Living in Vietnam as a Digital Nomad: What's it Like?
In the first of our interviews with digital nomads who have experienced living in different countries around the world, we talk to Zascha from travel blog According to Zascha. A full-time traveller and digital nomad, Zascha goes wherever her heart is telling her and last year she spent several months living in Vietnam while working from her laptop, exploring the culture and getting to know the people. We ask her 10 questions to hopefully help you decide if a move to Vietnam is right for you.
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An Interview with According to Zascha
1- What are the locals like?
The Vietnamese are such friendly people despite what I heard a few other people saying before I got there and while I was there. I actually met a girl up in Hanoi who was flying back to Germany earlier than scheduled because she couldn’t stand the locals. I thought to myself that maybe it was her who was the problem because I didn’t experience the unfriendliness that she described while living in Vietnam.
I understand that many Vietnamese people are struggling, but they’re doing the best they can and if you’re nice to them, they’re nice to you. I believe it has a lot to do with your own attitude. Remember, you’re a guest in their country.
I would definitely go back to Vietnam just for the people.
2 – How much does long-term accommodation cost? What options are there….apartments, villas, guesthouses?
I mostly stayed in hostels and hotels while living in Vietnam but I did also rent an apartment for a little bit in Saigon. It’s very cheap to live in Saigon – but it can also be expensive. It depends on your preferences and your budget while working as a digital nomad. The apartment I rented was $300 per month, but I was staying in District 1 which is the main district. I have friends living for much cheaper in other districts.
When I stayed in hostels I would pay about $7 per night for the nicer ones, plus I got a discount seeing as I was staying there for so long. Of course, you can get $4 hostels, but remember, you get what you pay for.
3 – What’s the average cost of food and drink? What’s the food like?
Again it depends on your preferences and your budget. There is something for everyone in Vietnam.
You can easily get a meal for $1 as well as a $10 meal. It depends on where you go, whether you want to sit down in a restaurant or if you’re happy with a stall on the side of the road etc. The low costs of living in Vietnam make it a great country to set up as a digital nomad but it’s also a great destination for successful digital nomads who want to splash a bit of cash.
The food is mostly great, but I’m the wrong person to ask as I’m such a fussy eater. But you can never go wrong with the soups in Vietnam and they’re happy to cater to your needs.
Cocktails are a bit pricey in Vietnam, so go for the famous Saigon beer – you can get a bottle for less than 50 cents in some places! A major plus for living in Vietnam 🙂
4 – What options are there for working online as a Digital Nomad? Is the Wi-Fi good? Is there co-working spaces/cafes etc?
I was very happy with the WiFi all over Vietnam – I even had a connection (although it wasn’t the greatest one) when I was out on Halong Bay!
Vietnam is very developed when it comes to WiFi. Pretty much everywhere has it, including a lot of the tourist busses.
Being a digital nomad, I like to stay connected all the time, so I bought local SIM cards for very little money – just don’t buy it from the airport as they charge you more! There are several options and they all work fine. Ask in the shop and see what they recommend.
A lot of the local cafes cater to people who like to sit with their laptops and work. I found many places all over Vietnam where I could plug in my laptop and do some work. Vietnam is very digital nomad friendly when it comes to finding spaces to work.
5 – What’s the visa situation for living in Vietnam?
I applied for a 1 month tourist visa when I was still in Cambodia. This was super easy and was done through the hostel I was staying at in Phnom Penh. I realized I wanted to stay longer in Vietnam, so while I was up in Hanoi I got it extended for another month through my hotel.
When I had created my base in Saigon I wanted to extend once more, so this time I went to a travel agency on the tourist street Bui Vien that was recommended to me and here it was arranged that I would cross the border into Cambodia to get my visa extended for another 3 months. It has taken up a lot of space in my passport, but it was worth it. There are plenty of options for extending your visa so you can live in Vietnam for longer. It makes it an appealing digital nomad destination!
6 – Is there an expat & digital nomad community?
I’m sure there is, but it was honestly not something I tried to seek out. I’m happy to hang out with people whether they’re locals, backpackers who are just passing through, digital nomads or if they’re expats. It doesn’t matter to me what you are, so therefore I didn’t actively try to make contact with fellow digital nomads while living in Vietnam.
7 – How did you spend your free time?
I explored as much of Vietnam as I could. I saw so many amazing places and I still feel like I missed out on so much. But it’s OK, because I know I will return to Vietnam sometime in the future.
I also spent a lot of time with fellow travellers, hung out in bars, plus I got a LOT of massages. There’s always something to do when living in Vietnam.
8 – What are your three favourite things about living in Vietnam?
The people – I loved getting to know the locals and being able to walk down the street and having people saying hello to me because they remembered me. That’s such a valuable thing when you’re abroad. It makes you feel welcome and that you belong.
The cheap prices – As I mentioned before, Vietnam suits all budgets. If you want to live on a shoestring budget then it’s possible. If you want to splash out, then it’s possible. I saved a lot of money whilst living in Vietnam without really watching my budget. This is probably a number one factor if you’re a digital nomad.
The warm weather – Yes, sometimes it was unbearable, but I loved not having to worry about the cold (except for when I was visiting Sapa – now, that was cold!). Sure, the rain was a real pain at times, but then I had an excuse to get a lot of work done, so it didn’t really bother me.
9 – Is there anything you don’t like about living in Vietnam?
There are faults in all countries and Vietnam is no exception. However, I choose to focus on the good things because the good things far outweigh the bad. However, I did get tired of cockroaches and rats as well as the crazy traffic. I would sometimes get stuck in a traffic jam on the pavement!
10 – What one thing from home do you wish you could have with you in Vietnam?
My family. I missed them a lot when living in Vietnam and I still miss them when I’m on the road which is pretty much all the time. Well, I am back in Denmark right now but I’m off again on new adventures here in June. I don’t think I’m gonna stay as long in a country again as I did in Vietnam, but I’d definitely recommend for people to stay for a while in a country to really get to know the people and the culture. Vietnam was good to me and will always be very dear to my heart.
Have you lived in Vietnam as a digital nomad or expat? Did you like it? Do you have any advice for digital nomads thinking of living there? Please share your experiences while living in Vietnam by commenting below.
Check out our related article – Vietnam: North or South for a 2 Week Vacation