuisine.
Ho Chi Minh City in the south, Hanoi, the nation’s capital, in the north, and Da Nang in the country’s center are the major cities. These cities have the majority of jobs and teaching English is arguably the most common job for native English speakers.
The Cost of Living.
After 15 years of living in Vietnam, I have almost forgotten the reason I first came here, but I certainly know the reasons why I stay. And the cost of living is something that is very near the top of the list.
Like anywhere in the world, depending on where you live in the country and your lifestyle will have substantial effects on the prices you pay for living. But first, let me step back 15 years and tell you how much money I brought with me and where it went in setting myself up in Vietnam.
My first trip to Vietnam was in 2006 and it was a holiday that started in Hanoi in the north and ended in Ho Chi Minh City in the south after meandering down the coastline and taking in sites like Halong bay, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Da Nang.
Those were the days when I could “4-star” it and not worry and not interact with the locals. In short, like a lot of westerners with too much money and not enough “chutzpah” do. However, I did learn one thing…I loved Vietnam and its people and wanted to move back, So after 3 years of preparation, I moved back to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
If you look at my other posts about Vietnam you will find many that cover my initial foray into Vietnam as well as posts relating to retirement in Vietnam. you will find these links below.
Living in Vietnam, is about just that—my experiences, or at least some of them, relating to life in Vietnam.
And many other posts relating to my interpretations of Vietnam and its people. An overview of Vietnam and a guide to visiting Vietnam are also great articles that will help you to get a feel of what the country is like, and will also drill down deeper into the character of the Vietnam soul. And before I lay out the cost of living for Ho Chi Minh City, I have an introductory post to Vietnam called “A Guide to Visiting Vietnam“
Vietnam 2023 Cost of Living.
The cost of living in Vietnam is overall fairly cheap and I can say quite honestly say that little has changed over the years. Yes, prices have gotten higher but nowhere near the price rises of the west.
The above list is brought to you by “Numbeo“, a company that puts together “cost of living” charts for countries all around the world. I have been living in Vietnam for 15 years, most of which have been in Ho Chi Minh City, and I can vouch for the accuracy of these figures. If you click on the blue “numbeo” link it will also show costs for utilities, sports, and leisure childcare, clothing, and jewelry as well as salaries and other useful information.
As this is primarily a site for ESL teachers, I must add wages and salaries for teachers. This is one area that ‘Numbeo” has not quite got the information correct. However, I understand this may be a summary of different jobs for “ex-pats.”
I would argue that the majority of ex-pats employed in Vietnam are English teachers or more specifically English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Salaries vary for English Teachers and it depends on experience and the quality of the school as to how much you will receive.
When I first arrived and started working as a teacher in Vietnam my salary or wage was only $14.00 per hour salaries, as I said, fluctuates depending on your qualifications, experience, and the country you come from. If you are a native-born speaker from the USA, England, Australia, New Zealand, etc, you will command a higher dollar rate per hour.
Yes, the wages are normally broken down into hourly rates and even though it is common to see prices in US dollars the rates should be shown in the local currency or ‘Dong”. The average salary for ex-pat teachers is around 500,000 dong per hour. (about $21.00 US per hour). Some are higher and some are lower. I have seen some schools offering only $14.00 per hour for ex-pats and some at the other end of the scale offering up to $50.00 per hour.
There are various different types of schools and ways to teach English and if you wish to delve deeper you may look at my previous post about “How to Teach English in Vietnam“
Dollar to Dong Conversion Rate.
The local Vietnamese currency is called the “dong” and you will quickly become accustomed to seeing all those extra zeros on your notes. And at least once per month when you paid you will become an instant “dong” millionaire.
When you first arrive it is a good idea to add a conversion rate calculator to your “smartphone”. You do not want to be taken advantage of due to the “strangeness” of the denominations. The one I still use is XE currency converter at www.xe.com.
Worlds Cheapest Countries to Live Video.
Can I Retire in Vietnam.
There is no reason to not consider retiring in Vietnam, but there are a few issues that may make you stop and think.
There are significant distinctions between Vietnamese and Western cultures. You might have a cultural shock if you don’t initially learn. It will be simpler for you to assimilate and make more friends the more you are aware of the cultural distinctions between Western society and Vietnamese culture.
While requesting a visa in Vietnam, foreigners are subject to a number of tight limitations. For instance, only tourist visas with a period of one to three months are permitted for foreigners who intend to retire in Vietnam.
However, If you have a Vietnamese parent or spouse, you may be eligible to apply for a visa exemption for up to five years. After your existing visa expires, you must apply for a new one if you want to stay longer.
Generally, unless you have your own transferrable health insurance, you will have to pay for any health costs. Most Vietnamese have their own hospital coverage at the hospital of their own choice and while costs are substantially cheaper than in the west, medical bills can still add up.
And while it may seem almost exciting, the traffic congestion can seriously get you down after a while and then you have the pollution that goes with it.
So if you feel like you can cope with the above, by all means, there is plenty to make retiring in Vietnam an attractive option.
Vietnam has a 2,000-kilometer coastline and there are some beautiful smaller cities like Da Nang and Nha Trang which still have an ex-pat community but is small enough to overcome some of the major cons of the big cities. namely, traffic congestion and pollution.
You will still have to deal with the “visa runs” ( having to go to Cambodia etc to extend your visa), but most of the smaller cities have buses for ex-pats that will take you over the border to do the visa paperwork and extension you need.
Vietnam is a beautiful country and has some wonderful people. Even the frustrations of learning a new language can turn into a plus as you make new friends along the way.
It is your attitude that will make any transition to living in Vietnam fun and enjoyable. Yes, there are still problems, for example, we had a power outage yesterday for 8 hours. And this is Ho Chi Minh City. And paperwork at times can feel ‘Kafkaesque”.
But whether you decide to live in Vietnam for a short while or a long while, the “cost of living” is a major draw card for most people.