Living in Vietnam can offer a true taste of life in the East. Vietnam is a poor, densely populated country that has historically been associated with war and a punishing centrally planned economy. Today, however, it is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination and its beautiful countryside and beaches are becoming as much renowned as its tragic past.
Although Vietnam is a relatively small country, covering a total area of approximately 329,500 square kilometers, it is home to 54 different ethnic groups. Of these the most significant group if the Kinh (Viet) people, who account for 86% of the total population. It is divided into 58 provinces and there are 5 centrally-controlled municipalities existing at the same level as provinces. These are Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho.
Vietnam as an Expat Destination
Vietnam has become increasingly popular as an expat destination in recent years and it is now recognized as a safe place for foreigners to live and work. Expats are attracted by the nice weather, low cost of living, lively culture and the steady improvements in Vietnam’s infrastructure. Despite the advantages there are still some issues that expats complain about on a regular basis when living in Vietnam. Top of this list is the pollution and it is common to see Vietnam’s residents, expats and locals alike, wearing masks in order to prevent the inhalation of dirty fumes. A further problem is the traffic conditions. The streets are regularly congested with high volumes of cars and bikes and Vietnam has one of the highest road fatality rates in the whole world.
Cost of Living in Vietnam
Vietnam has a comparatively low cost of living and expatriates can live a very comfortable life here with a moderate expenditure. In the 2012 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Hanoi’s position remained unchanged on the previous year at 136 in the list of most expensive cities in the world. There is varied accommodation available to suit all budgets, from up-market apartments in major cities through to modest houses in the suburbs.
Expatriates observe a big difference in the price of local food and western food in Vietnam and those who are prepared to eat at the local bars and restaurants will find that they can eat good food out at a very low price. Many western bars and restaurants, however, are much more expensive. As with many Asian cities, beer and spirits are very cheap but wine is expensive.
Our relocation guide to Vietnam contains a comprehensive list of all the costs of living in this Asian city, including groceries, eating and dining out, local and private transport, schools and education and a whole host of other living expenses.
Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer.
Vietnam has a largely tropical climate in the south and monsoonal in north.
Living in Vietnam: Expat Job and Career Opportunities
Work opportunities for expats living in Vietnam are rare but it is not entirely impossible to secure suitable work. There are growing opportunities in fields related to not-for-profit international development work. Websites such as www.interaction.org contain details about opportunities in the region. Be aware, however, that jobs in these areas are generally limited to people who have previous experience in this type of work.
In addition to NGO work, computer related skills are also in demand and there are teaching jobs available throughout the region.
Key Facts Every Expat Should Know About Living in Vietnam
- Vietnam currently uses three separate currencies, gold is used to purchase land and housing, US Dollars are used for luxury items and Vietnam Dong is used for day-to-day items.
- While actual land ownership is not possible at this time for non-Vietnamese, expats living in Vietnam can gain a 50-year lease for land and then build a house upon that land.
- Foreigners are currently not allowed to rent or drive a car in Vietnam without a Vietnamese driver’s license. Motorbikes can be used.
- Citizens from some countries are not permitted visas for entry to Vietnam. A full list of these countries can be found here.
Living in Vietnam: City Guides
Expat Info Desk currently has a city guide available for living in Hanoi. This exhaustive guide contains everything you need to know about relocating to this Vietnamese city and will assist you to:
- relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
- settle in to your new life quickly and easily and find the help and assistance you need, when you need it.
- identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
- find the right places to meet like-minded people.
- find schools that are suitable for your children and their learning needs.
- ensure that your family get the most of their experiences abroad.
- prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
- deal with any transition challenges.
- cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
Unlike a book, Expat Info Desk guides are regularly reviewed and updated in order to ensure that the information is accurate and reliable and because the guides are written by real expats who live and work in expat Hanoi, you can be assured that you are accessing the information that you need as written by people who really are in the know.