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Moving to Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is a place of contrasts, where French-colonial architecture can be seen alongside high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, and traditional markets sell their wares right across the road from busy shopping centres housing the latest in designer goods. With its tropical climate and cosmopolitan population, Ho Chi Minh City is an easy home away from home for many expats.

Living in Ho Chi Minh City as an expat

Previously known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's largest city and an important regional seaport, with plenty of work opportunities for expats and locals alike. While the salaries in Vietnam may not be as lucrative as in the Middle East or Europe, expats will still be able to enjoy an excellent lifestyle and may even be able to afford occasional weekend breaks

Shopping-wise, expats will have an extensive variety, from luxury shopping malls to small superettes and markets. This goes for restaurants too, whether choosing to sample some of the famous Saigon pho from a street corner or eat at a Michelin-star restaurant. With so much choice in terms of wining, dining, shopping and entertainment, Ho Chi Minh City is an attractive option for many expats.

Still, not everything in Ho Chi Minh City is perfect. Transportation in Vietnam is a big topic, and simply crossing the street is a skill that expats moving to Vietnam will need to learn swiftly. There is a bus system in the city, but unless expats make the effort to learn a little Vietnamese, it can be difficult to use. Taxis can be cheap and safe provided expats use a reputable company. There are also many motorbike taxi drivers ready to speedily transport brave commuters around the city.

Cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City

Despite its status as the financial capital of Vietnam, the cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City is not exorbitant. Local goods are cheap and, while imported Western goods are more expensive, they are readily available. Accommodation in the city is varied and expats are sure to find something to suit their needs and budget. Finding property within the city is also easy with new developments constantly being built.

Healthcare is likely to be an expat's largest expense, as the standard of public health institutions varies throughout Vietnam. It recommended that expats secure comprehensive health insurance to secure access to Ho Chi Minh City's excellent private healthcare facilities.

Expat families and children in Ho Chi Minh City

Expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City with kids can rest assured that their children’s schooling won’t be limited here. Thanks to the city’s large expat population, it plays host to a number of excellent international schools specialising in a variety of foreign curricula, including American, British, French and German. There will also be plenty for expat families to see and do during their leisure time owing to the plethora of natural landscapes, historical sites and parks in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Climate in Ho Chi Minh City

As is usually the case in Southeast Asian countries, the weather in Ho Chi Minh City is humid and moderately hot. The monsoon season (May to October) brings a long rainy season and increased levels of humidity. 

Despite having a fair amount of noise and air pollution, Ho Chi Minh City offers expats a life full of charm, pleasant surprises and friendly locals. A vibrant meeting point between East and West, moving to Ho Chi Minh City is an exciting expat experience, offering much to explore and discover.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Ho Chi Minh City

Expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City will find themselves in a vibrant, engaging culture. The city has many benefits, but it also has drawbacks, and expats should prepare themselves realistically to make the most of their time in Vietnam.

Living in Ho Chi Minh City 

+ PRO: Thriving expat community

There is a strong expat community in Ho Chi Minh City and the social life is varied and engaging, which means there is something for everyone from families to singles.

+ PRO: Welcoming attitude of the Vietnamese people

Vietnamese people are very friendly and welcoming of foreigners. Expats will find locals accommodating and genuinely interested in helping them – something that may seem unusual to many expats.

- CON: Overcharging foreigners

Despite the friendliness of the Vietnamese people, some expats still face unfairly increased prices. Expats should be firm when bartering and learn a few Vietnamese words to negotiate a fair deal. 

Lifestyle in Ho Chi Minh City

+ PRO: Wonderful sights and activities offered throughout the city 

Expats looking to spend their days outdoors will be spoilt for choice. There are many recreational and water parks around the city, which are not just for the kids to enjoy. The city is also home to numerous historical and cultural sites for expats to explore. The vibrant local art scene is a representation of the upscale and cosmopolitan lifestyle spread throughout Ho Chi Minh City.

- CON: Pollution

With more than eight million residents, Ho Chi Minh City suffers from a significant amount of noise and air pollution. Expats will see some Vietnamese people wearing face masks to prevent irritation from pollen and pollution.

+ PRO: Easy access to the beach

This is especially important as a respite from the hot summer days, making it the perfect getaway to enjoy the weekend and escape city life.

+ PRO: Incredible food

From dingy authentic Vietnamese haunts to five-star restaurants, there are numerous international and local cuisine options to satisfy all tastes.

+ PRO: Abundance of shopping outlets 

Shopping is a favourite pastime for many Ho Chi Minh City residents, and expats will have plenty of options available. The shops range from small markets to impressive department stores.

- CON: Petty crime

Vietnam is a safe country, but like every city, Ho Chi Minh City does have petty crime. Expats should be watchful of their belongings and aware of those around them.

+ PRO: Cheap and easy travel to neighbouring countries

Places like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are popular, with regular flights going to and from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Tan Son Nhat is Vietnam's largest international airport, and it is located in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Amenities in Ho Chi Minh City

+ PRO: Top international schools

Expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City with children will have access to a host of excellent international schools offering a range of curricula. 

+ PRO: Efficient and reliable banks 

Banking is accessible and convenient for expats. With top banks like HSBC and ANZ available, expats should have no problems with banking. 

- CON: Public transport is lacking

Ho Chi Minh City's public transport system is relatively underdeveloped, which can be frustrating for expats. Currently, there is no metro system in place, but construction is in progress for this.

