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Amount needed to live comfortably in Saigon

Hello All--

I hope this question has not been asked too much, but here goes:

I plan on retiring in the next 1-2 years, and I would like to consider Saigon as a retirement destination. I have previously lived and worked in Thailand for 6 years, and before that, 3 years in Taiwan. I have traveled and worked extensively throughout the Asia Pac region since 2001 and I am very comfortable with most Asian cultures, and find them more compatible and attractive to me than US/Western cultures.

With an after-tax retirement income of at least (conservative estimate) US$ 4,000/mo, what sort of lifestyle could I reasonably expect in Saigon ? I am a single male, age 57, unattached and in excellent physical condition.

Thanks in advance,
Matthew

"what sort of lifestyle" - very fuzzy question. What sorts are there? Like student, middle manager, executive? Heavy drinker, swinger, movie star? Do you want a lifestyle where every penny of the $4000 is gone at the end of the month? Very fuzzy question. :unsure

Here is how to estimate living expenses in Vietnam.

In Google search, copy and paste this:
"cost of living" ho chi minh city site:expat.com

You want the quotes to give you exact matches for that phrase.
The site: bit will limit search to this website (don't bother with the search box in the forum, it's broken).
Run the search.
To weed out old results, click Search Tools button, and Any Time selector. Either pick Past year or Custom range and put in From = January 1 2015.

Scan the results for an hour to see many people's answers and experiences.

Being creative, you can replace HCMC with less-commonly used Saigon, remove the site: part to find other sources, try "expat apartments", or, "lifestyle"!

This is very helpful; many thanks. Hard to exactly define my desired lifestyle, but using the figures from the various posts, living on less than USD 3,000/mo would allow for all I need and many "wants", and having funds left over every month for unforeseen emergencies. I am not including US Social Security income as part of my monthly income, which I could begin receiving in 2021.

By any standard, $4,000.00/month, should provide you reasonable comfort. Last time that I checked(a couple of years ago) a mansion in an expat zone rented for $3000.00/month. Reasonable apartments should rent from around $500.00/month to tens of thousands of USD for multistory penthouses in the expat zone.

If you are comfortable outside the expat/english speaking zone, cut those figures by half to two thirds. $2000.00 or less will provide reasonable comfort outside the expat zone.

Not counting medical expenses for my wife, that are astronomical; but, mostly covered by insurance, we live in a very nice three story house that is within wheel-chair pushing distance of the Hospital, have a house-boy helper, a jeep and spend roughly $2000.00/month

Note, in the Manor a couple of years ago a freshly remodeled efficiency apartment was available for USD $900.00/month. My very nice, after I spent $1,000.00 repainting etc., 3 story house on a 24 month lease runs USD$600.00/month. Amortizing the paint job etc. the cost is still under USD$ 650.00/month.

Depending on your lifestyle and where you want to live you can live very comfortable on your retirement. I live good on my 2500.00 a month but I don't live in the expat zone. I also have a wife and her family that I'm responsible for.

Hello Max,
Greetings,

I have lived in vietnam for short periods like 5 - 6 months and then again 5 - 6 months. I guess, your main expenses can be categorized as follows:

1) apartment: $ 450 - 500 & Management water / electricity Fee = $ 100 / month
( 02 bed room, 5 kms from the down town. which is not bad. it is an amazing locality with many expats ) apartments are little old but its better than many. i lived with my family and they loved it as well.  you can find a sharing apartment where room is yours and kitchen and dining area is sharing at around $ 200 / month

2) food expense : $ 15 - 20 / day or 500 - 600 / month ( but if you cook then it can come down to $ 200 / month )

3) fuel expenses: you can buy a motor bike for $ 1000 ( new one ) and fuel expenses be around $ 50 / month

I think above expenses are essential ones, remaining on the lfie you wanna live :)

Regards,
Zaki

3 bedroom apt:  3,500,000 dong. per month. (90m2..I think)
Electric: 1,500,000 dong per-month (AC at 26 C almost constantly)
Security/Water: 300,000 Dong per month

Of course, I split the cost with my Viet GF. (i'm showing my 1/2)

My advice, don't live in an ex-pat area. Buy a motorbike and ride there if you must meet ex-pats. I am somewhat of a loner, so I don't really have a need to meet people or be around Americans or other English speakers.

Zep--

The consensus seems rather solid that living in the expat zone is two to three more expensive than living outside the zone. Not to mention being swarmed by beggars etc. inside the zone.

But, expat zones exist for a reason. The reason is that living outside the zone requires at least a basic knowledge of the language and customs or family and/or friends who are Vietnamese and can guide you into fitting into Vietnamese society.

