Working in Hanoi, Vietnam

Monthly Earnings 150,000 Baht (before tax)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

It is roughly 120,000 from my full time job (20 contact hours per week) and the rest I make doing IELTS examining (1,500 baht an hour). This may fluctuate depending on my motivation to do extra work but this is the average.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I usually save about 70-80,000 baht a month. Again this can go up or down depending on holidays etc. I try to get away once a month and have 9 weeks paid holidays so this can add up if I leave Vietnam. My annual flight home now costs 1300 USD roughly thanks to the recent increases.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I rent a really nice 85sqm, one-bedroom, top floor condo with stunning lake views in the main expat area of Hanoi. It costs 22,000 a month and that includes internet, Netflix, water and maid service once a week. I pay more than some others but for me I spend a lot of time at home and the area is very peaceful and with a good community of people with many great bars and restaurants all overlooking the lake.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?


I have a motorbike, so maybe 300 - 400 baht a month on fuel.

Utility bills

1,500 baht for electricity, I also pay an ironing lady to do all my clothes, that's about 350 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This can vary greatly, I have a cook who prepares home cooked meals for me to take to the office, I also use a meal plan service and order out a lot. I go to a restaurant once or twice a month I (I don't eat much local food as it isn't a touch on Thai food, so my expenses are more than if you went local or cooked for yourself). I would guesstimate about 350 baht a day so 10,000 a month?

Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out that much but a Saigon beer in my local bar is about 20 baht and a double vodka with coke is 60 baht. That's quite standard in the smaller local places but can double in more 'high end places'.

I also order crates of German IPA at a dollar a can and have them delivered. I buy some Jim Beam which is about 350 a bottle. Occasionally I'll go drink some craft beer somewhere in the old quarter, take the lady for some wine and some food or enjoy the stupidly cheap Beer Hoi outlets where you get a glass for about 15 baht I guess. The drinking culture here is amazing but can get expensive if you go into the old quarter and drink at the craft beer bars. Stay local and its very, very affordable. 6-8,000 a month depending where I go to drink and what I drink.

Books, computers

Books, maybe one a month. Computers, zilch, company laptop and an old chromebook I've had a few years now take care of all my computing needs. 300 baht?

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Extremely comfortable with no financial worries and 9 weeks holiday a year,

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Beer. mobile internet, fruit, travel. hotels and guesthouses. You can get a very nice 35sqm room with AC, pool, and marble floors with huge bathrooms for 10 USD a night in beautiful surroundings in main tourism beach resorts. Those prices disappeared from Thailand about 20 years ago. Go into the mountains and Vietnam is unrivalled for doing your own exploring by motorbike. Thats the best bargain in the country because the countryside is free! It's the best in Asia in my opinion and I've been all over it in the last 24 years.

Also, the friendliness and hospitality of the Vietnamese people is priceless. Thai people, while I love Thailand and lived there for 8 years, have become jaded with foreigners in my opinion. It just isn't the same vibe and often you are dealing with migrant workers from Burma or the Philippines, which is fine, but just not the same feeling as what it used to be when I lived there in the 2000's.

I last visited Thailand a year ago and found it to be really quite expensive. I was on 65k a month in Bangkok in 2007 and wouldn't want to have to try to live off that now if I wanted a comfortable lifestyle and to be able to save for the future.

Another thing that you don't have to worry about in Vietnam is visas and work permits. The process is relatively straightforward if you have a good HR dept in your company/school and then its a 2-year visa and no visits to immigration or any of the BS that comes with Thailand. And teachers are well respected and there isn't the 'farang' attitude towards them. Vietnam is open for business and progressive rather than the somewhat antiquated system and style that Thailand seems unwilling and unable to relinquish.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In Hanoi you see many people paying 10,000 a month for small studio flats or doing house shares. If you eat local, drink local, do your own ironing :) and avoid flights outside of local Asian countries, I guess you can live off as little as 20-30,000 baht a month, though your average teaching gig will pay about 60-70k before tax, so it all comes out in the wash. It can be fun and an adventure but it isn't long term sustainable in my opinion. Find the right teaching gig and you can live the life you want and save well.

Life is about choices. You can live cheap in most cities if you really, really want to. If not, move to the sticks and your money will go further. It all depends what you want and how you want to live your life.

I shared a 4-bedroom house in Nonthaburi in 2000, paying 7K a month in rent between us in a lovely gated moobaan. I couldn't share a house now and that rent has probably gone up to 25K+ already. So things change.

Vietnam has its charms but it isn't for everyone. It's polluted and Vietnamese is an extremely difficult language (I speak Thai at A2.1 level and its helped me a little but the syntax here with the tones makes it so hard to learn)

However, all students who want to go to university, which is most of them, take the IELTS exam to get credits/points to add to their application. This means if you need help, just look for someone under 25 and they will normally be about band 6-6.5 / B2,1 ish.... failing that the locals love to get the old google translate out and do things that way. Are our days numbered as teachers? I hope AI will be like a calculator: we all use them but we still need to be able to do mental arithmetic. Let's hope so. Until then, I'll be in Hanoi....

Phil's analysis and comment

Nowadays, you often hear teachers say that Vietnam is the land of milk and honey compared to Thailand. Sam's survey certainly supports that opinion - an apartment with stunning lake views, a lady to come in and do the ironing, and of course a great salary to boot. Sounds amazing!  

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