HOW TO MOVE TO VIETNAM: What To Prepare, What To Know, Moving Tips

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Since I recently moved back to Vietnam, I feel like this is the perfect time to write this post for those who are looking to do this big move to this beautiful country that I honestly love a lot and always find myself coming back to.

This article will walk you through on what to prepare and how to move to Vietnam. If you already read these reasons to move and have decided to bite the bullet and do it, the next thing you have to do is follow this guide.

HOW TO MOVE TO VIETNAM, STEP-BY-STEP

How to Move to Vietnam

For years that I’ve been managing this website, actively being members of online communities for expats in Vietnam, and advocating the expat life in Vietnam for years now, one thing I always notice is how often people miss two things; visas and job possibility.

For me, it’s not an issue since I work online but if finding a suitable job is something on your agenda, you have to be ready and get all the information you need to be prepared and make a smart decision.

Why Are You Thinking To Move

At this point, since you’re already looking for answers on how to move to Vietnam, you probably have set your mind at nearly 80% to this decision. But ask yourself again, why do I want to move?. Is it to start a new life, to retire, to improve your career, to change careers, to live in a lower cost of living country, or simply to give it a try?

The answer will affect if moving here is a good idea or if you should abandon ship and look at some other options. With such big decision like this, you need to know the reason why you’re moving to make things easier or to simply check things off your list before doing more work about the move.

Do You Need A Work in Vietnam

If you do need to work in Vietnam, I recommend you start making a plan on how to do it. If you are planning to teach, make sure you have your documents with you and the requirements ready (most schools require you to have at least a Bachelor’s degree + TEFL/CELTA certificate).

To get a work permit as a teacher, read this post or to know more about teaching English in Vietnam, click here.

If you are planning a different work, I recommend you start looking for a possible job to have an idea if this job can be found here at a decent salary. While many expats starts their own business as well.

Some do yoga teaching, creating their own products targeting expats (eg. clothing, food, etc), opening a bar, or anything in between. If you work online, the internet speed in Vietnam is impeccable most of the time while mobile data is reliable enough.

Teaching jobs

Many foreigners heard about living in Vietnam because you can teach English regardless if you have experience in this field or not. What many don’t know is how this field is boiling right under on nasty racist problem.

Most English centres in Vietnam are looking for Native English speaker and Caucasian person. The first requirement is fair enough, schools and parents want their children or themselves to learn a specific accent.

teaching English

The second one is a textbook racist. The problem lies in parents thinking that having a white person teach their kid is an advantage, fancy looking, professional-looking, and simply aesthetically better. This topic deserves deeper and more insights, hence, I’m not going to explain it more in this post.

What I’m trying to say here is even if you are a native English speaker (from North America, Europe, Oceania, Africa) if you are not white and have a strong accent that doesn’t fall on “normal Western accent”, your job hunting as an English teacher will be a bit more challenging and frustrating – although it’s still possible.

Other jobs

Another problem with finding a job in Vietnam is a big per cent of expats here are English teachers. There is a very small percentage of other jobs available to foreigners like on the IT, tourism, service industry, while many are expats working online. Most of the non-teaching jobs pay a lot lower than being a teacher.

ALSO READ: Why digital nomads are moving to Vietnam

Cost Of Living

When moving to a new place, it goes without saying, you need to do your research. One of the most important things to consider is the cost of living, with this, you can plan the expected expenses of the moving and the first half a year of your life in the new place.

Banking in Vietnam

Cost of living in Vietnam is honestly one of the most affordable places that are friendly enough to expats to live on. In my personal experience, the housing is the best part, you can find apartments for $250 per month, and if you have more budget, you can get nicer in a more upscale part of the city for $1000 a month. Most of the apartments here are all furnished.

The grocery is what I find a bit pricier compared to other Southeast Asian countries. If I’m living on a tight budget, I can spend $20 for a week worth of grocery and mainly cooking for myself and more likely not getting the best healthy food for myself. But you can also go to grocery stores that carry international brands, obviously, it will be more costly.

The other expenses like mobile data and transportation are cheap enough while the electric bills are a little cheaper than the western countries. You can even find an apartment where the bills are all included (all furnished).

As you can imagine, living in smaller towns will be cheaper than living in big cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. For me, I’ve lived in both of these cities, the living expenses didn’t have much difference.

