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As we settle in to temporary life in Hoi An, Vietnam, we had one main thing on our minds: how incredibly cheap it is to live here!
Since we arrived 8 days ago we’ve seen tons of tourists. People from all over the world have flocked to this beach town and, at first, we thought it had more to do with the town’s natural beauty and cultural significance. We now realize that lots of these people are more than week-long visitors; they are living here. Permanently. Because it’s not only a beautiful town with delicious food, it’s also incredibly cheap to live like a king.
We’ve been shocked this week to realize just how money we save by splurging in Hoi An.
So let’s talk about how cheap it is to live in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Finding Housing in Hoi An
Our first priority this week was to find a place to live.
Our general budget is to stay around $2,000/ month for housing (based on our mortgage in North Carolina), but we knew we could use a stay in Vietnam as an opportunity to save money to put toward more expensive countries. Our first stop was to look for 30-day rentals on AirBnB. We were pretty disappointed that not many existed, and the price for something in our standards was still around $1300. We figured that is still saving money, so we kept those options available. We heard from someone else to try to rent with the help of a local real estate agent, though, as many short-term rental owners are not using AirBnB.
So that’s what we did.
We took the chance of low-balling the industry and told the real estate office that our budget was $1000. Apparently that means we are filthy rich here.
They had three options for us to look at that afternoon, which were huge, private homes with personal swimming pools. Seriously.
As we searched for housing we met a couple of other ex-pat families who gave us tons of advice on the area. We were shocked to hear that these families are renting 3- or 4-bedroom houses for around $500USD! WHAT?! We realized that giving the real estate office a budge of $1000 was way too much.
We ended up choosing the penthouse apartment of a 5-apartment building on the river. It has three huge bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, a Western kitchen (an oven! Yay!) 5 balconies that oversee coconut trees, and a swimming pool.
It costs $730/ month.
Food in Hoi An
Housing isn’t the only thing that’s incredibly cheap. That delicious, healthy Vietnamese food everyone loves is available for around $1USD/ meal.
The exchange rate is around $1USD to 23,000 Vietnamese dong. Most stuff is priced in nice easy amounts like 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, or 100,000. This makes it a little easier to convert. We would say those amounts are roughly $.50, $1, $2, and $4.
When going out to eat we can find incredibly delicious banh mi sandwhiches or bowls of pho for 20,000. That’s $1! When going out to a fancy “tourist” dinner we pay around 60,000 – 90,000 per meal. That’s around $3.50.
It’s becoming easy to balk at “high” prices and say, “Ben, your meal is 100,000 dong! That’s so much!” and he calmly reminds me that’s only $4USD.
So, yeah, when we splurge at super fancy restaurants we still only pay around $10!
It’s about the same cost to eat out as it is to cook at home, honestly. Western food like pancake mix and pasta is pretty expensive, which offsets the cheap produce we’re able to find. If we are in the mood for a Western dish it’s easier to cook at home, but if we aren’t particular than we can actually save money by eating out and then not having dishes.
Our second-highest expense is Whit’s school. We were introduced to a South African schoolteacher who has left her job in Hanoi to open a small school here. For $600/ month Whit joins 4 other English-speaking kids to learn through play for 6 hours/ day.
They are learning through building forts, planting a garden, going to the beach and making their lunches. I’m not actually sure how much Whit is learning, but giving him the opportunity to play with other kids and for us to have some alone to work consistently is more important to us.
Our other main monthly expense is transportation. We found a local moto business willing to rent us a 135CC moto with three helmets for $50/ month. We spend around $2 to fill it up with petrol once or twice a week.
What We Save by Living in Hoi An
Ben was curious about how much money we are actually saving, so my dear husband created a few spreadsheets comparing life in Hoi An, Vietnam, to our home in Greensboro, NC.
We are saving roughly 82% on cost of eating out, saving 64% on housing, and saving 47% on transportation (and our transportation costs were already really low. We owned our car and didn’t drive much, so our car insurance and gas costs averaged just $110/ month.)
We opted for a 3-month tourist visa to enter Vietnam vs. a 1-month visa just in case we wanted to stay longer. We’ll have been here for 7 weeks by the time our rental agreement is over, and, to be honest, we’re considering staying an additional month just to save more money!