Language in Ho Chi Minh City

+ PRO: The language is relatively easy to learn

The Western alphabet script is used for the Vietnamese language, which makes it more accessible for foreigners in comparison to other Asian countries. 

- CON: There is a language barrier

Despite Vietnam being one of the few Asian countries that use a Roman-based alphabet, there is still a language barrier. Expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City should keep in mind that English is not commonly used.

Censorship in Ho Chi Minh City

- CON: Government censorship

There is occasional government banning or censorship of websites. Internet access to certain sites is sometimes regulated, especially if they are religious or politically sensitive. 

Working in Ho Chi Minh City

Responsible for 23 percent of Vietnam's GDP, Ho Chi Minh City is alive with opportunities for jobseekers. It is a fast-growing city with an equally fast-growing job market. Despite the many jobs available, the Vietnamese government is focusing on ensuring that the Vietnamese have priority for employment. As a result, conditions for foreign workers have become increasingly strict, so expats will need to be able to bring specialised skills or knowledge to the table to make a good case for being hired over a local.

Job market in Ho Chi Minh City

While many expats are transferred to Ho Chi Minh City from elsewhere in the world to take up a position at a multinational company, those who arrive in the city wishing to look for a brand-new job will likely find this to be a tricky endeavour.

At present, the industries with the greatest demand for workers are engineering and manufacturing. Expats with expertise or top-level management experience in these sectors may find a gap to fill in the market. Other strong sectors include IT, mining and construction. Expats with an aptitude for language often find work in tourism – where speaking more than one language is a fantastic asset – or in teaching English.

Finding a job in Ho Chi Minh City

Expats looking for employment in Ho Chi Minh City can begin by trawling sites such as LinkedIn and the classified sections in local newspapers. Recruitment agencies can also offer some assistance in helping foreigners with specialist skills find employment within their particular field of work. Foreign chambers of commerce in Vietnam can also be a great source of information when it comes to finding connections and employment opportunities in the city.

Work culture in Ho Chi Minh City

The Vietnamese have a healthy work ethic; they work incredibly hard but also know that working in subtropical conditions is tiring. Communal lunches are an important part of the working day, as is getting to know colleagues over an after-work drink.

It is essential that expats have a business or work visa before starting work in Vietnam, and that employers have registered their expat employees as taxpayers. Expats are advised to ensure that their payslip clearly shows that tax is deducted from their monthly salary.

Cost of Living in Ho Chi Minh City

The cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City is relatively cheap when compared to many countries in the West. Ho Chi Minh City placed 163rd out of 227 cities in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2022, slightly below the country's capital, Hanoi, which ranked 150th.

Expats from North America or Western Europe, in particular, will be able to maintain their standard of living here if not increase some luxuries. That said, an expat's lifestyle will highly influence their monthly expenditure.

Cost of accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City

The cost of accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City is a fraction of what it is in the United States or Europe, although housing does tend to be less spacious in Vietnam. There are several budget-friendly options, but those earning high expat salaries will be able to afford the most elite housing, which often takes the form of luxury apartment complexes.

Cost of food and eating out in Ho Chi Minh City

When grocery shopping, the most expensive goods are those that are imported. To save money, expats should try to buy local produce from street vendors. This tends to be fresher than what is available at supermarkets and is a great way to support the local economy.

Many expats dine out often as it isn't expensive, provided they are eating at local restaurants. In fact, some would say it's cheaper to eat out than cook at home in Ho Chi Minh City. This is particularly true of the city's street food, which can be extremely affordable. Those looking to splash out can try the upmarket bars, restaurants and shops of the city centre or District 1.

Cost of education in Ho Chi Minh City

Expat parents planning to send their children to a local school won't have a lot of school-related expenses. Public schooling in Vietnam is either free or for a small fee. Extra costs such as uniforms, school transport, lunches and stationery should also be taken into account, but these are minor costs compared to the ones paid by those sending their children to international schools. These schools command extremely high fees along with numerous additional costs, contributions and charges.

Cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City chart

Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider, and the table below is based on average prices for February 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

VND 29,000,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

VND 15,000,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

VND 11,900,000

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

VND 7,200,000


Milk (1 litre)

VND 34,000

Dozen eggs

VND 32,000

Loaf of white bread

VND 29,000

Chicken breasts (1kg)

VND 72,000

Pack of cigarettes 

VND 29,000

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

VND 95,000


VND 49,000

Local beer (500ml)

VND 22,000

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

VND 600,000


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile) 

VND 1,750

Internet (uncapped – average per month) 

VND 193,000

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

VND 1,580,000

Transport and driving

City-centre bus fare

VND 7,000

Taxi (rate per km)

VND 15,500

Petrol (per litre) 

VND 22,000

Accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City

Finding accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City is a priority for expats moving to the city. There are a variety of options in Ho Chi Minh City, from short-term backpacker accommodation to luxury apartment complexes.

Some expats are lucky enough to have their employer source accommodation for them before they arrive in Ho Chi Minh City. However, most expats are left to find their own way around the city’s property market.

While expats can make contact with estate agents and peruse property listings from their home country, it is not advisable to commit to a rental contract in HCMC before seeing the property in person. For this reason, many expats choose to stay at a guesthouse for their first few weeks in the city while they look for a suitable home.

Types of accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City

Expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City will find a variety of accommodation options in this rapidly growing metropolis. From beautiful French colonial multi-storey houses along narrow alleyways to the modern condominiums and apartment complexes that are becoming more widely available as the city expands, there are many places for expats to choose from.

