Is Vietnam good for Digital Nomads?

Vietnam is a wonderful country with beautiful landscape, a warm climate, stunning beaches and very low cost of living.
But is Vietnam good for Digital Nomads?

On the face of it, most people would say, yes! But like all places, it’s not perfect.

As someone who’s lived in both Chiang Mai, Thailand and now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

I can definitely answer this.

Cost of Living

Vietnam is good for Digital Nomads for many reasons.

Foremost is the cost of living, Vietnam is famed for its low cost of living, everyone knows this.

Personally, I live a very nice life with a $1,400 monthly budget.
I know of certain friends who live for much less at around $750 per month.

But I like a little luxury.

I live in Sunrise City View, District 7.
My place costs me 10.5 million VND ($453.14 USD) per month, plus bills which is usually around 1 million VND ($43.16 USD).

I have a really nice pool with a BBQ area which you can book for private events.

A modern gym, with table tennis, table football and big open areas for activities.

Downstairs you have lots of restaurants, a legit massage centre and shopping for groceries.

Day to day I spend about 450K VND on general food eating at nice places, with decent Wi-Fi, good AC and where the staff don’t mind me staying for 4-5 hours while I work.

Song Bistro & Cafe
Song Bistro & Cafe

Overall, this is what I spend money on per month.

  • 10.5m VND – Rent
  • 1m VND – Bills
  • 13.5m VND – Food & Daily life
  • 2m VND – VISA
  • 1.5m VND – Medical Insurance
  • 3m VND – Other

Totalling 31.5m VND ($1359.43 USD) per month.

The Hustle & Bustle

What makes Vietnam truly a place to live as a Digital Nomad is the hustle and bustle.

In Vietnam, you are surrounded by people who are hardworking, always striving to improve their habits, make more money and take their lives to the next level.

You often hear the saying…
You are the average of your 5 closest friends.

So if you surround yourself with hardworking, successful people.
You will ultimately become successful yourself.

Their habits will reflect upon you, you will be influenced by them.
Vietnam has this in spades.

You will often hear about people working from 8am – 8pm, Monday – Friday.
Only to come into the office for Saturday morning.

Working late into the evening with a smile
Working late into the evening with a smile

As someone who comes from the UK and is much more used to 9am – 5:30pm.

It’s inspiring… and a little terrifying.

Overall, I have found it makes me step up; it motivates me and pushes me to the next level.

Internet & WiFI

At first glance, most people would say the internet is really fast in Vietnam.
In my apartment I can safely get 80mb up and down, which is pretty decent.

Speed Test on Friday Evening from my Home
Speed Test on Friday Evening from my Home

But the problem for a Digital Nomad in Vietnam is a little harder to understand.

You have a big difference between Domestic Internet speeds and International speeds.

Unfortunately for Vietnam, they do not have a large capacity for international data.

You know those undersea cables that join the world together?

The entire of Vietnam has 7 cables, with the 3 for Ho Chi Minh City listed below.

  • Asia Africa Europe-1
  • Asia-America Gateway
  • Tata TGN-Intra Asia
Vietnam Submarine Cables
Vietnam Submarine Cables

The result of this means most providers in Vietnam need to limit your speed for any connection outside of Vietnam.

Simply because you just don’t have enough bandwidth for everyone.
And the limit can be VERY slow sometimes, we’re talking 2mb.

Compared to Singapore which has over 20 cables and a population of under 6 million.

vs.

7 cables with nearly 96 million population in Vietnam.
You get the idea.

Singapore Submarine Cables
Singapore Submarine Cables

For me, this poses a problem late in the evening times.
At 4pm Vietnam time, Europe is waking up so the communication between the 2 continents, increases.

Most of the time, it’s NOT an enormous problem, it’s more annoying, it’s only an enormous problem when a cable goes down.

Which happens occasionally, twice just this year…

And when it does, it can be a few days to a few weeks to get fixed.
So… forget sending large files to America or Europe in the evening times when a cable is down.

Remember, you require someone to dive to the bottom of the ocean, just to fix it.

VISA

One of the big pains as a Digital Nomad is the entire issue around VISA’s, that’s where Vietnam comes in.

In other countries, you get your stamp or short term VISA for 3 months.

Awesome!

But…

Sometimes, the day you land and the day your VISA expires doesn’t quite match up with your LIFE plan.

I remember having to skip out on Songkran in Thailand due to my VISA expiring 1 day before the festival (I’d already extended it).

A pain in the butt.

Vietnam currently offers you to extend your VISA as many times as you like, as long as you have a sponsor.

Passport Stamps
Passport Stamps

Fortunately, many agencies will handle all of this for you.

I personally recommend Jane SNVI, they’re a dedicated Vietnamese VISA expert company in Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.

I have used them every time I needed my VISA extending.

They pick it up from my apartment, sort it out, and deliver it back about 1 week later.

