Some of you have asked me about personal costs and money living in Ho Chi Minh City. Here’s a little more info for you, with some personal experience details. All denominations are in USD for the sake of easy comparison to you followers back home. The column on the left is always Chicago.
Note: All statistics come from (I don’t know how well-reputed this site is, but the figures given largely fit with what I’ve seen, so I’m going to run with them and just post commentary) along with supporting anecdotal information from the sources listed at the bottom, combined with my personal experiences.

As you can see, Vietnam is comparatively an exceedingly affordable place to live, and, while living in a city is always a little more expensive, even HCMC is very low on the international scale of major urban areas, with only Delhi being cheaper (and the expat standard of living is probably higher here than in Dehli – don’t quote me on that, just a hunch. Correct me if I’m wrong).

Note: Chicago average prices on the left.

Food is the big question – I love to eat, and this is the place to do it. It might even be one of the culinary destinations of the world in terms of everyday eating. I find that I’m usually spending about $3.00 USD for restaurant meals, however, I’ve really only had 4-5 restaurant meals in the last month and a half. Virtually every meal I eat is street food, which runs about $0.50-1.00 USD (occasionally a few cents more) and is certifiably 17x fresher, healthier, and better tasting than the cheapest food you can get in America (which is probably something off a dollar menu at a fast food joint, which is hardly food and definitely not nutritious). I have not had a pre fix menu at a restaurant yet, but it’s very common for businesspeople and usually consists of a beer, iced tea, or coffee, rice, veggies, and a protein. Occasionally I’ve seen a little salad advertised in that as well.

Coffee is usually a little more than a buck (but the amount of coffee is much smaller, equivalent to maybe 6 oz. sweetened black coffee poured over ice – ca phe da – my usual order). If sitting for more than 1.5 hours, I will usually order 2-3 ca phe da, if the waiter deigns to attend to me. Beer is definitely cheaper than this indicates – $0.50 USD for a Domestic beer (Tiger or 333 being my favorites) is bordering on too expensive. Tipping at cafes and restaurants (a hidden price of dining/drinking in America) is not expected and any tips you give may go directly to management or be split evenly between the waitstaff.

I don’t drink milk, because YUCK and farts, but there are several specialty milk shops here. Maybe one day I’ll check them out.

Note: Chicago average prices on the left.

I can get large sandwich bread for about a dollar, or a fresh baguette from the shop around the corner for 10 cents. Eggs are about $1.50 a dozen. I’ll get a little wheel of cheese for anywhere from 2.50-5.00, so that gets expensive. The tomatoes are very small, but tasted more like tomatoes than what I used to buy in America, where they taste more like substance-y water. I literally didn’t even know you could buy potatoes here, so that’s something I’ll have to keep an eye out for. Water is cheap (although the hidden environmental price of bottled water remains too ridiculously high). Again, beer is a little less expensive than this, running between $.45-.50. I haven’t had an imported beer yet. Cigarette stands advertise a pack of smokes at a little more than $1.00.

Note: Chicago average prices on the left.

I haven’t figured out how to barter down a xe om yet, but I will. Usually I’m paying about $1.00-1.50 for mid-length trips, which I guess is too high? Sure seemed cheap to my CTA-centric mind! This could also be talking about the bus, which is VERY cheap at between .07-.12 per ride. I have not tried the bus yet but I live in a very bus-friendly neighborhood, so it’s only a matter of time. The bus is reserved for those girls whose mothers say that motorbikes are too dangerous, on the whole.

Taxis are about right. I’ve paid as much as 9.00 to get to District 7, but that’s VERY far away from me – like 25-30 minutes in the car.

Can’t speak to the price of a new car (there’s a HUGE tax on new cars) or gas, but I gather that filling up a motorbike once or twice a week is about 3.00 each time. This is a very cheap place to get around. A new motorbike can be had from $400 and up.

Note: Chicago average prices on the left.

As if I’d rent a tennis court, please. The gyms I’m looking at getting memberships with tend to run a little cheaper than this, but 50 bucks a month would be worth it to run in air conditioning. I tried running outside right after I got here and I almost died of heat stroke.

I haven’t been to a movie yet. At only five bucks, I might start doing that after I start gettin’ paid.

Note: Chicago average prices on the left.
Haven’t bought any clothes yet, but if you’re interested in what the internet says, here you go. I have heard from multiple sources that if you want quality custom clothes whipped up in a hurry, this is the place to go – I intend to get a custom suit or two in the next year, and doubtless some new dress shirts. Tailoring all my pants is also high on my to-do list – I was never a 32-length, it’s time to face the music. There’s no further growth spurt in store for this guy!
Note: Chicago average prices on the left.

Still waiting on our first months bills. If I remember I’ll update this when I get a few months to average it all out.

Note: Chicago average prices on the left.

I find these numbers to be too high, although perhaps I just got lucky (although other writers have noticed this higher rate too, but I’m assuming there’s not a statistically significant number of expats who rent here that also write about cost of living in blogs, so who knows). I spend $200/month for my bedroom, and our entire house is $940/month. As you can see, I love it. It’s definitely the city center, or close enough that it doesn’t matter.

And here’s the final word, everyone. I made much less than $4,400/month living in Chicago, and I’ll actually be making MORE than I did there while I live here – basically the lap of luxury. I’ve learned to be extremely frugal over the last few years and I’m looking forward to these very, very low prices to keep socking money away!
Other things I’ve found myself spending money on include postage. I will usually spend about 20-25 USD/month to send postcards and letters back to the States. (Yes, that’s high, but since I sent another batch off yesterday I can now begin to calculate an average. This is also averaging out to less than $1/postcard or envelope, and when you consider that it has to go 13,000 miles, it doesn’t seem so bad!)
That’s all she wrote. Please message me or leave a comment if you’re interested in knowing the prices of specific items or services – I’ll be sure to investigate! One thing on my list is massages – I should start getting those every week!