The quaint colonial houses which are a prominent feature in Ho Chi Minh City are often found just off the main streets. The bottom floor is usually used as an entryway or storage space for motorbikes and bicycles, the next floor up will usually consist of a kitchen and dining room, and the upper level will be where the bedrooms are located. Most houses in Ho Chi Minh City will have a small deck on the roof.

Apartment complexes and condominiums are becoming more common in the city. These complexes are modern and in line with what expats would expect in most Western countries. They often include facilities such as gyms, swimming pools and a laundry area. Many of these complexes also have security guards who are on duty 24 hours a day. 

Finding accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City

Finding accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City is relatively painless and generally doesn't require too much admin. While there are several ways to find suitable properties, using a real-estate agent is by far the quickest. Several rental agencies operating in the city focus solely on the expat market, but for those who wish to go it alone, there are a number of helpful websites with property listings.

The major advantage of using a real-estate agent is that they have access to a larger pool of properties and are able to show expats a number of homes that meet their requirements and budget. Furthermore, as most property owners in Ho Chi Minh City do not speak English, a real-estate agent plays a crucial role in negotiating the lease with a landlord on behalf of the tenant.

Renting accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City

Rental properties in Ho Chi Minh City usually include a fridge and stove, but it's possible to negotiate with the landlord or real-estate agent for a fully furnished property. Much like Hanoi, certain areas and suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City are preferred by the city's expat population. Some of the most popular are District 7 (the New Economic Zone) and Phu My Hung, while Districts 1 and 2 are closer to the famous Pham Ngu Lao backpacker and tourist centre.


Most leases in Vietnam are for a set period, usually 12 or 24 months. Government regulations and language barriers can present some difficulties when trying to agree on the terms of a lease, so it's wise to get the help of one’s employer, a Vietnamese-speaking colleague or friend, or to use one of the many rental agencies catering specifically for expats.


Expats are typically required to pay a deposit equal to one or two months’ rent in Ho Chi Minh City. Expats should receive the deposit back if there is no damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear. 


Tenants who are not moving to serviced apartments will need to budget for the monthly costs of utilities, including water, electricity and WiFi, as these are generally not included in the monthly rental price.

Areas and suburbs in Ho Chi Minh City

The best places to live in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's largest and most populated city. The city is divided into 24 districts: 19 inner districts and five suburban districts. Each of these offers a distinctively unique experience and, when deciding where to live in Ho Chi Minh City, it is important to consider each district's characteristics.

The heart of the city is located within Districts 1 and 3. These are ideal for travellers or short-term expats as they are close to the action and activity. For expats who plan on moving to Ho Chi Minh City for longer, Districts 2 and 7 may be better options.

Make sure to consider commute times, as traffic in and out of the city centre can become very congested during rush hour.

Young and trendy areas of Ho Chi Minh City


Many of the expats living in Ho Chi Minh City are young single professionals or couples who have moved to experience living abroad and are using Vietnam as a base from which to explore Asia. For this demographic, there are several popular areas close to the city centre and its activities.

District 1

Considered to be the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, District 1 is the centre for all financial, commercial and administrative activity. Although it is still Vietnamese in character, this district has felt the effects of globalisation and development most heavily. Restaurants and shops offering cuisines and goods from around the world are found alongside expensive, upscale hotels.

For those with an eye for shopping, District 1 has an ever-expanding commercial scene, with high-end shops lining Dong Khoi Street and Nguyen Hue. It's also home to most of the city's museums, tourist attractions and historical sites, including Ben Thanh Market and The Reunification Palace (Independence Palace).

District 1 offers some of the highest living standards in the city with a range of serviced apartment buildings. Rent here is much more expensive than in other districts. On the other hand, District 1 also caters to budget travellers in the backpackers' area of Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien. Cheap hostel or guesthouse accommodation can be found in this area, along with the potential to rent houses tucked away down alleys.

As District 1 is the city centre, it is one of the busiest districts and is where most of the action happens. Traffic within the district itself is not terrible, but the traffic entering and leaving District 1 can be heavy, especially during rush hour.

District 3

District 3 is considered by many to be the ideal place to live in Ho Chi Minh City. 

The area's proximity to the sights and activity of District 1 allows expats to stay close to the action but also provides an escape for more peaceful, quieter sleep. Many young expats opting to stay close to the bars, restaurants and shops of District 1 choose to live in this area as it still offers a range of recreational activities and parks. 

District 3 offers apartments, houses tucked down alleys and old French colonial villas. Prices vary depending on the type of accommodation, but expect them to be cheaper than District 1.

As with many other districts, motorbikes and taxis are the best forms of transport. Be aware, though, that the small streets of this district make it prone to traffic congestion.

Binh Thanh

Binh Thanh's cheap housing makes it very popular among young English teachers. Sandwiched between District 1 and District 2, it has become an increasingly lucrative spot for property developers. High-rise, high-quality serviced apartment buildings such as The Manor and Saigon Pearl can be found in Binh Thanh.

This area has seen a steady stream of road construction over recent years and is an entry hub for many trucks, so it can be noisy at times.

Family-friendly areas in Ho Chi Minh City


For expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City with children, the main priority will be finding a home close to the city’s many international schools. For families, it is usually best to move further away from the hustle and bustle of the central business district and to more residential areas where properties are larger, with more parks and open spaces.

District 2

District 2 is home to many long-term expats who want living standards close to that of their home countries. While this district is close to the city centre, it's still far enough away to be secluded from District 1's endless activity.

