How To Retire To The Beach (And Live Well) On As Little As US$400 Per Month
“I’m delighted to report that the scouting expedition you’ve sent me on, Kathleen, to travel in Vietnam in search of perfect retirement havens, has not been at all difficult!” writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice.
“Nha Trang, for example, where my husband and I are based now, is amazing.
“This is the first major town on the coast north of Saigon, and it has been a resort area since the 1940s. It’s easy to understand why—miles of beautiful beaches, uninhabited islands shimmering in the distance, massive mountains to the north, south, and west, and many options for things to do.
“The locals are welcoming, the food is delicious and varied, and the cost of living is extremely low.
“Let me give you some examples…
“When my husband David and I decided that we liked Nha Trang too much to leave after just a few days, we rented part of a five-bedroom, six-bath single-family house. This is costing us US$125 per month. We have a housekeeper who comes in twice a week and cleans the entire house for US$25 per month. We could hire her full-time for only US$60 per month.
“Our internet costs US$3 per month.
“Best of all, we’re less than a five-minute walk to beautiful Nha Trang beach, where we can watch the waves of the South China Sea, fishing boats barely visible in the distance, while enjoying a mild coastal breeze and soaking in the peace and quiet.
“Last week I had an eye infection. I asked a local what to do, and she referred me to a specialist, who gave me a thorough examination and a prescription for antibiotics (which I’m happy to report worked perfectly). Total cost to see the doctor was 40,000 VND. That’s US$2.
“I went to a local dentist’s office yesterday to explore the quality and price of dental care. This English-speaking dentist is recommended by the expats here as excellent. The office was spotlessly clean. A filling costs 80,000 to 120,000 VND, or US$4 to US$6, and a titanium porcelain crown costs 2 million VND, which is about US$100.
“A fresh sandwich on a baguette, full of greens, carrots, and meat, purchased from a vendor, costs 10,000 VND (US$0.50). A tender, thick steak with a complex black pepper sauce, roasted potatoes, and fresh bread at our favorite French restaurant costs US$5. Dinner for two at that same restaurant, including entrees, wine, salad, and dessert, will set you back less than US$15.
“We have a favorite Mexican restaurant, where we like the fajitas and the enchiladas. When we last visited, we added a few beers, a few tequila sunrises, and flan for dessert. Two more shots of tequila were on the house. The check was less than US$15.
“We’re finding that we seldom spend more than US$10 for dinner for the two of us, even for ‘Western food,’ and less than that when we eat at local Vietnamese restaurants.
“Local expats here—there are around 1,000 of them—agree that two people can live very, very well for about US$9,000 per year. Reviewing our expenses over the past month, I think that, in fact, the two of us could live a comfortable, middle-class life here for around US$5,000 to US$7,000 per year.
“Put it this way: If US$400 to US$750 per month is within your budget, you could live very comfortably in Nha Trang.
“The ridiculously low cost of living here is in part to do with how the government sets currency rates. Most countries, including Thailand, float their currencies on the open market. As a result, a weakening U.S. dollar buys fewer Thai baht, for example, making Thailand more expensive for anyone whose income is in dollars.
“The euro has also depreciated against the baht. So the cost of living in Thailand has been rising steadily for those of us who have to convert our dollars or euro into the local currency.
“Vietnam, however, pegs its currency to the U.S. dollar (currently at a rate of 19,500 VND to US$1). Because of this fixed-dollar exchange rate, the dollar has more buying power here than elsewhere right now.
“Furthermore, you can spend dollars here as easily as Vietnamese dong. Most hotels, for example, charge in U.S. dollars.
“Next week, we’ll be in Hanoi. I’ll be sending a next update from there.
“Meantime, we are very impressed not only with the cost of living, but also with the quality of life in this country. It may well be the best bargain in Asia right now.”
Editor’s Note: Wendy’s complete report on living and retiring in Vietnam will be featured in the March issue of my Overseas Retirement Letter. If you’re not yet a subscriber, you can become one here now.