Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, a sprawling municipality with a population of 13 million, including a staggering 7 million recorded bikes. This city is one of the world’s most dynamic places. The city is distinguished for its incredible cuisine, excessive traffic, absolute density, and a broad array of markets.
Ho Chi Minh City is bewildering at times; it has a traditional Asian charm that makes it an interesting but a very different place to live than the Western hemisphere.
The locals often refer to the city as Saigon, the city’s former name before the Vietnam war. Although this isn’t the official name anymore – many locals, digital nomads, and travelers will affectionately call it Saigon.
It’s a trendy city for digital nomads because it’s affordable. You can live like a king on the average western salary. And there are many perks to being a digital nomad in Ho Chi Minh City!
This article will give you insight into life as a digital nomad in Vietnam’s biggest city.
The cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is a very, very cheap city for accommodation. The city has some of the most affordable accommodations globally, which is a massive benefit of being a digital nomad in Ho Chi Minh City.
A prevalent form of accommodation for digital nomads in Ho Chi Minh City is Air BnBs, and they are inexpensive. You can rent apartments in skyscrapers for $50 per night. But you can also budget and spend considerably less if you want.
Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City are extremely budget-friendly too. And you can get a hotel for as little as $10 per night – which is incredibly impressive. But you could also get a luxury hotel for under $100 per night.
However, if you are looking to spend a prolonged time in the city, you can rent an apartment for a reasonable price.
You’ll generally struggle to find a cheaper place to be a digital nomad in the globe.
Food is very cheap in Ho Chi Minh City. You can get by on $5 per day street food; it’s an exceptionally affordable place to eat – and the food is world-class delicious.
The food is cheaper than in most other cities in the area. It’s less expensive than Cambodia, Thailand, and even Laos for eating food. And let’s face it, you’ll hardly break the bank in those countries either.
You can eat in high-end Vietnamese restaurants for very little too. It’s a digital nomads dream.
You will start to see a trend here – it is very cheap. You can buy beers for $2 per bottle.
A trendy nightlife area for travelers and digital nomads is Bui Vien. It is loud, chaotic, crazy, and not for everyone – but it’s excellent for affordable drinks.
If you spend more than $30 on a night out, you probably won’t remember a single thing. That’s unless you visit the luxury bars, but it’s not an essential thing to do.
Guess what? Very cheap again! If you get around by motorcycle taxis – preferably Grab – you won’t spend more than $10 per day on taxis.
Transportation in the city is phenomenally cheap – perhaps the most inexpensive in Asia. Excellent for digital nomads.
Ho Chi Minh City has a limited infrastructure, so there isn’t a metro, tram system, or any reliable public transport. Digital nomads will buy a motorbike or get cheap taxis.
Pros of Being a Digital Nomad In Ho Chi Minh City
Low cost of living
Vietnam uses the Vietnamese Dong, which is an exchange rate of 1 USD = 23,165.00 VND. The currency is weaker globally, making it a very cheap city to be a digital nomad.
Everything from food to rent is considerably cheaper than in the west. It’s possible to live off street food – and only spend $5 per day yet eat some of the most incredible food of your life.
You can also find homes for very cheap. It’s plausible to get a 30th floor, three-bedroom, fully equipped apartment with beautiful views of the skyline for around $1000 per month. The low cost of living is a massive pro to residing in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnamese food has become more and more prominent worldwide in recent years. It can be a delightful cuisine, and it’s amazingly cheap to eat. Famous dishes include pho, a classic Vietnamese style noodle soup that can be bought from street merchants for little over $1 a bowl.
Bánh mì is a tasty sandwich found on every street corner; it can be bought for $1.50 in the city and could be the most delicious sandwich you’ve ever had. The Vietnamese cuisine is comprehensive, affordable, healthful – and a massive bonus of living in Ho Chi Minh City.
Slow Pace of Life
Although the city is hugely active due to the excessive number of cars and bikes, the locals tend to live life in a carefree manner.
The Vietnamese are very much a community and family-orientated culture, and low stress is a vital part of their culture.
Living in Ho Chi Minh City means a more sluggish pace of life than living in a western city, which will appeal to many digital nomads.
