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Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Sep 05, 2022

Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees discuss what it is like to live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Cost of living, Finding a home, Meeting People and more.

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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:

"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?," mentioned another expat in Ho Chi Minh City.

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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:

"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," commented one expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in 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," remarked another expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.

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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:

"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," mentioned another expat in Ho Chi Minh City.

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What should I bring when moving to Ho Chi Minh City?

People living in Ho Chi Minh City were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"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," commented one expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.

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What do expats in Ho Chi Minh City appreciate most about the local culture?

"Prices mate, prices! Taxi $3 from anywhere to anywhere, but people are so nice, everybody calls you sir and I was feeling embarrassed being sir all the time, food is magic and so cheap. Honestly we here in Perth don't have night clubs like those in HCMC," remarked another expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh.

"The culture is vibrant, and new. The cost of living is cheap, even in HCMC which is the viet equivalent to new York city. I actually stay in D7 which is close to Saigon South which is where most foreigners hide. Staying in Phu My Hung you could insulate yourself enough that you might forget you are in Vietnam all together. everyone speaks English there, and there are western restaurants everywhere," explained one expat living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"My biggest challenge was getting a visa every time. I've been here for 9 years now. I originally came here on a business visa that the Vietnamese Embassy issued. At that time I didn't know that, technically, I was supposed to apply for a work permit after getting a job. Since I was "retired", living off of savings and eventually Social Security, I didn't work. So I had to borrow $15,000 to invest in a company and get an investors visa. The length of stay for business visas keep changing. Sometimes it's a year, with a "renewal" every three months and then a border run to get a new one, and sometimes it's only 30 days. I wish they would implement a retirement visa for those of us who just want to retire and enjoy life," commented one expat who made the move to Ho Chi Minh City.

"The traffic is a daunting when you are first exposed. The number one form or travel is motorbike (somewhere between a moped and a motorcycle) and everyone rides them except the ultra rich (cars--usually Mercedes) or students/ultrapoor(the bus---which I prefer actually). Taxis are a cheaper mode of transport, but the bus line is better since its so cheap. Its only drawback is that it stops at 7pm. Back to motorbikes: they put little kids between adults without helmets, and NO ONE follows traffic laws. Crossing the street is a new experience that most Westerners will find really frightening the first time, but you get used to it. Viets are very good at driving motorbikes since they have ridden them all their lives. You will be amazed at what can be transported on motorbike---tile, pigs, drywall, and the occassional refrigerator! Really amazing," remarked another expat living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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What are the schools in Ho Chi Minh City like?

"I like SSIS because it is the only not-for-profit school in Saigon. That is really important for me. I'm not sending my child to school to make some business owner or shareholder rich. I like that the money I put in goes straight back into the school. I also like that SSIS has a limit to each nationality, so it does not become too unbalanced in its student population. I've seen a lot of international schools that are not really international. They have 70% or 80% or 90% of students all from one country. I think it's really valuable for my child to have an experience in a school with children from many countries. I think if you live in Saigon, or are moving to Saigon, you should check out this school. See how it feels when you tour the campus. Talk to the teachers. Look at the resources and how green and open the campus is. There are some good schools in Saigon, and SSIS is definitely one of them," explained one expat living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

"If I knew what I knew now I would never of put my child here. Many of the reviews you will read on here are close acquaintances of the current HOS. If the head of HR takes her child out of the school to go to another international school...You have to ask why?," said another parent with children at Renaissance International School Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City .

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What are the pros and cons of living in Ho Chi Minh City?

Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Ho Chi Minh City responded:

"Vietnam is not easy, it's got a learning curve for expats. But very worthwhile. Get out of the big cities, see the beaches and the jungles. Eat everything, the food is the best I've ever had," mentioned another expat inHo Chi Minh City.

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William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Vietnam

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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What type of social life can someone expect in Ho Chi Minh City?

When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in Ho Chi Minh City, they replied:

"Most expats in Vietnam were either much younger than me or much older and married. They all had great social experiences, but not a great place for a single middle aged woman as far as socializing," commented one expat who moved to Ho Chi Minh City.

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"I knew a mix of other expats, who I met through the Vietnamese language school I attended. I knew a few Vietnamese people I met various ways. Both were important," added one expat living in Ho Chi Minh City.

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What advice to expats in Ho Chi Minh City have about housing?

"I found a local broker who helped me find a good apartment and translated all the paperwork and negotiations with the landlord. Highly recommend doing that," said one expat living in Ho Chi Minh City.

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What are medical services in Ho Chi Minh City like?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Ho Chi Minh City, they replied:

"In Vietnam, most medication can be purchased just by going to the pharmacy, no doctor visit needed. Cheap, high quality, and convenient. Dental care was extremely high quality and very cheap. Basic medical care was also very high quality and very good prices. Specialist care was difficult because of language barriers," said an expat in Ho Chi Minh City.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood 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.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
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