You deciding to move here is only step 1 – you’re one step closer to the new chapter of your life, whether that’s teaching or working in Vietnam, or something else! But now it’s time to get down to crucial of matters like your budget for moving and packing for your extended stay.
In this article, we will give you tips and a packing check list for a long stay in Vietnam. What’s key here is bringing things that are tough or impossible to find in Vietnam, while leaving behind others that can easily be purchased, often for much cheaper, once you are there.
What you put on your Vietnam packing list will depend on which city you live in Vietnam, its seasons/weather, and how long you’ll stay. If you’re only going for a short stay, then we recommend heading over to our similar article on what to pack for traveling in Vietnam.
Vietnam Packing Checklist
So let’s get down to it. Here is our recommended packing checklist for anyone moving to Vietnam, separated into categories of documents, electronics, clothing, kitchen products, toiletries, health supplies, sports gear, baby items, pet supplies, and others.
Documents & Cards
Never leave your home country without having the right and legal documents ready. Trying to get ahold of a bank or finalizing your insurance after you’ve left home can be expensive and a hell of a problem. You don’t want to start your new life this way.
Here are some documents you might need to have in possession before you land in Vietnam:
- Passport – the passport you have must be e-readable and valid for the next six months
- A valid Vietnam visa – we recommend using ivisa for your Vietnam visa. For more info, see our articles about the different types of Vietnam visa and how to obtain one, and visas for US citizens.
- A bank card (debit/credit card) from home – of course, you can open a bank in Vietnam pretty easily. However, it’s a good idea to have a working debit or credit card from home for emergency purposes.
- Travel/health insurance documents – hospitalization is not very expensive in Vietnam. But, if you wish to be attended by a foreign or English-speaking doctor or physician in an international hospital, they don’t come cheap. Also, things can sometimes go wrong, so insurance is never a bad idea.Here’s our list of international hospitals in Vietnam and best insurance plans for Vietnam.
- Degree and other educational documents – if you’re planning to teach, they’ll want to see your original degree plus any other certificates you have, like TELF courses
- Other identity cards or papers– apart from your passport, bring your driver’s license, which you may be able to convert it into Vietnamese so you can drive legally in Vietnam, or an international license, which you can usually only apply for in your home country. You should also bring your birth certificate with you, which may be needed when applying for your work permit or certain jobs.
Click on the below image to see the visa application times and prices for your country:
Many electronics and gadgets in Vietnam are knockoffs, while authentic ones can be more expensive than in Europe or North America. Vietnam has an online store like Amazon (it’s called Lazada) where you can find affordable electronics. However, the quality is always a gamble.
Here are some electronic gadgets you may want to add to your packing list:
- External hard drive – these can be very pricey in Vietnam, especially good brand-name ones
- Power converters and adaptors – Vietnam’s electricity supply is 220 Volts at 50Hz while the power plugs come in three types
- Camera – you can easily find a knock-off version here, but for a camera with guaranteed quality and a good warranty, it’s better to bring one from home. Good cameras are often more expensive in Vietnam than Europe or North American anyways, including accessories.
- Laptop – if you will be needing a keyboard the same as from your home country, you should get one before arriving in Vietnam. The ones in Vietnam usually have Vietnamese symbols on the keys.
- Smartphone – make sure it’s unlocked so you can easily add your local SIM card when you arrive – super cheap.
Clothes and footwear
Vietnamese tend to be short and slim, which means that you will have a very hard time finding Western or European sizes here. They don’t really use any standard sizing, either – some come in S, M, L, XL, while others are in numbers like 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, etc…
Don’t get offended if your medium size at home comes in XXL here. While many expats find a local tailor to get their work clothes customized, it would be easier if you just brought what you need from home. If you’re not sure how casual or formal to go, read our detailed dress code guide for Vietnam.
Here are some clothing items you’ll probably want to pack:
- Cotton T-shirts – the fabric in Vietnam are often low quality – cotton is expensive and doesn’t come as 100%, resulting in very warm when wearing and deformed after only a few washes
- Work/formal clothes – same problems arise with sizing and fabric type – you will waste hours if not days finding a good set of clothes for work. While branded ones exist here, they are not affordable. Make sure you bring proper working clothes especially if you’re planning to work.
- Shoes and sandals – if you above size 38 (7 US, 5 UK) for women and 41 (8 US, 7.5 UK) for men, make sure you have all your shoes purchased and packed before leaving for Vietnam. It is very difficult to find larger shoes in Vietnam.
- Pants – even good pants can be an adventure to find in Vietnam. They either too small or not long enough. Save yourself from the stress and bring a few with you.
- Bikinis / Swimsuits – even these tiny pieces of clothing are hard to find or expensive when you can find them. Make sure you have them with you to enjoy the beaches in Vietnam
- Pretty much any clothes that you have specific preference for, or need larger sizes for
Extra tip: bras and underwear for women
Most bras in Vietnam are padded and come with metal parts that many expat women find uncomfortable. Also, if you are above a B cup, you may want to bring at least 5 sets with you.
While underwear normally comes in satin or silk fabric, many kinds of cotton are not 100%. Sexy underwear is also hard to find in the sizes that many expat women need.
Extra tip: men’s underwear and socks
A lot of men expat also notice how hard and time consuming it is to find comfortable underwear that fits their size. Since we already know that shoe size and fabrics can be an issue, it follows that socks of high quality and perfect fit can not be found easily.