Ho Chi Minh City is in the south of Vietnam, and entering the rest of Asia is affordable and comfortable. It’s possible to get about Southeast Asia with budget airlines such as Air Asia for no more than $100.
Many magnificent places are within hours of range from Ho Chi Minh City, such as Bali, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and The Philippines.
It’s easy to get out of Ho Chi Minh City and fly to another city for a weekend break or head to some tropical island someplace in The Philippines or Indonesia.
The prime location means that doing business in neighboring countries is easy due to the constant flying infrastructure, reasonable airfares, and reliable connectivity between the countries.
Downsides of Being a Digital Nomad In Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City’s traffic is pretty crazy, which is an understatement. Most locals ride bikes, and it’s normal to see bikes driving less than a meter apart. There is true beauty in how the locals can drive on the roads with the sheer volume of traffic.
But noise pollution is very high. If you’re in the city, then you will not leave the sheer sound of millions of bikes driving around the city. It’s rather difficult at times, and some people will even hate this.
Locals will drive on the footpaths when the roads are full, and this is common in the local culture, but it can be deadly no matter how good Vietnamese motorists are.
Ho Chi Minh City is a developing city, so the local infrastructure hasn’t quite advanced yet. Public transport is remarkably inexpensive, but it’s ineffective and undeveloped compared to neighboring Southeast Asian cities like Kuala Lumpur.
The best way to get about the city is via bike taxi, which is easy to use via Grab or Go Viet app – both are super cheap.
Alternatively, it’s even more inexpensive to buy a motorbike. However, be aware that HCMC roads use unconventional driving rules and standards. It may be scary to drive on these roads at first, and numerous nomads will avoid driving full stop and opt for the safer route of taxis.
Pollution is an extensive issue in the city, and the crazy number of motorbikes is a principal cause.
Most of the locals will wear masks to evade breathing in the air. It’s completely possible to wake up to a city covered in smog, and if you visit one of the view decks, you will be able to comprehend how much pollution is in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you want clear, crisp air, this city might not be suitable. Somewhere like Bali would appeal more.
Other Things to note
Vietnam has seen notable economic improvements over the last 40 years, and the country is growing at a breakneck speed. Ho Chi Minh City is the economic hub of Vietnam, despite its not being the nation’s capital.
And a sizable part of Vietnam’s expanding services and goods industry is in Ho Chi Minh City. And most of the nation’s international investment arrives here too.
According to PWC, Vietnam is one of the world’s quickest growing economies. As of 2021, the GDP is around $340 billion, still behind the USA, Europe, and different Asian nations such as Japan or South Korea.
However, poverty is still omnipresent. The country’s living standards are improving quickly, yet poverty symbols are still ubiquitous. Ho Chi Minh City is a fast developing city with a bright future.
Still, there is a long way to go before it catches up with nearby cities like Tokyo, Seoul, or Singapore.
The country doesn’t offer a digital nomad visa and doesn’t give a stamp on arrival to many western passport holders. Most countries need to apply for a visa before they arrive.
Realistically, you’ll need to apply for a tourist visa and do a visa run every three months unless you get a business visa. But you should prepare yourself for a lot of bureaucracy before you obtain one of those.
That’s why most digital nomads will live here on a tourist visa – as many English Teaching nomads do.
Of course, you need to have your health insurance coverage in place, for any unexpected event. You can check digital nomad medical and travel packages from SafetyWing that are guaranteed to cover all your needs as a digital nomad.
A generally sizzling tropical climate, the weather in Ho Chi Minh City depends on what time of the year you are in the city. There are wet seasons and warm seasons.
The wet season is between May to September. It’s common to see 200-300 mm of rainfall during this period; typhoons are not unusual throughout this time either.
December to March see’s comparatively low rain and the highest temperatures. Regardless of when you choose to visit Ho Chi Minh City, it is always boiling with normal highs of 30-35 Celcius.
It’s essential to understand the ‘saving face’ culture in Vietnam. It’s a critical part of the culture, and it’s something that you should understand if you live in the city.
If you’re a digital nomad or owning a business in Ho Chi Minh City, you will be exposed to saving face culture daily.
