Welcome to our comprehensive guide of everything brand new expats in Saigon need to know about settling in the city. Cost of living, visa renewal procedures, apps to download for an easier time getting around, and much more. Of course, the entire Saigon Expat Services site is focused on delivering content for HCMC expats. There are roughly 40-50,000 expats living in Saigon, and there are more flooding in every year. This guide, therefore, will consist partly of links to our existing content. Essentially, though, we’ve tried (and, we think, done a pretty good job) to create a one-stop informational hub for newbies. Note that none of the businesses listed on this page have paid to be included, nor were they consulted during the writing of this page.
Renting Housing In Saigon
Where should expats in Saigon look for an apartment or house to rent, and how should they go about renting once deciding on the perfect neighborhood? Here’s a brief overview.
The center of the city, where all the action is. Living in District 1 is essentially the Vietnamese version of living in Manhattan. It’s exciting and there’s usually tons to do within a block of your house, but that comes with traffic, noise pollution, and poor air quality. District 1 is also the tourist hub of the city, so the percentage of locals there who speak English is much higher than anywhere else in Saigon.
District 2 is the most upscale residential district in Saigon. Much of the district consists of row upon row of villas and luxury apartment buildings. They are interspersed with small shopping and entertainment districts similar to what one might find in a Western small town. This is especially the case in Thao Dien, the de facto “little Europe” of Saigon.
If District 1 is Vietnam’s Manhattan, District 3 is its Brooklyn. That is, is has almost as much to do, but it’s much more relaxed. A lower percentage of the population speaks English, but it is more heavily influenced by authentic Saigonese culture. This means cool little coffee shops, street food stalls, and activities available at reasonable prices are easier to find.
District 7 is a step between Districts 1 and 2. Much of it is suburban and it is far away enough from the city center to get some peace and quiet. However, the locals have a lot of money and have established many upscale businesses in an area of District 7 known as Phu My Hung. Don’t expect to find loud rooftop bars like in District 1, but you will come across nice malls and family-oriented activities here.
Binh Thanh District
Binh Thanh has a lot more local flair than any of the other options summarized here. It is the kind of district in which you can wander through dingey back-alleys (or hẻms, small residential streets in Vietnamese cities) and may or may not happen across a cockfight in progress. It’s less expensive than other expat-heavy districts, too, and a lot of young expats live here. Very few of the locals speak English, though.
For a deeper look at each of these districts along with summaries of Saigon’s 10 other districts, head over to Saigon Expat Services’ blog with up to date information about the different districts.
How to Rent an Apartment in Saigon
Once you settle on a neighborhood, you have to get searching in that area. Doing so can be intimidating, though, especially for new expats in Saigon who don’t speak a word of Vietnamese. Luckily, Saigon is a very popular expat city and there are lots of resources for expats to accomplish this sort of thing. The expat community itself is a good place to start, or you could go through one of the many multilingual apartment hunters on Facebook. For more info on these two options and several others, read through our guide on “Renting an apartment as an expat in HCMC.”
Eating in Saigon
One of the starkest contrasts most expats will experience when moving to Saigon is the food. Saigon is a foodie city and offers incredible dining options, but Vietnamese food is extremely different than food almost anywhere else in the world. To ease the transition to the Vietnamese culinary scene as much as possible, here’s a rundown of your options, as well as dos and don’ts.
Saigon’s culinary scene is heavily based on street food. Even locals eat out for most meals, as it is quicker, more convenient, and often even cheaper than eating at home. Expats generally love Saigon’s street food just as much as Vietnamese people do. To gain a deeper understanding of why Saigon street food is so beloved among the expat community and why you too should embrace the phenomenom.
Some of the most popular street foods in Saigon are:
- Phở gà/bò (Chicken or beef thin rice noodle soup)
- Bún bò (Spicy, tangy rice noodle soup with beef and spices)
- Gỏi cuốn (Herbs and meat, usually shrimp, wrapped in rice paper)
- Hủ tiếu (Sticky tapioca noodles and meat in a sweet and salty broth)
- Bánh bèo (Fish sauce and herbs poured over gooey rice cakes)
- Mì xào hái sản/bò (Seafood/beef stir-fried ramen noodles)
- Bánh mì (Sandwich, usually with vegetables, meat, pate, and condiments)
We’ve rounded up 10 less well-known but equally as delicious Saigon street foods on our list of *“10 Overlooked and Underrated Saigon Street Foods.”*
A Word On Tap Water
As far as ice and drinking water go, you don’t need to worry about it too much. Remember that even locals avoid the tap water in Vietnam because it is often contaminated with bacteria. Street food sellers understand this, and they are certainly not looking to poison their customers by giving them bacteria-infested drinks. The one beverage tourists may want to avoid is the free iced tea given at some restaurants and cafes, as it is usually made with water that may have been boiled insufficiently.
For a more in-depth look at the tap water in Saigon, including information about how it’s treated and what exactly it contains, check out our piece on drinking water in Vietnam.
As a popular expat destination, Saigon has a diverse dining scene. Indian, Italian, Japanese, Hawaiian BBQ, upscale Vietnamese… whatever cuisine you’re craving, Saigon has probably got it in several different styles. It’s of course significantly more expensive than street food, but don’t worry that you will not have the opportunity to have food from your home country.
