Ho Chi Minh City is one of those cities which backpackers flock to in South East Asia. It's possible to live there on a meagre budget of $20 a day, while maintaining a rather decent life. So, if this number seems ridiculously low, I'll break it down a bit more. I didn't spend $20 every day, but that was my approximate daily cost of living.
After removing $7 for my accomodation at Saigon Backpackers, I would have $13 left to spend during the course of the day. This would cover three full meals and a snack, and any transportation costs which may come up. Here's how I ate cheaply while in Ho Chi Minh City:
Small Roadside Restaurants
These small restaurants are usually owned by small local families, and there are many of them located all around the Pham Ngu Lao Street area. On my first day in Ho Chi Minh, I was rather hungry after a long day of traveling from Singapore, so I went into the first roadside restaurant that looked decent enough. I ordered a bowl of Pho Bo, which is basically beef noodle soup, and a can of coke. The waiter even brought me a free side order of fresh greens. The Pho Bo cost $1.25, and my coke came up to $0.75, which tallied up to a grand sum of $2 for a filling meal.
It's my personal opinion that some of the best local foods in a country can be purchased from these folks with their makeshift stalls on the roadside. In Vietnam, the food that can be bought here is generally pretty good and safe to consume. For dinner, I once bought a banh mi sandwich from a vendor who was pushing her stall on wheels. Banh Mi is a large sandwich which has lots of things stuffed in such as fried egg, chicken, vegetables and even fried rice! This dinner only cost me $1 or 20,000 Vietnamese dong.
Ben Thanh Market
This market has an abundance of cheap eats. Everything from fresh fruits, nuts and locally made sweets to large plates of chicken fried rice can be bought here for very low prices. If you like cooking your own food while you travel, this is the best place to go shopping for groceries in Ho Chi Minh City. I bought a large bag of lychees at the market, and paid less than a dollar!
Once you actually take the time out to look for great deals, staying in Vietnam doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. The country is actually one of the cheapest places to visit in the entire world! Eating on budget in Vietnam is really easy, and you definitely won't go hungry!