District 2 (specifically Thao Dien Ward and An Phu Ward) is an alluring family-friendly area for Western expats and wealthy Vietnamese families, as it provides a high standard of living. These two wards offer less chaotic streets, numerous international schools, and Westernised housing options.

Some of the many international schools in the area include The American School of Vietnam, the Australian International School Saigon, the British International School Ho Chi Minh City, and the European International School Ho Chi Minh City.

Thao Dien and An Phu both have high-quality residential apartments, large houses and villas – some with pools and in walled compounds – at reasonable prices. Numerous restaurants, retail shops, grocery shops and commercial offices can be found lining the streets here.

District 7

Similar to District 2, many expats living in Ho Chi Minh City choose to make District 7 their home. The district is filled with wide, tree-lined streets surrounded by excellent-quality apartment buildings and villas for long-term residents. There is little development outside of housing, so it is a perfect spot to enjoy personal space as well as extensive greenery.

Phu My Hung is the most popular area of District 7, catering to expats with international schools, swimming pools, Western grocery shops and an increasing number of restaurants and shops. Schools in this area include Saigon South International School, Canadian International School, and the Korean International School HCMC.

Do not expect much in terms of nightlife activities or street life. The attraction of District 7 is its peaceful, quiet atmosphere. Designed with a wealthy, high-income population in mind, houses here are more expensive than in other areas of the city.

District 7 is quite remote from the city centre, with commute times at around 40 minutes and less convenient public transport options. While it is nowhere close to a true Vietnamese experience, District 7 offers a peaceful lifestyle for families away from the noise and chaos of the city.

Healthcare in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has a range of hospitals, and the standards of healthcare in private hospitals are generally on par with those in Western countries. Be that as it may, with cheap and relatively short flights to Bangkok and Singapore readily available, many expats prefer hospitals in these destinations for more serious medical concerns. For this reason, health insurance is recommended.

Larger hospitals will have English-speaking staff and many have foreign doctors from countries such as France, Japan, South Korea and the US.

Below is a list of recommended hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City.

Hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City

American International Hospital

Address: 199 Nguyễn Hoàng, An Phú, Quận 2

City International Hospital

Address: No. 3, Street 17A, Binh Tri Dong B Ward, Binh Tan Dist.

Franco Vietnam Hospital

Address: 6 Nguyễn Lương Bằng, Tân Phú, Quận 7

Victoria International Healthcare

Address: 37-39 Luong Dinh Cua, An Khanh Ward, Thu Duc City

Education and Schools in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is home to most of the expats living in Vietnam and, as a result of the city’s ever-increasing expat population, has seen a growth in the number of private and international schools. These prestigious schools offer an excellent quality of education and state-of-the-art facilities, which are popular with expats as well as wealthy Vietnamese locals.

Vietnam has a good standard of education, with a literacy rate of more than 95 percent. Academic achievement is something that is highly valued and promoted in Vietnamese society.

While international schools remain the most popular option for expat parents moving to Ho Chi Minh City, some choose to enrol their child at a good public school in Vietnam to save on the extremely high cost of international school fees.

Public schools in Ho Chi Minh City

While the standard of education at public schools in Ho Chi Minh City is generally quite good, expat students may find the teaching methods employed in the Vietnamese public system difficult to adjust to.

Students at public schools in Vietnam are expected to study quietly and passively, which contradicts the more innovative learning methods and active class discussions encouraged in Western culture. Vietnamese students are often put under enormous pressure to perform well academically, by both their families and teachers. Most children have extra private tuition after school.

There are, however, a growing number of schools in Ho Chi Minh City that are making a break from traditional Vietnamese methods and offering American-style learning. These more modern public schools tend to have long waiting lists.

International schools in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City offers expats a wide variety of international schooling options. The top international schools tend to employ native English speakers or those who have trained in the country that the particular school is affiliated with.

The major advantage of opting to send an expat student to an international school is that it allows them to make the transition to life in Vietnam with greater ease. International schools allow foreign students to continue studying the same curriculum they studied back home. Furthermore, expat children are given the opportunity to interact with other children who are facing similar challenges of adjusting to life in a new country.

Most international schools in Ho Chi Minh City accept applications throughout the year to accommodate the unpredictable nature of expat placements. Be that as it may, parents should bear in mind that places at the most popular schools fill up fast, so it's best to begin the application process as far in advance as possible.

The application criteria for international schools vary widely. Some have entrance exams that test a child’s English and Mathematics abilities, while others require students to attend an interview before a formal offer is made.

Generally, international school fees in Ho Chi Minh City are exorbitant and increase along with the age of the student. Expat parents should also budget for the additional costs of school uniforms, excursions and stationery.

Special-needs education in Ho Chi Minh City

In the past, Vietnam operated on a policy of separating special-needs students from mainstream schools. That said, since the early 2000s, the country has adopted a more progressive and inclusive approach to education for students with special needs, focusing on integration with mainstream schools and classes. Along with public schools, numerous international schools in Ho Chi Minh City, including Steps Special School and International School Saigon Pearl, offer similar services, with interventions varying depending on the level of care the student needs.

Tutors in Ho Chi Minh City

After-school tutoring is popular in Vietnam, with more than a third of households making use of tutors. Education is highly valued and students often face pressure to succeed, leading to a booming tutoring industry.

Expats will have plenty of options to choose from for everything from subject-specific tutoring to more general language and exam preparation. The right tutor can also help expat children adjust to a new curriculum, providing support as they catch up to their peers. Recommended local companies include Everest Education and International Tutor Group.

