If you’re considering retirement abroad, you need information, and you need lots of it. The 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index will help you with the exciting business of choosing where in the world will best suit your needs.
According to the International Living, affordability is often the single-most influential factor in choosing an overseas retirement destination. After all, who wants to spend their golden years counting pennies and wondering how far the next Social Security check will stretch? That’s the beauty of travel, and International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index—you have the power to choose a country with a cost of living that suits your budget.
Related: Expats in Vietnam: Nothing matters despite the impact of Covid-19 pandemic
This is not a subjective list. We’ve sent detailed surveys to our correspondents spread out around the world to get verified, specific costs for things like groceries; rent; utilities; household help; eating out; gym membership; transport and travel; and the unexpected costs that come with living overseas.
While an affordable location can mean more pocket money for leisure activities, it can also ensure peace of mind knowing you are financially secure and can live comfortably on a modest retirement fund, the International Living reported.
Vietnam offers welcoming locals, gorgeous scenery, a unique culture, and an astoundingly low-cost, high-quality lifestyle. Expat couples can enjoy the benefits of living in modern, comfortably furnished homes and apartments in good neighborhoods, eat meals out regularly, have a housekeeper, and indulge in plenty of travel and extras, all on a budget that will probably never exceed $1,500 per month.
In the past year, rents have decreased from 20% to 50% throughout Vietnam. In popular expat havens such as Hoi An and Nha Trang, luxurious, one-bedroom apartments that rented for $600 per month a year ago are now available for a mere $300 per month. Rents in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have decreased by around 30%, making these cities far more affordable now than even their previously modest prices.
“The rent for my modern, fully furnished three-bedroom apartment in Hanoi, which includes internet, tap water, cable TV, 24-hour security, and twice-weekly housekeeping, has dropped from $750 to $600. This decrease is typical for rentals in Vietnam’s urban areas,” says Wendy Justice, IL Southeast Asia correspondent.
“Though electricity costs are similar to those in the U.S., other utilities are significantly less expensive. A one-month prepaid cellphone plan through Vinaphone, for example, offers 3 GB of data and all the calls and texts that you’ll likely need for about $3 per month. High-speed fiber-optic internet costs $12 per month and cable TV plans offering a good assortment of English-language stations start at a mere $7 per month. Packages including cable TV, internet, and cell plans start at $10.50 per month.
“Most rental apartments include both cable TV and high-speed internet in the rent, though, so even those would not be typical expenses in your budget; utilities are often not included with house rentals, but they add little to the total cost.”
Local wages are low in this middle-income country—many entry-level jobs start out at less than $200 per month—and having a housekeeper, gardener, or other service-related help is quite affordable. Hardworking housekeepers are happy to be paid $2.50 to $3 per hour, with an annual bonus before the important Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday.
“Unless you require a lot of imported foods, you’ll pay far less for most groceries in Vietnam than you would in your home country,” says Wendy. “I’ll often buy fruit, vegetables, and meat at my local traditional market, where I’ll pay $2 or less per shopping bag for fresh-from-the-farm food. Prices are only slightly higher at the large supermarkets that you’ll find in every city in the country, and you’ll have the added convenience of one-stop shopping.”
Vietnamese cuisine is one of the freshest and healthiest in the world, and it’s one of the things that attract so many visitors. A big bowl of the enormously popular, hearty Vietnamese phở (beef or chicken soup in a richly complex clear bone marrow broth, seasoned with fresh herbs, chilies, and sprouts), or a bánh mì (a sandwich made with meat, eggs, or pâté, served with cucumber, carrots, and fresh herbs on a French-style baguette) costs about $1.50.
A meal for two at a sit-down local restaurant generally costs less than $10 including beer or soft drinks, and even a meal at an upscale Vietnamese restaurant rarely comes to more than $25 for two people, including beverages.
The majority people in Vietnam, expats included, drive small, gas-efficient motor scooters, so even though gasoline prices are the same or slightly higher here than in the U.S., the cost of operating a vehicle is less. If you prefer to take a bus, a ticket only costs about $0.31, though bus availability is limited in smaller towns and rural areas. Ride-hailing companies like Grab Taxi that offer fixed fares are an affordable way of getting around; they are often quite a bit less expensive than traditional metered taxis. A mile-long trip costs around $1, though you could also hail a Grab Bike motorbike for about half that price.
Entertainment is another bargain in Vietnam. Watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster at the theater for $4, or gain admission to one of the many excellent museums throughout the country for just $2 or $3. Fitness clubs will often offer promotions if you agree to purchase a six-month or annual membership; it works out to around $25 per month at most fitness centers.
Flights on quality airlines are another affordable indulgence. One-way flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi are currently just $33; flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore cost $52, and a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco is only $439. The relatively new startup, Bamboo Airways, is beginning new routes from Vietnam direct to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Though prices have not yet been announced, the nonstop flights should decrease the flying time from Vietnam to the States by several hours.
“One of Vietnam’s best bargains is its medical care. Same-day appointments with a specialist at an international hospital cost $20 or less, including a translator; my English-speaking dentist charges $15 for a check-up, X-rays, and cleaning. Most medications that would require a prescription in the U.S. can be purchased over the counter in Vietnam; prices tend to be about 10% of those charged in the U.S. for the exact same product,” says Wendy.
Anyone on a limited budget who wants to live well and not worry about overspending will be thrilled at how far their dollars stretch in Vietnam, according to the International Living.