Vietnam is a fantastic country to visit and one of the most low-cost options in the world. So it’s not surprising that there’s a growing expat community living in Vietnam. There’s a strong coffee culture here to enjoy and explore, especially those coffees that are mixed with coconut. There are also plenty of beaches and nature as Vietnam shares its border with the South China Sea. You can be surrounded by greenery and escape the hustle and bustle of any city within an hour or two.
There are also plenty of unique sites to visit and explore while living in Vietnam as an expat, and the lifestyle itself is quite affordable. You will be able to enjoy a higher standard of living in most cases, due to how little most things cost, where you’re able to get that cup of strong coffee easily for less than half a dollar in some cases!
- Living In Vietnam
- Where The Expats Are In Vietnam
- Cost Of Living In Vietnam
- Visa And Residency
- Finding Accommodation In Vietnam
- Finding Work In Vietnam As An Expat
- Some Final Thoughts And Things To Consider
Living In Vietnam
Where The Expats Are In Vietnam
We’ll look at three major expat cities and there are many places to be able to meet local expats.
Ho Chi Minh City
Bui Vien Walking Street
This is where the party is, and you’ll quickly be overwhelmed with all the lights, bars clubs and restaurants.
This place is still extremely popular with tourists and expats alike.
The surrounding area – Pham Ngu Lao – is extremely popular for backpackers and has a slew of expat owned businesses.
District 2 / Thảo Điền
On the other side of the spectrum is this carved out area that is primarily full of expats.
There are numerous international schools here, green open spaces, and plenty of expat friendly restaurants.
Do keep in mind though that this is a more luxurious area and the price will reflect that.
- From Ho Chi Minh City: Mekong Delta & Vinh Trang Pagoda Tour
- From Ho Chi Minh City: Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta Tour
- Ho Chi Minh: Motorbike Street Food Tour with Local Students
A great place to find expats is in this picturesque neighborhood.
You can walk down the narrow streets and explore one of a kind shops as well as grab a bite with one of the numerous cafes and restaurants.
Ba Đình District
This is the city center and popular amongst expats.
It also is the heart of the government combined with the major historical sites.
While it may be slightly touristic, it can also be a great place to call home.
Tây Hồ District
Similar to District 2 in Ho Chi Minh, this is a much more luxurious area that is by the Hồ Tây Lake and has beautiful shops and restaurants littering the area.
Again think about pricing here, but it is still going to be quite affordable.
- From Hanoi: Tam Coc, Hoa Lu & Mua Caves Full-Day Trip
- Hanoi: Guided Street Food Tour
- Hanoi: 1-Day Ha Long Bay Cruise with Titop Island and Luon Cave
My An Beach
Of course a great place to meet anyone is at the beach! This is one of the main reasons why you’re going to find expats at all in Da Nang.
The waters are pristine and the beaches are vast to enjoy the day.
An Hải Đông District
A great neighborhood with plenty of expat owned and operated businesses.
You will find foods from all over the world here as well as bars that can handle your beverage of choice.
Bạch Đằng Street
This street is on the waterfront and is a bit touristic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
You will find plenty of stalls and places to buy a drink to cool off or get a souvenir if you decide to leave.
You’ll see plenty of other expats frequent this street as well.
Regardless of which city you’re going to stay in, there are plenty of groups online to be able to find the right mix of expats.
Vietnam has also been quite expat friendly, meaning you can find a lot of foreign owned businesses to meet others easily.
If you’re looking for even the longer term, there are plenty of coworking spaces as well as language schools that can help you meet friendly expats with similar interests.
- Hoi An: Vietnamese Coffee Culture and Coffee Making Class
- Da Nang: Lady Buddha, Marble Mountains, and Am Phu Cave Tour
- From Da Nang: Ba Na Hills and Golden Bridge Bus Transfer
Cost Of Living In Vietnam
This actually varies widely based on the city you want to live in and the type of life you want to have.
No matter what, you’re going to spending a lot less than your home country if you’re from the western part of the world.
Here are a few key cities and options that have their own unique vibe and expat scene
Ho Chi Minh City
A true gem of southeast Asia that has a cosmopolitan feel and can be quite lavish.
This is going to be the most expensive option and will have the most to offer.
Expect warm weather year round and a slew of options for food, entertainment and activities.
