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Cost of Living in Vietnam

The cost of living in Vietnam is relatively low. In the Mercer Cost of Living survey for 2023, Hanoi ranked 156th, while Ho Chi Minh City ranked 164th out of the 227 cities surveyed.

That said, living expenses in Vietnam will differ depending on an individual's lifestyle. Many expats are able to enjoy a good life in Vietnam without spending a fortune. The largest dents in an expat's monthly budget will be in the areas of housing, schooling and Western foodstuffs. On the other hand, travel, phone and internet costs remain low.

Like most countries, Vietnam has its fair share of temptations, such as the huge variety of electronic gadgets that expats can spend their hard-earned salaries on. That said, with a little financial shrewdness, it's easy to live comfortably and save at the same time.

Cost of accommodation in Vietnam

The majority of expats moving to Vietnam do so on a short-term basis and therefore opt to rent property rather than buy. The cost of rent will vary depending on the standard of housing a person requires, as well as the location of the property.

Expats will find a great many modern apartment complexes in Vietnam’s bustling cities and, as a result, there are plenty of luxury accommodation options available to them. These condominiums and apartments come equipped with a range of facilities such as gyms, laundries and swimming pools. Naturally, rental prices are higher.

As a rule of thumb, housing closer to the city centre comes at a premium, while accommodation in outlying suburbs is more affordable.

Cost of transport in Vietnam

There are plenty of cost-effective ways to get around Vietnam. Negotiating the price of taxi and motorcycle taxi fares is common practice in Vietnam, and expats should not be shy to do so.

Most expats don't drive in Vietnam due to the chaotic conditions on the city streets. Those that do wish to have a private vehicle should hire a driver who is knowledgeable about the local roads.

Cost of food and eating out in Vietnam

Vietnam is a food lover’s paradise. Not only are there many Western restaurants to choose from, but there is also a huge range of great local restaurants, food stalls and street vendors that cook up amazing fare for waiting customers.

Sticking to Western food and restaurants will burn a hole in one's wallet, as many of the food items or ingredients are imported and the government levies high taxes on these goods. Eating Vietnamese food is cheap, tasty and definitely something to write home about.

Fruit and vegetables from supermarkets are also a lot more expensive than those bought in the marketplace.

Cost of education in Vietnam

The cost of education in Vietnam varies depending on the type of education that parents choose and their location in the country. Compared to many Western countries, the cost of education in Vietnam is generally considered more affordable, especially for private and public schools. International schools in Vietnam, however, can be more expensive, similar to international schools in other countries.

Expats typically enrol their children in international schools or private schools. Public schools in Vietnam are typically less expensive, but the quality of education and language of instruction may not meet the expectations of some expats. The cost of education and the type of school often depend on the individual needs and preferences of the expat family.

Cost of living in Vietnam chart

Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider, and the table below is based on average prices for Ho Chi Minh City in 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

Frequently Asked Questions about Vietnam

A move to a new country can be daunting, and future expats are bound to be full of questions and concerns. Here are some of the most popular questions expats have about moving to Vietnam.

How safe is Vietnam?

To many, the mention of Vietnam conjures up images of war, a strict socialist government and pickpockets targeting Western tourists. While all of these images do relate to Vietnam, they are somewhat outdated.

Vietnam is as safe (if not more so) as any Western country. The war is a very real part of Vietnamese history, but it is seldom referred to. The government is strict, but this applies more to Vietnamese citizens than to foreigners. While pickpocketing does happen, it is mainly in the tourist centres. Vietnam is a friendly and exciting place, and while it is necessary to take some precautions, it is still possible to fully immerse oneself in Vietnamese life.

Is it necessary to learn Vietnamese?

No, but out of all the Asian languages, Vietnamese is probably the most accessible to Westerners because it uses a Western alphabet. Some basic Vietnamese will be helpful in everyday interactions, but it's quite easy to get by without any knowledge of the language. There are distinct advantages to learning Vietnamese though – locals respect foreigners who at least make an attempt to speak their language, and this can go a long way towards making friends and easing integration into the local populace.

Does the socialist government influence day-to-day living?

Occasionally, the government will ban certain websites or limit access to news sites with potentially negative opinions of the country. However, this type of censorship has become rarer.

Is it easy to drive on Vietnamese streets?

Vietnamese roads are hair-raising at the best of times. Crossing the street on foot is a nerve-wracking experience, and climbing onto the back of a xe om (motorbike taxi) and being whizzed through the traffic is both scary and exhilarating.

Many expats prefer to hire a driver who is familiar with the unpredictable rules of the road; however, it is possible to drive. Smaller vehicles tend to be a lot more effective than larger ones, particularly during peak traffic. Often bicycles are the fastest form of transport during rush hour, followed by motorbikes.

Keeping in Touch in Vietnam

Vietnam still has a lot to achieve with regard to internet accessibility and download speeds, but keeping in touch with friends and family back home is still relatively easy and inexpensive. International calls are cheap, Vietnam has a reliable postal service and the internet is generally easily accessible.

Internet in Vietnam

It is simple enough to get internet access in Vietnam either through a service provider, at a WiFi hotspot or at an internet cafe.

The Vietnamese government is still wary of the free flow of information, and certain topics or sites are firewalled from time to time. Fortunately, the expat population within Vietnam remains largely unaffected by these restrictions.

Messaging and video-calling applications such as Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime are easy to access and use in Vietnam.

Mobile phones in Vietnam

Getting a mobile phone or local SIM card in Vietnam is incredibly easy, and thanks to stiff competition, mobile data is reasonably priced.

Choosing the correct service provider is important, as some only allow prepaid customers to initiate international calls, whereas others will also allow users to receive international calls. Viettel, Vinaphone and Mobifone are popular service providers.

It is also relatively straightforward to set up a mobile phone account, but expats may need a Vietnamese-speaking colleague to assist with translation. In order to set up the account, expats will generally need to provide copies of their passport, visa, proof of residence and place of work, as well as a copy of their employment contract.

Postal services in Vietnam

Vietnam has a trustworthy and fairly efficient postal service. Receiving mail at a home address is relatively painless, as is using a work address. Make sure street addresses are written legibly on the package – especially if a building is located down one of Vietnam's many city alleyways.

English-language media in Vietnam

Cable and satellite television are available in Vietnam, so expats should still be able to watch many of their favourite channels from home.

It’s also easy for expats to stay informed of both local and international news owing to a host of English-language print publications, such as The Saigon Times, as well as many online publications, including Nhan Dan Online.

Public Holidays in Vietnam




New Year's Day

2 January

2 January

Lunar New Year (Tet)

21–27 January

9–15 February

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Hung Kings Festival

1 May

18 April

Reunification Day

2 May

30 April

National Day

4 September

4 September

*If a public holiday in Vietnam falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday is designated as a holiday.