From my limited experience in Viet Nam, Mexico, Japan and Thailand, the expat vs non expat zone issue is universal

Geez I live on about 700 usd a month. I don't live in an expat area, I cook at home most nights and I rarely go to expat bars and restaurants. At 4000usd a month I could live a very very good lifestyle, not to say that my lifestyle now is too bad.

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Very helpful, thanks. I would prefer to live outside the expat zone, which I did in Thailand for the most of the 6 years I was there. What I am also discovering is the costs of living in VN are very similar to Thailand.

Hello Cherry, thank you for your kind offer. My retirement is about 1-2 years away, but I will be planning a "look/see" trip to Saigon within the next 6 months or so. If you could send me your contact info (not sure how that is done on this forum), that would be great !

While I do like to have a "nightlife", it wouldn't be a nightly thing; maybe 2-3x's a week or so. And I'm pretty selective on who and when I buy drinks for...:)

The one "gotta have" is a very good gym; along the lines of a 24 Hour Fitness or Gold's in the US, and I am willing to pay a premium for it. Very important for me.

maxman71 :

Very helpful, thanks. I would prefer to live outside the expat zone, which I did in Thailand for the most of the 6 years I was there. What I am also discovering is the costs of living in VN are very similar to Thailand.

My experience in Thailand is from the early 1970's and quite dated. From what I hear now days, the cost of living in Viet Nam should be less than the cost of living in Thailand.

There were guys living in Thailand when I was there that were living pretty cheap; mostly in the rural areas. In BKK, Phuket, Pattaya it's more expensive than VN I think.

It is so comfortable to live in Sai Gon with your income. In my experience, you could hire a apartment about 600-700$ per month with many excellent sevices
(area: about 40-55m2) . Besides, you have to pay other fees for your life as:
- money for food:350$/month
- Laundry service: 50$/month
- Taxi fee: 100-150$/month
- electric, water bills:100$/month...
Total: 1200-1350$/month to live comfortablely in Saigon.
***

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I know this is not what you have asked but do yourself a favour catch the hydrofoil  to Vung Tau you will  end up paying much less and enjoying yourself much more try it you have nothing to lose by finding out.

vic313386 :

... do yourself a favour catch the hydrofoil  to Vung Tau

No no, not those ancient Russian tin cans! Personally, I don't want to be in a boat with no deck. When it goes down, nobody will be jumping off. Have you seen them when there is choppy water? Flop ... flop ... flop ...

...  you will  end up paying much less.

Compared to a private limousine? Sure.
Compared to a bus? Vinaexpress hydrofoil is 200.000 VND one way weekdays, 250.000 weekends
Vinaexpress reservations

... which is double Futa, just one of several competing bus companies:
Futa bus 95.000 VND one way, 90 minutes
Futa bus from Pham Ngu Lao

... and enjoying yourself much more.

Yes it is nice being on the water, but the windows are clouded, people pull the curtains, and I just feel uneasy in there!

Hear and see what Mark Bowyer has to say about the Vung Tau hydrofoils. He's great.
Mark Boyer's ride on the 'death bullet'

With the level of monthly financial source that you refer to, you can certainly live most comfortably in VN; however this much depends on personal individual needs and level of comfort for each individual. Most foreigners can reside comfortably on under $2000 per month.

Hi Mr. Maxman71,

I am a local here but working with a lot of expats from other countries, so below are some highlights on spending in Saigon:

- Rental: 500$-700$/month depends on an apartment in a high class residential building or in a standard building in District 7 where a lot other expats are living, surrounded by worldwide style restaurants, near FV hospital (Best international Hospital in VN with many expat doctors), near many famous international school: Canadian, American, Australian, Korean, etc..., 2 biggest shopping malls Crescent Mall and Vivo City, many supermarkets, Bar clubs, beer clubs, etc...

- Building Service fee, Electricity, gas, water, internet and cable TV: you may spend up to: $100-$150/month.

-  Transportation: Taxi/Uber/Graps Car/Graps Bike - you have a choice of taking car or a bike taxi. For car taxi, average about 0,6usd/km - a Bike taxi: 0,3usd/Km. But all the things you needs are just around you within 1-2KM, so you will not spend much on Taxi/Bike.

- Food: Fastfood (McDonald, KFC, Lotteria, etc..): 5-10$/meal for one person. For Japanese restaurant, you would spend about 10-20$ for a good meal with Shashimi and Shushi. For Vietnamese restaurant: $10 - $20/ very delicious diner. You can always have a lunch or a bread on street for just 1$-2$.  Western restaurants is also a lot here in D.7, even Mexican food, Spanish food, etc... around 10-20$ a meal. If you cook at home, it will be a lot cheaper. If you are a coffee or beer drinker, saigon is also the best choice for you, a Heineken with only 0,6$/can, a really good coffee that you can get anywhere on the street is about $0,5-$1.0.