International Schools in Ho Chi Minh City

With a thriving and continuously growing expat population, there are plenty of options when it comes to choosing an international school in Ho Chi Minh City. Whether expat parents prefer the American, British or International Baccalaureate curriculum, they're sure to find an excellent international school to fit their needs.

International schools are a practical way to smooth a child's transition into life in Ho Chi Minh City. Continuing with a familiar curriculum in a child's home language provides a sense of stability. It's also a great way to meet other expat children and families who understand the unique challenges that come with being globally mobile.

Many of Ho Chi Minh City's international schools are prestigious, offering top-notch education in modern, purpose-built facilities, led by highly competent teachers and principals. Admissions are generally accepted year-round but are often dependent on whether there's space available, so it's well worth it to apply early to secure a spot.

Below is a list of recommended international schools in Ho Chi Minh City.

International schools in Ho Chi Minh City


The American School of Vietnam

The American School of Vietnam (TAS) provides a world-class American-based curriculum. The school promotes high standards of academic excellence by enhancing student learning for leadership in a global world. Over 25 nationalities are represented in the school's faculty and student body. 

A wide range of extra-curricular activities is available, allowing students to make use of the excellent facilities at TAS. There are dedicated rooms for art, music, drama, dance and IT, as well as sporting facilities such as a soccer field, basketball courts and a swimming pool. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 1.5 to 18

Australian International School Saigon

With over 1,150 students from 40 countries, Australian International School Saigon (AIS) is a truly international community. The school offers a high-quality, fully accredited international education across all year levels. There are three AIS campuses in Ho Chi Minh City, all in District 2. 

AIS prides itself on facilitating the growth of students as global citizens and there are frequent excursions, camps and sporting competitions both regionally and internationally. In addition to the school's high-quality curriculum, AIS offers a wide range of extra-curricular activities to encourage well-rounded development in students. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International Primary, Lower Secondary and IGCSE
Ages: 1.5 to 18

British International School Ho Chi Minh City

Selective, independent and co-educational, the British International School Ho Chi Minh City (BIS HCMC) is a day school that provides a diverse international education measured by British standards. The student body is made up of more than 2,300 pupils of over 50 different nationalities. 

As the largest international school in Vietnam, BIS HCMC holds a prestigious position. With three sprawling campuses in District 2, facilities are ample and of high quality. There are plenty of opportunities for a range of activities such as community service, co-curricular activities and global excursions. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18

European International School Ho Chi Minh City

The European International School (EIS) Ho Chi Minh City focuses on academic excellence, multiculturalism and treating each child as an individual. The school follows the International Baccalaureate Programme and welcomes families of all languages and nationalities. More than 45 different countries are represented in the student body.

A low student-to-teacher ratio allows each child to receive personal attention and guidance. The school aims to provide a safe learning environment where children feel free to be themselves. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18

International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC)

ISHCMC has more than 1,300 students aged 2 to 18 years and a diverse student body of over 50 nationalities. Students are taught in modern learning environments by trained IB educators specialising in enquiry-led teaching. The school is part of the Cognita education group, along with International School Saigon Pearl and ISHCMC American Academy. 

The school's philosophy is centred around providing a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to ask questions and engage with what they are being taught. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18

International School Saigon Pearl

International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) is a purpose-built elementary school affiliated with ISHCMC American Academy. The ISSP campus has integrated technology elements such as iPads, interactive whiteboards and ICT labs. The school is conveniently located a short distance from the city centre, between Districts 2 and 3.

The ISSP campus includes a well-resourced library and media centre, specialised rooms for art, music and dance, age-appropriate play areas, a gym and a swimming pool. Options for after-school activities are diverse, ranging from taekwondo to ballet to cooking and more. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 1.5 to 11

ISHCMC American Academy

A purpose-built school with excellent facilities set in a five-storey building, ISHCMC American Academy is a middle and high school associated with the International School Saigon Pearl.

Their rigorous American curriculum includes Advanced Placement (AP) options and is designed to inspire students to become successful lifelong learners and responsible global citizens. Upon graduation, students are awarded an American High School Diploma which opens up the possibility of attending university in the USA. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 11 to 18

Saigon South International School

A top-tier multicultural American school with excellent facilities, Saigon South International School has a strong academic programme, and past graduates have entered competitive universities worldwide. Students can study towards the American High School Diploma (including Advanced Placement subjects) or the International Baccalaureate Diploma. 

The school's six-hectare campus consists of three buildings with spacious classrooms as well as dedicated rooms for art, music, dance, aquatics and ICT. There is a shared cafeteria and auditorium, while elementary, middle and high school students each have their own library and break-time area. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Saigon Star International School

Saigon Star International School (SSIS) is a pre-primary, primary and middle school in District 2 following a British and international curriculum. SSIS holds the distinction of being the first school in Vietnam authorised to offer the International Primary Curriculum.

Small class sizes ensure that each student receives personalised attention. Students are encouraged to learn at their own pace and according to their own strengths, talents and abilities. All teachers are native English speakers and university graduates with recognised teaching degrees. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, International Early Years Curriculum, International Primary Curriculum and International Middle Years Curriculum
Ages: 2 to 14

Saint Ange French International School

Saint Ange School is a private international school offering the French curriculum. The school's curriculum is in strict compliance with the requirements of the Ministry of French Education, making it easy for children to transfer to or from any French school, whether in France or another location. Classes are kept to a maximum of 15, ensuring that each child is given individualised attention.

