Moving to Vietnam
Expats moving to Vietnam are in for an adventure on many levels. It is a destination that offers an ideal combination of good earning potential and high quality of life. Vietnam also has a fast-growing economy, a thriving art scene, beautiful landscapes, and arguably the best food in Asia. Vietnam has thousands of kilometres of beautiful beaches on its eastern border, shares its northern perimeter with China, and to the west has a mountainous borderline shared with Laos and Cambodia.
The northern city of Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital, a fast-changing city filled with new developments, beautiful lakes, bustling streets, restaurants and tens of thousands of motorbikes. Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon) in the south is Vietnam’s most important economic hub. Expats moving to Ho Chi Min City can expect skyscrapers, malls and modern restaurants alongside old French-colonial architecture.
Cyclos, smart cars, taxicabs and millions of motorbikes own the city streets. Getting around in Vietnam can sometimes be tricky, beginning with the crucial challenge of crossing busy roads during the perpetual rush-hour traffic. Vietnam has a rail network that links the north and the south. A number of bus companies targeting tourists also run along the coast, making multiple stops along the way. Within the cities, the most common form of transportation is the motorbike. However, taxis are cheap and some expats choose to hire a car and driver to manoeuvre them through the bustling city streets. There are many inexpensive flights connecting Vietnam to the rest of the region, as well as cheap domestic flights.
Banks in Vietnam are familiar with Western faces. International transfers are hassle free and some banks allow customers to have a US Dollar account rather than one in local currency. Politically, Vietnam is a socialist republic, but this does not impact the everyday life of expats. To avoid offending one’s Vietnamese hosts, the Vietnam War is never to be mentioned.
As an Asian Tiger economy, Vietnam is a meeting point between the everyday bustle of city life and the laidback charm of a country secure in its place in today’s society. With a war-torn history from colonisation to the Vietnam War, the country has a diverse range of living standards. However, expats relocating to Vietnam will find most of the comforts they are used to from home and they will soon learn that this is a country with a great deal to offer
Expats moving to Vietnam with children will be pleased to know that there are numerous international schools located throughout the country that cater specifically for the needs of foreign children. These schools generally offer an excellent standard of teaching and allow their students to take part in a host of extra-curricular activities.
The standard of healthcare in Vietnam is highly variable. As the standard of public healthcare facilities is not on par with those in most Western countries, expats are advised to invest in a fully comprehensive health insurance policy that entitles them to treatment at private hospitals. Private hospitals in Vietnam generally provide a better standard of care and are usually staffed by doctors from across the globe.
Vietnam will tantalise the senses, possibly overloading them at times. The country is a unique nexus of French, Chinese and Southeast Asian cultures with a cuisine that’s no exception. With hot soups, crispy wontons, tasty noodles and potent coffee, expats will soon find themselves eager to try their hand at cooking some popular Vietnamese dishes. Numerous Western restaurants, vibrant nightlife spots and an active art scene ensure that expats moving to Vietnam will find that work is merely something that takes place in between a multitude of social arrangements.
Official name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Population: About 92 million
Capital city: Hanoi
Other major cities: Ho Chi Minh City (largest city), Haiphong, Cantho, Bienhoa
Neighbouring countries: China, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar,
Geography: Vietnam is a long, narrow S-shaped country on the eastern Indo-China Peninsula. Most of its landscape is mountainous and densely forested. The country is generally divided into four different geographic regions: the highlands and Red River Delta in the north, the Chaine Annamitique central mountains, the coastal lowlands and the Mekong River Delta in the south.
Political system: Socialist single-party state
Major religions: Buddhism - although Vietnam is also recognised as being among the least religious countries in the world.
Main languages: Vietnamese (official), Chinese (north), some English and French (tourist areas and cities)
Time: GMT +7
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz. Plugs in Vietnam are generally the two flat-pin or two round-pin types, but some rectangular three-pin plugs are also supported.
Money: The Vietnamese Dông (VND) is the official currency, and it’s divided into 10 hao. The US Dollar (USD) is often used for large amounts. Although credit cards are accepted in major centres, Vietnam remains a largely cash-based society.
International dialling code: +84. Areas and cities in Vietnam have their own access codes, such as (0)4 for Hanoi or (0)8 for Ho Chi Minh City.
Emergency numbers: 113 (police), 115 (ambulance), 114 (fire). Emergency services are extremely limited in rural areas.
Internet domain: .vn
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right. Motorbikes and bicycles are two of the most popular modes of transport among the locals. Expats often find driving to be risky in Vietnam and avoid driving their own vehicle, especially in the bigger cities, where it’s possible to get around quite easily with public transport.