- Medical: FV hospital is high quality service hospital with international standard, and it is cheap compared to US. My friend have surgery in July and she said, it is very cheap medical here compared to the US, but she also can claim back to the insurance in the US. So if you have an insurance, it would be very good.

- Fitness, Sport: 25$/month, you can buy a member of a very high class gym and fitness California Fitness in Vivo City, very near to the apartment in D.7 if you stay here. There are many tennis courts and a golf course within this area as well.

Finally, with the income of US$4,000/month, you can live a comfortable life in a high class apartment and having many meals at restaurants with around $2,000-$3,000/month, of course you can spend more if you like. But you can also save some money every month for travelling or any emergency case later.

Hello
4000.00 a month USD in Saigon comfortable. With amenities?

@jenniferthuy

11 months ago I leased(for two years) a very nice 6 bedroom 5 bath house in Binh Tan district for VND $12,000,000/month. Admittedly, this is a bit much for three people. But, it is close to the CIH hospital where my wife is a patient and the new AEON Mall is nice. The extra room is nice to have when our children come to visit.

Note, I much prefer the CIH Hospital to FV Hospital. But, CIH concentrates on Vietnamese patients and the quality of English language competence at FV is much better. Sharing a language with Medical professionals is very important.

The point is not to disagree with what you wrote. But, to point out other options for those who prefer less of an expat living style.

colinoscapee :

Geez I live on about 700 usd a month. I don't live in an expat area, I cook at home most nights and I rarely go to expat bars and restaurants. At 4000usd a month I could live a very very good lifestyle, not to say that my lifestyle now is too bad.

I hear you. I live outside expat area but my $1000 monthly is considered huge around here. I do have to support my prregnant wife, daughter and her parents, Also going to weddings, birthdays and events cost lots of money which most expats don't have to worry about. But I consider my lifestyle middle-class if not bit upper class because I take car to Saigon all the time from Bien Hoa.

$4000usd a month man the number of parties I could be throwing weekly and taking everyone out for rub and tug afterwards x5.

Khanh, are you saying there are places that do that sort of after party enjoyment. I think its time to contact the Social Evils department and tell them about the 1000's of places that are corrupting the good men of VN.

the Social Evils department are all fatten up they can barely move

If I ignore the roughly USD $6,000.00/monthly of insurance reimbursable medical expenses for my wife, we live very comfortably on roughly USD $2,000.00.

That USD 2,000.00 includes non reimbursable medical expenses like a thousand USD hospital bed, a two thousand USD wheel climbing wheel-chair, home nurses visits, a lot of non reimbursable medically necessary supplies and Insurance co-pays.

It does not count our USD $600.00/month house rent which our kids in America pay. Nor does it count my medical expenses that run around USD $400.00/month. At 72 years old, USD $400.00/month for medical is reasonable.

Maxman, I would rather suggest to try it out living here for a couple of weeks and decide.. Thailand is good as well but VN, especially in Saigon will surprise you , five years back the  cost of living is not the same as it now..but good thing is you can drink Bia (beer) for only 12,000 (local brand) lol  . If you patronize local basic commodities for living then you are good, but you said to live comfortably ( to which you deserve it) that's depends on how you manage your finances..rent range in some expat zone, you can still find $500 to 600 including management fee.. yes more cheaper and lot cheaper outside the expat zone, but you know living where close to amenities is a lot better..and safe..and you said you will be retiring in two years so there s a lot of preparation and research as to where is the best place to retire.. Vietnam is never mentioned in top 20  (the cheapest country to live) which is true to some but not to many..cheers!

Thanks...the fact that Vietnam is not on too many expat peoples' retirement radar, is a positive for me. Once upon a time Phuket/Thailand was hardly known as a great retirement destination for those with a sense of adventure; this was back in the 90's. Still a decent retirement destination but not as good as it was even 10 years ago.

I do intend to take a several week "look/see/stay" trip before I make my final decision.

Your last statement is incorrect - Vietnam, in fact, was mentioned within the top 20 countries with the best economically affordable areas to live in. I have that fact sheet in front of me now.

However, individuals can easily fall into an entrapment situation since the government is now encouraging so much foreign investment  in property that is geared closely to Western standards with extremely elevated and inflationary property and rental values. Unfortunately, as more Westerners (and higher Vietnamese income earners) accept the bait and commit themselves to a more Western "style" culture, this vision of Vietnam as a reasonably low-cost economy in which to reside may soon become a myth.

