After more than five years in Saigon, Les Michels can confidently say that they know a lot about the city which adopted them!
We had addressed last year the good reasons which could encourage you to move to Vietnam, however a lot of information related to a settlement in Ho Chi Minh City did not appear in this previous article. This is why today, we give you more details and information about life in Saigon.
You wish to settle in Saïgon in 2020 ?
Accommodation, food, cost of living, activities, culture, Les Michels give you an overview of what awaits you in Vietnam!
Cost of living in Saïgon
To guide us on the evaluation of the cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City, we will of course draw on our own experience, but also on Numbeo data, which we invite you to discover here.
These prices are relatively stable, and are estimates made in 2020, but consider that inflation in Vietnam is high (around 7% per year).
Food and drink in Saigon
Let’s start at the bottom of the Maslow pyramid. In Saigon, there is no shortage of taste options, and whether you are a gourmet who prefers restaurant outings or whether you are a homebody accustomed to simmering good dishes at home, there is no doubt that you will find your happiness in Saigon. Nothing is missing from the menu of international restaurants, so you can find without any problem most of the specialties that you might miss from home, from the most common to the most refined.
Is it expensive to shop in Ho Chi Minh?
Several factors are to be taken into account here. Depending on the district (we’ll come back to this), the store brand (small or large distribution), or the content of your basket (local or imported products), prices will vary. But usually, you will do your shopping for the week or the month in stores such as Vinmart or BigC (Carrefour group), and complete everything in the many Convenience Stores (Family Mart, 7/11, etc.).
If you want to consume local products, the bill should be relatively inexpensive. Count € 1.30 for a dozen of eggs, less than € 1 per kilo for potatoes, onions, tomatoes. Indeed, Vietnamese agriculture is rich enough to be able to buy throughout the year a wide range of fruits and vegetables often tastier than in France, and at reduced prices. Even for typical “European” foods such as pumpkins, zucchini, eggplants, you will easily find what you are looking for, in addition to the plethora of new foods to try (Rambutans, dragon fruits, durians, etc.).
Among the other foods produced in Vietnam that might surprise you, there are cheese (La Vache Qui Rit is actually a everywhere here), cold meats, bread, foie gras, chocolate, strawberries, and even wine! For all these products of French know-how, you will pay roughly the same amounts as for their equivalent produced in France (or even 2 times cheaper for baguettes!). The quality is great, there is a real possibility in Vietnam to eat home products for very affordable amounts compared to the general situation in the rest of Asia.
Local meats are generally of good quality, especially for chicken (around € 2.50 per kilo) and pork. For beef, American or Australian products are preferred, and are therefore more expensive.
The offer of fish or seafood is vast and at lower prices than those encountered in France, Vietnam having a very productive aquaculture. Products such as octopus or squid are easier to find and cheaper.
The foods that cost the most are obviously those that are imported, such as apples, cherries, kiwis, breakfast cereals, ice cream and desserts, fruit juices, sauces. These are generally 10 to 30% more expensive than in France.
As for alcohol, Vietnam has a good supply of industrial beers at fair prices (count € 3.5 for a pack of 6 Heineken for example), and overall you can find all the references you need at a price equivalent to those used in France for spirits (Vodka, Rum, Gin, etc … Whiskey being a little more expensive). The craft beer market is growing at full speed, again at prices equivalent to those in France.
What are the prices in restaurants in Saigon?
To eat inexpensively in Vietnam, there is no shortage of choices: Banh Mi sandwiches, Pho soups with chicken or beef, rice with meat (Com Tam), and other local specialties will cost you only between 1 and 2 € per meal and per person in “street” restaurants. Count 0.40-0.50 € for a drink. Simple, tasty and quick, these are great solutions, to test anyway.
Fast Foods (KFC, Burger King, McDonalds and others) offer menus between 3 and 6 €, which is much more expensive than Street Food. How can we not talk about the Big Mac index in Vietnam? It will cost you in Vietnam € 2.60 for the famous hamburger, and € 3.50 for the meal.
For more “traditional” restaurants, you can eat in Vietnamese establishments for 3 to 4 €, and in international restaurants between 4 to 7 € in most areas of the city. Again, there is no shortage of diversity, because if of course there are classics such as French, Italians, Indians or Mexicans, there are also Mediterranean, Korean, Brazilian, etc restaurants in Saigon. In short, there will be in Ho Chi Minh all the culinary diversity that you wish, especially if you live in an “international” district. The prestigious restaurants will offer meals between 10 and 30 € per person.
