The first time I visited Vietnam I fell in love with the culture, the people, and the food. The price of everything wasn’t terrible either. I only planned to be in the country for a month and that wasn’t nearly enough time to enjoy all Vietnam has to offer.
A little over a year later and I found myself back in Canada and questioning what to do next, when I decided to pack my things up again and do as so many from my generation have accomplished and become a digital nomad in a foreign country. Here is how I managed to move to Vietnam.
Getting a Visa
Almost all nationalities require a visa* and the process is relatively painless for everyone. As of 2018, the stamping fee upon arrival for single-entry visas (both 1 and 3 month) is $25 US, where multiple entry is $50 US (both 1 and 3 month). Before entering the country and depending on what country you reside from, you may have to apply for an approval letter, which can cost an additional $20-$30 US and can be done online through a private company and should be completed at least 2 days prior.
If you left things until the last-minute, forgot, or didn’t know you had to get an approval letter, don’t worry, there is an option for express/urgent approval at an additional $10 US.
*Vietnam is relatively relaxed for tourists working in the country and a tourist visa is a viable option while working here.
With the number of hostels and guesthouses in Vietnam, it’s extremely easy to find a place to stay in the meantime until you move into an apartment. There are lots of hostel/booking sites out there helping you connect to spaces at a reasonable price, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to fly by the seat of your pants and do things on a whim, you can always get to the main tourist area and check for availability when you arrive.
Finding an apartment in Ho Chi Minh is made simple by posting a wanted ad in a couple Facebook Groups aimed at helping expats get settled and checking the apartment section on Craigslist. After only a few minutes you’ll be bombarded with offers ranging in price, but all being newly renovated or built.
You’ll be able to find a spacious bachelor suite or a shared room in a house for under $400 US/month (this includes water, garbage disposal, WiFi, and sometimes electricity). Within a week of looking for an apartment I found a spacious bachelor for $350 US/month everything included, less electricity, but at 3,500 VND/kWh(~$0.15 US) it’s not all that much over the month.
Landing A Job
Starting to look for a job is one of the most daunting things I’ve had to do in my adult life. Not only do you have to figure out your strongest abilities, where you want to work, and what you want to do, but couple that with creating an embellished selling of your soul to gain the opportunity to further talk with the managers and CEO about how great you are. To me, it’s an overwhelming process that I tend to put off for as long as possible.
After you’ve spent countless hours procrastinating and then finally perfecting your cover letter and resume, it’s time to start applying to some jobs.
There are plenty of resources and platforms for you to begin your job search for expats living in Vietnam and if you’re planning to teach English, like all too many expats come to here do, you’ll be happy to know there are heaps of posting for part- and full-time teachers in Ho Chi Minh City.
Although most places require you to have some form of a teaching certificate of English, many centers neither require you to be certified, nor do they care if you’re a native speaker. Not to mention the amount of online teaching mediums to apply to, so finding a teaching job to generate some income should be a piece of cake!
If you’re an entrepreneur and own your own business or only like to work for yourself, there are groups on Facebook for ‘Digital Nomads’ from around the world helping people living abroad and working from a computer find work.
Now What About Food?
I’m not sure about you, but when going to a new destination, food is high on my priorities list and being vegetarian makes it all the more difficult when venturing into a different culture’s cuisine. Fear not! Vietnam, although a lot of their meals revolve around eating meat and using animal products in soups, is starting to cater to people with strict dietary needs, such as vegetarian and vegan.
Strolling down the street and visiting a local restaurant is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to eat around. At as little as 16,000 VND($0.70 US) you’ll be treated to a plate of rice (Cơm) and vegetables/meats prepared in different ways. Maybe it’s a hot bowl of Phở you’re looking for, a typical Vietnamese beef broth soup with noodles, meat, and vegetables, which you can also find at a local restaurant walking around your neighborhood.
Now if you’re like me and have an aversion to eating meat, then HappyCow is your new best friend when traveling around. The Android app is free, with Apple users having to pay $6. The easy-to-use app shows you either a list or map of places offering vegetarian/vegan options in any country, with user comments, photos, and ratings to help you decide where you want to begin your feast!
Another golden tip when unsure about what you’re putting in your mouth is to learn how to say ‘vegetarian’ in Vietnamese. This has saved me more times than I can count on my hands and it’s an easy term to say, too. ‘An Cháy’. You may get a puzzled look at first, maybe because they’re not expecting you to speak Vietnamese or your pronunciation needs a little fine tuning, but it will get the message across and you’ll be eating delicious vegetarian meals in no time!
So there you have it. If ever you’ve considered jumping ship and starting anew in a foreign land, I hope this guide will serve as some reassurance that even though things may seem difficult and hard to get started, there is hope and the amount of resources on the internet helping people relocate and start all over again is endless and easy to find.