Congratulations! Since you landed on this article, I’m assuming you have decided and almost ready to move to Vietnam. But if you are still unsure because, let’s face it, moving aboard is always a big decision. To help you, check out our popular article about reasons to move to Vietnam.
You deciding to move here is only the step 1 (you’re one step closer to the new chapter of your life!), we don’t mean to put more pressure on you but there are more things to do. To make sure everything is in the right place before the big move. We don’t want you to make the mistakes that many expats have done in the past.
In this article, we will highlight the things that you must pack before leaving for good (or at least for now). Even though many products that made in Vietnam are being sold in the west or Europe, that doesn’t mean these products can be found here easily or the quality is the same.
Another major factor to consider on what to pack is where you will be living. Because the north of Vietnam can get really cold during winter – no one warned me about that. If you haven’t decided yet, here’s our where to live in Vietnam post.
If you are moving with heavy boxes and need a moving company, we highly recommend our partner, Evolve Mobility. They are the first nature-first moving company in Vietnam that focused on recycling many boxes and single-use plastic to help save our planet. You can find more about them here.
We categorise everything as much as we can to help you ease your reading. You may also use the table of contents to navigate easier and faster.
DOCUMENTS TO PACK
Never ever leave your home country without having the right and legal documents ready. Trying to get a hold of a bank card or finalising your insurance after you left home can be expensive and a hell of a problem. You don’t want to start your new life this way.
Here are the documents that you must have in possession before you land in Vietnam:
- Your Passport – the passport you have must be e-readable and valid for the next six months
- A valid Vietnam visa – even many foreigners do not need a visa to enter Vietnam, while some can get them online, depending on your needs. Either way, you must have a valid visa. You can check the articles about different types of Vietnam visa and how to obtain one.
- A bank card (debit/credit card) from home – of course, you can open a bank in Vietnam pretty easily however, you must still have a working debit or credit card at home for emergency purposes. Check out the cost of living in Vietnam or how much does it cost to move to Vietnam.
- Travel or health insurance – hospitalisation is not very expensive in Vietnam, however, if you wish to be attended by a foreign or English speaking doctor or physician in an international hospital, they don’t come cheap. Here are the international hospitals in Vietnam.
- Work and school documents – remember to pack your school and work documents, big chances are your future employer or school/university will ask for this. If you have kids that are moving with you, you must pack theirs too.
- Other identity cards or paper – apart from your passport, bring your driver’s license, if you have an international one, you may be able to convert it into a Vietnamese so you can drive legally in Vietnam. You should also bring your birth certificate with you.
Many electronics and gadgets in Vietnam are knockoffs while the authentic ones can be more expensive than in Europe or North America. There is an online webshop like Amazon (it’s called Lazada) where you can find affordable products, however, the quality may be less good than ones from your home country.
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 the good branded ones
- Power converters and adaptors – Vietnam electricity supply are 220 Volts at 50Hz while the power plugs come in two types; Type A (two flat vertical pins), type C and F (two round pins).
- Camera – you can easily find a knock-off version here but for a camera with a good warranty, it’s a lot better to get them from home. They also often cheaper compared to the prices in Vietnam. Remember it’s accessories too especially for an action camera.
- Laptop – if you will be needing a keyboard the same as from your home country, you should get one before arriving in Vietnam.
- E-book reader – although it’s available here, the brand that you prefer may not be or the latest model that they have
CLOTHES AND FOOTWEAR
Vietnamese are naturally slim which means that you will have the hardest time in finding western and European sizes here. They don’t really use any standard sizing, some come in S, M, L, XL while others are in numbers like 30,32,33,34,35, etc.. – it’s basically unreliable.
Don’t get offended if your medium size at home comes in XXL here, that’s a pretty normal thing to happen. While many expats would find a tailor to get their work clothes customised, they can be pricey or takes time to be finished.
Make sure you have these clothes packed:
- Cotton T-shirt – 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
- Working clothes/ formal – same problem 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 are going to teach in Vietnam.
- Gym and walking shoes, sandals, etc – if you are size above 38 (7 US, 5 UK) for women and 41 (8 US, 7.5 UK) for men, make sure you have all your shoes ordered and packed before leaving for Vietnam. There is no way to get a hold of these sizes unless you can spend money and have time to go to a tailor.
- Pants – even pants are an adventure to find, they either too small or not long enough, save yourself from the stress and bring a few with you
- Bikinis / Swim clothes – even these tiny piece of clothing are hard to find or expensive to get, make sure you have them with you to enjoy the beaches in Vietnam
- Any clothes if you need a medium to larger sizes
You can also read our post about the dress code in Vietnam.
Women Bras and Underwear
The same goes for women’s bras and underwear. Most bras in Vietnam are padded and/with metal that many expat women find uncomfortable. 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 are concern about.
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 shoe size is already an issue, don’t even expect that socks of high quality and perfect fitting can be found easily.
Yes, even bedroom items can be a problem. Many expats find the bed sheet, pillowcases, and duvet (if you are going to live in the north) are often not 100% cotton, not breathable, and warm. These items are also surprisingly pricey.
KITCHEN AND COOKING
Here are some snack and food brands that many expats wish to have brought with them. Brands that cannot be found in Vietnam or are just too expensive.
