Vietnam has become a popular destination, not only for travel, but for living as well. As of the present, there are about 90,000 foreign nationals living here. It is the increase in prominence of Vietnam on the global scale that attracts many expats, and many of them are happy to call the country their home.
Moving to Vietnam or any Southeast Asian country can be a pleasant surprise for anyone who would like to live in a place where beach weather can be enjoyed all year long, and it can mean an even more luxurious lifestyle since the cost of living is lower than in most Western countries. However, it can be quite daunting, especially to those who are unfamiliar with the culture and other important things such as schooling, housing, and the like. Last time, we covered the culture and tips about fitting in, the language, employment opportunities, and food and restaurants. Here, have a look at the other things that you might want to consider before packing your bags and moving to Vietnam.
Finding a great place to live in Vietnam can be quite complicated, especially if you plan to move to the city. Urban areas like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are often overcrowded, and rent can be rather high in these places. The first step is to decide on the neighborhood you prefer. A lot of expats work in industrial or business districts, but these places lack good residential areas or are too crowded. Because of this, many expats choose to settle in suburbs or residential districts. While the houses in these places are certainly bigger and fancier than typical Vietnamese abodes, these districts are also quite far from the city, so commuting to work will take a little longer.
Some Westerners prefer to have an authentic Vietnamese living experience, while others prefer a higher standard of living in typical expat neighborhoods. One can find these neighborhoods in district 2 and district 7 of Ho Chi Minh City. Both offer serene and spacious developments, with large houses and access to green spaces, which you can’t find in urban areas. These areas are near international schools and nurseries, so if you plan on living in Vietnam with your family, these neighborhoods may be the right fit for you. The cost of renting homes in these neighborhoods is between $250 and $10,000 a month. Many expats who did some comparison shopping found out that the homes in District 7 have cheaper rent than those in District 2.
One may also choose from among different types of accommodation in Vietnam. The cheapest option is to rent a room. They can be rented unfurnished or furnished. This makes sense if you make a modest income, you’re living alone or with a partner, or you don’t want to move too far from the main city. Rooms come with a bathroom and a shared kitchen. Houses can also be rented with or without furniture, and may be the best option if a larger space is needed. Finding a house to rent may be difficult in densely populated areas though.
Another good choice is to rent an apartment, which may give you more privacy than living in a room, and it’s definitely cheaper than renting a house. Just be prepared to deal with your landlord every now and then, and make arrangements for connection of utilities.
If you’re planning to stay for only a couple of months, then staying in a serviced apartment might be better for you. Among the most notable ones in Vietnam are the Somerset Grand in Hanoi, and the Sherwood Residence and DB Court Serviced Residence in Ho Chi Minh City. Serviced apartments are usually located in high-rise buildings or hotels and come with furniture and amenities such as a swimming pool, gym, restaurants and cafes, and some even have spas. Services such as housekeeping are included in the rent. This could be a great choice for those who don’t have the time to scout around for houses and make arrangements for utilities.
If you’re staying in Vietnam on a permanent basis, you could also look into buying property. As of the moment, foreigners who are residents of Vietnam can purchase a condo or apartment but are not allowed to own the land. The process of acquiring property as a foreigner is quite taxing but the rules may change in the coming months.
The cost of foreign goods in Vietnam comes at a premium price. Expect a markup of more than 300 percent on international household goods. Groceries that cater to expat communities have a much higher markup than local shops that sell the same foreign goods, but you’re paying for the convenience of having your favorite brands on hand when you need them. Fortunately, the cost of produce in Vietnam is quite low. A family can spend less than $10 for a week’s worth of fruits and vegetables, and local foods such as rice and noodles are cheap as well. Even meat is more affordable here than in other countries.
If you’re moving to another country with your family, one of the main concerns of any parent is finding a good school where their children can easily adapt to the curriculum and culture. Vietnam has several international schools that have garnered positive reviews from expats who have enrolled their children in these schools. The fees can be quite pricey, though, but your kids will be comfortable here as English is the medium in which all subjects are taught.
In Ho Chi Minh City, there are several schools you may choose from. One is the Saigon South International School, which is touted to have the best facilities among all the schools in the country. It has large fields, a swimming pool, three libraries, a fitness room, two gyms, and three buildings. It’s located in Phu My Hung, which is a very safe part of the city, and kids can even ride on their bikes to school. The tuition fee ranges from $12,000 to $23,000 a year, depending on the grade level of the child. There’s also a one-time application fee of $450, which covers all administrative costs and admission and placement testing fees.
A British school named Renaissance International School is smaller than its competitors, but it has a wide range of facilities including an indoor swimming pool, a children’s splash pool, a 230-seat theater, gym and all-weather pitch. This school is located in district 7 of Ho Chi Minh City, which is an expat community. A wide range of extra-curricular activities are available, including some provided by outside coaches and organizations. Tuition fee is from $8,500 to $24,000 a year.
If the fees are a little steep for your budget, there’s also the option of sending your kids to Vietnamese private schools, which cost about $100 to $200 a year, but of course they will have to adapt to the local curriculum, and they will be required to learn the language as well, which could be an advantage for them if you plan on staying in Vietnam permanently.
Many foreigners who live in Vietnam employ domestic staff. You can expect one housekeeper to do cleaning, cooking, organizing, and even look after the children. Or, you could hire a nanny whose sole task is to take care of your kids. The price of hiring a housekeeper, nanny, gardener or driver varies a lot, and those who have had experience working for expats will charge a bit more. For a housekeeper, expect to pay from $200 to $300 a month.
Life in Vietnam is definitely more relaxing, less expensive, and less stressful for many Westerners who are tired of the daily grind and the constant hustle and bustle in their old hometowns. Once you’ve cleared the basic hurdles of finding a place to live in, getting your child in a good school, adapting to the culture, and getting settled into the rhythm of daily life, you’ll find that there’s no other place you’d rather be, and you’ll thank yourself for making the move to this warm and beautiful country.