Weather in Vietnam

The weather in Vietnam is generally described as humid and moderately hot. Weather patterns are subject to regional variation, though, with the northern area being significantly cooler than the central and southern regions. Overall, average temperatures range between 72°F (22°C) and 81°F (27°C), and humidity is usually upward of 80 percent.

Similar to other countries in Southeast Asia, the defining characteristic of weather in Vietnam is the monsoon, a transitional wind that can bring heavy precipitation. The south-easterly monsoon brings a long rainy season between May and October, depending on the location. Otherwise, rainfall is rare and light when it does occur. The humidity is especially oppressive during this period.


Embassy contacts for Vietnam

Vietnamese embassies

  • Embassy of Vietnam, Washington, DC, United States: +1 202 861 0737

  • Embassy of Vietnam, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7937 1912

  • Embassy of Vietnam, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0772

  • Embassy of Vietnam, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6169 4917

  • Embassy of Vietnam, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 362 8119

  • Embassy of Vietnam, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 5912

Foreign embassies in Vietnam

  • United States Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3850 5000

  • British Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3936 0500

  • Canadian Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3734 5000

  • Australian Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3774 0100

  • South African Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3936 2000

  • Irish Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3974 3291

  • New Zealand Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3824 1481

Visas for Vietnam

Depending on their nationality, expats may be granted visa-free entry into Vietnam or be eligible for a visa on arrival. Those from countries not endorsed for either of these will need to apply for a visa in advance. Those intending to live and work in the country will need a work permit and residence permit.

Like the work permit application process, getting a visa for Vietnam seems simple on the surface but can turn out to be a stressful process involving lots of paperwork and expense, and can leave expats subject to the whims of immigration officials following unclear policies.

Visit visas for Vietnam

A tourist visa is normally valid for one entry of up to 30 days, although it is also possible to apply for a 90-day multiple-entry visa for Vietnam. Citizens from visa-waivered countries are able to stay in Vietnam visa-free for between 14 days and one month, depending on the country.

Those who need a visa to enter Vietnam can apply for one at their nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate or can make use of the electronic visa, or e-visa, system. These same channels can also be used by those eligible for a visa on arrival for the sake of convenience and efficiency at the border.

Note that there are several online companies that intentionally create the misconception that they are official entities by using .govt or .org web addresses. Expats should make use of their Vietnamese local embassy or consulate's website and only follow legitimate links rather than doing a general web search.

Residence permits for Vietnam

Those who wish to live and work in Vietnam will need to apply for a Temporary Residence Card (TRC), which is valid for two to five years. A foreigner is permitted to apply for a TRC for work, study or business purposes, among others. Close family members of TRC cardholders can apply for their own TRC.

Expats can download the relevant forms from the Vietnam Immigration Department’s website and submit their applications at an Immigration Department office in Vietnam.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Education and Schools in Vietnam

Recent years have seen a growth in the number of private schools in Vietnam. This is partly due to the demands of the country’s growing expat population. There are several prestigious international schools in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, and these offer top-quality education to both expats and wealthy Vietnamese families.

Despite its status as a developing country, Vietnam has a good standard of public education and a literacy rate of 96 percent.

Outside the country’s main urban centres, there are schools that are under-resourced and poorly staffed. However, in the cities, many expats choose to enrol their children at a good public school to save on the extremely high costs of international school fees.

Public schools in Vietnam

Expat students may find the teaching methods employed at Vietnam’s public schools to be quite unfamiliar – students are expected to study quietly and passively, which contradicts the more innovative learning methods and active class discussions encouraged in Western culture.

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

Vietnamese students often experience enormous pressure to perform well academically, from both their families and teachers. Most children have private extra tuition after school.

Private and international schools in Vietnam

International schools in Vietnam are a relatively modern phenomenon – the oldest international school in the country was established less than 30 years ago – but over the past few decades, many new international schools have emerged to fill a gap in the market and cater for the country’s rapidly growing expat population.

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 most popular international schools in Vietnam tend to be oversubscribed, and there are long waiting lists, so it's best to make applications as soon as possible.

Applying for international schools in Vietnam

Most international schools in Vietnam accept applications throughout the school year, but it's worth bearing in mind that some of the more popular schools fill up fast. It's therefore best to apply ahead of time.

Some international schools in Vietnam have entrance exams that test potential students for proficiency in English and maths. In many cases, international schools will request an interview with both the parents and the student before a formal offer is made.

International schools may ask parents to pay fees in advance or provide a non-refundable admission fee for each child. Fees vary for different schools and increase with the age of the child.

Most private schools in Vietnam provide students with school bus transport and cafeteria lunches, but these are additional costs. Expat parents will also need to make allowances for school uniforms, extra-curricular activities, school trips and stationery.

Special-needs education in Vietnam

In the past, Vietnam operated on a policy of separating special-needs students from mainstream schools. However, since the early 2000s, Vietnam 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 private schools in Vietnam offer similar services, with interventions varying depending on the level of care the student is in need of.

Tutors in Vietnam

In Vietnam, after-school tutoring is popular, 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.

Safety in Vietnam

Vietnam is seen as a relatively stable and peaceful destination for foreigners. As long as expats moving to Vietnam are aware of the main safety issues and act accordingly, they should have a trouble-free experience. Safety concerns that do exist in Vietnam are mainly a result of underdeveloped infrastructure and the poverty prevalent among the local population.

Petty theft in Vietnam

Petty crime is a problem in urban areas of Vietnam. Unfortunately, tourists and Western expats are often a target for pickpockets in Vietnamese cities such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Expats should avoid walking alone in secluded areas. It is also best not to wear expensive-looking jewellery or watches and keep valuables such as cameras and mobile phones out of sight.

Scams in Vietnam

Tourists and Western expats who have just arrived in Vietnam often fall prey to scams perpetrated by unscrupulous locals.

Common scams in Vietnam include:

  • Being solicited to offer donations to false charities

  • Taxi drivers trying to overcharge passengers and becoming abusive when the passenger refuses to pay the inflated price. It is best that expats insist that taxi drivers use their meter to avoid any confrontations at the end of the journey.

  • Being accosted by a stranger recommending a restaurant or shop and then being overcharged at the end of the visit

Safety on transport in Vietnam

Vietnam is notorious for road traffic accidents, especially in bustling urban areas. Expats should avoid driving until they become familiar with driving conditions and road etiquette in the country.

Motorbikes are one of Vietnam’s main modes of transportation. While riding a motorbike is the fastest and most efficient way to navigate city streets, it is also dangerous, and motorbike accidents, many of which end in serious injury or death, occur on a daily basis in Vietnam's cities. Although it is illegal to be on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, many locals ignore this rule. Therefore, expats should do their best to ensure their own safety by wearing a helmet and staying alert while on a motorbike.

