If you’re looking for the best country to retire cheap , you’re going to definitely consider Vietnam. To be honest, until this recent trip, I never thought of coming to Cambodia. Known as the “more expensive, less safe version of Vietnam”, I had to come see it for myself. Today I’m going to compare two cities, Ho Chi Minh (AKA Saigon vs Siem Reap).
Rating 1: Partying & Nightlife
Siem Reap has Pub street, while Vietnam has Bui Vien. Both of these are the areas where people go to party when the sun goes down. The town of Siem Reap is also perfect for going out during the day, it’s small and everything is within walking distance. If you want a ride around town it’ll cost about a $1 for a Tuk Tuk. Ho Chi Minh (HCM) is much more spread out. It’s also a huge pain in the ass to get a motorbike taxi or cab. Getting a cab, is over priced as hell in Vietnam unless you use GRAB.
And the problem with that is that it’ll take about 30 minutes to get one. (Half of the time you’ll book a GRAB and the car driver will cancel on you, or ask you to cancel.)
Winner: Siem Reap. Pub street kicks ass. It’s a much bigger area than Bui Vien, even though Siem Reap itself is much smaller than Vietnam.
On Pub street you can get a massage, a beer, a pack of smokes and a taco for a combined price of under $10. Prices are great! (Tip: Go one block out of the Pub Street area, and pay 30% less for everything).
The only problem with Pub street is Tuk Tuk drivers. They don’t allow cars on the main part of the street, so the drivers themselves will stand there and constantly hassle you asking if you want a ride. These drivers will ruthlessly overcharge you, so make sure you never agree to one. If you are coming to Siem Reap, use GRAB or PASSApp. LINK TO TUK TUKS IN CAMBODIA STORY
Rating 2: Danger. Both of these cities are relatively safe. Be careful of ladyboy hookers and pickpockets.
Winner: Siem Reap wins for safety. If you don’t go to shady places with ladyboy hookers, you are fine. In HCM one of the bigger problems is motorcycle mugging. They’ll drive by and the passenger on the back will snatch your phone, purse, etc. It’s not too bad, but it’s still not ideal. Because Siem Reap is a tourist town, police do seem more friendly, and keep an eye on crime.
Rating 3: English. The English qualities in both cities are fine. You won’t have any problems.
Winner: Siem Reap. The menus are universally English, and you’ll love it. Not only is English better, but it seems Cambodians are the most universally linguistically able people I’ve ever met. Here it’s not uncommon for people to speak 3 languages fluently! Vietnam isn’t bad, but definitely not as good as here.
Rating 4: Weather.
Winner: Tie. Both cities are universally hot and or rainy. If you like 30 degree plus weather, this is going to be the place to be. Also ants and mosquitos!
Rating 5: Food
Ok. I love food. Love it. If you love food, both cities have a great selection from local cuisine to imports.
Winner: Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh has one thing that Siem Reap doesn’t have. Banh Mi! LINK TO BANH MI STORY. Banh Mi for lunch for 80 cents is the #1 thing I love about Vietnam. Banh Mi, in case you don’t know are Vietnamese subs.
Fresh baguettes from their in house bakery are stuffed with a mix of cured meats, and picketed vegetable.
Literally if you have not had a Banh Mi in Vietnam you are missing out on one of the greatest pleasures in life.
Also while Siem Reap has a great selection of food it’s missing out on McDonalds.
I know you’re thinking I’m insane. I’m not.
I don’t particularly need a McDonalds. I just use it as an example. If you like chains you’re out of luck. Ho Chi Minh has it all the food! This is a place to come for food. Whether you love Pho, Banh Mi or just want a burger and fries, Ho Chi Minh is a foodies paradise.
Rating 6: Cost
Both cities fall easily within my $1000 CDN a month budget. Saying that though, Ho Chi Minh is only affordable if you live in the local areas (District 7, 11, 12). If you live in the fancy areas of town with the expats and English teachers (District 1,2) then your budget will be much higher.
Winner: Siem Reap.
Rating 7: Shopping
Both places have little shops where you can buy things, but Ho Chi Minh has giant malls. Siem Reap by comparison has 3 separate night markets. These sell the $2 tank tops, and stuffed elephants.
Winner: Tie. Depending if you like luxury brands, and giant supermarkets or small night markets and local shops.
Rating 8: Health
Both places have cheap pharmacies everywhere.
Rating 9: Gyms
One of the best gyms I’ve found in the world is in Siem Reap. $1.25 a visit, it’s not fancy, sweaty guys working out without their shirts on, and fit ladies. Ho Chi Minh though also has $30 a month places, but it’s usually not as common as expensive places around $60.
Winner: Siem Reap. Cheap, and I love the fact you can work out without a shirt. There aren’t that many places you can do that!
Rating 10: Internet
This is super important. Both have strong internet. Neither is horrible. Either way you’ll be in a place where you have internet. Till you don’t. Natural disasters, weather and such make it hard to rely on it sometimes.
Winner: Ho Chi Minh: The internet was definitely less spotty, and more reliable in Ho Chi Minh. Siem Reap is a tourist town, and it’s still developing. So, things like fast, reliable internet aren’t a given. This will change in the future, but for now Ho Chi Minh is definitely better. I work online as you all know writing this blog. I make videos and love playing games. In Siem Reap, it is tough. Not impossible but tough. Watching tv online is hard!
OVERALL WINNER? SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA. This little tourist town is great!Everyday feels like you’re on vacation here. It’s a small place, and I love the fact that you can walk everywhere. I also love the fact that visas are easy to get. A 30 day on arrival visa plus an easy to get 6 month extension, means that you’ll only be doing tourist border runs once a year. If you are surprised that Cambodia has won, you have to come check it out. You’ll see why I love it! Bonus Tip: Siem Reap has sidewalks. (Ho Chi Minh, has areas for motorcycles to drive that supposedly sidewalks.) Also beers in Siem Reap are 50 cents! Siem Reap’s slogan should be “Come for Angkor Wat, stay for 50 cent draft!”