Living in Vietnam on a Budget: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, week 6

Happy Tết 2018 (the Lunar New Year)! Happy birthday Warren! This week while living under $50 a day for two people in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we had cheeseburgers and visited craft breweries and drank red wine and saw Black Panther and I even met a drug runner. Don't worry, he didn't care that I noticed and I didn't ask any questions. We also moved from D8 (HCMC district 8) to Long An province, out on the southern outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City towards the Mekong Delta.

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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
  • Weekly spending: $276.04
  • Avg. spending per day: $39.44
  • Avg. spending per day incl. bills back home: $51.21
  • Avg. spending per day overall in Asia: $44.43  
Oh hello, we are very short and cute!

So what are our living expenses in Ho Chi Minh City this week?

  • Conversion rate: 22,313 Vietnamese Dong (VND) = US$1.00 (100,000VND is about $4.50)
  • Accommodation: $64.58
    • We spent most of this week at our District 8 AirBnB homestay, and left on Friday. Ho Chi Minh City has a reputation for being a chaotic city of motorbikes, cheap beer, delicious street food, and friendly people. If you're on a budget, stay away from the busy expats and backpackers areas and head to District 8. We adored being just outside the city while still being close to enough to take a cheap Grab bike or 30 minute walk to get into town.  
I will miss you, Mrs. Hang! We became very close and after this picture she gave me a million kisses before we left.
    • Our next spot that we moved to on Friday is a tiny home in Long An province. It's under $10 per night, and on the edges of Ho Chi Minh City development, so if you keep going south you basically end up in the rural Mekong Delta region. It's much quieter, very peaceful, and curious kids are constantly poking their heads in our door to stare at us. More of a review next week :)
Plus, the neighborhood dogs DO NOT disappoint.
  • Transportation: $16.61
    • We took a few Grabs and Ubers around town this week because we went into the city a lot. One time, an Uber motorbike driver was super quiet and sketchy and he retrieved a mysterious package from the bushes while I was on the back of his bike. Drug runner, I assume? I try not to ask questions (or get murdered).
It was a quiet time on the streets for Tet (but still not quiet enough that we wanted to ride bicycles!)
    • Buses are available, but we decided that for two people, it's so much easier to take a Grab car from Ho Chi Minh City out to our next home in rural Long An province. We would have taken two buses, plus an Uber or Grab once we got here... cheaper, but also confusing and would have taken at least 2.5 hours. 45 minute door-to-door car service was just $8.63. How much is 2 hours of hassle for two people really worth?!
  • Food and drinks: $189.02
    • OK so yeah, we spent a lot of money this week on food and drinks! It was Warren's birthday, plus we met some random Americans at a craft brewery and went a bit overboard.
    • For Warren's birthday celebration, we started the day with breakfast pho in District 8, then we decided to ignore our budget and leave District 8 to do big-city-expensive-stuff. We had cheeseburgers at Soul Burger which were great (about $24 for two people to have beer and burgers), then we rounded out the night with a bottle of Australian cab sav that we picked up at a wine shop a couple of weeks ago. Takes us back to Adelaide! The wine is about 25% more expensive than buying it in Adelaide where it's made. Not a bad deal!
Birthday beer and burger time at Soul Burger
    • We also tried the beer at East West Brewing Company (pretty good, brewery was too loud and hip) and Pasteur Street Brewing Company (not our favorite beers) before ending up BACK at Heart of Darkness Brewery. They really know how to brew a tasty beer! All of the breweries' beers are around 100,000vnd ($4.50ish) for a 12oz beer. We ran into two Americans and got way too drunk chatting about Vietnam, teaching abroad, food science... sheesh! Heart of Darkness set us back $59.32, because we ate and drank too much!
Ultra hip East West Brewing Company
  • Entertainment/miscellaneous: $5.83
    • Although we did lots of people watching, snacking, and walking for entertainment we HAD to see Black Panther. Movie tickets in the daytime, weekday, at the Cinestar near the backpacker's district: 65,000vnd a piece, or $5.83 for two! Now that's a cheap date! Insider's tip: bring ear plugs for the previews. The movie was fine but the ads and previews were painfully loud.
Great movie ads at the theater, too

Check out some other posts about Vietnam!

Any digital nomad will tell you that Vietnam is a great budget travel destination. What they might not tell you is that District 8 is super close and way cheaper than central Ho Chi Minh City! Even with our huge splurges this week on food and drinks, we still came in under budget (before we bought our niece a birthday present)! So come on out, sign up for Grab and hop on the back of a motorbike. It's the Vietnamese way! 


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