The Good Life Comes With Little Cost in the “City of Lakes”

Fourteen months ago, my partner, Rachel, and I decided to realize our dream of living abroad. After a lot of research, we decided to try teaching English in Vietnam. Shortly after we made our decision we found jobs with an English center in Hanoi. And I can already say, that I love it.

Living in Hanoi is never boring. It’s a bustling city, rich in culture and history. I’m never short of museums, and cultural sites to explore—many of them located near the historic Old Quarter.

It’s also a city of lakes. Hoan Kiem, Ho Tay, and other lakes are great for a nice walk or just sitting and relaxing.

There are countless cafés where I can get $1 beer, coffee, or fresh lime juice. And there is amazing street food for a similar price. On the income I get from teaching, I never need to worry about cooking my own food.

Many teaching jobs in Hanoi—including ours—require between 18 and 24 teaching hours per week, and pay around $1,600 to $2,000 per month. Our salaries are at the top-end of that, and because we can split costs as a couple, have minimal debt, and have an incredibly low cost of living, we can usually save at least $1,000 a month each.

We both use some of our free time to supplement our income. Rachel teaches English online, and I do freelance teaching and tutoring for about 15 hours per week—for which we can both make around $1,000 extra per month on top of our regular teaching salaries.

Hanoi has a relatively large expat community. Most live in the Tay Ho District where numerous shops and restaurants cater to foreigners. We chose to live in the center of the city, and currently rent a spacious two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for $550 per month. This includes cleaning twice per week, internet, cable, and water. Electricity is the only additional expense.

A nice one-bedroom apartment can be found starting from $400 to $450. A luxury high-rise apartment starts at around $900. And if you’re looking for a two- to three-bedroom house, they start at about $500 to $600.

Hanoi has a seemingly infinite number of restaurants, watering holes, cafés and shops of all kinds. Clothing can be difficult to find in Western sizes, but luckily there is also an abundant amount of tailors. I was able to get two pairs of top-quality dress pants made from the fabric of my choice for only $26 each. Shopping is easy, and many restaurants, grocery stores, and shopping malls have someone who speaks at least a little English.

Transport in Hanoi can be a bit chaotic, as it’s dominated by motorbikes, but finding an Uber or taxi is easy, and very affordable. My current commute to work is about ten minutes, and usually costs only about $1 with Uber.

And when I want to escape the city, there are plenty of great places nearby to visit. Hanoi is the gateway city to the world-famous Ha Long Bay, and the less-famous, but just as beautiful, Lan Ha Bay. Rachel and I regularly vacation on Cat Ba Island, and spent the past Christmas holiday there. We had an entire beachfront resort to ourselves, except for a family of four, and a small tour group, neither of which we saw more than twice. We spent three days lying on the beach drinking cocktails and enjoying the postcard view.

Our first 14 months in Hanoi have been quite enjoyable. It’s much different than home…but we live much better…on much less. We have no plans of leaving Vietnam anytime soon. I recommend anyone considering moving abroad to consider this wonderful country.

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