Moving to Vietnam

Expats moving to Vietnam are in for an adventure on many levels. This Southeast Asian country has thousands of kilometres of beautiful beaches on its eastern border, a number of beautiful islands, and a vast hilly and mountainous inland.

A popular expat destination, Vietnam offers an ideal combination of good earning potential and high quality of life. The country also has a fast-growing economy, a thriving art scene, stunning landscapes, and arguably the best food in Asia.

Living in Vietnam as an expat

The northern city of Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital, a fast-changing city filled with new developments, beautiful lakes, bustling streets, restaurants and tens of thousands of motorbikes. Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon) in the south is Vietnam’s most important economic hub. Expats moving to Ho Chi Min City can expect skyscrapers, malls and modern restaurants alongside old French-colonial architecture.

Vietnam is a meeting point between the everyday bustle of city life and the laid-back charm of a country secure in its place in today’s society. Vietnam will tantalise the senses, possibly overloading them at times – though an island escape is always just a short plane hop or ferry ride away. Numerous Western restaurants, vibrant nightlife spots and an active art scene ensure that expats moving to Vietnam will find that work is merely something that takes place in between a multitude of social arrangements.

Cost of living in Vietnam

The cost of living in Vietnam is one of the country's biggest drawcards. Everything from accommodation, transport and groceries is relatively affordable, depending on the lifestyle an expat chooses to live. Naturally, luxury housing and Western food will set expats back far more than standard accommodation and local cuisine. One of the biggest costs expats will have to budget for is health insurance, and for those with children, tuition fees.

Expat families and children in Vietnam

Expats moving to Vietnam with children will be pleased to know that there are numerous international schools located throughout the country that cater specifically to the needs of foreign children. These schools generally offer an excellent standard of teaching and allow their students to take part in a host of extra-curricular activities.

The standard of healthcare in Vietnam is highly variable. As the standard of public healthcare facilities is largely not on par with those in most Western countries, expats and their families are advised to invest in a fully comprehensive health insurance policy that entitles them to treatment at private hospitals. Private hospitals in Vietnam typically provide a better standard of care and are usually staffed by doctors from across the globe. Expat parents will also have plenty to see and do with their little ones during their weekend breaks, thanks to the myriad of outdoor activities and historical sites Vietnam has to offer. 

Climate in Vietnam

The weather in Vietnam is fantastically warm and beautiful throughout the year. The only drawback is the humidity, which can reach upward of 80 percent. The monsoon season brings heavy rains and humidity, otherwise, there is little rainfall in the country.

With a war-torn history from colonisation to the Vietnam War, the country has a diverse range of living standards, but expats relocating to Vietnam will find most of the comforts they are used to from home, and they will soon learn that this is a country with a great deal to offer.

Fast facts

Population: More than 98 million

Capital city: Hanoi

Neighbouring countries: Vietnam is bordered by China to the north and Cambodia and Laos to the west.  

Geography: Vietnam is a long, narrow S-shaped country on the eastern Indo-China Peninsula. Most of its landscape is mountainous and densely forested.

Political system: Single-party socialist state

Major religions: Vietnamese folk religion and Buddhism

Main languages: Vietnamese (official), Chinese, some English and French

Time: GMT +7

Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz. Plugs in Vietnam are generally the two flat-pin or two round-pin types, but some rectangular three-pin plugs are also supported.

Money: The Vietnamese Dong (VND) is the official currency, and it’s divided into 10 hào. The US Dollar (USD) is often used for large amounts. Although credit cards are accepted in major centres, Vietnam remains a largely cash-based society.

International dialling code: +84

Internet domain: .vn

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side. Motorbikes and bicycles are two of the most popular modes of transport among the locals. Expats often find driving to be risky in Vietnam and avoid driving their own vehicle, especially in the bigger cities, where it’s possible to get around quite easily with public transport.

Emergency numbers: 113 (police), 115 (ambulance), 114 (fire). Emergency services are extremely limited in rural areas.

Transport and Driving in Vietnam

There's a variety of transport in Vietnam. In addition to the usual buses and trains, expats will soon see that the locals love to travel on two wheels, using either motorcycles or bicycles. The roads in Vietnam’s cities tend to be congested and chaotic, though. Driving can be stressful, and many expats prefer not to get behind the wheel themselves.

Road traffic accidents are common in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and expats should always exercise caution when using Vietnam's roads.

Public transport in Vietnam

Public transport in Vietnam is not always comfortable, but fares are usually reasonable. Buses and trains make it easy for people to travel around the country.


Intercity buses are commonly used to travel between Vietnam's major cities. While most intercity buses are in good condition and are air-conditioned, using buses for long journeys is not always comfortable. The seats are designed for the smaller people of Vietnam, and taller Westerners often complain about the cramped conditions and lack of legroom.

If passengers don't travel to the final destination on the intercity bus route, Vietnamese bus drivers have a habit of dropping the passenger off at the most convenient crossroad for the bus driver rather than at the bus terminal as most people would expect.

The frequency of intercity buses in Vietnam varies according to the route and the bus company commuters are using, but generally increases on busy routes and during peak times.


Although trains in Vietnam are a little more expensive than buses, they are definitely a more comfortable way to travel overland.

The major train line in Vietnam is operated by Vietnam Railways, runs between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. This in itself is a train journey of over 30 hours, but there are a number of stops along the way.

When booking an overnight train in Vietnam, passengers have the option of reserving hard seats, soft seats, hard beds or soft beds. Hard seats are the cheapest and least comfortable, and soft beds are the best options.

The safest and most cost-effective way to purchase tickets is at the train station. On popular routes, however, the best seats in air-conditioned carriages are purchased in advance by agents and resellers. Therefore, when passengers arrive at the train station to be told that tickets are sold out, there are in fact usually more tickets available from other sources.

Expats should try to purchase train tickets at least three days in advance to avoid disappointment and the hassle of dealing with agents and resellers. It is also worth remembering that train services will get busier during the peak holiday season.

One common scam that expats should be aware of is when private travel agents or resellers at the station make passengers pay for tickets on an air-conditioned carriage and then give them a ticket for a seat in a non-air-conditioned or lower-class carriage. The passenger often won’t realise that they have been scammed until they are aboard the train and it is too late to demand compensation.

Motorcycles in Vietnam

Motorcycles are probably the most popular mode of transport among Vietnamese locals. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are swarmed with them, and it's not usual to see a whole family riding on a single motorbike.

That said, expats must be in possession of a temporary Vietnamese motorcycle licence to be able to hire or operate a motorcycle in Vietnam. In order to obtain the licence, expats will need to convert their international driving licence and also have a valid residence permit.

It is illegal to ride a motorcycle or be a passenger on one without wearing a helmet, although expats are sure to observe that many locals don't abide by this rule. Nevertheless, expats should ensure they have a helmet at all times.

