Going to Vietnam!

Me and my girlfriend have been planning to spend this year somewhere abroad. My first choice was Lisbon, Portugal as we visited Porto last year and I've always wanted to spend a year or two living and experiencing Portugal. However due to huge house market inflation (what was 500€/month two years ago turned out to be almost 1000€ now) it seemed to be a bit pricey.

As an alternative we've started to look into South-East Asia, Vietnam and Thailand in particular. Both of these countries are famous for expats and remote workers. After a bit of research we've decided to go to Vietnam first as visa is easier to acquire and it's both of our first time dealing with visa-required traveling.



Vietnam

Vietnam size compared to EU

Choosing a particular place to stay in Vietnam is a challenge on it's own since it's a long noodle-like country that has surprisingly different environments - from busy, motor-bike filled streets to white sand islands.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) is the biggest city in there so we decided to stay there for our first month. It has a large expat community as well as being action packed and busy - the complete opposite of a small Estonian town we're living in right now.

You can get a nice place in the range of 300-500€/month. There are a few places to look for great rent deals:

  • Airbnb.com - A lot of the places on airbnb offer monthly or weekly discounts. So despite airbnb usually having inflated prices compared to the rest of the market it can still contain a lot of good deals. Also it provides security and allows short term rent.

  • expat.com - has a lot of listings. The only issue is that browsing is really tedious and difficult since there are no search filters.

On airbnb we managed to snag a 350€ apartment that is close to District 1 which is the city center:

Ho Chi Minh City apartment

Work

As there are a lot of remote workers from all around the world in HCMC, there are quite a few coworking places to choose from. I found coworker.com and it seems that the monthly prices are in the range of 50-100€. Most of the places offer reasonable scaling for shorter durations, i.e. 1 week is 1/4 of monthly price.

I'm not sure whether I'll go to any of those as I usually just prefer a cafe or a lounge of some sorts, but nevertheless it could be a good opportunity to meet other expats!

Visa

Visa acquisition was as straight-forward as it gets!

Just go to visatovietnam.org, fill some basic data from your passport, uncheck unnecessary "fast-forward" fees and pay up 19$ per person (with additional 25$ stamping fee on arrival) for a 3 month-long single-entry visa. Two days later you'll get a confirmation letter - print out some simple papers, get a photo of your mug and a scan of your passport and you're ready to go!

Flight

flight from Tartu to HCMC

The flight prices are very reasonable. The month on November this year turned out to be especially cheap. Our flight is Tartu-Helsinki-Bangkok -> Bangkok-HCMC It's a bit tricky since not many flight searches offer direct flights to HCMC but you can simply organize it yourself, especially if you do not have any luggage since you don't need to organize luggage transfer. We bought tickets directly from Finnair and Jetstar. It's a tiny bit more expensive than buying through various middleman websites but it certainly is safer and easier just to go through the official sources.

For a one-way trip we ended up shelling out:

Tartu-Helsinki-Bangkok - 284€

Bangkok-HCMC - 66€

This is with seat selection near the window. Grand total of 350€ is a pretty great deal for traveling half-way to the other side of the world! And round trip is even cheaper if you're better at planning than I am.

Preparation

Electrical socket

Sockets - Vietnam uses different sockets than Europe. There are a few socket-types prevalent but by the looks of it it's mostly Type A sockets. Vietnam also has different voltages of 110 to 220 V at 50Hz compared to european 230V @ 50Hz. So in some rare occasions you'll want a power converter as well. However it's probably easier to get the adapters and/or converters in Vietnam itself.

We aren't really planning on taking anything other than laptops and a camera. There seems to be a decent amount of snatch and pick pocket crimes but we have a secure backpack (Bobby by XDDesign) to keep our valuables safe. Vietnam is known for cheap products, especially when it comes to clothing, so really there's hardly a need to take anything else, it's more fun to go shopping!

Follow Up

This is certainly exciting and I'll be sure to follow up this blog in the near future once we get there on Nov 22nd!

I'll be sure to include spending reports and such as well.