It’s smart to be non-confrontational at all times if feasible, as the locals take dispute as losing face. Generally, the locals are very welcoming to outsiders; many will seek to practice English with you.
What Do the Locals Enjoy
Although partying isn’t for everyone, the locals love to go out and have enjoyment. There are many trendy nightclubs and bars in and around Bui Vien, the most exciting district for bars and street food.
The locals adore shopping and visit the city’s markets, such as Ben Tanh and An Dong. You can buy some excellent condition clothes and super low prices in these markets.
Football is a prevalent sport in Vietnam, and the locals like to play the sport. You will find many locals playing soccer and following matches on TV. Football is an indispensable part of Vietnamese culture.
Dining out is an extensive part of local culture; many locals will eat on the street regularly, and many restaurants will have tables and chairs on the footpaths where you can take something to eat and relax between the locals.
The local language is Vietnamese, and although some locals can talk English, many locals speak little to no English. There is a language barrier in Ho Chi Minh City; it’s unlikely to be too much of a problem. And usually speaking, you can get by only talking English.
However, a lot of this will depend on what you plan on doing while in the city. If you’re beginning a business and want to interact with many locals, the conversation barrier could present a stumbling block with particular demographics.
The youth of Vietnam talk more English and the English language expansion is a critical government focus in the 21st century. Talking to the older generation of Vietnamese – who didn’t learn English at school – is considerably harder.
Crime and Safety
The city is usually low in terms of crime, and wandering about, you do feel secure the vast majority of the time.
However, mobile phone theft is widespread in the city, be careful if you have your phone out while strolling on the roads because motorcyclists are known to steal mobile phones out of people’s hands while riding.
Pickpocketing is not unusual either, mainly in congested areas, of which there are many.
But usually, the most critical issue you’re going to face is trivial theft and perhaps the occasional scam.
The city is secure if you practice the usual sense and take routine precautions.
Ho Chi Minh City has a growing community of digital nomads. Therefore, many coworking spaces are cropping up throughout the city.
You can work from pretty much anywhere in the city due to the fast wifi, but a coworking space has many benefits.
- You can meet tonnes of people who also work in the online space and love to travel.
- It’s a great spot to stay disciplined and get the job done.
- They have incredible amenities.
- It’s a place you can call your home.
- There are tremendous social events.
Here are four of the best coworking spots in Ho Chi Minh City:
The Hive is the largest coworking network in the Asia Pacific; it’s superb for entrepreneurs and digital nomads.his coworking space has fantastic facilities, which include:
- A cafe with a great selection of food and drink
- 360-degree views from the rooftop deck
- Networking events
- Private rooms
- Six floors of amenities
Spiced was one of the first coworking spaces in the entire city. The place focuses on creatives and has excellent business facilities – it is perfect for digital nomads. The facilities include:
- Hot desks
- Dedicated desks
- Swimming pool
- Free coffee and tea
Dreamplex continues to grow as a popular coworking space in the city. It is familiar with digital nomads and locals and has a fantastic range of amenities, which include:
- Fantastic central location
- Cafe with food and drinks
- Dedicated member app
- Creative workshops
- Monthly social events.
This coworking place is in the city’s heart and continues to grow with digital nomads, expats, and locals. It boasts some of the best facilities in the city, which include:
- 24-hour access
- Meeting rooms
- Mini auditorium
- High-speed wifi
- Accounting services
- Regular community events
Ho Chi Minh city is an amazing digital nomad city. Is it as popular as other parts of Asia for digital nomads, such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Bali?
No, but it’s growing in popularity. It’s affordable, enjoyable, has excellent food, and most importantly – it has high-speed and stable wifi.
It’s some of the best wifi in Asia, which is excellent for digital nomads. Many parts of Asia have annoyingly slow wifi, making running an online business challenging. That is not an issue in Ho Chi Minh City.
And you can live very comfortably there if you learn over $1500 per month as a digital nomad.
The city will continue to develop and grow on the world stage, with many economists predicting the country will be the next China – it’s an exciting place to run your business.
For all the reasons above – Ho Chi Minh City is worth trying for anyone looking for a city to be a digital nomad.