11 Tips for Moving to Vietnam

Scenic Vietnam
Scenic Vietnam | ©M M/Flickr
Sam Roth

Vietnam only opened up to the outside world in the mid 1990s. Since then, the country has gone through a tidal wave of change. The economy has skyrocketed, highrises have shot up and westerners have arrived. More and more settle into Saigon or Hanoi every day and for good reason. It’s a fast paced, frenetic experience, totally unlike anything else. For those making the journey, here are 11 tips to make it even easier.

It’s hot

Be prepared to sweat. Most of Vietnam is hot all year round and much of that is brutally hot. Even during the rainy season the heat can seem overwhelming. Taking humidity into account, you should be prepared for temperatures between 90-100 Fahrenheit. Unless you plan on living in the extreme north, expect oppressive, sticky heat.

Ha Long Bay roasting under the late afternoon sun

Don’t pack too much

Embrace street food

One of the great joys of Vietnamese culture is the street food. There is something undeniably blissful about eating a bowl of pho while sitting on a tiny plastic stool as motorbikes scream by and 50 cent beers clink off the asphalt below. The food is delicious and shockingly cheap—you could eat for a week for less than $20. There is perhaps only one other experience that will make you feel more in tune with Vietnamese culture…

Street Food in Hanoi

Get some wheels

The motorbike is ubiquitous in Vietnam. It is as ingrained in the culture as wine in France or football in England. To truly feel at home, you need to embrace it. This will undoubtedly seem daunting and horrifying at first and there’s no question that there’s a certain level of danger involved. However, you’ll quickly find it to be liberating and exhilarating—you’ll feel a higher level of involvement with your surroundings.

Expat districts are easier, Vietnamese districts are more fun

In Saigon, the majority of expats live in the Thao Dien neighborhood of District 2. There are western malls, stores, restaurants and gyms. For many these amenities provide the comforts of home. These districts are all over Vietnam; they’re a selling point for many expats. If comfort is what you’re looking for, then by all means find a place to live in one of these districts. However, if it’s fun and authenticity you’re after, look elsewhere. Take a risk and move into a wholly Vietnamese neighborhood. It will be more difficult, but it certainly won’t be boring.

Packed streets of Ho Chi Minh

Things don’t always work

And that’s OK. Many westerners arrive in Vietnam expecting the same level of service or reliability they’re used to back home. This is a mistake. Vietnam is changing more than most places in the world right now and with those changes come difficulties. You will have some sort of insect infestation, you will not always have working wifi, you will certainly lose power and air conditioning when it is 105 degrees. The more prepared you are for these types of occurrences, the easier it will be.

Cockroaches don’t bite

They will be in the bathroom when you wake up at night. They will scamper across the floor. There’s no reason to panic, cockroaches are harmless and they will be your roommates.

Buses have the right of way

There are motorbikes everywhere, yet it’s the buses that are the real danger. From Highway 1 to back alleys, there always seems to be a bus careening out of some corner. Be aware, because they do not slow down. Buses rely far more on their horns than their brakes. A general rule of thumb is the bigger the vehicle the farther away you ride.

A packed bus

There are always jobs for westerners

One of the great things about Vietnam is the economic growth. The GDP is growing at a staggering 6% annually and showing no signs of slowing down. With this has come jobs of all varieties. It is not difficult to get a job as a westerner. Join local Facebook groups, expand your expat community, meet everyone you can and you will find work.

Some school will be hiring

English is big business in Vietnam. It’s becoming more and more important to know the language and in turn the government and individuals are pouring money into schools, tutors, and language centers. It can be difficult to find an expat who isn’t teaching in some aspect. This of course means that there are more than enough jobs to go around.

Vietnamese kids playing after school

It’s not clean

Vietam is still a third world country. There’s still a great deal of poverty and there’s still a great deal of change ahead. Don’t expect it to be clean. There is garbage on every street. There’s trash on lots of the beaches. Perhaps in 15 years, after a large government push Vietnam will be cleaned up, but don’t expect that any time soon.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Edit article