Southeast Asia is an attractive place to move for many expats because of the beaches, low cost of living, and the adventure that awaits. Thailand and Bali seem to be the hotspots for expats and travelers alike, but Vietnam is often overlooked as a destination.
But what is life like for expats in Vietnam? Vietnam has everything an expat could want. It offers beautiful beaches, mountains, a great expat community, amazing local people, delicious food, and a low living cost. There is so much to do throughout the country, you definitely won’t get bored, and you probably won’t have time to experience it all!
How to Move to Vietnam | Vietnam Visa
Visa-free entry into Vietnam exists for 25 countries, including the UK, France, Germany, and Russia. You can enter Vietnam for 15 days, visa-free.
If you want to stay longer, most travelers can apply for a 30-day visa. You can get a visa upon arrival at the airport or you can apply for a Vietnam eVisa with an online service like Byevisa. Some countries will need a visa letter from their home country, permitting them to get a Vietnamese visa. Make sure you check what you will need to get a visa before you arrive at the airport.
If you love Vietnam and want to stay for longer than 30-days, there are 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month visas. You will go through a similar process to obtain the 3-month visa, as you did for the 30-day visa. After three months, you will have to do a border run or exit the country to renew your visa!
Best Cities to Live in Vietnam
Vietnam is home to several fantastic places to live. As an expat, you look for specific aspects of life, such as the expat community, cost of living and quality of life to find that perfect place.
If you are wondering where to live in Vietnam, here are three of the best cities to live in as an expat.
Hanoi is located in the North of Vietnam and is the capital of the country. You are really able to experience the Vietnamese culture throughout the city. Hanoi is the second-largest city in Vietnam, so the crowds and busy roads can be a shock to some people at first. It’s a lively city with always something to do. There is also an excellent expat community in Hanoi, as it’s one of the cheapest places to live in Vietnam.
There is always something to do in Hanoi, but it is also close to many other beautiful parts of Vietnam for a day trip or weekend getaway, including Sapa and Ha Long Bay.
Da Nang is a vacation hotspot for Vietnamese and foreigners and a popular destination for many expats. Da Nang has it all – beautiful beaches, green mountains to explore, and a vibrant city. It is the third-largest city in Vietnam, so while it is still about 1 million people, you don’t find the traffic or craziness you might find in the larger cities. There is a tight expat community in Da Nang, and everyone is welcoming and friendly.
Da Nang is about a 30-minute drive from the quaint town of Hoi An. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a great place to visit and even live! It’s a small town, but you will be taken in by its beauty and warm community.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh, also called Saigon, is located in the South of the country and is the largest city in Vietnam. The city is divided into 12 districts, each with its own residential areas, restaurants, and entertainment.
Planning your upcoming adventures? Travel by bus! (It’s cheap!)
Ho Chi Minh is a modern city, with skyscrapers being added to the skyline, lots of commercial shopping, and rooftop bars. If you want to immerse yourself in the Vietnamese culture, but still be able to find a taste of the West, Ho Chi Minh is an excellent option.
How to Get a SIM Card
Getting a SIM Card in Vietnam is cheap and easy. When you arrive at the airport, you will see numerous stalls selling SIM cards. Airport prices will be a bit higher than in the city, but you also pay for the convenience.
You can top up your SIM card for about 100,000 VND/month ($5 USD). Most small stores that sell snacks and drinks will also be able to top up your phone for you.
Renting a scooter
If you’re in one of the bigger cities, such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, you will notice there are more motorbikes than cars. Driving a scooter in Vietnam can seem daunting, but it’s one of the best ways to get around. You can rent a scooter for about 1 million VND/ month.
You can always take Grab (SouthEast Asia’s Uber) bikes around the city, which are cheap, plentiful, and you can avoid driving altogether.
If you plan to stay in Vietnam long term, you should consider buying a scooter. These will range, but a used, good-condition automatic bike will cost around 7 million VND.
How to Find an Apartment
There are two good options for finding an apartment in Vietnam.
The easiest way is to join expat Facebook groups in your new city. – there will be groups specific to house and apartment rentals. There are daily posts advertising available apartments. You can also post what you are looking for and have people message you (warning – you will receive a lot of messages).