More expensive in retail shops (30 to 100% more), prices for glasses and bottles of international wines in restaurants are similar to those in France. You can order a glass for 2 to 4 € and bottles from around 12 €. The same goes for spirits that have similar costs. Only beers are really cheaper, often around 1 to 3 € depending on the restaurant.
The cost of food delivery in Saigon
For deliveries, the food costs in Ho Chi Minh City are the same as in restaurants, increased by delivery fees ranging from around € 0.5 to € 2. You can have meals delivered for between 5 and 8 euros on average.
Accommodation in Saigon
How much is the rent in Saigon ?
We must here distinguish what can be called “Vietnamese neighborhoods” (central, such as D4, D5, D8, D10, or more peripheral such as D9, Thu Duc) from more westernized neighborhoods: D1, D2, D7 .
Expatriates will often prefer neighborhoods such as District 1, 2, 3, 7, Binh Thanh. In these conditions :
- For a private room in a shared apartment/house : 200 to 350 €
- For a studio or a 1 bedroom apartment: 400 to 600 €
- For a traditional Vietnamese house of 2 to 3 floors with 3 bedrooms: 600 to 800 €
- For a 3 bedroom apartment in luxury residences (with services, swimming pool, shops), 800 to 1200 €
- For a villa (3 to 6 bedrooms): 1400 to 4000 € +
There are accommodations for all price ranges in Saigon.
For the other less central or less “international” districts, the price differences can range from -20 to -50% for equal services compared to the prices above. So there are great deals to be made if you want to move a little out of the city center, or live in a traditional neighborhood.
How much are the monthly charges in Saigon per person?
- Internet subscription: 10 to 15 €
- Cable TV: 10 €
- 4G phone: from 3 to 10 € depending on the data
- Electricity: 20 to 30 €
- Running water: 4 to 8 €
- Cleaning lady: 2 to 3 € per hour
Also remember to take into account the cost of your Visa if it is not covered by your employer. Prices vary, but prepare a budget of 400 to 600 € per year.
Education in Saigon
How much does a school year cost in Saigon?
Education is probably one of the most expensive things in Ho Chi Minh City, especially if you want your children to study in an international institution.
For most French expatriates, the high-school Marguerite Duras remains the best compromise, because even if the establishment is a bit far from the city center, its prices are very affordable compared to other international schools, and the quality of education is up to French standards. The price of a year of schooling is around € 5,500 per child. Be aware that some scholarships can be sponsored.
As for English-speaking schools, prices vary from € 10,000 to € 25,000 per year per child.
How much does a private lesson cost in Saigon?
Education is extremely important for Vietnamese and expatriate families. Many teachers offer their private lesson or group lesson services. For these, whether it is learning a language or tutoring a specific topic, prices are between 15 and 35 € / hour.
Health in Saigon
It is difficult to have clear idea of health costs in Saigon. The infrastructures exist, Vietnamese and international, you will find places to treat your health problems in fairly good conditions overall.
There is a very large price difference between local and international establishments. We encourage you to subscribe to a health insurance for the international establishments expenses, which prices are very high compared to Europe. Also note that there is a French hospital.
Costs in Vietnamese hospitals:
- Consultation: 1.5 €
- X-rays: 10-15 €
- Night in hospital: 30-50 €
Cost in an international hospital:
- Consultation: 80 €
- X-rays: 280 €
Daily expenses in Saigon
Cost of other daily expenses in Ho Chi Minh City:
- Cinema: 4 to 5 €
- Haircut: 2 to 5 €
- Subscription to a sports club: 15 to 50 € +
- 1 hour massage: 10 to 15 €
- Rental of a scooter per month: 40 €
- One liter of petrol: € 1
- A 5km taxi lift: 5 €
- A 5km scooter lift: € 2
- A pack of cigarettes: € 1
- A tailored-made shirt: 20 €
Quality of life in Saigon
After having reviewed all the main costs of living in Ho Chi Minh City, let’s now take a look at what there is to do! Culture, hang out, social life, trips around.