- Rent – the range starts at around $400 and can easily go up to $2000 per month. Yet what you get for that $2000 per month is pure luxury in a high rise usually.
- Food – You can easily live off of cheap and delicious street food, but if you want t explore the gastronomy be prepared to pay. You can expect a healthy budget around $200 per month (to start).
- Utilities and Internet – This can be covered by the apartment but in some cases electricity and water may be extra. The good news is both are cheap throughout Vietnam and you can expect around $50-$75 even in Ho Chi Minh.
The capital of Vietnam can be an exciting and vibrant location to live in. Expect to have varied weather, and four seasons which can feel a bit like home at times. You can also expect to spend slightly less in this more traditional city compared to Ho Chi Minh.
- Rents can get pretty low here at around $300 per month but depending on your needs, can easily cross over the $1,000 per month threshold.
- Utilities and Internet: Again internet will most likely be included in your apartment and utilities are on par with Ho Chi Minh. That mean around $50-$75 per month as well.
- Food: You will still have plenty of international variety, but do expect to see a lot more local and traditional food options. All that means is that your food budget can be slightly less starting at around $150 per month.
A popular coastal city for expats to live in and one of the lowest cost options out there as well. It’s perfect for expats looking for a more relaxed lifestyle.
- Rent: this comes in at the lowest where there are options as low as $200 per month, and when you go higher the accommodations can get exponentially better.
- Utilities and Internet: This tends to come in on average at around $40 per month depending on your usage.
- Food: There are so many fantastic options both local and international so this can range between $100 – $200 per month. Do keep in mind there are also some options out here that can have you spending $100 for a meal if you’re looking for those lavish options.
For all three places the transportation costs can be similar as the cost of rideshares such as Grab will be universal throughout the country.
Many of these locations are also quite walkable with plenty of sidewalks and cross streets, but expect to pay around $50 per month for rideshare transportation.
You can save a lot of money if you find yourself getting your own motorbike and paying for gas as it’s quite cheap in Vietnam.
Other expenses can vary greatly depending on what your lifestyle is.
If you find going to the clubs every weekend, they can be actually quite expensive with Ho Chi Minh being the priciest of the bunch.
Of course it’s all relative because even a drink at a club can cost around $5.
Factoring in other activities, such as sightseeing or simply enjoying the coffee culture, expect to budget around $200 per month for plenty of fun.
Visa And Residency
Vietnam has a slew of visa choices, and they can be quit specific but you don’t need to know about all of them as many wont apply to you.
Below you’ll find the ones that will apply to you.
This has recently changed in August 2023.
In the past it used to be a 30 day visa, and now one can apply for a 90 day visa but it’s single entry, meaning if you even take a day trip to Cambodia, you’ll need to reapply for another visa.
There is no visa on arrival for US citizens, so it needs to be done ahead of time.
It can be done online or at your local embassy and expect to pay a fee up front for the visa as well.
If you come from other countries, there’s a chance you can get a 45 day visa free exemption, but you need to check ahead of time and this can change.
You can go in and out during the 45 days and renew the time limit, or simply apply for a 90 day tourism visa.
If you find yourself coming for work you will be able to get a business visa which lasts up to 90 days in most cases.
You get this before you arrive, and then you’ll have to have your employer apply for a work permit.
Keep in mind that this requires sponsorship from an employer based in Vietnam and registered as a business, yet this can be quite a long term visa.
this is for expats who enter into a legal relationship with a Vietnamese citizen or a permanent resident of Vietnam.
This can last up to 12 months and can lead to the quite useful 5 year spousal visa eventually.
Longer Term At Residency
It can be frustrating possibly leaving every three months or so to get a visa renewed, so there are options.
If you are lucky enough to find work, then your work permit tends to be renewed on a yearly basis and that can include a multi entry visa as well.
This is where you get the temporary residency card or TRC that has housing requirements as well.
You can also get the five year spousal visa after fulfilling the requirements, but strangely this still has you leaving the country in and out every six months for some reason.
You can stay longer if you provide a reason approved by the government.
There is also an option for an investor visa but that requires substantial capital that remains in Vietnam and may not be for everyone.
There is discussion of a retirement golden visa but that still does not formally exist.
How To Apply For Visa Or Residency
Always reach out to the Vietnamese embassy ahead of time as the requirements tend to change.
There are also a lot of sites that look like embassy or consulate websites, but they are really agencies that support the process and collect a fee.
