Expat Cost of Living: Vietnam vs Thailand

Are you considering a move to Southeast Asia as an expat? Two popular destinations are Vietnam and Thailand. Jobinvietnam.net has put together this comparison of the cost of living in these two fascinating countries.

Overall Cost of Living

Thailand vs. Vietnam: Explore the cost advantages of Vietnam

While both Vietnam and Thailand offer a lower cost of living compared to Western countries, there are some key differences:

Overall costLowerSlightly higher
RentSignificantly lowerHigher, especially in Bangkok
FoodVery affordableAffordable, more variety
TransportationVery cheapCheap
HealthcareVery affordableAffordable, better quality

Vietnam has a lower overall cost of living than Thailand. Your money will go further in Vietnam, especially when it comes to rent, food, and transportation. However, Thailand offers a wider variety of international food and somewhat better healthcare.

Rent and Utilities

Rent is one of the biggest expenses for expats. Here’s how Vietnam and Thailand compare:


  • Rent is very affordable, even in big cities
  • Expect to pay $300-800/month for a nice apartment
  • Utilities are cheap, around $50-100/month


Thailand apartment rental – Experience local life in the city
  • Rent is more expensive, especially in Bangkok
  • Budget $500-1500/month for a decent apartment
  • Utilities cost around $100-200/month

While rent in Thailand is higher overall, you may find more modern apartments with amenities like pools and gyms. In Vietnam, apartments tend to be more basic but the low prices make up for it.

Food and Dining

Both countries have delicious cuisine. However, the cost and variety differ:


Skip restaurants: Savor authentic Vietnamese cuisine at street food stalls for $1-2
Skip restaurants and experience Vietnamese street food – Delicious and affordable meals.
  • Street food is incredibly cheap, $1-2 per meal
  • Local restaurants are very affordable
  • Limited international options in smaller cities


  • Street food is affordable, $2-5 per meal
  • More international restaurants, especially in Bangkok
  • Food courts offer cheap eats in malls

If you love Vietnamese food, you’ll be in heaven in Vietnam. Your food budget will be very low. Thailand has fantastic Thai food but also a wider variety of international cuisine, though at higher prices than local food.


Getting around is affordable in both countries, but Vietnam has an edge:


Budget-friendly travel: Motorbike taxis are the most affordable way to get around Vietnam
Save money while traveling: Motorbike taxis offer unbeatable prices in Vietnam
  • Motorbike taxis are everywhere and cost $0.50-2 per ride
  • Grab (ride sharing) is readily available in cities
  • Buses and trains are cheap for intercity travel


Bangkok street scene – Tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis – Common sights in Thailand
  • Tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis are affordable
  • Grab is available in most cities
  • Buses and trains are reasonably priced
  • Bangkok has an extensive public transportation system

Unless you’re in Bangkok, Vietnam wins out for cheapest and most convenient transportation. Motorbikes are the way to go in most of Vietnam.


Healthcare is one area where Thailand has an advantage:


 Consider the trade-off: Public hospitals offer low-cost healthcare but may be crowded in Vietnam.
Affordable but potentially crowded: Evaluate your needs before visiting public hospitals in Vietnam.
  • Public hospitals are very cheap but crowded and low quality
  • Private hospitals are better but still not up to international standards
  • Serious medical issues often require evacuation to Thailand or Singapore


  • Public hospitals are affordable and decent quality
  • Private hospitals are more expensive but offer good quality care
  • Certain hospitals in Bangkok are world-class
  • Insurance-based and self-pay options available

While healthcare in Vietnam is incredibly cheap, Thailand offers higher quality, especially for serious issues. Many expats get insurance to access private hospitals.

Entertainment and Lifestyle

Your lifestyle costs will depend a lot on your preferences. Here are some general guidelines:


Vietnamese cinema ticket booth – Enjoy movies for $4-6
  • Nights out are affordable, budget $10-30
  • Movie tickets are around $4-6
  • Gym memberships are $20-50/month
  • Very affordable spas and massages


See the latest releases: Movie tickets in Thailand start around $6!
Affordable entertainment: Enjoy new releases in Thai cinemas for $6-10
  • Nights out are more expensive, budget $20-50+
  • Movie tickets are around $6-10
  • Gym memberships are $30-80/month
  • Wide variety of spas and wellness centers

Vietnam offers an incredibly affordable lifestyle, even if you go out a lot. Thailand has world famous nightlife, especially in Bangkok and the islands, but it comes at a higher price.

The Verdict

So which country is cheaper for expats? While it depends on your lifestyle and preferences, Vietnam offers a lower cost of living across the board. Expats on a tight budget will get more bang for their buck in Vietnam.

However, Thailand offers a higher quality of life in some ways, with better healthcare, more modern housing, and a wider variety of food and entertainment. If your budget allows, Thailand can be a great choice.

Ultimately, both countries offer a combination of affordability and amazing culture that appeals to many expats. The choice comes down to your individual priorities and budget.

Comparing Vietnam and Malaysia

Vietnam and Malaysia are both popular expat destinations in Southeast Asia, but how do they stack up in terms of cost of living?

While Vietnam has a lower overall cost of living, especially for food and rent, Malaysia offers more developed infrastructure and higher quality healthcare. Expats in Malaysia will pay more for housing and dining out, but may find it worth the extra cost. Ultimately, the choice between these two countries depends on your budget and lifestyle preferences. If you’re looking to stretch your dollar as far as possible, Vietnam may be the better choice. However, if you prioritize modern amenities and top-notch healthcare, Malaysia could be worth the extra expense.

To get a more detailed comparison of the cost of living in Vietnam vs Malaysia, check out our full article: Expat Cost of Living: Vietnam vs Malaysia

Are you an expat considering a move to Vietnam? Contact Jobinvietnam.net today via phone, Zalo, or WhatsApp to get personalized advice on the cost of living, job opportunities, and how to make the most of your experience in Vietnam. Our expert team is here to help you navigate your move and thrive as an expat.

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