Accessibility and travels around Saigon
One of the indisputable advantages of living in Saigon is its proximity to many airports in Southeast Asia in direct flights and at reduced costs.
Tan Son Nhat Airport is still one of the only ones in the world to be located (for a short time) in the city center, and is therefore accessible on average in 30 minutes from most areas of the city, which greatly facilitates air travel.
Hong-Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, are all great destinations located between 1h and 3h of flight for prices ranging from 70 to 150 €, good opportunity to plan inexpensive weekends abroad !
Many other direct flight destinations, such as Japan, Australia and India, are also accessible within 4 or 5 hours of flight from Saigon (prepare between 250 and 400 €).
There are many airports and tourist destinations in Vietnam very interesting for residents of Saigon. Beach lovers are less than an hour from Phu Quoc Island or seaside cities such as Nha Trang, Quy Nhon or Da Nang.
For nature lovers, Dalat, Pleiku in the south, and Hanoi in the north and its surrounding regions (Ninh Binh, Halong Bay, mountains in the north) will offer a wide choice to adventurers, not to mention cities such as Hue.
Air tickets are reasonably affordable when traveling around the country, with fares ranging from 30 to 120 € round trip.
Around Ho Chi Minh City
The offer for weekends less than 2 hours from Saigon by car is more limited. Although Saigon is located relatively close to the coast, seaside destinations outside the metropolis are of limited interest. Vung Tau can be pleasant for a weekend, but we prefer the beaches of Ho Tram (2:30 hours away) or Phan Tiet / Mui Ne (5 hours away).
The Mekong Delta as well as the Cat Tien region offer interesting opportunities for sightseeing, but again, to really enjoy nature, you have to drive at least 2 hours from Saigon.
Nightlife in Saigon
This is one of the major assets of the Saigon. The city is extremely active at night, weekdays and weekends, and the party can continue until dawn without any problems.
The number and variety of bars, restaurants, clubs and rooftop is mind-boggling, they suit every budget, from the modest street bars to the largest hotels and terraces with panoramic views that the city has to offer .
City of neon lights and an incomparable life, you will spend in Saigon some of your most beautiful nights.
Security in Saigon
Saigon is generally a very safe city. Crime exists, but is confined to minor crimes and above all without violence. You can walk without fear in any neighborhood and at any time, even if principles of minimal precautions nevertheless apply (as everywhere) to avoid pickpocketing.
Leisure in Saigon
There is a quite honorable amount of leisure of all kinds in Saigon.
Many malls and markets will allow you to satisfy your shopping needs, most offering leisure activities of all kinds: video games, games for children, skating rinks, escape games, cinemas, in short, just about everything we can hope for a city of nearly 10 million inhabitants.
The choice of sporting activity is quite wide, and whatever sport you practice, there is a good chance that you can exercise it in a Saigon club.
Culture in Saigon
This is unfortunately one of the negatives of life in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you come from a large European city, you may be a little disappointed by the cultural offer of Saigon!
Indeed, the number of museums, concerts or festivals is after all quite limited, or in any case, rarely honor artists from the international (or even national) scene, even if this situation naturally tends to change with the higher exposure of Vietnam to global culture.
However, we have to put things in perspective: Saigon is far from being a city without culture. On the one hand because the Vietnamese culture is obviously felt everywhere here, and is an eternal source of astonishment and discovery, and on the other hand because it keeps a rich heritage of its colonial period. Many buildings from the French era are still used, such as the Opera to name just one.
Nature in Saigon
This is again one of the weak points of the city, which is lacking in green space, hence the need for many residents to regularly leave Saigon to get some fresh air.
There are some parks and green spaces in the city, but these seem far insufficient by Western standards of what can be found in Europe, America or Australia. Natural spaces are however present, but are not arranged for leisure.
The city center is very congested and pollution can sometimes be inconvenient in the long run or for the most sensitive.
Climate in Saigon
Let’s finish with a positive note (at least for lovers of tropical climates): the weather is good all year round in Saigon, with stable and warm temperatures. The lowest temperatures are around 22-23 °, and the highest between 32 and 35 °.
During the rainy season, the rains are relatively sporadic: 2 to 3 times a week, for fairly limited periods: 1 to 4 hours.
You want to settle in Ho Chi Minh City and why not create your business there?