Taxis in Vietnam

Taxi cabs can be easily hailed in city centres and are inexpensive by international standards. There are a few local taxi companies that come recommended, such as Mai Linh and Vinasun, while ride-hailing applications such as Grab are operational in major cities. It's best to opt for well-known taxi companies and book in advance via phone or online to ensure a safe experience. Motorcycle taxis are also a very common mode of transport in Vietnam. They are readily available and are a cheap way to get around Vietnam.

Expats can negotiate prices for longer trips to outlying areas. Always settle on a fare before beginning the journey. Motorcycle taxi drivers in Vietnam have a habit of demanding more than the negotiated price at the end of the journey, so try to have the exact money at hand to avoid this kind of disagreement.

Western expats and tourists are often charged a rate that is above the market price, but those that can stand their ground will be able to negotiate a fair price.

Driving in Vietnam

Driving in Vietnam is not for the faint of heart. Expats living in Vietnam find driving to be a risky and nerve-wracking experience, and most avoid getting behind the wheel altogether, especially in the bigger cities. Some expats even hire a driver to avoid the stress of driving and finding parking in Vietnam’s urban centres.

The bustling city streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are incredibly busy. Expat drivers will find that there is little regard for road rules, especially among cyclists and motorcyclists. Traffic congestion in the cities can be frustrating and parking is often difficult to find.

Driving on Vietnam’s highways can also be dangerous. Expats who do decide to drive in the cities should do so defensively and learn to predict and pre-empt the behaviour of other road users. In smaller towns and villages, driving is a little easier.

The standard of roads in Vietnam varies between regions, but roads are generally not well maintained. Drivers and motorcyclists should be aware of potholes. While signage is not always clear, expats will find that most road signs are displayed in both Vietnamese and English.

Cycling in Vietnam

More adventurous expats might choose to travel through Vietnam by bicycle. In fact, many Vietnamese people get around by bike, so it is a great way to meet the locals. Bicycles can be rented cheaply in many places in Vietnam.

Cycling in smaller towns is a relatively pleasant and safe experience. However, attempting to cycle anywhere within Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi is a poor choice. Traffic in the major cities is chaotic and drivers are often erratic, which can make cycling frustrating and dangerous, especially for inexperienced cyclists.

Domestic flights in Vietnam

Flights within Vietnam are very reasonably priced, especially considering how much time they save. Domestic airlines include Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air and Bamboo Airways.

A flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City takes around two hours. There are also regular flights to other major cities in Vietnam and beyond.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Vietnam

Banking infrastructure in Vietnam is relatively modern and straightforward to use. ATMs are readily available in Vietnamese cities and internet banking comes as standard with all accounts.

Expats will find that staff at banks in Vietnam are friendly and willing to help them set up an account. However, many expats prefer to maintain an account with one of the many international banks that have a presence in Vietnam.

Money in Vietnam

The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). It is available in the following denominations:

  • Notes: VND 10,000, VND 20,000, VND 50,000, VND 100,000, VND 200,000 and VND 500,000

  • Coins: VND 200, VND 500, VND 1,000, VND 2,000 and VND 5,000

US Dollars (USD) are accepted throughout Vietnam and many prices are quoted in dollars rather than in dong.

Banking in Vietnam

The banking system in Vietnam is modern and efficient. Most banks in Vietnam have at least one English-speaking service representative.

Several international banks have a presence in Vietnamese cities, including HSBC, Citibank, Shinhan Bank and ANZ. For this reason, many expats opt for these banks if they already have an account with them back in their home country. Expats looking to open an account with a Vietnamese bank will find that Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) and Vietcombank are popular choices.

All banks in Vietnam offer a range of banking packages, so it is worth researching which packages best suit an individual’s needs. Most banks have English brochures outlining the services they offer their customers.

Opening a bank account

To open a bank account in Vietnam expats will need to have a passport and a copy of their employment contract, as well as an initial deposit – the exact amount varies between banks. Some banks also require a letter from a foreigner’s landlord stating that the person is legally renting a property in Vietnam. However, most banks usually just want a valid address where the expat can be contacted as well as a work address.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are widely available in Vietnamese cities. In rural areas and smaller towns, ATMs are more difficult to find, so expats are advised to carry enough cash with them when travelling to locations that are off the beaten track.

Vietnam is still very much a cash-based economy, so it is best to carry cash in the majority of situations.

Taxes in Vietnam

If an expat resides in Vietnam for 183 days (six months) or more during a 12-month period; has permanent residency or a rented home in the country, then they are deemed a tax resident. This makes them liable for an income-tax rate of between 5 and 35 percent, depending on the amount earned. Those who do not fall in this category pay a flat income-tax rate of 20 percent on all income sourced in Vietnam.

Taxes in Vietnam can be complex, so it is best to consult with a qualified tax specialist if at all unsure.

Doing Business in Vietnam

Vietnam is an attractive destination for entrepreneurs looking to set up their own businesses. The country has a relatively robust economy which has experienced steady growth in the past few decades and continues to offer a lot of potential for foreign investors.

In recent years, the country has seen an influx of businesspeople moving to Vietnam to diversify their operations away from China. Vietnam’s population of more than 98 million people also boasts a large, young and increasingly educated workforce, which serves to make it an even more attractive location for businesses. The Vietnamese government has taken steps to amend legislation to encourage foreign business owners to set up enterprises in the country.

Fast facts

Business language

Vietnamese is the official language of business. While English is spoken in most business circles, it's worth hiring an interpreter to assist in dealing with government departments and other service providers.

Hours of business

Monday to Friday from 8am to 5.30pm with a one- to two-hour break for lunch around midday.

Business dress

Business attire should be formal and conservative. It is best to stick to dark-coloured suits.


Handshakes are used when meeting business associates and usually only take place between members of the same gender. Some Vietnamese people use a two-handed shake, with the left hand on top of the right wrist. When male expats greet a woman, they should wait for her to extend her hand first. If she does not, he should not insist on a handshake but rather bow his head slightly.


Business gift-giving is fairly common at the end of a business deal or during a meal in honour of a business partnership. Gifts should be small but not overly expensive. Ideal gifts include something with one’s company logo on, or something unique to one’s home country.

Gender equality

While there have been strides taken towards gender equality in Vietnam, women remain underrepresented in Vietnamese business circles. It's rare to see women occupying senior positions in a company.

Business culture in Vietnam

Vietnamese business culture is very hierarchical. Respect should be shown towards elders and senior figures at all times.


When addressing business colleagues, it's important to use appropriate titles followed by the person’s first name rather than surname. When greeting older colleagues, it is best to bow slightly; younger businesspeople will greet each other with a firm handshake.

Relationships and networking

Personal relationships are indispensable to successful business partnerships in Vietnam, so expats should expect to invest a considerable amount of time getting to know their business associates. In fact, it isn't uncommon for no actual business to be discussed at initial meetings.

