Expat in Vietnam: Your Ultimate Guide

Ho Chi Minh City Landmark 81 Tower at night

Welcome to your comprehensive guide for living as an expat in Vietnam. Whether you are planning to move to Vietnam for work, retirement, or adventure, this guide will provide you with all the necessary information to make your transition smooth and enjoyable.

Visa Options

As an expatriate moving to Vietnam, the primary visa options include tourist visas, which are valid for 90 days and can be renewed through visa runs or international trips. For those intending to stay longer or work in Vietnam, securing the appropriate visa beforehand is crucial. Unfortunately, we do not provide business visa services, so please consult the Vietnamese consulate or an immigration consultant for specific business visa requirements and procedures.

For more detailed information, visit our Vietnam E-Visa page.

Cost of Living

Vietnam offers a significantly lower cost of living compared to many Western countries and other Asian expat hubs such as Singapore or Hong Kong. The affordable cost of living is one of the main attractions for expatriates choosing to live in Vietnam.

Housing: Housing options in Vietnam range from high-end apartments in major cities to more affordable housing in suburban areas. Expats can find modern apartments with amenities such as pools and gyms, especially in cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Da Nang. Suburban areas offer quieter living environments, which are ideal for families or those seeking tranquility.

Food: Vietnam is known for its delicious and inexpensive food. Street food is a staple and offers a variety of dishes such as Pho, Banh Mi, and fresh spring rolls. Eating at local restaurants is cost-effective, while dining at Western-style restaurants is more expensive.

Transportation: Transportation is both affordable and convenient. Motorbikes are the most common mode of transport and are available for rent or purchase at reasonable prices. Taxis and buses are also widely used, with ride-hailing services like Grab offering an easy and reliable way to get around.

Utilities and Internet: Utility costs are generally low, with monthly expenses for electricity, water, and garbage collection ranging from $50 to $100. High-speed internet is available throughout the country, costing around $10 to $20 per month.

Learn more about the cost of living in Vietnam on our Travel Guides page.


Finding the right housing is essential for a comfortable expat life. Many expatriates prefer to start with short-term leases to familiarize themselves with the area before committing to long-term contracts.

Popular Expat Areas:

  • Ho Chi Minh City: District 2 (Thao Dien) and District 7 (Phu My Hung) are popular with expatriates due to their modern amenities and international schools.
  • Hanoi: Tay Ho (West Lake) and Ba Dinh are favored for their scenic views and vibrant expat communities.
  • Da Nang: My An and Son Tra offer a relaxed coastal lifestyle with beautiful beaches and a growing expat community.

Work Opportunities

Many expatriates in Vietnam find employment opportunities in teaching English, IT, and digital marketing.

Teaching English: Teaching English is one of the most popular jobs for expatriates in Vietnam due to high demand and competitive salaries. Most teaching positions require a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL/TESOL certificate. Native English speakers have an advantage, but non-native speakers can also find opportunities with the right qualifications.

IT and Digital Marketing: Vietnam's tech sector is rapidly growing, offering numerous opportunities for IT professionals and digital marketers. Major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are home to many tech companies and startups looking for skilled workers.

Freelancing: Freelancing is also a viable option for many expats, especially digital nomads. Cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Da Nang have a variety of coworking spaces that cater to freelancers and remote workers, providing a professional environment and networking opportunities.

Cultural Tips

Understanding and respecting Vietnamese culture is essential for a smooth transition and successful integration.

Respect for Elders: Vietnamese culture places a strong emphasis on respecting elders. It is customary to use formal titles and polite language when addressing older individuals.

Family and Community: Family is the cornerstone of Vietnamese society. Community bonds are strong, and social gatherings often involve extended family and close friends.

Dining Etiquette: Dining customs are important in Vietnam. It is polite to wait for the eldest person to start eating before you begin. Avoid pointing your chopsticks directly at people or leaving them stuck vertically in a bowl of rice, as this resembles incense sticks used at funerals.

Gift Giving: Gift-giving is a common practice, especially when visiting someone’s home. Small gifts such as fruit, sweets, or flowers are appreciated. However, avoid giving handkerchiefs, yellow flowers, or anything black, as these items are associated with funerals.

For more cultural insights, visit our blog posts at Vietnam blog and guide.


Vietnam offers both public and private healthcare options.

Public Healthcare: Public hospitals are more affordable but may have longer wait times and language barriers. They are suitable for basic healthcare needs and emergencies.

Private Healthcare: Private hospitals are preferred by expatriates for their higher standards of care and English-speaking staff. These hospitals are well-equipped to handle a wide range of medical conditions and offer shorter wait times.

Health Insurance: It is advisable to have comprehensive health insurance that covers both routine and emergency medical needs. Many expats choose international health insurance plans to ensure they have access to high-quality healthcare.

Getting Around

Navigating transportation in Vietnam can be challenging due to heavy traffic, especially in larger cities.

Traffic Conditions: Traffic can be chaotic, with motorbikes dominating the roads. It is common to see locals and expats alike wearing masks to protect against pollution.

Transportation Options: Motorbikes are widely used and can be rented or purchased at affordable prices. However, driving a motorbike requires caution due to the high accident rate. Buses and ride-hailing services like Grab are convenient and cost-effective options for getting around.

Comparisons with Other Countries

Vietnam offers a lower cost of living compared to many Western countries and other Asian expat hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong. Affordable housing, food, and transportation make it possible to live comfortably on a moderate budget.

Work Culture: Vietnamese work culture is hierarchical, with a strong emphasis on respect for authority and seniority. Work-life balance is generally good, but this can vary depending on the industry and company.

Social Integration: While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, learning basic Vietnamese can be very helpful for daily interactions and building relationships with locals. Expats often find it easy to integrate into the local community, especially in cities with established expat networks.

Statistics and Additional Info

Expat Population: Vietnam is home to a growing number of expatriates, with estimates suggesting over 100,000 expats currently living in the country, predominantly in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Popular Expat Jobs: Teaching English remains one of the most common occupations for expats. The IT and technology sectors are expanding, offering numerous opportunities. Hospitality and tourism also provide employment opportunities, especially in cities with high tourist traffic.

Income and Savings: The average salary for an expat can range from $1,000 to $3,000 per month, depending on the job and location. Many expats find they can save a significant portion of their income due to the low cost of living.

Education for Expat Children: Numerous international schools in major cities offer curriculums such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), American, and British systems, ensuring quality education for expatriate children.


  • North Vietnam: Humid subtropical with four distinct seasons.
  • Central Vietnam: Tropical monsoon climate with wet and dry seasons.
  • South Vietnam: Tropical climate with consistent warm temperatures year-round.

Safety: Vietnam is generally considered safe for expatriates, with low levels of violent crime. However, petty theft and traffic accidents are concerns, so it’s important to stay vigilant.

Legal Considerations:

  • Foreigners cannot own land but can lease it for up to 50 years.
  • Expats need a Vietnamese driving license to drive a car; motorbikes can be driven with an international license.

Explore more about living in Vietnam and make the most of your expat experience. Visit our Travel Guides for more detailed information and tips.

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