Living in Vietnam on a Budget: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, week 1

Budget travel can be a real challenge, but Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a great place for cheap living. Our digital nomad hearts love the cheap street food, fascinating culture, pretty good internet, and friendly locals. Vietnam is quickly becoming one of our favorite places.

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Our goal: $50 per day total, including transportation, accommodation, visas, and bills back home. For two people.

In every budget update I will add a prorated estimate of our bills back home (loans, phone plan, etc. which may vary slightly by month), to include in our $50/day travel budget. I am not including travel insurance -- this would add about $5.75 per day to our total.
  • Days: 7
  • Location: Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam
  • Splurges: gym memberships and Vietnamese lessons
  • Avg. spending per day: $45.02
  • Avg. spending per day incl. bills back home: $48.22
  • Avg. spending per day overall in Asia: $47.16  
Motorbike transport for dozens of live birds
So what are our living expenses in Ho Chi Minh City this week?
  • Conversion rate: 21,834 Vietnamese Dong (VND) = US$1.00 (100,000VND is about $4.50)
  • Accommodation: $64.62 
    • In Ho Chi Minh City we are staying at an AirBnB homestay (AirBnB discount code here for signing up!) where we have a private room, small balcony, shared bathroom and shared kitchen/living space. It's under $10 a day!
    • Our hosts are fabulous, and I'm happy we decided to stay in District 8, which is really off the beaten path for HCMC travelers. An American I met even asked, "where IS District 8, anyway?!" In a week we have only seen about 5 other foreigners. Lots of opportunities to practice my Vietnamese!
Most roads are crazy in D8, but we live just off this calm street.
  • Transportation: $3.44
    • We mostly walked this week. If you want to read about my travel failures from last week, check out:
Click it!
    • We got a Grab car home from my Vietnamese class, plus I took Grab bikes to/from the class. Luckily they are realllllllly cheap -- one 20 minute car ride and two 20 minute scooter rides cost 75,000vnd or about $3.44 total.
  • Food and drinks: $83.91
    • EVERYTHING IS AMAZING! From fried banana breakfast to grilled squid and octopus, Vietnamese food in Ho Chi Minh City has been really incredible. We have been eating almost primarily street food and love it.
We head out and find something mysterious, point, and say "Hai," for two orders, please.
Well, is it good? 

Yes! It's Takoyaki, or fried octopus corn fritter balls with sauce! SO GOOD!
    • Grabbing beers from the corner store for 9500vnd a piece ($0.44) has been our evening routine.
Grilling octopus is another good way to cook these little suckers
  • Misc.: $163.14
    • Long-term investments upped our spending this week, but it is going to last for the next 5 weeks.
    • Gym memberships at Vesco Gym for both of us are 350,000vnd per person or 700,000vnd total (US $32.06) and include 18 trips a piece over the coming weeks. Yoga classes for Monica, weights for Warren! It's a very nice gym and is 10 minutes walk away.
    • Beginner Vietnamese language classes at Learn Vietnamese with Annie for Monica are 2,700,000vnd ($123.66) for a six week course, 3 hours per week in a small class of four students. So far, so good! It's expensive, but a really wonderful experience to learn a new language in a place where you're completely engrossed in it.
    • We stocked up on toiletries (shampoo and conditioner, razors, lotion, soap) at 162,000vnd or $7.42.

Ho Chi Minh City is a great place for digital nomads. Street food is great, accommodation is cheap, Vietnamese people are incredibly nice, and the unique culture offers lots to do. You can take Grab or Uber motorbikes all over Ho Chi Minh City and still stay under budget, too!


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