Business cards are exchanged at initial meetings and should be presented with both hands. When receiving a business card, expats should show proper respect for it and not simply glance at it and put it in their pocket.

Networking is essential in Vietnam. Vietnamese businesspeople prefer to work with those recommended by a friend or business contact rather than be approached directly. Expats doing business in Vietnam will soon find that a broad social network does wonders for their business success.

Business negotiations in Vietnam can sometimes be slow. It's important to bear in mind that there is often a lot of red tape that has to be contended with when doing business in Vietnam. Furthermore, group consultation can also delay final decisions. Patience is therefore critical when conducting business in the country.

Saving face

The concept of maintaining 'face' is important in Vietnamese business circles. Vietnamese people will go to great lengths to avoid embarrassment ('losing face') during business proceedings. Usually, when one person disagrees with another, they will remain quiet to avoid causing a loss of face. Silence is, therefore, a common means of communication in business.

Trust is also important in Vietnam. Business people take each other at their word, and therefore expats should never make promises they cannot keep. Backtracking on an agreement will impact negatively on one’s reputation and create difficulty when it comes to future business proceedings.


The Vietnamese value punctuality. Arriving late or being unprepared for a scheduled meeting is seen as disrespectful.

Expat entrepreneurs should be sure to plan ahead when doing business in Vietnam. It's best to arrange meetings far in advance and then confirm the appointment closer to the time.

Dos and don’ts of business in Vietnam

  • Do dress conservatively and modestly. Despite the hot weather, Vietnamese businesspeople still wear formal business suits.

  • Don’t assume business associates will speak English. While English is widely spoken in business circles, it is recommended that expats hire an interpreter to assist them, especially at initial meetings.

  • Do present Vietnamese business associates with a small gift at the end of a successful business deal.

  • Don’t backtrack on the terms of a business agreement. Trust is an important element of business relationships in Vietnam.

Healthcare in Vietnam

The healthcare system in Vietnam combines aspects of Eastern and Western medicine. At present, most Vietnamese citizens have to pay for medical services themselves at both private and public hospitals. In many cases, Vietnamese people opt to use private hospitals, as these are usually better equipped.

Expats will need to take out private health insurance before they travel to Vietnam. This will cover them for treatment at private healthcare establishments.

Public hospitals in Vietnam

Expats living in Vietnam will find that the standards of public hospitals generally do not match that of those found in North America or Western Europe. Public hospitals in Vietnam are often underfunded and poorly equipped, and doctors and medical staff working at public hospitals will usually only speak Vietnamese.

The quality and availability of healthcare are especially poor in rural areas, and in some of the most remote parts of the country, healthcare is almost non-existent. This is improving, thanks to healthcare investments in Vietnam's rural areas by organisations such as the World Bank.

Private hospitals in Vietnam

On the other hand, the standard of private hospitals in Vietnam is excellent. Private hospitals located in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City are staffed by doctors from the USA, Korea, Japan and France, as well as Vietnamese doctors who have trained overseas.

Private hospitals tend to cater to the needs of expats better than public hospitals, and they generally do accept international health insurance.

The cost of visiting specialists such as dentists and dermatologists varies considerably. Generally, while prices are still lower than the rates charged in Western countries, specialists who market themselves to the expat population will charge more than those that work with locals.

Doctors and medical staff at private hospitals in Vietnam often speak English, which eliminates the language barrier for expats.

Health insurance in Vietnam

Most expats organise international health insurance before they arrive in Vietnam. When using hospitals, expats should check with both the hospital and their insurance provider that they are covered for treatment.

Expats should ensure that the health insurance they purchase covers them for treatment outside Vietnam, as many expats, as well as the wealthier Vietnamese people, prefer to travel to Bangkok or Singapore for specialist treatment and medical emergencies.

Pharmacies and medication in Vietnam

Pharmacies in Vietnam are well stocked and easy to find, especially in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. They're usually located on any major shopping street or in malls.

Buying medicine over the counter without a prescription is straightforward, but expats should be aware that drugs sold in Vietnamese pharmacies may be counterfeit or expired. Always check the date on the packaging before making a purchase. In addition, expats who want to be extra careful can either take the necessary medicines from their home country or visit a pharmacy in one of the private hospitals or clinics.

Expats should not experience too much difficulty in bringing prescription medicine into Vietnam. It is best to carry a copy of the prescription and a letter from the doctor confirming that the medication is for personal use.

Health hazards in Vietnam

Those who take some basic precautions in Vietnam should not experience any major health risks during their stay in the country.

It is best to avoid drinking tap water in Vietnam and buy bottled water instead. In most restaurants, ice is made using boiled water, but expats with sensitive stomachs might want to avoid having ice in their drinks to be on the safe side.

Sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration are major health hazards in Vietnam. It can get very hot, and expats should always wear sunscreen with high UV protection, even on days when the weather looks overcast.

There are several infectious diseases and health threats that expats moving to Vietnam should be aware of. Hepatitis A and B can be a problem, especially in the countryside, where hygiene standards are not always maintained.

Typhoid, dengue fever and malaria are still common in rural parts of Vietnam. Expats spending long periods of time in the countryside should ensure that they are on a course of anti-malarial tablets.

Emergency services in Vietnam

The emergency services number in Vietnam is 115. However, ambulances in Vietnam are infamous for slow response times. Paramedics do not always speak English and equipment may be substandard.

There are some private hospitals in Vietnam’s bigger cities which provide a faster and more efficient private ambulance service, but whenever possible, expats use taxis to get to the nearest private hospital for emergency medical treatment.

Articles about Vietnam

Working in Vietnam

With an ever-expanding economy, the range of jobs available for expats moving to Vietnam is also growing. The majority of expat jobs are in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, but some can be found in smaller towns.

Most expats working in Vietnam are in the IT, construction and tourism sectors. There is also a large English teaching community and many NGOs operating out of Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi.

Job market in Vietnam

Vietnam has a relatively low unemployment rate, with most Vietnamese people working in the agricultural and service sectors. Many others are employed in Vietnam’s manufacturing industries such as machine-building, food processing and the country's famous garment and shoe production industry.

Expats working in Vietnam generally relocate to take up high-level managerial positions or are young people moving to Vietnam on a short-term basis to teach English or volunteer.

Most companies will offer expat relocation packages of some sort; however, the type of package will often be a reflection of an individual’s skill level as well as their ability to negotiate. Salaries in Vietnam are generally lower than in other large expat locations, although the cost of living in Vietnam is also lower, meaning that expats will often be able to maintain the same quality of life as in their home country.

Finding a job in Vietnam

Employment opportunities can be found online through company websites, job portals and recruitment agencies. Word of mouth from fellow expats online can also be a good source of leads. Expats typically move to Vietnam with a job already in hand.

