This has once again been confirmed by the latest ECA International survey that compares the cost of living for expatriates around the world. Based on a basket of good and services commonly used by expats, according the most recent results, which were released on Jun. 10, 2014, Hanoi is the 223rd most expensive city to live in the world — 48th in Asia — while Ho Chi Minh City rocks up at number 229, or 51st in Asia.
In comparison, London is ranked globally at 46, New York at 39, Canberra is at 48 while Berlin sits at number 32. Topping the list as the most expensive city on this planet for expats is Caracas in Venezuela. This is followed closely by the capital of Norway, Oslo, and then Luanda in Angola.
Understanding the Data
What is interesting about the figures here is not so much the rankings, but what cities are deemed to be as expensive or cheap as Vietnam’s two major metropolises.
Just above Hanoi in the rankings, at number 207 in the world and number 46 in Asia is Phnom Penh. While surrounding both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are a number of Indian cities — Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, New Delhi and Kolkata. Colombo is at number 238 (54 in Asia), while Yangon despite the cheap prices of Myanmar, falls in at 204 (44 in Asia). Bangkok, however, is at 172 (38 in Asia), while topping the Asian rankings from one to 10 are Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Nagoya, Yokohama, Osaka, Hong Kong, Singapore and Guangzhou.
Those expats who’ve spent a long time living in Vietnam will remember the days when petrol or gasoline cost VND5,500 a litre and when a hearty com binh dan or rice meal with meat and veg would go for VND7,000. Based on the exchange rate at the time, this was just US$0.50.
Inflation, much higher rents and the growing cost of utilities and of course oil means these days are very much a distant past. However, as can be seen from these figures, living in Vietnam — at least cost-wise — still has its advantages.