The cost varies from time to time, but my last VISA extension for 1 month was $70 USD.
A 3 month VISA extension can be much more expensive at over $300 USD, so I often just go by monthly.
And I’ve been here for nearly one year and have not left the country.

For the latest pricing, check here.

This allows me to focus on what I want to focus on, instead of having to worry about VISA runs or leaving the country every 2-3 months.

A small caveat is I’m living here in 2020, so it’s peak COVID-19 season, Vietnam is offering FREE VISA extension if you landed in Vietnam from the 1st March 2020, however I was in Vietnam before that date.

So with everything VISA related, it all can change at any point.

Where to find the Community

I’ve often heard that it’s hard to find a digital nomad scene in Vietnam.

I personally live in Ho Chi Minh City and would wholeheartedly disagree.
I’m living here while covid-19 is in full swing and I’ve met lots of people making money online.

District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City has a sizeable community of foreigners.
Specifically, in Thao Dien.

When I say… Foreigners.
I don’t mean Digital Nomads.

Thao Dien houses all types, Expats, English Teachers, Digital Nomads and the more wealthy locals.

Most Digital Nomad’s, don’t go to digital nomad specific meetups, they go to marketing meetups, networking events and general meetups for successful people.

And at these events you also have local business owners, sales representatives of big companies in Ho Chi Minh City, expats from all over the world, etc.

Thao Dien does house The Hive, a pretty nice co-working space which you will find Digital Nomads, as well as many other successful people.

But… That’s the point.

It’s NOT a digital nomad community, it’s a community of varied successful people or people striving to be successful.

So I ask you…

Does that matter?
What are you looking for?

Me? I’d say… Success.

And I’m talking genuine success, not those scams you hear about.

Transportation

Grab

On my first full month in Vietnam, I purely used grab to get around.

And… I used a whopping £115 ($154.06 USD)!

The thing is, when it’s a couple dollars for a ride, you quickly forget the mounting cost.
You get a grab to go see your friends; you move location, then get a grab home.

You think… Oh’s it’s only 5-10 dollars a day…

Well 5 times by 30 is… 150 dollars.

Yup.

So I rented a bike.

Renting a bike

First, I went to some locals, suggested by a couple of people I met on my first days here.

As much as I liked them, the quality of the bike was not up to my standard.
Each one I visited had at least one significant problem.

Lights didn’t work, breaks weren’t strong enough.

Although I’m an experience rider… I was uncomfortable riding in Saigon traffic without a fully working bike.

So I found a western run company over in District 2.

The Extra Mile

They offer a wide range of fully serviced bikes on a monthly fee.

You’re looking at 2m VND ($86 USD) minimum.
Which purely depends on the bike you rent.

At half what Grab was costing me and it meant I had full freedom… This was a significant saving.

Buying a bike

Eventually, though, I decided it was time to purchase my own bike.

I’d been hesitant so far because in Vietnam, the blue card which is the proof of ownership of the bike in Vietnam is rarely transferred into your name.

It’s often left in the original owner’s name and then sold many times over before landing in your hands.

At first, this concerned me.

Until I found a proper reputable company selling bikes called Tigit Motorbikes.
They explained to me that this is normal.

Along with the blue card, I was given a contract in my name, stating that Tigit was selling me the bike and it was mine.

According to Tigit, this is normal practice in Vietnam because changing the blue card is difficult to impossible.

As long as I had the blue card with the contract, it was valid.

So I purchased a Honda Airblade for $450 USD which they converted to VND (10,487,516 VND) and I paid using TransferWise.

It was a really nice purchase, a solid bike that 8 months later is still going strong, at the time of purchase it had approximately 20,000 kilometres on the clock which is very low considering the age of the bike.

Be aware of medical insurance on bikes.

Most travel insurances or medical insurances require you to have a bike licence from your home country, for me that’s the UK.

Without it, it does not cover you in any situation for bike accidents, ever!

Conclusion

So all in all, Ho Chi Minh City & Vietnam is a good place to live as a Digital Nomad.

I’d love to here what you think about Vietnam as a Digital Nomad, let me know in the comments your thoughts and if you have any questions, I’ll endeavour to get back to you soon!

Until next time.

Ross

About Me

Image Description

I'm what people call a Location Independent Freelancer.
I write awesome code and my clients are happy, they don't mind where I am in the world as long as the job gets done.

This has given me the wonderful privilege of living in both Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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About The Author

Ross Edlin

I'm what people call a Location Independent Freelancer.
I write awesome code and my clients are happy, they don't mind where I am in the world as long as the job gets done.

This has given me the wonderful privilege of living in both Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Ross Edlin

Ross Edlin

I'm what people call a Location Independent Freelancer.
I write awesome code and my clients are happy, they don't mind where I am in the world as long as the job gets done.

This has given me the wonderful privilege of living in both Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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