While it is possible to find a job within Vietnam, the government is beginning to implement stricter visa regulations, which may make it more difficult in the future. Any expat intending to work in Vietnam must have a valid work permit.

Learning to speak basic Vietnamese will have expats in good stead with colleagues and associates, as well as enhancing a person’s ability to make the most of their spare time when exploring Vietnam and interacting with the local people.

Work culture in Vietnam

Expats working in Vietnam will find that the work environment is similar to Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Japan. The Vietnamese have a healthy work ethic and are generally hard-working and industrious.

Offices are formal environments, and workers are expected to dress and behave appropriately. Networking is incredibly important in Vietnam, and expats will soon find that a broad social group is important when it comes to securing a position or moving up the ladder.

Communal lunches are an important part of working in Vietnam, as is socialising with colleagues after work. These social occasions also provide good opportunities for expats to connect and interact with their Vietnamese counterparts.

Companies in Vietnam have a very hierarchical structure and expats are expected to show the necessary respect towards their seniors in the workplace. Punctuality is valued and lateness is seldom tolerated. Expats are therefore advised to arrive early for meetings or interviews.

Pros and cons of moving to Vietnam

Vietnam is a popular travel destination with a range of attractions and pull factors luring both tourists and foreign nationals looking to work and live in the country. From the diverse natural landscapes of tropical beaches, caves and rivers to the cosmopolitan city lifestyle, there's a lot on offer. However, there are both advantages and disadvantages to be aware of before moving to Vietnam – though expats may also realise some surprising benefits and drawbacks after arriving.

At the end of the day, much of an expat's experience will be determined by their willingness to adapt to their new environment and their perceptions and responses to both the good and the bad. To help expats in their decision-making process, here is a selection of pros and cons of moving to Vietnam.

Cost of living in Vietnam

+ PRO: Affordable cost of living

One of the biggest draw factors making Vietnam a popular expat destination is its low cost of living. The different currency (Vietnamese dong) may take some getting used to, and it may seem like enormous amounts are being spent, but most goods and services are cheap. Beer and local wine are especially affordable, and low rental costs are also welcoming when searching for accommodation.

- CON: Increased prices and scams in tourist areas

New arrivals should be aware of the touristy areas in the large cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Though goods in these areas may initially appear cheap, tourists are often charged higher prices than a Vietnamese local would be for the same product or service. We recommend shopping around with a local to get familiar with fair prices and being aware of scams on tourists to avoid losing money.

Transport and driving in Vietnam

+ PRO: Many transport options

There are many options for getting around, especially in Vietnam’s major cities, and buses and trains allow easy travel around the country. Probably the most common mode of transport is a motorbike. Many expats report that it’s easy to rent a motorcycle – the challenge is riding it in the chaotic traffic.

+ PRO: Convenient and easy to travel to other Southeast Asian countries

Expats with an urge to travel find Vietnam to be a great base country from which to live and travel to other destinations. Affordable airline tickets can be found, and the country is home to several international airports, including Noi Bai International Airport and Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

- CON: Safety risks with getting around in busy cities

Most forms of getting around have safety implications. Riding motorcycles is dangerous, rules of the road appear non-existent and drivers will have to be especially vigilant of all obstacles, including other vehicles and pedestrians. Motorbikes are everywhere, including the pavements, and in busy traffic, crossing the road and even walking on the pavement prove to be daunting tasks.

Working in Vietnam

+ PRO: Easy to find a job

For global nomads and expat travellers, finding a job in Vietnam can prove easy – especially in teaching. Teachers are in demand in Vietnam, and teaching English as a foreign language appears to be the key to international travel. Teachers can quickly find well-paid positions after arriving in Vietnam through social media and networking. This ease may not apply across all industries and employment sectors, though, and finding employment before arriving has its benefits too.

- CON: Applying for visas and work permits is complicated

While a handful of expats may find the visa process simple, many applicants struggle with the paperwork when applying for visas and work permits for Vietnam. Visa processes are subject to change, which adds to the confusion, and going through a relocation company could be the best solution, though an expensive one at that.

Culture shock and lifestyle in Vietnam

+ PRO: Healthy and diverse food options

Foodies will love tasting authentic Vietnamese cooking and are sure to appreciate how easy it is to eat healthily thanks to the many vegetable-based dishes. From tasty noodle fare to spring rolls, dumplings and pho – traditional Vietnamese soup – expats will never be short on meal options, whether home cooked, street food or eating at a restaurant. Expats can also find a range of cuisines from many cultures around the world. People in Vietnam are hospitable and will happily invite expats to eat with them too.

+ PRO: Lots of things to see and do

There is much to see and do in Vietnam, and locals are always keen to take a newcomer on all sorts of adventures. New arrivals interested in learning about the rich cultural heritage can visit the many museums and Buddhist pagodas or temples. The country's fantastic natural attractions are well worth exploring, from boating on the Mekong Delta and tropical beaches to Ban Gioc Waterfall as well as Hang Sơn Đoòng, the world's largest natural cave.

- CON: Major language barriers

New arrivals find it difficult to integrate into their new environment without speaking or understanding Vietnamese, especially in more rural areas. Vietnamese is a tonal language, so how a word is pronounced can change its meaning greatly, and getting the right tone takes practice. We recommend expats familiarise themselves with basic greetings and phrases; a little goes a long way.

- CON: Little personal space and privacy

Limited personal space and privacy are common elements of culture shock for Western expats. Vietnamese locals tend to physically position themselves close to the person (mainly of the same gender) they are talking to. Conversation topics can be quite direct and seem like prying into one’s private life, when in reality people may just be curious and want to be friendly and get to know the other person. This culture of closeness can make someone unfamiliar with Vietnamese customs feel uncomfortable.

Healthcare in Vietnam

+ PRO: Private healthcare offers high standards

The Vietnamese private medical system offers excellent facilities (mainly in the cities) and far surpasses those of the public healthcare system. Private healthcare professionals and doctors are often from the USA, South Korea, Japan, France as well as Vietnam; all are well-trained and highly experienced, and their diverse backgrounds also reduce language barriers.

- CON: Pharmacies may not stock all medications

While pharmacies are relatively well stocked in Vietnam and finding common prescription medicine is not too hard, not all medicines, vitamins and minerals are readily available. There are also restrictions on medicines that Vietnam categorises as ‘addictive’ or ‘psychotropic’, and treatments for anxiety, depression and other conditions may fall under this classification. We recommend expats do their research and ask their nearest embassy for specifics.

- CON: Concerns about air pollution

Living in a major city such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City comes with heavy air pollution. Air pollution has major health implications and is a push factor for many, especially children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.

- CON: Mosquito-related diseases are common

Mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent, especially during the rainy season, and these include malaria and dengue fever. Health risks aside, the annoying buzz of mosquitos and their itchy bites are a negative aspect of life in Vietnam. We suggest expats take the necessary precautions against mosquito bites.

