expat in Vietnam riding a xích lô or cyclo in the street of Vietnam

Expat’s Checklist 101 To Vietnam


If you do your homework before planning in moving to Vietnam, you won’t be stressed-out. This beautiful Asian country has a low cost of living. The culture is vibrant, and expats can easily support whatever lifestyle they desire by teaching or working in any of the numerous flourishing markets in this fast-changing economy. But it’s not as simple as showing up and asking a good life; there are things to acknowledge before leaping. Here are expat’s checklist 101 to Vietnam.

Prepare the required documents ahead of time.

If you plan on working in Vietnam, make sure you bring notarized copies of all the documents you’ll need. Legally, you can’t work in the country without a work permit. You might be able to get away without having one for a while, but authorities conduct random checks to grab foreigners and their employers – and the penalties are steep. One recommended option is to come into the country on a three-month tourist visa and use that time to find a job. You’ll likely have to leave the country and come back in when your visa expires, but this only takes a day because you can ride a bus over to Cambodia.

Pick a location to match the lifestyle you want

From mountain villages to open cities of millions and all the beaches you could ever desire. Vietnam has many exceptional destinations for you to start a new life. Where you fancy to live depends on what you do for money and the kind of personality you have, but let’s look at the most popular options.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

More than half the expats are living in Vietnam call this stinking hot megacity home. If crowds and traffic faze you at all or need green space, consider living elsewhere, because this city is as urban as it gets. But for many expats, the madness is the reason they’re here. There are adventure and excitement everywhere in this city.

There is accommodation to match any budget and so many excellent restaurants you’d need several lifetimes to try them all out. The expat community is large and diverse, making it easy to make new friends. Although this city is a hub of technology, manufacturing, and tourism, many expats work as teachers, and foreigners can also find work in various fields and professions. Keep in mind that many professionals might have difficulty finding work because locals do the same jobs for much less.



Though Hanoi has less cosmopolitan flair than Ho Chi Minh City, many expats prefer it because of the culture and unique feel. The cooler weather for a large part of the year is also excellent. Since it’s the home of government and bureaucratic power in Vietnam, there aren’t as many business sector jobs as in Ho Chi Minh City, where many foreign companies operate. Teaching is a popular option, and many expats eventually open a business. But it’s next to impossible to start a business in Vietnam without a Vietnamese spouse or a local friend you trust, so you’ll need to spend some time in the country first before even thinking about the opening shop.

Da Nang

Expat in Beautiful beach in Saigon

If you want the perception of a city while living a beach bum’s lifestyle, Da Nang could be for you. The city is booming, and many already-entrenched expats choose it over Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Da Nang has fantastic beaches, but it also has mountainous jungles nearby, which offer unique adventures into the country’s remote regions. It’s a great location for digital nomads with foreign incomes, but you’ll need to go on regular visa runs.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is a favorite holiday spot for Russians. Because of this, most of the jobs in this city are associated with tourism. It’s a beautiful place with a lovely beach and the relaxed vibe of a tourist town, making it another great spot for digital nomads who don’t mind regular visa runs.

Vung Tau

beautiful sun set in Vung Tau, Vietnam

While the beaches aren’t as lovely as other places in the country, Vung Tau is gaining popularity among expats because of its slower pace of life and its proximity to Ho Chi Minh City – just two hours by air-conditioned bus. So if you’ve got work that doesn’t always need you to be there in person, you can live in a quiet beach town and make your way to Ho Chi Minh City whenever you need to be there. Vung Tau has been featured recently in several magazines for expats and digital nomads.

How much budget would you need?

You can get by in Vietnam with very little money, but you should still have a decent chunk saved up before moving here. Getting a work permit and business visa can cost you hundreds if your employer isn’t willing to cover the expenses, and most apartments want a deposit, and the first month’s rent upfront. So, if you don’t get a paycheck until after your first month of work, you might burn through all your savings, getting set up in your new home. We recommend you do your research to figure out what a reasonable monthly budget would be and then bring enough for at least six months.

How about getting around?

Local Vietnamese in a motorbike - expat in Vietnam

Motorbikes are cheap and abundant in Vietnam. To make sure you’ll be covered should you have an accident, get an international driver’s license before coming to Vietnam. That way, you can easily convert it into a Vietnamese driver’s license. Not having one, you won’t be insured while driving here. If you get in an accident, you’ll be paying for everything out of your pocket. We recommend using Gojek, Grab or ‘Be’ until you get a feel for traffic in Vietnam for safety’s sake. It’s not that bad once you’re used to it, but it’s overwhelming if you’re a novice driver.

The local culture

Vietnamese people are amazingly welcoming to foreigners. They recognize that having foreigners is a win-win situation since expats bring experience, which helps this country develop into an economic power. As for customs and etiquette, you can pretty well learn as you go since Vietnamese people are very accommodating and forgiving. Don’t fret too much. If you come to Vietnam equipped with the required documents, savings, and a rough idea of how you’ll earn money, the rest will sort itself out.

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