First time to Vietnam? I’d recommend you to try out everything – as much as your time allows. It’s a welcoming country, with a lot of things to discover. And it’s all affordable! You live in Vietnam? Then maybe you feel like you’ve been getting charged the “foreign tax” and just want some confirmation? Of course, everyone has to live and/or travel on a budget, so in this article, I’m going to list down a few nice things you can buy in Vietnam for under 10 Dollars.
For the sake of clarity, we’re of course talking about 10 US Dollars, and at the time of writing 10USD is approximately 230,000VND, about two and a half Big Mac meals. But why settle there? Local dishes are undoubtedly the cheapest things to buy in Vietnam. You can get a filling meal for less than 2 dollars. But don’t worry, this isn’t just going to be a list of cheap street food. We’ll go into “real” stuff.
Before we continue though, you probably also want to know how much people earn here – it is after all still a developing country. The minimum wage in the richest city HCMC is under 200USD per month (as of 2020) but it has to be said that salaries depend on multiple factors. Looking at average numbers, it’s about 1000 to 1200 USD per month for a “good” white collar job, so even for many locals, 10USD is still realistic for personal disposable income.
So, let’s dive in:
A Taxi Ride
Or most probably, a Grab ride, which is basically the Uber of South East Asia… but with motorbikes. 10USD can go a long way. A 5-10 minute (about 1 or 2km) ride around the city will only be 1 to 2USD on a bike. If you splurge on (gasp!) an airconditioned car, then expect to pay about double. If you want to max out 10USD, this will probably get you about 10 to 12km worth of travel on a car.
A Movie Ticket
In HCMC you’re looking at around 80,000VND per ticket (or about 4USD). We’re not even talking about some rinky dink middle of nowhere cinema here. This would be at a modern mall in the city center. If you want to use up all 10USD, you can include some popcorn, or get a VIP seat which is essentially a bed. The biggest chain is CGV, with multiple locations in most major cities – they have an online booking platform.
A Personal Trainer for an Hour
This is one of those areas where things can really vary and it depends on your needs and preferences (hotel gym vs private studio etc.), but prices start at around 10USD for an hour of training. Having said that, certification of the “trainer” might be iffy, so take this one with a pinch of salt.
A Filling Multi Course Meal
Like I said, we’re not talking about McDonald’s here, but nice local places which are sometimes even better than the “proper” restaurants that cost much more (usually western-style). Generally speaking, if you go somewhere relatively local, even to those chain brands you usually find in malls, you can have a delicious multi-course meal for less than 10USD per person! I’d recommend places like Wrap and Roll, and trying out something other than pho. Consider other things like bun thit nuong, or “broken rice” with some cuons, or if you really want to go for noodles and soup, try a nice bun rieu.
You can get a really good haircut for next to nothing in Vietnam. Let’s assume that you want your hair washed, cut, and styled, then 10USD is more than enough to pay for all of that plus leave a sizeable tip for the barber. You can go to chain shops like Liem Barber (which is my go to), or some of the smaller ones that offer decent cuts for about 70,000VND (approx 3USD). A shampoo would cost another 70 to 100K VND. Leave a tip.
And yes, I’m aware this one only applies to men’s hair – are there any cheap places for good hairdressers for the ladies? Do leave info in the comments, and I’ll update this list.
Different kinds of massages exist here, but if you want something that’s just the “normal” back/foot kind, then 10USD will get you a reasonably good hour-long oil massage if you know where to look. In D1, in a relatively touristy area, there’s still some decent yet affordable options like Royal Foot Massage, which is just a stone’s throw away from Malt. You choose whether you want to drink first, or get a foot rub first, but it’s under 10USD. Speaking of Malt…
A Pint of Good Craft Beer
Saigon (and Vietnam in general) is home to one of the most vibrant craft beer scenes in the world. Malt would be a great place to eat and have a cold one, but you can also consider other places like BiaCraft, or Pasteur Street Brewing Company (not to be confused with bars on actual Pasteur Street) which have multiple locations. All else being equal, you might also want to try a cold and crisp Bia Hoi.
A Few Bottles of Relatively Decent Liquor
If you’re looking for a nice drops of alcohol, I’d recommend going to VinMart (a local supermarket chain). Here they have everything from cheap beer and cola, to some cheaper liquors. Going for the more “premium” brands here will be around 10USD and they even have some wines and whiskeys. These wont be top shelf stuff, but they also won’t make you blind. I would also recommend going to the local convenience stores and look for some green bottles. Those are bottle of soju, and they go for about 3USD. You’ll thank me later.
A Nice Cup of Coffee
This one might be necessary after all that drinking. A cup of Vietnamese coffee (or ca phe sua da) will cost about 1USD, especially if you get it at a local place. Yes, you read that right. 1USD. If you want to go a bit more upmarket (or maybe just a western style coffee) then you can try other branded cafes that sell these drinks. Not necessarily Starbucks either. There are TONS of high end coffee shops in town, all with a lot of character. Workshop Coffee is in D1 and a good place to start the day, or just work through the day. At any rate, coffee won’t be expensive, so you might as well splurge and get a kilo at a local roaster. My favorite by far is Building Coffee.
A Month’s Phone and Internet
You might want to ring up your folks back home. Guess what? Highspeed internet in Vietnam is cheap, and relatively stable. That’s why it’s a good choice for digital nomads (or at least before Covid). For example, Mobiphone internet rates are ridiculously good, compared to what’s being offered in other parts of South East Asia (I’m looking at you, Philippines). Yes, that’s 16.5 gigs worth of high speed data for about 9USD.
There you have it. 10 things you can buy in Vietnam under 10 dollars. I’m sure there’s a lot more good things to discover, but if you only have a limited time here, or you want to make sure your money is going towards the right kind of stuff, then this list should be a good place to start.
Let me know if there are other “best value” things that you can recommend. Or maybe you feel 10USD for these things just isn’t realistic? Either way, I’d love to hear from you!