As millions of localized Vietnamese families are forced out of their homes/business and shifted to the outermost districts to government housing and/or minimized lower-grade communities and supplanted by high-range "Singapore-Hong-Kong" style property projects, both the native-culture and, too, the cost-of-living will be begin to erode and, possibly, to disappear; certainly, it there will be a greater divide between the 90% and 10% wealth distribution.

So, the question that needs to be considered as more Westerners visit or choose to live in Vietnam (particularly in Saigon) is whether they are willing to adopt a new lifestyle in Vietnam that increasingly is becoming more similar to costs (and conditions) to those in countries from where they have come from.

The uniqueness that Vietnam may have held for many in the past may not be as unique in years ahead.

Dr. G,

Unfortunately, I believe that your facts are correct. The house that we bought in 1997 is in Lien Huong a fishing town in Binh Thuan and should be more or less immune. But, the 1997 USD $3,000.00 house is now valued around USD $50,000.00.

The house that we are renting in Binh Tan HCM due to my wife's grave health issues, thallassemia related, will likely be significantly more expensive in 13 months, when our lease is up and we attempt to renew. But, I am 72 years old and it is unlikely that my gravely ill wife will out live me.

I'll have to challenge you on your assertions:

https://internationalliving.com/2016/01 … tire-2016/

Vietnam shows up #24 on this list; dead last. Thailand in the top 10.

Vast majority are in Central/South America, which makes sense for many Westerner retirees given the geographical proximity and Latin-based language similarities.

Malaysia ranks much higher than Vietnam which surprises me; having spent 9 years in Asia/Pac and conducted biz in Malaysia, I never viewed it as a retirement destination.

While Vietnam is poised for better economic growth which could result in the "90/10" wealth gap you reference, I just don't see Vietnam reaching the economic stature of Singapore/Hong Kong anytime soon.

But I do recognize that cost of living will rise regardless of where one retires. Heck, there are locations in the US where one could retire for not much more than $2,000 month; if one is satisfied with not much to do other than watching cable TV, fishing/hunting and a paltry nightlife.

Sorry to hear your wife is nearing her end of life stage. I do hope you and her can find some comfort in these times.

One observation and suggestion I would like to make is that US near-retirees (in their 50's/early 60's) need to consider the troubled state of the US Social Security system.

It is a fact that the Social Security (SS) is currently paying out more in benefits than it is taking in via payroll taxes and this dynamic will worsen as more "Baby Boomers" retire in the coming years.

I suggest that one reduce their expected future SS payments by at least 25%. This is not a political statement, just reality as I see it.

In my retirement planning, I have not factored in any SS payments and also based my $4,000/mo (after taxes) on less than 3% return on assets.

The US has a "Piper" to pay and it won't be pretty.

Just my US$ 0.02.

You and I are reading from different lists

hmm that article has lots of Americas country in the top 24. Barely any Asian country made the list. Mexico, Cambodia, Columbia, Honduras and Philipines in top 23? I guess safety is not a criteria.

I've read many links and Vietnam hardly makes top retirement spot. Maybe it's the system of government that scares people off. I do feel safer in Vietnam than Canada or any other country knowing not too many people are packing guns and getting violently robbed and beaten up at night. Even my dad got kidnapped once waiting at the bus stop in Canada.

maxman71

I'm 72 and draw SSI and a US Army pension. My wife is 60 and draws a SSI Disability pension for about half our income. Hopefully won't reduce the pensions of us old/disabled F**ts.

I figured that. I just tried to find the list with the most recent data; my list was as of Jan. 2016.

I suppose these lists are generated by economist- types; and perhaps you know what has been said about economists; if you line them up end to end, they point in all different directions...:)

I'm an economist. That is so true thanks for the morning chuckle.

70 years old

I hope I didn't alarm you.

To add more detail to my SS "forecast", I don't foresee any politician trying to reduce SS payments to current beneficiaries; that would be suicide for them and they just don't have the balls to do that.

Further, I based my forecast of reducing FUTURE retirees benefits by 25% on the government's forecast that says SS will only be able to pay out 75% of benefits by the year 2032.

What I foresee is those future retirees who have stable income from other sources will see their SS benefits reduced from what they are being told now. In essence, SS will become a somewhat means-tested system.

The fact of the matter is, SS was designed as a SUPPLEMENTAL retirement income system, not a primary retirement income system. And by far and away, too many people just haven't saved nearly enough for their retirement based on their savings and investments. I seem to recall recent statistics that show the average 50-something year old has saved about $50,000 for their retirement. Not even close to being enough.

In Canada we have old age security pension. We also have a baby boomer problem from post WW2 and many feel the old age pension will be suck dry so the government increased the age requirement to 67 or so from 65.

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