“We’re Living Like Royalty On US$860 Per Month”
“Yesterday I introduced you to the beautiful coastal city of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where my husband David and I have been living since December,” writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice.
“We’re enjoying a lifestyle that I describe as ‘living like royalty.’
“For us, this means that we prepare very few meals at home (although we do have delicious Vietnamese coffee every morning before we leave for breakfast), choosing instead to enjoy most meals out. There are so many attractive and clean Vietnamese and Western restaurants to choose from.
“We have a fully furnished luxury one-bedroom apartment just a five-minute walk from the beach, in a nice, quiet, central location with friendly neighbors. Our rent includes Internet, cable TV, and a wonderful housekeeper who comes twice a week (meaning I do little cleaning and few household chores).
“Here’s what our monthly budget looks like (in U.S. dollars at the current exchange rate):
- Rent: US$350
- Dining out (breakfast and dinner almost every day for two people): US$300
- Electricity (running air conditioning at night and occasionally during the day): US$40
- Groceries: US$25
- Motorbike rental: US$45
- Private Vietnamese language tutor (six hours per week): US$60
- Gas, entertainment, miscellaneous: US$40
“That’s a total monthly budget of US$860.
“As I explained, I’d say that we live extraordinarily well on this budget. You could live comfortably for less.
“We have friends here who walk or take taxis everywhere (meaning no vehicle expenses), who pay less rent than we do, and who do most of their own cooking, eating out only two or three times a week. They are spending around US$500 to US$600 per month, and they’d also describe their lifestyle as very well appointed.
“It all depends on how you want to live. It is possible here for two people to live comfortably in this part of the world on even less than US$600 per month. You could cut your food expenses to as little as, say, US$120 per month by eating at the many super-inexpensive Vietnamese street stalls and restaurants. That’d be for two people eating every breakfast and dinner out.
“You could walk instead of renting a vehicle, as we do. Maybe you don’t need or want language lessons (almost everyone speaks at least some English, and many Vietnamese in this region are fluent).
“When we first moved to Nha Trang, we were paying a mere US$125 per month for our share of a big five-bedroom house (the entire house rented for US$350). That’s a great price but not exceptional for around here. We moved because we didn’t have air conditioning . You don’t need it in the winter, but it’s warmer now. Some people find that they can get by with open windows to catch the sea breezes and a fan when it is in the mid-80s to low 90s during the day. You can definitely spend less if you can live without air conditioning.
“We find that Nha Trang has everything we want–a gorgeous ocean, plenty of excellent restaurants, gracious and welcoming locals, and a large community of foreign residents. For us, the lifestyle here is the real attraction; the super-low cost of living is a bonus.
“We have concerns about returning to the United States, where we know that our expenses will triple or worse. The days of eating out, having a housekeeper, and relaxing at the beach will be over. We’ll need to pay for insurance for our car, our home, and ourselves. Those expenses alone will more than exceed our total monthly budget here.
“In Nha Trang, an office visit to see a doctor costs about US$2. That’s without insurance. Gas costs about the same as in the States, but a tank of gas (about a gallon to fill our 110 cc motorbike) lasts us more than a week.
“We spend US$2.50 per hour for our private language tutor, and you can get an expert massage for less than that.
“And, because Vietnam pegs its currency against the U.S. dollar and our income is based in U.S. dollars, we aren’t subject to currency risk here. This makes Vietnam the least expensive country in all Southeast Asia right now.”