Yes, even bedroom items can be a problem. Many expats find the bed sheet, pillowcases, and duvets (if you are going to live in the north) are often not 100% cotton. A common complaint is that the are not breathable or that they are too warm in every season but winter. These items are also surprisingly pricey.
If you don’t want to haul these things across the world, you’ll just have to make do. But for summers, or pretty much any season in the south, we find a gold old sarong to be the perfect thin bedsheet.
Let’s be honest – you probably won’t be cooking all that much in Vietnam. Street food is delicious and dirt cheap, sometimes cheaper than cooking it yourself. Still, some people do prefer to cook at home no matter what.
If you love to cook and bake or planning to make a living out of it, you might as well pack your favourite cooking tools with you. They can be hard to find in Vietnam. If you have moving boxes to ship anyway, it’s just a smart thing to do to pack a few in a box.
However, for the average person, you can find basic kitchen utensils and appliances in Vietnam for cheap, so don’t worry about it.
Here are some snack and food brands that many expats miss from home and wish they had brought with them. Brands/products that cannot be found in Vietnam or are just too expensive include:
- Vegemite, Iced Vovos, Karamello Koalas, Mint Slices, Minties, Twisted (all from Australia)
- Marmite – UK
- Proper tea bags
- Oats (Kolln from Germany) + Dr. Oetker
- Certain nuts, such as walnuts
Food allergies and vegan/vegetarian diet items
If you have any food allergies are a vegan/vegetarian, or have a specific diet due to your religious beliefs, many Vietnamese foods are cooked with meat, fish sauce, or other seafoods. On the plus side, most Vietnamese food is gluten-free!
If you need any supplements, vitamins, or specific food items for your diet, bring some from home.
Personal Care and Toiletries
For your personal care and toiletries, many Western and European products are not available in Vietnam. If you find them, they could be fake or very expensive.
- sex toys (yeah, we said it). They are actually illegal in Vietnam! But so long as you don’t bring anything too large and wild, you should have no problem bringing it in.
- electric toothbrush + extra heads
- contact lenses (toric and Western brand-name ones doesn’t exist or are very pricey)
- deodorant – hard to find
- curly hair supplies – they don’t exist in Vietnam or are very challenging to find
- moisturizer without whitening – all the local ones have whiteners in them
- condoms (especially if you’re well equipped 🙂
- your preferred razor brand (+ extra razors)
- electric razor if preferred
- shaving cream
- cologne – if you have a preferred brand
- shampoo and conditioner – if you have a preferred brand
- Tampax pearl (plastic applicator), tampons and/or menstrual cup
- shampoo bars
- moisturizer without bleaching/whitening agents, and/or with SPF
- foreign/preferred makeup brands (Sephora, MAC)
- body lotion without bleaching
- hair removal items
- natural/organic make up
- root volumising powder
Medications and Health Supplies
If you have any very specific medications or health devices that you need, it is a good idea to bring them. Make sure the bottles are labelled to avoid any hassle at the airport.
Some products and brands that you have at home are hard to find here. There may be generic or substitute options, but many expats find they just aren’t quite the same as familiar ones from home.
Here are a few brands and items that it would be a good idea to bring if you think you might need them:
- Arnica cream
- Cajeput oil
- Calendula cream
- Calamine lotion
- Canesten cream
- Disinfectant spray
- Lemsip sachets
- Olbas Inhaler Stick
- Panadol / Tylenol
- Telon oil
Although most sports gear is easy to find here, some sport enthusiasts may be particular about the quality, materials, or brand they use. If unsure, just bring whatever you need. For example:
- Helmet – there is a big chance that you will hop on a motorbike, since it’s the main form of transportation in Vietnam. While a helmet can be bought easily here, most of them are low quality. If you care a lot about this, bring your own.
- Yoga mat – the mats that you can find in Vietnam tend to be very low quality. They have better ones, but at a cost. If this is crucial to you, bring one.
If you are moving with your kids and/or baby, make sure to pack these items with you to lessen any hassle or issues once you are here.
- Baby clothing/shoes – if you prefer 100% cotton, the ones here can be pricey
- Diapers – some expat parents find that the local ones just don’t fit right. At the very least, bring enough to last you until you get settled and find some you like here.
- Baby food – it’s available here, but it will take you time to the best one for your baby. Expect the labels to be in Vietnamese, too, so you may not be able to read what’s in them.
- Baby/kids medicine – make sure to bring enough medicine that your baby or the kids are used to
- Pram/Stroller – for a higher quality, you should bring the one you have from home
Dog and cat food is pretty easy to find in Vietnam, so you don’t have to haul over your weight in pet food. Pet toys, not so much, so bring one or two. If your pet is taking any specific medication, you should bring enough supplies with you to last until you find a substitute for it in Vietnam.
For more info, see our dedicated article about bringing and raising pets in Vietnam.
Other items for your checklist
A few other things that you may want to pack for moving to Vietnam:
- English books/guidebooks
- Small gifts related to your country (magnets, shot glasses, pencils, etc), especially for teachers
- Reusable daily items – Vietnam has serious problem with single-use plastics. For example, coffee cup, straw, utensils, etc.
Last but not least, if you’re are moving with heavy boxes and need a moving company, we recommend Evolve Mobility!
We hope that you found this packing checklist for moving to Vietnam useful. If we made any major omissions, let us know in the comments below!