Weather in Vietnam

+ PRO: Warm weather

Expats who hate the winter will enjoy the warm weather that welcomes them, and residents don’t need to worry too much about layering up in colder seasons. While this is a pro for many, there is a catch: the high humidity. Be prepared for the humid climate, which can make things feel uncomfortably hotter than they are and can be unpleasant.

- CON: Flooding is common in Vietnam’s wet season

The weather in Vietnam is not only excessively rainy, but the country is also vulnerable to typhoons and tropical cyclones. Heavy rains arrive between June and September each year, bringing flooding, flash floods and landslides. Expats must prepare themselves for this and be aware of the disastrous health implications of floods.

Education and schools in Vietnam

+ PRO: Good quality schools

The standard of education in Vietnam is high. Some expat parents with young children may opt for a public school, where the language of instruction is primarily Vietnamese and the costs are low. Private and international schools offer the highest standard of schooling, with international schools offering a familiar curriculum in one's home language.

- CON: International schools are hard to get into

Excellent selections of international schools are largely concentrated in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; however, it can be hard to get into these. Waiting lists are typically long and the application processes must be done in advance. One of the biggest issues limiting entry to international schools is the high cost of fees: expat parents must often stretch their budget to ensure a private education for their children.

Work Permits for Vietnam

Expats unfamiliar with the work permit process in Vietnam need only speak to a fellow foreigner working in the country to learn that applying for and obtaining this crucial document can be a complicated affair. What’s more, the government changes the regulations surrounding work permits for Vietnam frequently and applies them inconsistently, leading to further confusion.

Applying for a work permit for Vietnam

Expats can either apply for a work permit from within Vietnam or from abroad with the help of their employer or a contracted visa agency. Those applying from within Vietnam will need to do so within 90 days of arrival, as the government only grants a three-month period during which expats can live and search for job opportunities in the country without a permit.

Those who meet the eligibility requirements to apply for a work visa must gather several documents, including a health certificate, criminal records and copies of their ID, passport and qualifications. These must be translated into Vietnamese and notarised in their home country (where applicable). There has been much debate regarding whether the notarisation must be done in Vietnam or in an expat’s home country, but the latter is generally preferred. Expats are also advised to have at least two notarised copies of each required document.

Once submitted, applications are supposed to only take between 10 and 15 working days to process. However, many expats have reported that this is a fairly optimistic estimation and that instead, foreigners should expect to wait at least a month for their work permit to be granted.

Extending a work permit in Vietnam

It is fairly easy to extend a work permit in Vietnam, as long as the applicant is continuing the job for which they were initially granted the permit. If this is the case, then the employer must apply for this extension at least 45 days before the existing permit expires. The process followed and documentation required is similar to that of an initial work permit application. The renewed permit should be ready within 12 to 15 days of application.

In the past, there were no hard restrictions on how many times a work permit could be extended – however, new laws coming into play stipulate that a work permit can only be extended once for a period of two years. After this, should the expat wish to continue working in Vietnam, they will need to submit a new work permit application.

* Visa and work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate for the latest information.

Diversity and inclusion in Vietnam


Vietnam has one of the world’s highest rates of people living with disability. Historically, the country has experienced reduced access to education and employment, particularly in rural areas. However, the government has worked closely with UNICEF, USAID and the International Labour Organisation to promote a more inclusive society, aligning it with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It has implemented initiatives and adopted legislation to raise awareness and increase standards in the training, employment, allowances, education, and healthcare of people living with disabilities. Overall, access is less than ideal, but steadily improving.


Most international flights arrive at Tan Son Nhat, Ho Chi Minh City’s airport, while Hanoi is accessed via Noi Bai. Both have relatively modern facilities but can become congested. Assistance for those with limited mobility is variable and best organised in advance (often with one's airline). Onward travel is via bus or taxi, including accessible airport transfer cars and minibuses which are cheap and always available.


Most taxis can accommodate a folding wheelchair in the boot, but very few have ramps or room for a fixed or powered mobility aid. Mai Linh and Vinasun are popular services that are safer and more reliable than many independent street cabs, offering pre-booking services for fully accessible cars. Regional alternatives to Uber are Grab, Be and Go Viet, helping passengers avoid hidden costs or out-of-the-way journeys.


Very few buses are accessible to wheelchair users, and boarding and alighting on busy streets and uneven pavements can be a challenge. So, for most people with any form of impairment (including sight or hearing), they are not a viable option.


Hanoi has a relatively efficient overground and underground rapid transit service, while Ho Chi Minh’s metro is under construction and nearing completion after much delay. It’s a major programme set to ease the congestion of a city that’s home to well over 9 million people. Both networks were designed to international standards for accessibility.

Car hire

International car rental firms and local franchises are available, but few foreign visitors choose to drive themselves. Car and driver services are more practical and safer than testing one's driving skills on Vietnam’s congested streets. During much of the day, the average speed of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi is slow, so well-planned taxi or train travel tends to be a better option.

LGBTQ+ in Vietnam

Homosexuality is legal and generally accepted in Vietnam, especially in the expat communities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Some people from more traditional cultures and philosophies, however, may discriminate. Same-sex marriages are not legally recognised, while gender reassignment is permitted only in certain congenital medical circumstances.

Viet Pride marches take place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and gay characters appear in mainstream television and films, but Vietnam remains socially conservative. While displays of affection might draw disapproving glares, the same holds true for straight couples.

Gender equality in Vietnam

Vietnamese women have less access to resources, education, skills development and employment opportunities than men. This is because society assigns both a lower status and most of the unpaid care work to Vietnamese women and expects them to work in subsistence agriculture and the market economy. Unemployment is low and 47 percent of the country’s workforce is female. 21 percent of small and medium enterprises are owned by women, but gender inequality remains high in larger organisations.

Women in leadership in Vietnam

For Vietnamese women, success means more than a career. Female leaders need to be champions of the double burden of their roles at home and work. While society celebrates female leaders, they are subject to many traditional norms set by the remnants of Confucianism and contemporary socialist standards. As the economy shifts from agriculture to manufacturing and technology, more female leaders are visible. They are also well represented on People’s Committees in local, regional and national government.

Mental health in Vietnam

In Vietnam, mental and physical health are seen as interconnected and viewed as a state of balance. Traditionally, mental health issues have been seen as shameful or a burden. The mental healthcare system is improving through policy and legislation, and since the pandemic, many multilingual national and international resources have become available online to support those suffering from stress, depression and anxiety.

Unconscious bias in Vietnam

Unconscious bias refers to the prejudices absorbed when living in unequal societies. Preconceptions around gender, age and ethnicity inhibit effective hiring, limit development and lower staff morale. Some international organisations in Vietnam use training to promote tolerance and understanding, but ingrained views on men being leaders with women in support roles persist.