They aren’t really necessary at the start.
Gather all the necessary documentation from a copy of your passport, the right type of application for and pictures in the correct size.
Make sure to submit everything ahead of time and pay for the fee immediately.
Then you simply have to wait.
Tourist visas don’t take more than a week, and other types of visas take a few weeks at most.
Finding Accommodation In Vietnam
This one isn’t going to be too hard, and there are so many options available wherever you’re going to stay.
You have everything from the budget conscious expat to the luxurious businessman expat, and everything in between.
Hostels and guesthouses
There are plenty of hostels that are clean, quiet and private that’s available during your stay.
You will be able to spend a fraction of the price of an apartment or other rental and they tend to be in the prime areas of the city.
An excellent option for those that are staying for the first time in Vietnam.
These apartments may tend to be only a one bedroom or oversized studio, but they tend to also be all inclusive with transparent pricing for utilities.
You will also get your apartment cleaned consistently and laundry is usually included as well.
There are some options that come with a communal area as well as even a communal pool.
There are a lot of high rise buildings that are available, especially in the bigger cities that have regular types of apartments with elevators and doormen and other familiar comforts.
Of course these tend to come at a premium than other options but they also are quite amenity rich and lavish.
Where To Find Accommodations In Vietnam
There are a lot of websites out there for all types of accommodations, so it can be quite easy to be able to find just what you’re looking for even before landing and long term.
While it always helps to have a local maybe provide some options, there’s enough healthy competition to get you a great place at a manageable price.
Check out these:
Tips For Negotiating Rent And Finding A Good Deal
The best part is that there are many landlords out there that cater to foreigners living in their properties.
That means you will be able to easily communicate with many of them, at least via chat and Google translate.
If you have someone locally make sure to bring them along and to get all the terms clearly in writing ahead of time.
Make sure to get all ancillary expenses explained and you will not have many issues.
Remember you’re still a foreigner so they may mark up the price due to that as well.
Many will also help when it comes to getting the right paperwork and registration for the longer term visas and your temporary residency card.
Finding Work In Vietnam As An Expat
There are a lot of expat jobs available but it can still be quite challenging to find proper work.
A good start is to learn Vietnamese as that can really help with your job possibilities.
You will also need the company to sponsor you ahead of time, so you may even need to apply before even landing in Vietnam.
You will need to be highly specialized and competent as the competition in Vietnam only continues to get more fierce.
Yet there are still some options.
Popular Jobs For Expats In Vietnam
This is in excessively high demand and the better your qualifications the better your salary can be as well.
Vietnam is becoming a regional IT hub and there is a huge demand for developers and related IT work, even from expats.
There’s plenty of room for expat growing businesses, whether in the real estate developer market or in the food and beverage industry.
Keep in mind to understand all the paperwork and investment amounts required ahead of time.
Tips for Success Finding A Job In Vietnam
Besides learning the language, network as much as you can, with both Vietnamese and expats.
There are also a lot of job boards out there, even international ones such as Indeed and CareerBuilder.
Some Final Thoughts And Things To Consider
Vietnam has a fantastic medical system but it is still a good idea to get traveler’s insurance or international insurance just in case.
There are numerous high quality clinics in all the cities that are able to provide you with most of your medical needs as well as a plethora of hospitals.
Even a full checkup with bloodwork can cost only $40 without insurance.
When it comes to getting around, you have plenty of options from buses and trains to planes, to hiring private cars to take you around where you need to go.
Public transportation systems within the city are still a work in progress, but again you will have your scooter or be able to walk freely most of the time.
For more things to do in Vietnam, read:
- 20 Things To Do In Ho Chi Minh City
- 15 Things To Do In Hanoi
- 15 Things To Do In Hoi An
- Things To Do In Hue
- Vung Tau Travel Guide
- Vietnam River Cruise
- Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City
- 20 Beaches In Vietnam
- 20 Vietnam Cities
- Where To Stay In Hanoi
- Where To Stay In Ho Chi Minh City
- Where To Stay In Hoi An
- 20 Things To Do In Phu Quoc
- 20 Things To Do In Nha Trang
- 20 Islands In Vietnam
- 20 Things To Do In Danang
- 20 Things To Do In Dalat
- 20 Things To Do In Sapa
- Everything You Need To Know About Living In Vietnam