Technology is integrated into learning, and students will get to enjoy exciting activities such as 3D printing and working with robots. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 2 to 11

Lifestyle in Ho Chi Minh City

Expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City will soon find that the city is packed with entertainment options and caters for all tastes and budgets, from couture clothing and flashy malls to bustling markets and aromatic street-food stalls. Ho Chi Minh City offers an enviable lifestyle, where boredom is highly unlikely.

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has a number of shopping districts and is a fun place to shop, especially for bargain hunters.

District 1 and the markets are the best places for those after variety and bargaining power. An Dong Market and Ben Thanh Market are great places to hone one's bargaining prowess. Each has an assortment of products ranging from spices to silk scarves and more. It is always best to browse a bit before buying, as vendors will tend to mark up their prices for Western customers.

Large department stores can also be found in District 1. These house all sorts of things, such as the latest CDs and DVDs, perfumes, and colognes.

Diamond Plaza is a popular shopping choice for designer wear, leather goods and interior decor materials. As far as clothing is concerned, many expats choose to make use of one of the numerous, incredibly skilled and cheap tailors around town.

Nightlife and entertainment in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is packed full of clubs and bars which range from small, dark pubs to upmarket music lounges and cocktail bars. Expats will find that most of the nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City centres on District 1. Party-goers will soon become aware, though, that imported drinks sold in the exclusive bars are typically more expensive than local beverages, so opting for the latter is a good way to save money.

For those who enjoy cultural activities, Ho Chi Minh City is steeped in history. It is home to several fascinating museums which document various elements of the country’s history and diverse culture. Expats with children should be sure to catch a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show, which is great fun for the whole family.

Eating out in Ho Chi Minh City

Expats in Ho Chi Minh City tend to head to Pham Ngu Lao Street for nightclubs, restaurants and bars. Ly Tu Trong Street in District 1 is another popular late-night spot. The city has a wide range of restaurants catering to all palates, and expats may find that Vietnamese street food is often just as good as the food found in the more expensive restaurants.

For authentic street food, it's best to hit the markets and ask Vietnamese friends what their favourites are, as word-of-mouth always wins. Some dishes to try include pho bo (beef noodle soup), Saigon nem (fresh spring rolls) and bun cha (barbecued pork with noodle soup). Saigon is a port city and the seafood dishes, particularly seafood spring rolls, are mouthwatering.

Last but not least, Vietnamese coffee is potent and tasty. Coffee shops abound, and it is easy to see where the Vietnamese get their zing from. The best way to have coffee, according to the locals, is served with condensed milk over ice. There are coffee shops or kiosks on just about every street corner and the coffee served is cheap and strong.

See and do in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is a loud, exciting and vibrant destination. From the city’s delicious street food, its bustling bars and energetic open-air night markets, to its more peaceful pagodas, temples, churches and parks, Ho Chi Minh City has something to suit any mood.

Below is our list of the best things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Reunification Palace (Independence Palace)

Originally built in 1962 as the home and workplace of the South Vietnamese president, this Ho Chi Minh City landmark was made famous in 1975 when a tank belonging to the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the front gates of the palace, effectively ending the Vietnam War. Visitors can view the tanks involved in the capture of the palace and can explore its secret rooms, command bunker and lush garden.

War Remnants Museum

This museum showcases artefacts that act as a stark reminder of the cruelty that took place during the Vietnam War. While the museum provides a somewhat biased view of the war, expats interested in military history can spend hours looking at the fascinating displays.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

This cathedral serves as a reminder of Ho Chi Minh City’s French colonial past. The beautiful basilica dates back to 1880 and is located in the heart of the city. A visit to the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon provides a peaceful break from the hectic pace of life in Ho Chi Minh City. The cathedral is currently closed for renovations until 2027. 

Xa Loi Pagoda

The Xa Loi Pagoda, or Temple of the Buddha’s Relic, is the largest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City and can be found in District 3. Those interested in gaining insight into Vietnam’s Buddhist culture will find a visit to this beautiful temple worthwhile.

Cao Dai Temple

Visit this tranquil temple to learn about one of Vietnam’s modern religions, Caodaism, which combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Christianity. Visitors have the opportunity to watch the brightly dressed Cao Dai worshippers carry out their daily worship rituals.

Saigon Skydeck

A trip to this observation deck, located in the Bitexco Financial Tower, is a must for all expats living in Ho Chi Minh City. This iconic structure stands tall in the middle of the city centre and offers visitors the best view over the bustling city. 

Cong Vien Van Hoa Park

This green space provides a tranquil escape from Ho Chi Minh City’s hustle and bustle. Those who arrive early enough in the morning will have the opportunity to see the park full of tai chi practitioners. It also has a small sculpture garden which may be of interest to art lovers.

Van Thanh Park

Van Thanh Park is one of the most tranquil spots in Ho Chi Minh City. It is located on the banks of the Thi Nghe River and is a great place to relax. Try visiting in the morning before the tour groups begin arriving.

Dai The Gioi Water Park

A visit to the Dai The Gioi Water Park is a great option for expats living in Ho Chi Minh City with children. It is also an ideal spot for anyone wanting to cool off after a day in the city’s heat. There are a number of fun slides and pools to keep the whole family entertained.

What's on in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City's local festivals are not only a guaranteed great time, but also offer interesting insight into various aspects of Vietnamese culture and provide the perfect opportunity to rub shoulders with the local population. 