Now, I live in Dalat, a small mountain town in the South, 6-7 hours from Ho Chi Minh City, the cost of living is significantly lower and since the town is smaller, I didn’t have to get a motorbike (less expense), I can simply walk to most places or quickly get a motorbike taxi to get to a farther place.

For a solo living expat living on the budget side, you can spend just a little over $500 per month. You can read more about the cost of living in Vietnam.

Budget for moving to Vietnam

You do want to know the possible cost of moving to Vietnam to make sure you don’t overspend or get caught in surprise in the cost of moving. Vietnam is definitely the cheapest places in Vietnam for travelling, living here is not more expensive that than.

When writing the cost of moving here, make sure to list flights here, visa, apartment deposit (normally only 1 month but some landlords will ask for a 2-months deposit and 1-month advance, moving company services if you will need that services, budget for necessary expenses until you find a job, and wriggle room.

I recommend you read this budget for moving to Vietnam and the cost of living so you will have a better idea and this checklist for what to pack when you move.

Which Visa To Get

Now, let’s talk about legalities. Technically, there are very few visas that you can try to get as an expat. These are the most common types of visa or you can read this guide:

  • Tourist visa
  • Business Visa
  • Work visa/permit
  • Temporary residence permit
  • Student visa

Tourist visa

Lots and lots of expats in Vietnam are living and working here on a tourist visa. And yes, that’s illegal. However, Vietnam doesn’t really have a lot of options to make this legal unless you are a qualified skilled worker or an English teacher.

types of visas in Vietnam
Tourist visa

Living on a tourist visa is very common here, the most you can do is get a 3-month visa and do a visa run then enter Vietnam again with a new 3-month visa. With not much proof, some would say, you’re less likely to get questioned about this routine if you’re doing a visa run by the border, while crossing back and forth via air can run into some but rare trouble.

Read this guide on how to apply for Vietnam tourist visa

Business visa

The thing about this visa is how much on the grey area this fall into. Technically, a business visa will give you the legal rights to live, find a job, and work in Vietnam while waiting to process your work permit or temporary residence card.

Many travel agencies will tell you that they can get you a business visa which is not true. Only a few nationalities can get a business visa, one of them is the US passport holders. They can get a hold of this precious visa that is valid for one (1) year.

Student visa

This is an easy visa to get, however, there is a lot of paper you will need to process and not to mention that you actually have to be a student to be granted of this visa. The good side is, you’re legally living in Vietnam.

Retirement visa

I’m sorry to bear the bad news but Vietnam doesn’t have a retirement visa at the moment. Many retired expats here are living and using a tourist visa or business visa. While others are possessing a spouse visa (married to a Vietnamese).

Work Permit and Temporary Residence Card

Vietnam Work Permit Example
A copy of Craig’s Vietnam work permit

To get a work permit in Vietnam and temporary residence card, you will need to gather a great amount of paperwork and the best way to deal with this is to prepare them before you leave your home country.

For example, most of your educational certificates or diplomas, criminal record, etc are required to be notarized from your home country or from a specific government agency. Read this work permit and residence card guide on which papers to prepare.

Deciding Where To Live

Now it’s time for the best part (or at least my favourite part). Choosing a place to live in Vietnam is something interesting. When choosing a place to relocate, make sure to look at certain things, personally, I would add the following on my checklist for this part:

  • Availability – are there shops that sell most of the products and services you need and want
  • Transportation – is there an international airport or domestic airport or train stations that can take you outside of Vietnam or to the next big city in a short period of time
  • Comfortability – are there housing/apartments that have comfortable set up (hot shower, well-built building, furnished)
  • Affordability – is the cost of living in this city/town meets on your budget while still living on the comfort you are looking for
  • Job availability – if you need to find work, this is something that has to be on top of your list when choosing for a place to live
  • Expat community – knowing if the city/town you’re moving to has a large expat community is a great way to measure if you’ll have an easy time to build new relationships and friendships
  • Weather and pollution – I’ve lived both in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and both places have horrible air pollution while the weather is also something that I don’t enjoy the much

I recommend you read this best city to live in Vietnam post

Finding a new house before arriving or once you’re here

When choosing a place to live and you are moving by yourself, you don’t need to find an apartment right away. Stay in hotels or BnBs while apartment hunting. However, if you are moving with your family, perhaps, you should rent a villa or an entire house for a month while looking for a suitable place to rent or live.