- Vegemite, Iced Vovos, Karamello Koalas, Mint Slices, Minties, Twisted – Australia
- Marmite – UK
- Proper Tea Bag
- Oats (Kolln) – Germany + Dr. Oetker
- Nuts – walnuts,
Food Allergy and Vegan/Vegetarian Diet
If you have any food allergy, are a vegan/vegetarian, or have a specific diet due to your religious beliefs, many Vietnamese foods are cooked with fish sauce. While some (quite rare) locals use other ingredients such as snake, crab, scorpion wine (fermented wine) etc. It is also common for Vietnamese to add coriander to many dishes.
If you are allergic to any of these, always pack your anti-allergy pills. While those with restricted diet, always ask first what ingredients are being used.
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.
FOR PERSONAL CARE AND TOILETRIES
For your personal care and toiletries, many western and European products are not available in Vietnam. If you find one, it can be fake or expensive.
Unisex personal care and toiletries to pack:
- electric toothbrush heads
- contact lenses (toric and branded ones doesn’t exist or very pricey)
- dove stick deodorant
- curly hair supply – they don’t exist in Vietnam or very challenging to find
- moisturiser without whitening
- condoms (size issue)
- your preferred razor brand (+ extra razors)
- electric razor
- shaving cream
- aftershave cream
- dry shampoo
- tampax pearl (plastic applicator), tampons
- shampoo bars
- moisturiser without bleaching
- makeup brands (sephora, MAC)
- body lotion without bleaching
- shampoo, conditions, moisturisers with SPF
- laser hair removal
- natural/organic make up
- root volumising powder
- menstrual cup
Sex Toys and Paraphernalia
Sex toys are actually illegal in Vietnam, however, many expats claim that the worse thing that can happen is they confiscate them from you. While many airports (that you are departing from) are not aware (or it’s not their job to know and do something about it) that these are illegal in Vietnam.
Resulting in expats being able to bring them without a problem. If you wish to do so, bring one that doesn’t look too revealing and pack it in your check-in (empty the battery). When you and in Vietnam, the airport doesn’t scan your hand luggage, which doesn’t concern you if you place them there.
It’s hard to almost impossible to buy a sex toy in Vietnam, you will see people selling them on expat groups but there are no legal shops that are selling them. While if you need to send a sex toy out of Vietnam, this is impossible unless you declare it as another item. There is also a big risk to lose it if you use the regular post service while DHL and other international companies will charge way more for the service or more likely will not accept it
DISCLAIMER: Sex toys are forbidden in Vietnam, we are not responsible if you personally decided to bring one with you.
HEALTH SUPPLIES AND MEDICATIONS
Every country has their own health and drug policy. While many people can only use a specific brand or product, it is a smart thing to do to pack your favourite medications in your suitcases. Some products and brands that you have at home are hard to find here, there are generic or substitute options, not many expats agree that they are as efficient as the ones they used to have.
Here are a few brands and medicines that you must bring with you:
- Arnica cream
- Cajeput oil
- Calendula cream
- Calamine lotion
- Canesten cream
- Disinfectant spray
- Lemsip sachets
- Olbas Inhaler Stick
- Panadol (+ for kids)
- Telon oil
Although they are pretty easy to find here some people are sensitive to the quality especially when it comes to safety. If you do a specific sport or your career is in this field, you may want to bring your equipment with you. Check out these few sports gear that we think you should pack as well:
- Helmet – there is a big chance that you will hop on a motorbike often since it’s the main transportation in Vietnam. While a helmet can be bought easily here, they don’t meet the western standard, more likely, it will fail to do its job when you get into a serious accident.
- Yoga mat – the mats that you can find in Vietnam are lower quality, however, if you can spare to spend a little more, it’s not hard to find a good one but it’s not cheap. You may be able to find one in your home country for cheap.
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 and while you are looking for an alternative.
- Baby clothing/shoes – if you prefer 100% cotton, the ones here can be pricey
- Diaper – there are also size issue with baby items, also it is a good thing to pack while you find the suitable brand for your baby here
- Baby food – they are available here, but it will take you time to find which is the best for your baby, you should also expect that they will be in Vietnamese
- 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 at home
Dog and cat food are pretty easy to find, while the options for the toys are also not a challenge. But if your pet is taking any specific medication, you should bring enough supplies with you while you learn or find a substitute for it in the future.
For more information about bringing your pet/s in Vietnam with you, check this article.
A few other things that you may want to pack with you:
- English books/cookbooks
- Extra charger for a gadget that you think you won’t find here
- Reusable items that you love – Vietnam has serious problem with single-use plastic to help in your own little way. Remember to pack your favourite reusable items because you might not find them here. Check out this list of Eco-friendly travel accessories.
Bottom line is, unless you are willing to spend money on good brands, you won’t get the quality that you want. Unless you are willing to wait and pay more for customised clothes, the sizing here is too small or short for western and Europeans.DOWNLOAD OUR FREE PRINTABLE MOVING TO VIETNAM CHECKLIST
We hope that you found this moving to Vietnam checklist. Remember that these are based on our experiences, we may be not have covered or mentioned everything. If you are an expat in Vietnam and wish to add anything to the list, just leave us a comment below or message us on our social media accounts or email us.