Another way is to walk around the neighborhood you want to live in as there are usually For Rent signs posted. You can call or text the number on the sign to set up a viewing. It might help if you have a Vietnamese friend to do some of the talking for you if you decide to call.
Signing a longer contract (6 months – 1 year) usually works out cheaper per month. But it’s recommended to sign a 3-month or 6-month lease at first and see how you like it!
Coworking Spaces in Vietnam
Coworking spaces are becoming more popular in Vietnam. You’ll find endless options for coffee shops to work at. Here are some great coworking spaces to check out.
Located in downtown Hanoi, Moonwork is a cozy and comfortable place to work. With open working spaces, lots of green, high-speed internet, friendly staff, and free coffee, you can easily spend all day here. Moonwork is a popular place among Vietnam expats.
Ho Chi Minh
CirCo offers smart yet functional common spaces. Their prices are affordable, and they offer a variety of memberships for digital nomads in Vietnam, from daily to weekly passes. They have 2 locations, located in the heart of the city, and both accessible by public transportation. The space offers lovely views of the city.
Enouvo Space is a modern and cozy coworking space. The wi-fi is reliable, and the tables are big and comfortable, allowing you to spread out for a day of working. There is a rooftop for you to take a break and get some fresh air. The staff is welcoming and helpful. It’s usually not too crowded, so you will be able to focus in peace.
Laundry in Vietnam
Many western-style apartments will come with a washing machine. You can hang your clothes outside to dry, and since the weather is usually hot and sunny in Vietnam, you can expect your clothes to dry quickly.
You will find laundry services throughout the city, where you can drop your laundry off for them to wash and dry, and pick it up later that day or the next morning. You can usually find places for 20,000 VND/ 1kg but can even find some as low as 10,000 VND / 1kg.
Want to connect with fellow long-term travelers? Join our Facebook group and the conversation.
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Food in Vietnam
The food in Vietnam is exceptionally delicious. There are so many tasty dishes for everyone to try.
Based on where you are in Vietnam, there will be dishes from the region you must try.
When foreigners think about Vietnamese food, Pho is a common one they know. Pho is a delicious soup, consisting of rice noodles, herbs, and meat. Pho is commonly eaten for breakfast in Vietnam, which can be a weird concept for foreigners.
Banh xeo is a sizzling, savory pancake. Banh translates to cake, and Xeo translates to sizzling. The sizzling refers to the noise the batter makes when cooking the dish! The traditional filling is pork and shrimp, and it is served with a lot of greens. You wrap the pancake with greens and dip it into a delicious fish sauce.
Mi Quang is a noodle dish that originated in Central Vietnam (Quang Nam province). It consists of wide noodles, peanuts, pork, shrimp or beef, and a rice cake. It is served with a small portion of broth. It’s a must-try if you are in Central Vietnam.
Com Tam translates to ‘broken rice.’ It is served with rice, grilled pork, and vegetables. It sounds simple, but add some fish sauce, and you will remember it! Fish sauce is popular in Vietnam – it doesn’t sound appealing, but it’s a delicious taste!
You will see numerous banh mi stalls throughout your travels in Vietnam. A banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich. It is made in a crispy French baguette and filled with vegetables and your choice of meat or egg. Make sure to try a banh mi from a street vendor; those are always the best.
Fresh Spring Rolls
You probably have tried fried spring rolls, but the Vietnamese spring rolls offer something different. Vietnamese Spring rolls, also known as Fresh Spring rolls or Gỏi cuốn in Vietnamese, are traditionally made up of rice noodles, pork, prawn and vegetables, wrapped in rice paper. They are served fresh, at room temperature, or cold. Once you try them, you will be hooked!
Fitness in Vietnam
You will find gyms throughout Vietnam. Many gyms will be on the older side and only have fans, but they will be cheap to use. You can also find modern gyms, with AC and a workout class schedule. Classes will consist of yoga, Zumba, and more!
Outdoor gyms are common in Vietnam – machines, and weights, all outdoors! If you can handle the heat (or go at the right time), this is a cool and unique way to work out.
You will find Vietnamese people exercising outside, early in the morning or after the sun sets, to avoid the heat. They do a range of activities, including Zumba, Tai Chi, aerobics, badminton, etc. It’s a fun site to see, and you can always try to join in.