Many people especially those who have furniture to move or a big family to bring, finding a new place before arriving can be practical. If you go on this direction, I strongly recommend you either fly to Vietnam before the big move and start looking for a place or don’t sign for an apartment or house rent longer than six (6) months.

In case you don’t like the place you found, at least you have a house while looking for a new one without losing your deposit or having to endure a place you don’t feel at home. Many landlords are willing to offer a 6-months contract.

Many housings in Vietnam are on the western standard however, many hidden problems are hard to find unless you already moved in and made yourself and your family feel at home.

How to find an apartment in Vietnam

Finding an apartment in Vietnam is not very hard as long as you know where you want to live, what living arrangement you are looking for, and your budget.

One of the best ways to find an apartment is through Facebook groups, however, there are also sites that you can use although they are not well-translated into English, so expect a little challenge on that part.

What you need to remember is that expats come and go in Vietnam or move around the country often, so there are always apartment opening up. It’s best to sign the apartment contract once you are here and be able to inspect the place to avoid losing your deposit. Read this article about finding an apartment in Vietnam.

Best Time to Move to Vietnam

How to Move to Vietnam

You probably never thought to look up the best time to move to a new city or even country, but in Vietnam, this can affect your accommodation hunting or even job opportunities.

I moved to Ho Chi Minh the first time around August, which was a pretty good time to move. This time, the school year has just started, so if you are planning to move a few months before that, it’s the perfect time to find English teaching jobs. On the other side, it’s most likely that your options for apartments to choose from can be a challenge but not too bad.

I then moved to Dalat at the beginning of December which I think is the worst time to move to Vietnam. December is high season for tourism industry since many foreigners are travelling, it’s a peak season.

A city like Dalat which attracts both locals and foreigners at this time of the year, many apartment owners would rather rent their apartment day to day basis instead of long-term rentals. They can charge a minimum of $20 a day and even up to $80. While renting a studio are offered for only $200 a month or even less.

After December comes the biggest festival or public holiday in Vietnam called TET holiday or Vietnamese New Year which lasts for over a week. Again, apartment owners would rather rent out their rooms as day-to-day instead of monthly.

In my opinion, the best time to move to Vietnam is between March to May and then again July to November when it comes to job availability. While if you want to find the best apartments at the cheapest cost, June to August is a good time since most expats would go home for a holiday and leave their apartment.

Moving Companies

If you have large things to move from your current home to Vietnam, finding a moving company would be ideal to avoid all the hassle. This company can walk you through bringing your furniture and car and will assist you on the legalities of this process.

Read this moving to Vietnam checklist for packing

International Schools

For those expats who are moving with their children, you should start looking at international schools from the city that you’ve chosen to live or perhaps it’s one of the boxes that must be ticked off before you decide which city to live.

There are many international schools in Vietnam, mainly in big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Da Nang. Looking up to these schools will help you prepare which documents to bring with you and what to expect from the school system. This will also help you prepare on how much they might cost. Create a checklist to make this hunting easier.

Once you made a final list of schools you want to check out, visit them with your kids once you arrive before signing up for anything.

You should also remember that not all international schools claim to be “certified” are actually certified. Make sure to do your research beforehand.

Expat Community

Vietnam has a large expat community, they are mostly in the big cities but sometimes even in small towns, you might find one, if not, at least there will be some foreign tourists motorbiking in the unbeaten path.

The community is largely composed of English teachers, while there are also many foreigners who are married to a local and have started a business here. The age range is very wide as well and foreign families immigrating to Vietnam is pretty common too, you shouldn’t have a problem building a new friendship. Here are the most active Facebook groups that you can join.

READ THIS: What to do once you moved to Vietnam

FINAL THOUGHTS

Moving to Vietnam shouldn’t be a hard work although it can take a good organising skill especially if you are moving with children or moving your pets to Vietnam. There are things to consider and many decisions to make but once everything is settled down, you will be ready to start your own routine in a different country, environment, and welcome new experiences.

I think I’ve covered most of the vital topics, but if you think I missed anything, let me know in the comment section below. I hope this how to move to Vietnam guide has been useful, if you have questions, I’ll be happy to help.

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