Diversification of the workforce in Vietnam

Vietnam is statistically the most culturally diverse country in Southeast Asia. Within the population of around 102 million, the government recognises 54 ethnic groups, the vast majority (85 percent) being Kinh (Viet). The 15 percent of the population that belongs to minority ethnic groups is mainly concentrated in the mountainous and rural regions. Vietnam is officially an atheist state with only 14 percent of the population following a religion. The constitution allows for religious freedom and states that all religions are equal before the law. Those having a religion tend to correlate closely with ethnic minority groups.

Safety in Vietnam

Vietnam is a generally safe place to live, travel and work. Most incidents are petty crimes such as pickpocketing, centred on tourist attractions and markets. Traffic (particularly motorbikes) poses the largest threat to safety and well-being.

Women’s safety in Vietnam

Vietnam is listed by many as one of the safest destinations for solo female travellers and expat workers. While most women dress moderately, there are no rules on clothing except for sacred sites such as pagodas and churches. Harassment and sexual violence are low and uncommon.

Calendar initiatives in Vietnam

4 February – World Cancer Day
March – TB Awareness Month
8 March – International Women’s Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day

Culture Shock in Vietnam

With such different values and customs than the West, life in Vietnam can be difficult to adjust to and at least some culture shock can be expected.

Expats moving to Vietnam will need to make some adjustments to their lifestyle and behaviour to take into account the nuances of the local culture, as they would when moving to any new country.

That said, having an open mind and a sense of humour will certainly help new arrivals to reduce the impact of culture shock in Vietnam.

Attitudes towards foreigners in Vietnam

Expats living in Vietnam often find that the attitudes they experience when interacting with Vietnamese co-workers are vastly different to those of market vendors and touts. The Vietnamese people who expats have to deal with on a day-to-day basis are usually warm, welcoming and helpful.

However, Vietnam is a popular tourist destination, so there are often times when Western expats find that some locals view them as outsiders. Once expats move away from tourist spots, they will find they can get a better sense of Vietnam, its people and culture.

Politics in Vietnam

New arrivals will soon find that the Vietnamese are very patriotic, and it is best not to mention the painful history of the Vietnam War. Expats will also find it helpful to learn a little about the national history of the country and the significance of its national holidays and associated festivals.

Language barrier in Vietnam

While speaking Vietnamese is not a prerequisite for success in the workplace, learning a few basic phrases will certainly hold expats in good stead when it comes to social situations. While Vietnamese is not the easiest language to speak, even a few lessons will help expats when it comes to reading signs and navigating everyday interactions, especially when pronouncing names and places.

The Vietnamese people are friendly and they appreciate it when foreigners make an effort to speak to them in their own language.

City life in Vietnam

The majority of expats who relocate to Vietnam will arrive in the hustle and bustle of cities such as Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. At first, some expats might find the vibrancy and non-stop energy of Vietnamese city life overwhelming. Life among the vendors, travellers and motorbikes is exhilarating but noisy.

Expats also often find themselves the focus of unwanted attention, be it from vendors or curious bystanders and children. The best thing to do is just to accept the attention and learn to ignore it. Most foreigners eventually get used to the comments and learn to blend in.

Unfortunately, market vendors are quick to assume that Westerners are wealthy, so expats can expect to find that the prices they are charged tend to be far higher than what the average local would pay for the same goods. However, expats should never feel that they have to simply accept the price of an item. When it comes to shopping at markets in Vietnam, everything is open to negotiation. 

Road safety and transport in Vietnam

One of the major challenges that new arrivals face when moving to Vietnam is getting to grips with the numerous modes of transportation available to them. Buses and trains in Vietnam get incredibly crowded and so do the roads during peak hours. Road safety is an issue in Vietnam, and expats will need to be keenly aware of their surroundings at all times.

Learning how to cross a Vietnamese road full of motorbikes, cars and bicycles is vital. It is best to envision the traffic as a school of fish and cross the road slowly with no sudden movements. This allows drivers to predict a pedestrian's movements and alter theirs accordingly.

Ultimately, expats who approach the chaotic aspects of life in Vietnam with a sense of calm will find that they are more successful. Those who are friendly, open-minded and eager to learn about the Vietnamese people and the local culture will find that their expat experience is far more rewarding.

Accommodation in Vietnam

Generally, the process of finding a home in Vietnam is relatively simple. While some expats may have accommodation provided for them as part of their employment package, most have to make their own arrangements.

It is not advisable to commit to a contract without having seen the property beforehand. For this reason, many expats check themselves into a guesthouse when they first arrive in Vietnam and subsequently begin their search for a home.

Due to the often short-term nature of expat assignments, most foreigners who relocate to Vietnam opt to rent rather than buy a property.

Types of accommodation in Vietnam

The types of property in Vietnam vary depending on one's location. In major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, expats will find a lot of luxury accommodation options available which are on par with property standards in their home countries. Brand-new apartment buildings can be found, as can older, more traditional apartment complexes. In the suburbs, housing is more spacious.

Naturally, the location of a property, the number of rooms and the type of property will impact the rental price. When viewing apartments, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, it is wise to take a walk around the immediate area surrounding the complex to check if there is any sign of new buildings going up. Building work is common in rapidly growing Vietnamese cities and can cause a great deal of annoyance, particularly on weekend mornings when residents may wish to lie in.

A range of options are available for different budgetary needs, and those who are price-conscious should also be able to find basic accommodation options at very affordable rates in most places.

Finding accommodation in Vietnam

Most expats find accommodation in Vietnam via word of mouth, through their employers and by using the services of estate agents.

In cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, numerous websites cater specifically to the needs of expats. These portals are a great source of information and have listings of available properties.

For those who are not lucky enough to have their employer source accommodation for them, the next best thing is to enlist the services of a real estate agent. These professionals have a detailed knowledge of the local property market and can assist expats in finding a property that meets their needs and requirements.

Estate agents also generally have access to a larger pool of properties, many of which will be snapped up before they can be advertised in local classifieds or property portals. Furthermore, having an estate agent negotiate a lease on behalf of an expat who doesn’t speak the local language can be incredibly useful.

Renting accommodation in Vietnam

Making an application

Foreigners will be asked to provide a copy of their passport, work permit and the address of their employer. By law, landlords in Vietnam have to report this information to the government when they rent out a property to an expat.


The standard lease term is one or two years, during which time the rental price is fixed.


To rent a property in Vietnam, expats will usually be expected to pay at least one or two months' rent upfront as a security deposit. While some landlords have been known to ask for payment of the full rental period beforehand, this is not the norm. In fact, it can be rather risky and is not advisable.


Expats will also need to budget for monthly utility costs such as electricity, water and internet. Those who live in apartment buildings may also need to pay a management fee for cleaning, maintenance, security and salaries of the building management staff.