Here are some of the main festivals and annual events in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tet Festival (January/February)

The Tet Festival, or the Lunar New Year, is the most celebrated event in Vietnam. It falls between late January and early February each year and lasts a whole week. A series of events are held to grandly celebrate the occasion, including massive fireworks displays and street processions. Locals make a huge effort to dress in their finest clothing and visit family and friends at this time of year.

Buddha’s Birthday Festival (May)

The festival held to mark the birthday of Buddha falls on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month. In Ho Chi Minh City, major celebrations are held at the Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda. This Buddhist temple is beautifully decorated with colourful lanterns in celebration, and Buddhist monks can be seen leading prayer processions along the streets throughout the city.

Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday (May)

Each year on 19 May, events are held in Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate the birthday of Vietnam’s former president, who was a key figure in helping gain freedom for the people of Vietnam. He is a national hero and is still highly honoured by the Vietnamese, especially in the city that was named after him.

Tet Nguyen Tieu (September)

Each September, the skies above Ho Chi Minh City are filled with colour and light as the residents release lanterns. This breathtaking sight is not to be missed. There are also many street processions held to mark the occasion.

Ho Chi Minh City International Food Festival (November) 

A perfect opportunity to get a taste of home and other far-off places, the food fair brings together the best cuisine from all around the world. Foodies will be in seventh heaven here, and everyone is sure to find something that tickles their taste buds.

Weekend Breaks in Ho Chi Minh City

While the city offers its residents a range of activities, a weekend escape may be necessary from time to time to regain a sense of calmness and clarity, away from the stresses of city living. 

There are several destinations close to Ho Chi Minh City that provide an easy three-day weekend trip, such as the towns of the Mekong Delta or the pristine beaches of Phu Quoc. For those with more time on their hands, Vietnam’s central and northern areas also boast popular travel spots.

Mui Ne

Mui Ne is a coastal beach town in southeastern Vietnam, just over 125 miles (200 km) from Ho Chi Minh City.

With a driving distance of about five hours, Mui Ne is famous for its wind and kite surfing, and is a practical weekend getaway for those craving the ocean and some outdoor activity. Aside from the fine beaches, Mui Ne is equally popular for its sand dunes located about six miles (10 km) from the main resort strip.

Many expats travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne by bus. Tickets can be bought at any of the travel agencies in the Pham Ngu Lao area of Ho Chi Minh City. Buses from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne typically leave in the mornings or evenings. Private taxis or vans can also be hired for the trip and, while this will cost much more, it will take less time.

Mekong Delta Villages

The Mekong Delta stretches throughout southern Vietnam and includes several travel destinations offering an experience that is a world away from city life. Can Tho, My Tho, Vinh Long and Ben Tre are some of the villages in the Delta region that attract both tourists travelling through Vietnam and city residents.

The Mekong Delta is a biological treasure trove and an agricultural gold mine. It is famous for its maze of rivers and canals with floating markets and villages inhabited by warm and friendly people.

Life here revolves around the river and activities for travellers are centred around these floating markets. Make sure to sign up for an early morning market tour to explore these river towns.

The Mekong Delta Villages offer both hostel and mid-range accommodation, along with homestays that provide a more local, Vietnamese experience.

Travel to these Delta villages can be done through bus tours. Tour operators offer full-day trips along with two to three-night stays. Buses leave from Ho Chi Minh City and travel to the desired village, often including stops to browse wet markets and tour some of the local factories. Many travellers, however, prefer the do-it-yourself style and hop on a motorbike or rent a car for a road trip. Travel times range from two to four hours, depending on the town of choice.

Phu Quoc

Those searching for a beach getaway need look no further than Phu Quoc, a tropical island off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand.

This island offers some of the most beautiful beach scenery in Vietnam and some of the best seafood. Scuba diving, snorkelling, exploring the island on a motorbike, or simply relaxing and enjoying the views are the top activities on Phu Quoc.

Somewhat new on the grid for travellers, Phu Quoc embodies Thailand’s beaches, pre-development. While it is still quite an undeveloped island, this is guaranteed to change in the coming years due to extensive development plans, including rebuilding the island's city centre, a new international airport, a casino and highway construction.

November to April is the best time to visit the island to avoid monsoon season and high humidity. Phu Quoc can be easily accessed by plane from Ho Chi Minh City’s airport. It takes under an hour to fly there, and several airlines such as VietJetAir and Vietnam Airlines offer multiple daily flights.

Da Lat

Da Lat is located about 185 miles (300 kilometres) northeast of Ho Chi Minh City in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam. It is a popular spot for the Vietnamese and has increasingly become a favourite among holidaymakers, too.

Surrounded by mountains and hills, Da Lat is an easy escape from the heat and humidity of the city with fresh air and cool temperatures.

Da Lat has plenty to offer those seeking an active weekend trip. Some of the best hiking, mountain biking and canyon exploring in Vietnam can be found in this area, as well as world-class golfing.

The best way to travel to Da Lat from the city is by bus, with numerous departure times throughout the day. The trip takes about seven hours. By plane, it's just a short hour's hop to get to Da Lat.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ho Chi Minh City

Expats are sure to have all sorts of questions about their future home, from weather and schooling to transport and safety. Here are a few answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Ho Chi Minh City.

What are pollution levels like in Ho Chi Minh City?

While there is a fair amount of pollution in the city, particularly air pollution from the millions of motorbikes on the city streets, it is not unbearable. On their first arrival, many expats will notice the levels of air pollution. However, the climate of the city seems to have an in-built cleaning mechanism during the wet season. Daily evening thunderstorms and rain showers tend to clear the air magnificently well.

