Living in Vietnam on a Budget: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, week 2

It's easy to live on a budget in Vietnam, with cheap remarkable food and lovely local people. This week in Ho Chi Minh City we ate lots of street food (of course), visited the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, made friends with strangers after the U-23 football win, and bought mystery fruit at the market where I attempted to practice my Vietnamese language skills...

Full disclosure: Normal Nomads contains affiliate links, for which you are charged nothing and we may make a small commission. Normal Nomads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliates (, or,,, or
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
  • Avg. spending per day: $23.30
  • Avg. spending per day incl. bills back home: $26.50
  • Avg. spending per day overall in Asia: $46.23
Bikes and VN flags, celebrating the football win sending the U23 team to the AFC finals

So what are our living expenses in Ho Chi Minh City this week?
  • Conversion rate: 21,317 Vietnamese Dong (VND) = US$1.00 (100,000VND is about $4.70)
  • Accommodation: $64.62 
    • I highly recommend staying outside the backpacker's district and District 1, and checking out some of the real (and cheaper!) neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City. We are in District 8, 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 and we're getting a great local experience!
Neighborhood doggo

Dirty puppy friend
So many of the Saigon street dogs are silly and short.
  • Transportation: $3.80
    • The absolute best way to get around Ho Chi Minh City is Uber and Grab bikes, which I took four times this week. They can only carry one person, but it's anywhere between $0.50-$2.00 for a ride around the city. Extra bonus with Grab is that you get points, which can be redeemed for discounts, so this week I got about $2 off of rides based on points from previous trips.
Stumbling upon the various types of rice you can buy.
When graffiti is OK.
  • Food and drinks: $87.12
    • What's not to love about Vietnamese food? We enjoy break-phở (hehe) most days in Ho Chi Minh City, plus other street foods and various mystery cuisine. This week we tried snails and some sort of clams and crab soup and frogs. Yummmmm!
    Pork banh mi and iced coffee like every day
     Ate a whole octopus, pulled its beak out of my mouth.
  • Misc.: $7.52
    • Monica started the week visiting the Tomb of Lê Văn Duyệt, a field trip tour organized by Learn Vietnamese with Annie (for 100,000vnd or about $4.70). After hearing about the history of the tomb for the general and his wife, we were able to view the beautiful three-room worship house. I don't have many pictures, because it was restricted in much of the house. We also visited the nearby Bà Chiểu market where I practiced my language skills and bought some sori fruit in Vietnamese.
Tombs of  Le Van Duyet and his wife
Exterior of the beautiful worship house
Worship house interior where I could take a picture 
    • We walked to the fancy Bến Thành area in District 1 and visited the Fine Arts Museum. It was definitely interesting, and the building is beautiful, although we weren't into the special exhibits. Still cool! It's 30,000vnd per person, so 60,000vnd for two, or about $2.82. Definitely worth the trip! Below are some favorites:
"Cham Lady" by Cao Thi Duoc

Check out the intense construction view from the museum

Me, coming home from yoga

"Indigo Forest in the Flood Season" by Dang Thi Duong

"Ca Mau Guerrillas", lacquer engraving by Thai Ha
Detail on a similar engraving
    • Our most entertaining event came later when Vietnam very dramatically won a football (soccer) match for the first time, putting them in the AFC U23 finals. I don't know football and I don't think this is a big deal overall, but it was in Ho Chi Minh City! Everyone took to the streets for hours to celebrate with Vietnamese flags flying over the whole city (via motorbike). A couple of blocks from home, we were even grabbed by revelers and given beers! Some of our neighbors we had never met insisted that we drink beer and eat seafood and fruit and have a dance party on the sidewalk. A few of the partiers live in the U.S. so they could actually communicate with us. Everyone else just yelled EO! (cheers in Vietnam) and force-fed us Tiger beer. A good time was had by all! 
We couldn't even take pictures when it was its craziest
After a 1.5 hour walk we are almost home!

The party we got pulled into. Under that table, empty beer cans were piled up!

This week in Ho Chi Minh City was cheap, and we got a very unusual local experience when Vietnam made it to the AFC U23 match. Street parties and public drunkenness (an unusual sight in VN) left the whole city flying flags for days. Let's hope they win the final!


Popular Posts