Vietnam’s ascendancy is staggering and owes much to the Doi Moi reform policies, implemented in the 1980s, which propelled it from a traditional to a modern economy. Many expats are drawn to Vietnam’s burgeoning tourism industry, but telecommunications, exports and finance are among the many emerging industries.
Moving to a new place will undoubtedly present some unique challenges, and Vietnam is no exception. From finding the best jobs to making the most of your lifestyle in your new home in Southeast Asia – here’s everything you need to know about expat life in Vietnam.
Is Vietnam safe for expats?
Yes, living in Vietnam is relatively safe for expats. The country rarely experiences terrible natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Safety is acceptable, especially in the big cities.
However, the first thing to know about Vietnam is that it is a one-party communist country. Vietnam has a socialist republic form, so if you come from an urbanized western country, you will definitely experience a bit of culture shock.
For starters, certain freedoms that you may have taken for granted will be severely restricted in Vietnam. It ranks 175th out of 180 countries for press freedom.
Is Vietnam affordable for expats?
Absolute. In fact, Vietnam is easily one of the most affordable countries in the world.
Expats in Vietnam can expect a staggering salary – US$78,000 / £55,000 on average – especially if they work in a fast-growing industry or multinational corporation.
In addition, the cost of living in Vietnam is very low. Even in the cities of Hanoi and Saigon, the average spending for a small family will not exceed US$1,500/£1,100 per month, including rent and eating out at restaurants.
Expat families earning a good salary can therefore expect a luxurious, metropolitan lifestyle, with money to spare.
Where should I live in Vietnam?
The quality of accommodation in Vietnam is generally excellent. In the main tourist areas, the offer is suitable for all budgets, and while the prices are a bit expensive by Southeast Asian standards, the quality is generally quite high.
Reviewing accommodation is not easy in Vietnam. The names used (guesthouse, mini-hotel, hotel, etc.) are rarely reliable to indicate the offer and there is a large overlap in standards. Vietnam’s older hotels tend to be austere, state-owned buildings styled after unkind Eastern European models, while many privately run mini-hotels really do their best.
Some hotels cover all bases with a range of rooms, from basic rooms with fan and cold water to cheerful accommodation with air conditioning, satellite TV, refrigerator and minibar. As a rule of thumb, the newer a place is, the more value it is likely to represent in terms of comfort, cleanliness, and all-round appeal.
What is the best location to live in Vietnam as an expat?
When you first come to Vietnam, you probably want to stay close to the two main metropolitan areas – Hanoi to the north and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to the south. You will likely find life in the major cities quite similar to that in major western cities, with ample access to food, leisure, entertainment, transportation, and so on. Two of the most popular neighborhoods with English-speaking expats are Tay Ho in Hanoi and Binh Thanh in Ho Chi Minh City.
The coastal cities of Da Nang and Nha Trang are also popular locations for expats looking for a quieter way of life. Expats may take some time to get used to life in Vietnam, as the country is a noisy place and you are likely to experience a lot more noise than at home.
How much does it cost to rent in Vietnam?
Living in Vietnam is not ridiculously expensive. As an expat in Vietnam you will find a fantastic selection of luxury yet reasonably priced properties. Even in the center of major cities, spacious two-bedroom apartments rarely cost more than US$1,500 per month to rent. To put that into perspective, a two-bedroom apartment in downtown San Francisco typically costs about US$5,000 per month.
And if you’re willing to live a little further away, you can find one-bedroom apartment rents as low as US$400-600 per month.
Also, many of the apartments for rent in Vietnam’s major cities are fully furnished, so you don’t have to worry about adding the cost of new furniture to your moving bill.
Can I buy land in Vietnam as an expat?
While actual land ownership is not currently possible for non-Vietnamese people, expats living in Vietnam can obtain a 50-year leasehold for land and then build a house on that land.
How do I find a job in Vietnam as an expat?
One of the most popular jobs for expats in Vietnam is language teaching. Many English language schools offer on-the-job training, and qualified teachers can earn significant salaries.
If you want to continue a career that you started in your home country, in an industry such as business, finance or marketing, you may find few job opportunities. There are some multinational companies with offices in Vietnam, and many more companies are starting to move to Vietnam, especially those who want to move from China.
You may therefore want to see if your current employer allows you to transfer to their office in Vietnam, if they have one. However, nothing can stop you from looking for a job abroad or becoming a digital nomad in Vietnam.
by Joe Holden @ william-russell.com. Edited by the staff of Vietnam Insider