Are there a lot of expat families in the city?

Vietnam has a very family-centred culture, and this seems to be reflected in the number of expat families living in the country. There are a host of quality international schools to choose from and a significant number of extra-mural activities that cater for the whole family.

How accessible are the beaches and weekend getaway options?

With the island of Phu Quoc and the coastal area of Nha Trang just a cheap flight away, it’s easy to arrange a weekend getaway. Ho Chi Minh City is also a major regional hub, which means that flying to Thailand or Singapore for a few days is equally cheap. Other weekend getaways include Da Nang, Hanoi, and the famous Mekong Delta.

What is the easiest form of transport for expats?

Most expats choose to use motorbikes or motorbike taxis to get around Ho Chi Minh City. There are also several trustworthy taxi companies that operate throughout the city. Some expats hire a car and driver, leaving the stress of negotiating the city streets to the more experienced.

Getting Around in Ho Chi Minh City

Getting around Ho Chi Minh City, at first glance, may appear to be a daunting task. With some 7.6 million motorbikes for its more than 9 million residents, simply crossing the street is often a challenge.

Expats living in Ho Chi Minh City usually take some time to get acquainted with the chaotic traffic conditions that the city is famous for.

The public transport system in Ho Chi Minh City centres around the city's extensive bus network. While buses are cheap, most expats prefer using motorbike taxis or private taxis. These prove to be the most efficient way to travel around Ho Chi Minh City.

Public transport in Ho Chi Minh City


Ho Chi Minh City has a comprehensive network of bus routes. The bright green public buses are a cheap, safe and comfortable mode of transport.

Ben Thanh Bus Station, which lies directly across from Ben Thanh Market in District 1, acts as a transport hub for the city's buses. From here, buses serve the majority of suburbs in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as some of the outlying areas.

Expats should get a map of the bus system, which can ease the trouble or confusion of finding the right route. Expats may find that locating the correct line or station may be a challenge, especially if they are unable to speak Vietnamese.


Though construction has begun, there is no intra-city rail network that serves Ho Chi Minh City.

The city’s main train hub, Saigon Train Station, is located in District 10 and is a short taxi ride away from the city centre. It is the transit hub to other destinations in Vietnam. Trains are an ideal, inexpensive way for travellers to get around the country, with connections to Da Nang, Hue, Nha Trang, and Hanoi.

Taxis in Ho Chi Minh City

Taxis are a comfortable and affordable way to travel around Ho Chi Minh City. There is an ample supply of taxis driving throughout the streets, so finding one isn't difficult.

The challenge will be avoiding dishonest drivers and taxi companies, as well as potential scams. Expats should ensure that taxi drivers are using a meter and that it is switched on at the start of a journey.

Expect very slow speeds during morning and evening rush hour. For groups travelling together, a taxi is the best way to go. For solo travellers, it will be cheaper and faster to find a motorbike taxi.

Most taxi drivers in Ho Chi Minh City speak very little English. To avoid confusion with the mispronunciation of street names, it is best to have the address written down for the driver.

A good way to sidestep language barriers and potential scams is to make use of a rail-hailing application such as Grab.

Motorbike taxis in Ho Chi Minh City

Motorbike taxis are by far the most efficient way to get around in Ho Chi Minh City. They can easily be found anywhere in the city, with drivers lining the pavement waiting for customers.

Expats should make sure they set a price before starting a journey. This is imperative and will save one from being overcharged at the end of the journey. 

It is also advisable that newcomers to Ho Chi Minh City have the address of their destination written down, as this saves time. Don’t be afraid to get to know a driver if they seem competent and friendly. It is not uncommon for expats living in Vietnam to receive a driver’s number and call them later to arrange another ride.

Expats should always ensure they wear a helmet when using motorbike taxis in Ho Chi Minh City, as the authorities enforce hefty fines if this rule is broken.

Driving in Ho Chi Minh City

To drive legally in Ho Chi Minh City, expats will need an International Driving Permit. This is only a temporary solution, though, and expats who plan to drive in the long term should find out about obtaining a Vietnamese licence as soon as possible.

Most expats prefer not to get behind the wheel in Ho Chi Minh City because of the chaotic traffic conditions. Driving without intimate knowledge of the area and the peculiarities of Vietnam drivers put them at risk. Another reason to avoid driving in Ho Chi Minh City is because of the lack of parking. Most of the parking facilities in the city are devoted to motorbikes rather than cars.

Motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City

Many people who settle in Ho Chi Minh City find themselves renting or buying their own motorbikes to get around. For expats staying in Vietnam for an extended period of time or a traveller seeking an adrenaline rush, there is an endless number of places that rent motorbikes. However, it is worth taking the time to search around and find a reputable company that offers a standard monthly rental rate.

Riding a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City is best left to those who feel experienced and comfortable enough to conquer the city’s unique traffic patterns.

Expats should be aware that local motorbike drivers and passengers in Vietnam often shake their arms and hands at waist height to let others know they will be switching lanes or turning.

The parking facilities run by the city authorities in Ho Chi Minh City caters for motorbikes rather than cars. Many places will have attendants that keep watch over vehicles parked there.

Cycling in Ho Chi Minh City

Expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City will soon see that locals love using their bicycles to get around. However, new arrivals are likely to find that cycling in Ho Chi Minh City is difficult in terms of keeping up with the fast-moving traffic.

Those who do decide to cycle in the city should remain focused and aware of their surroundings. A horn will also help make one's presence known to other road users.