The hardest part about moving to Vietnam is choosing where to live. It’s one of those countries that has something for everybody. Stretching for more than 2,000 miles from north to south, and bordered the entire distance by the South China Sea, it’s the perfect country for adventurers, urban aficionados, and beach lovers.
Vietnam didn’t open its doors to Westerners until about 20 years ago. As a result, it’s still fresh, finding its own way, and on a fast track to becoming a modern and dynamic country.
Steamy Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city and commercial center. It offers the best medical care, the biggest glittery malls, and the liveliest nightlife in the country. There is a large and active expat community here. Nearby Vung Tau makes a perfect weekend escape—the laidback town and pretty beaches attract not only weekend warriors, but has a sizeable expat population, as well.
Under the shadows of the Annamite Mountains to the west, verdant rice paddies run parallel to the South China Sea. As you head north from Ho Chi Minh City towards Hanoi you will find small towns, resorts, and a few notable cities along the coast.
The resort town of Mui Ne attracts expats who want to live near the ocean and Vietnam’s only sand dunes; it’s an easy day’s drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Nha Trang has one of the world’s most beautiful bays and a sizable expat population. If an eternal spring climate is more to your liking, the southern Central Highlands city of Dalat offers pine forests, exotic Zen temples, and thundering waterfalls for those seeking an adventurous lifestyle.
The UNESCO World Heritage City of Hoi An, and the nearby progressive metropolis of Da Nang are midway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi—both have a visible presence of expats and are considered to be among the most desirable places to live in Vietnam. Hue is another UNESCO World Heritage City that has attracted a small expat population, and there’s beautiful Ninh Binh, which is surrounded by rivers, caves, and wildlife.
Large numbers of expats are drawn to 1,000-year-old Hanoi, the historically rich and lively capital of Vietnam. The city’s many parks and lakes, stately French mansions, ancient traditions, and dynamic food scene provide endless urban activities, and the nearby areas beckon exploration. Fabulous Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay can be explored as a day trip, although an overnight cruise allows for serious R&R. The hill station of Sapa is surrounded by high mountains, terraced rice paddies, and the remote and timeless villages of ethnic minorities. Hanoi has hot summers and chilly winters.
The best medical care is found in Ho Chi Minh City, followed by Hanoi. Both cities have internationally accredited hospitals, and medical care is competent and affordable.
The cost of living varies by area, but is highest in the largest cities. By Western standards, Vietnam is a very inexpensive place to live, even in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
Western conveniences can be found throughout Vietnam, in any tourist destination or in areas with foreign populations. Restaurants, from burger joints to fine French cuisine, widely available imported foods and wines, and expat owned businesses are a few of the ways that foreigners are made to feel at home.
The Vietnamese people are welcoming and overwhelmingly curious. They seek out opportunities to practice speaking English, and will invite you into their homes and into their hearts.
Vietnam has opened its doors to Westerners, and with so much to offer, there has never been a better time to go than now.