Da Nang has a surf season from September to March. The waves are perfect for beginners but also offer something to more experienced surfers. You can rent a board for as low as 100,000 VND /day. There are many surf shops to rent a board, or even take a surfing class.
Is Vietnam Expensive? | Cost of Living in Vietnam
The cost of living in Vietnam is cheap. If you’re working as an English teacher in Vietnam or working online, you will find your salary allows you to live comfortably and even start saving money.
Here is a breakdown of expenses → 1 person for 1 month
*Note these can vary
|Rent – 1 bedroom apartment (Western style)||$400|
|Food – Eating local food||$200|
|Food – Eating local & international food||$300|
|Transportation (motorbike rental + gas or Grab)||$55|
|Extra (coffee, going out, tourist attractions)||$45|
|Total||$955 – $1,055|
Vietnam on a Budget
Living or traveling in Vietnam on a budget is very doable.
Here are some tips for living in Vietnam on a budget:
- Eat Vietnamese food! Western options can be pricey, but if you stick to the delicious local food, you will save a lot.
- Buy groceries from the markets and be ready to bargain! If you are in a traditional supermarket, you won’t be able to barter, but you can try to haggle a deal at the markets.
- Explore the local attractions. Museums and temples within the city will be more affordable than popular tourist attractions. These attractions need to be accessible to local people so the prices will be affordable.
Is Vietnam Safe?
Vietnam is safe!
Be aware of your surroundings and your items, like you would in any country. Petty theft can be common, such as bag or phone snatching. One way thieves do this is to drive by on their motorbike and take your phone or bag! This is more common in larger cities and at night.
If you are taking a taxi, make sure they turn on the meter so that charges you. Taxi drivers can sometimes be sneaky and make up a price at the end of the ride, but the meter doesn’t lie.
The traffic can get crazy in Vietnam so if you are driving or riding on a motorbike, be careful and always wear a helmet. You will get a ticket if you are not wearing a helmet.
Best Time to Visit Vietnam
In the North, Vietnam has four seasons – winter, spring, fall, and summer. The winter in the North gets cold, so be sure to pack extra layers if you plan to visit from December – March.
In the South, there are only two seasons – wet and dry. The summers are scorching and humid, and you won’t want to do much outside the comfort of the AC. The wet season is a bit cooler, but you won’t be able to do much without getting soaked.
The best time to visit Vietnam is during the spring months, March, or April. You will still get beautiful sunny weather but won’t be in the heat of the summer. Vietnam has a lot to offer outdoors – beaches, mountains, temples, pagodas – you will want to make the most of the outdoors while you are here.
Things to know before moving to Vietnam
There are pros and cons of living in Vietnam, but the more you know, the more prepared you will be!
- Tap water is not safe to drink
- Vietnam is NOISY – between construction, and karaoke, it’s rare to find a quiet place
- The currency is Vietnamese Dong (VND) $1 USD = 23,000 VND
- Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn, but if you work hard you can learn it
- Vietnamese people are very welcoming and friendly. You may have people come up to you – some will want to practice their English, and some are just saying hi (even if they don’t speak the same language)
Vietnam is a must-visit destination – it has so much to offer. Beaches, mountains, pagodas, temples, museums, delicious food, cheap beer, the list goes on and on!
It can seem very foreign at first, especially if you have never been to Southeast Asia before. Still, the Vietnamese people and expat community will make you feel welcome and give you a great and memorable experience. Take a look at this Vietnam itinerary if you wish to visit the country while you’re there.
BEFORE YOU GO TO VIETNAM
☑ Book your flight: If your flight isn’t booked yet – check out the flights on Skyscanner or via Google Flights. My top saving tip is flexibility. If you’re flexible, you should be able to find a cheaper flight.
☑ Book your accommodation: I always use Airbnb and Booking.com. If you’d rather stay in a hostel, you should take a look at the options on Hostelworld. If you click on the Airbnb link and you don’t have an account yet – you’ll get a $30 discount on your first booking.
☑ Protect your cute face: Oh, you may want to protect your cute face with a travel medical insurance. I would suggest SafetyWing as they offer the best rates, especially for long-term travelers. Otherwise, you can also take a look at World Nomads.
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