Ho Chi Minh City is an incredible travel bargain compared to most of the rest of the world, though it’s also among the more expensive cities in Vietnam. Prices in Hanoi are similar, and everywhere else in the country is at least a bit cheaper, so regardless of which big city you start in, things will get better as you go until you reach the other one. Hoi An prices are strangely low for food and drinks and even hotels, and it’s a major highlight for most visitors to Vietnam.
Hotel prices in the crowded Pham Ngu Lao area in District 1 are quite high for the country, and rooms tend to be small as well. Still, money goes a long way, and everything else is quite cheap as well.
Food and drinks are similar in that better quality and bargains can be found in pretty much every other major tourist city in Vietnam, and yet compared to anywhere outside of India or Southeast Asia everything is a bargain.
Another key area where this city shines is that the main attractions are either free (markets, neighborhoods), or very cheap. Even half-day and full-day tours outside of the city to the Mekong Delta or the Cu Chi Tunnels can be had for the price of a beer or two in almost any other city.