Are you looking for a big change or an exciting new adventure? Vietnam might be the perfect place for you to set down some roots and call home. It ranked second overall as the best place for expats this year! Still not convinced? I’ll walk you through the basics of living comfortably as an Expat in Vietnam.
The Cost of Living
Vietnam is regarded as a cheap holiday destination and a popular expat hub. While the economy is rapidly developing and growing each day, expats can still live a very comfortable life with a relatively low budget. Like anywhere, you can find a luxury apartment for $1,000 or a basic studio for $250. Many expats also lived in shared houses, and rent a room for $100-$200. You might find apartments marketed towards foreigners tend to be marked up, so you should try to negotiate a cheaper price with the landlord or real estate agent. The best way to do this is to offer to pay for more than 1 month upfront. This might feel uncomfortable for some expats, but it is a skill you will need to develop while living in SE Asia if you don’t want to be taken advantage of.
Vietnamese food is also very cheap, ranging from 1$-3 for most meals, while renting a motorbike is $20 – $25 a month and a beer can be as low as 25 cents! Foreign food obviously comes with a heavier price tag ($10-15) but is still reasonable when comparing prices back home. In the bigger cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Danang, you’d be surprised at the quality international cuisines available. I find myself eating just as much international food as Vietnamese street food these days!
Finding a Job
Finding a job can be incredibly easy, or rather difficult, depending on your profession. You will find that 90% of foreigners in Vietnam tend to be teachers of some sort. This is by far the most common, and easily accessible field to gain access to. You will need to get your papers sorted (criminal background check, passport, visa, university degrees, etc.) You will also need a TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA in order to get a (legal) teaching job. An online TESOL will cost you as little as $25 while doing one in person at a center will be around $1,800. But you can make $1,200 – $1,800 a month, if you tried your hardest you couldn’t spend it all.
Most people I know are saving $500-$1,000 a month. Many schools require you to be a Native English Speaker, however, there are many non-native speakers working as well. There are also many business professionals and entrepreneurs in Vietnam from all over the world. It’s a great place to start a business because start-up costs are still low, but the economy and tourism are growing. There are many expat owned and run shops all around the major cities ranging from food to clothing to bars and clubs.
Choosing a City
So you’ve decided to move to Vietnam, what city is right for you? If you’re concerned about making a decent living and maybe even saving some money, you should probably stick to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. This is where the majority of jobs (teaching jobs) are and they are also home to the largest expat communities. If you work online as a digital nomad or are a little more flexible, you should consider Danang. It’s a beautiful beach town surrounded by mountains and a growing digital nomad community.
There are also smaller, more peaceful towns and provinces scattered throughout Vietnam. The best way to decide what’s right for you is to travel before moving! You can also sign short-term leases so if you decide you want to move to another city, it is definitely possible. I live in Hanoi because of the teaching opportunities and the low cost of living. I also wanted a more cultural and local experience over a more industrial western style, like Ho Chi Minh. If you want a bigger, more modern city, you should consider Ho Chi Minh.
Weighing the Negatives
There are so many amazing things about Vietnam, however, there are some negative aspects that you should consider before moving here. The biggest issue I have with Hanoi is air pollution (up to 300 on the AQI rating system). It’s gotten particularly bad over the past few years and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Just this year the government banned a popular air quality index app because it ranked Hanoi as one of the worst polluted cities in the world. Living here means taking safety measures like wearing a face mask when driving and purchasing an air purifier for your home. If this is a deal-breaker for you, don’t worry, there are many places in Vietnam that are not nearly as polluted as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.
The second most complained about aspect of life in Vietnam is the tight spaces and traffic. Vietnam is the land of motorbikes, so you will most likely learn to drive one while here. The traffic can be crazy, but once you get the hang of it things become easier. It’s almost like a game of Tetris on the road. Traffic in Vietnam is also a lot slower than many other busy places, making it a bit more approachable to drive yourself. If driving a motorbike isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Plenty of expats opt-out of driving due to safety issues or personal reasons. Grab bike and Bee are great (and affordable) apps anyone can use!
Is Vietnam Right For You?
Only you can decide if Vietnam is right for you, but there’s definitely a reason so many people are flocking to this expat haven in 2019. For me, the pros outweigh the cons, and I really do love the people and culture that I’m surrounded by. The best thing you can do is to experience it for yourself by traveling to Vietnam first. There’s something for everyone here, it’s up to you to find out what your “thing” is!