Moving to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Last updated on Feb 03, 2023
Summary: Expatriates are drawn to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for its vibrant culture, diverse cuisine, and low cost of living. The city offers a unique blend of traditional and modern lifestyles, making it an attractive destination for those looking to experience a different way of life. Additionally, the city's strong economy and growing job market make it an ideal place for expats to find work and build a career. With its bustling nightlife, world-class shopping, and stunning natural beauty, Ho Chi Minh City is an exciting and rewarding place to live.
What do I need to know before moving to Ho Chi Minh City?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Ho Chi Minh City, they said:
"- Before moving to Ho Chi Minh City, familiarize yourself with the climate, as the city is hot and humid year-round. - Learn basic Vietnamese, as not many people know or speak English in HCMC. - Understand the local culture as Ho Chi Minh City is much more conservative compared to other cities in Vietnam. - Research and plan your accommodation options, as accommodation options range from high-end serviced apartments to budget guesthouses and hostels. - Consider the transportation system, as HCMC has buses, taxis, and the metro. - Get an international health insurance to have access to healthcare, as the Vietnamese healthcare system is quite primitive. - Ensure you have the correct visa and documents, as Vietnam has strict regulations for foreign nationals," replied a member in Ho Chi Minh City.
"Find a couple of real estate agents in the area and look at a lot of apartments before choosing. Consider whether you need to be close to a supermarket. Consider whether you'd like to be near a swimming pool. Consider your transport options: taxis, rent a scooter or is there a bus route close by?," commented one expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.
How do I find a place to live in Ho Chi Minh City?
We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:
"Finding a place to live in Ho Chi Minh City can be done in several ways. There are options for renting an apartment, house, or a room in a shared house. Some travelers may prefer to rent an entire house or apartment, while others may opt for a shorter stay and rent a room in a shared house. Many online sites, such as Craigslist, Facebook groups, and Bình Nhân classifieds offer ample listings for available housing, while hotels and hostels offer long-term stays as well. Additionally, some real estate agents in the city specialize in finding housing for expats and tourists. However, it is important to always inspect the property before signing a lease or agreeing to any terms," said another expat in Ho Chi Minh City.
"Having spent the past 6 years doing a long commute to work I decided to live close to my job if it was feasible - and it was. I live in District 7 of HCMC on the 14th floor of a group of 25 storey apartment blocks. In the centre of the 4 blocks is a sort of village square with several swimming pools, a gym, small shops/cafes/ hairdressers, a large good supermarket and two tennis courts. More shopping centres are within 5 minute's taxi ride, and I can get into District 1 shopping in 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. I used a local real estate office to find my apartment, someone recommended by a work colleague," added another expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.
What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Ho Chi Minh City?
"Expat homes and apartments in Ho Chi Minh City tend to be spacious, with modern furnishings and good access to facilities. Some of them have luxurious amenities such as swimming pools and impressive greenery. Expat homes also generally come with up-to-date kitchen appliances and storage solutions. Residents will also find plenty of natural light and a good level of security, as well as excellent views of the city. For those with a taste for the finer things in life, Ho Chi Minh City offers the added bonus of great shopping, fine dining, and entertainment," added another expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.
"I have a 3 bedroom / 2 bathroom apartment; mostly 1 or 3 seemed available at the time and I occasionally have overseas friends to stay. The people who live in my apartment blocks include western expats but are mainly Korean expats or Vietnamese people," explained one expat living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
What is the average cost of housing in Ho Chi Minh City?
If you are thinking about moving to Ho Chi Minh City, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:
"The cost of housing in Ho Chi Minh City varies depending on the location, size and quality of accommodation. In general, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center typically ranges from $400 to $900 a month, while a three-bedroom apartment often goes for around $1,000 to $1,600 per month," commented one expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.
"Rental costs are slightly lower than in my area of Australia and much lower than cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. Depending on the size and standard of apartment in HCMC, median apartment costs would be 400-800 USD a month in my area. I think they are slightly higher in District 1," remarked another expat in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Should I buy or rent a home in Ho Chi Minh City?
If you have not spent a lot of time in Ho Chi Minh City, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:
"Whether to buy or rent a home in Ho Chi Minh City depends on your individual needs and budget. Buying a home can be financially beneficial if you plan to live in the city for a long time and the property's value is expected to appreciate. However, if you are only in the city for a short time, renting may be the better option as it can be more cost-effective, provides more flexibility, and involves less responsibility. Additionally, you should consider what type of home best suits your needs. If you are looking for a more modern, convenient home, then looking at properties in newly developed neighborhoods or condo buildings may be the best option for you," said another expat in Ho Chi Minh City.
"In 2013 I retired and moved permanently to Viet Nam. I had met a Vietnamese woman and married her in 2014. I purchased a 4 story, 4 bedroom 3 bath home in HCMC for $140,000 and I have been living here happily ever since. I live in a Vietnamese district where there are very few foreigners, but I have met some at the pool I go to and at my gym. I also have a number of Vietnamese friends," remarked another expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh.
What should I pack when moving to Ho Chi Minh City?
We asked people living in Ho Chi Minh City to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:
"Clothing suitable for the hot and humid climate, sturdy and comfortable shoes, sunglasses, raincoat, hat, personal toiletries, laptop, camera, electronic adapters, anti-mosquito lotion, air purifier, medical and travel insurance documents, and a multi-lingual dictionary," remarked another expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.
"I wish I'd brought more clothes suitable for a VERY warm climate. The climate here is hotter than I anticipated (C32 degrees in the wet season and C37+ in the dry). I am an average size in Australia but all the clothes are too small for me here and I have them made. Everything else is pretty much available. I wish I'd left behind the two pairs of 500 thread-count sheets I filled a small suitcase with - and brought clothes instead," explained one expat living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Ho Chi Minh City?
We asked people in Ho Chi Minh City if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:
"It is important to avoid using physical contact to greet people in Ho Chi Minh City, as handshaking is not part of traditional Vietnamese culture. Moreover, always take off your shoes before entering places of worship, private homes and restaurants. Although relatively casual dress is acceptable in Ho Chi Minh City, it is considered offensive to wear clothing which reveals too much skin (such as shorts, tank tops or revealing dresses). It is also important to be aware of protected religious symbols and artifacts, and never use them in a disrespectful manner. People in Ho Chi Minh City take pride in their culture, therefore you should always take the time to show interest to their local customs and traditions," commented one expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.
"Yes! First time I went there was to do my crown teeth, flights, hotel and 15 teeth cost me less than 2 teeth here and service they provide is pick up from airport. And waiting for me was this little lady very cute - hahaha now we talking shock - we became friends and after I was done with dental. I lifted her up in reception and kissed her.... and she hit me with good slap in face I had no idea why, but she explained later on the phone... NO KISSING IN PUBLIC IN VIETNAM," remarked another expat in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
About the Author
Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.