Vietnam’s poorest region, the northern highlands, is also the most expensive, with a new survey finding that living costs there are even higher than in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
According to a new cost of living index released by the General Statistics Office Thursday using 2015 prices, many essential goods and services are not available in the highlands, and transport costs inflate their prices.
Subsidized products in the region are limited to salt, oil, coal, medicine, school notebooks, fertilizers, and pesticides.
Lai Chau, a northwestern province on the China border, is the most expensive place in the country. Its prices are 0.3 percent higher than in Hanoi, which was Vietnam’s most expensive place between 2012 and 2014.
The province is mostly home to ethnic people, who earn less than a fifth of the country's average income. More than 20 percent of families in the province live below the poverty line, or earn less than VND4.8 million (US$215) a year per capita.
Son La, Lao Cai and Dien Bien Provinces, also in the northern highlands, are next in the list ahead of Ho Chi Minh City.
The southern metropolis was the most expensive place in the country until 2012, but its prices are now nearly 3 percent lower than in Hanoi. Some say the city’s efforts to keep prices of food and clothing steady have worked.
The Mekong Delta provinces continue to be the most affordable in the country.