Saigon has themed restaurants, family restaurants, and restaurants that play live music, as well as pretty much every other type of eating establishment you can think of. And there are entire Facebook groups dedicated to Saigon’s culinary community which help diners find the meals they crave.
Cooking at home
Cooking at home is a great way to capture some down-home flavor in between the whirlwind culinary scene the city provides. Getting ahold of the proper cooking materials to make what you want can be intimidating, though, especially when the ingredients you need are not native to Vietnam. To help, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide on *where to buy cooking ingredients in Saigon*.
The Best Food Delivery Apps
Saigon has an incredible dining scene, but sometimes you just don’t have time to go out and take advantage of it. Especially for expats unfamiliar with the city, venturing out to a food store and ordering food to go can be an event in itself and will take time. To solve this problem, utilize one of the excellent food delivery apps that bring the food to you instead of vice-versa. You will find some of the most popular food delivery apps in Saigon in our article here.
Jobs for Expats in Saigon
The job-finding scene for expats is a mountain that every expat has to climb. And because of the language barrier, it is often very difficult for newbies to navigate (unless they go the streamlined route of the expat ESL teacher). We’ve rounded up some info to help you get an idea of the expat job market and how to obtain a work visa in Vietnam.
Different Types of Work
Expats will quickly discover that the job market available to them is a bit more rigidly defined than it is in English-speaking countries. This is because their English-speaking skill, which is in extremely high demand in Saigon, essentially dictates the types of jobs they can work. Because the skill is so valuable, expat jobs pay higher wages than most local jobs do. That’s not saying much, though; many locals make only several hundred dollars per month.
To read about the job role categories expats often find themselves in, read over ”Finding a job as an expat in Ho Chi Minh City”.
Vietnam Work Permits and How To Get One
If you obtain a job with a company operating in Vietnam, you’ll need to obtain a work permit to work legally. Doing so also allows you to get a work visa, which lasts for three years. Most large companies and language centers arrange work permits for their expat employees. You’ll still have to do a bit of legwork, such as a border run and a medical check, but the company will give you detailed instructions on exactly how to expedite the process. If the company is unable to provide guidance, though, do not fear; it’s not too complicated as long as they provide work documentation. You’ll have to gather up several documents, including your proof of employment, your health records, and any relevant degrees, and have them notarized. It can be time-consuming, but it’s straightforward.
Proof of employment is obviously not available for expats working for themselves, either as the founders of a small business or as an independent contractor. In these cases, the expat may incorporate his or her own business with a business partner who is a Vietnamese national. You’ll still have to go through the rigamarole of getting your medical history and degree notarized, and you’ll have to fill out some forms. The option is also fairly expensive, but it’s the fastest, most efficient way to legally make yourself a self-standing entity in the Vietnamese job market landscape.
Many expats, however, simply stay in Vietnam on a tourist visa. It’s a hassle, as tourist visas have a much shorter validity — three months is generally the longest duration available. This means “tourist expats” will need to leave the country every three months on a border run (see the “visas/passports” section later in this article).
Owning a Business
Some expats decide to grab life by the horns and start their own businesses in Saigon. Establishing a business entity in Vietnam is fairly straightforward and inexpensive in Vietnam compared to many countries. A substantial amount of capital will still be required, of course, and you’d better go through a legitimate business registration process if you hope to grow your business any bigger than a small stall at the market.
Many expats believe it is impossible for them to start their own business in Vietnam without a business partner who is Vietnamese. This is false. Expats can indeed have a business 100% under their own name, but most choose to have a Vietnamese partner on the license to bypass a lot of the bureaucracy. The partner can be a friend or chosen nominee. A lot of expat-run businesses put the license in their lawyer’s name and pay a monthly nominal fee to make the lawyer a technical partner.
Why Work in Saigon?
Vietnam is a great place for expats to work. It may be a bit more of a hassle to find a job, but once you do you will be able to make a great salary (by Vietnamese standards) in an economy that truly appreciates your skills and contributions. The country is developing rapidly, and new business opportunities abound — for a case study illustrating our meaning, check out our piece on the emergence of the leisure activities sector in Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City is the country’s business hub, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a locale anywhere in the world with a better job market for executives and entrepreneurs alike.
Transportation in Saigon
Despite the borderline-anarchic traffic situation found throughout almost the entirety of Saigon, the city is surprisingly easy to get around. Cars and motorbikes are easily obtained, either used or new, and ride-hailing apps are ubiquitous and extremely inexpensive.
Buying or Renting a Car
Car dealerships are just as common in Saigon as they are throughout any major city. Cars are much more expensive than most places in the world, though, since they all have to be imported and the Vietnamese government taxes imports heavily. If you are in the market for a new car, expect to pay a minimum of $30,000 for a compact economy car like a low-end Kia. For an SUV capable of carrying the whole family, be ready to pay upwards of $75,000. If you’re willing to go for used, you may see $20,000 and $45,000 respectively for the same types of cars.
One liter of car fuel costs around $0.75. The real cost of driving, though, comes when it is time to park. Saigon’s streets were mostly not built to accommodate cars, and parking spots are even scarcer than in most big cities. This is exacerbated by the fact that Saigon does not really have public parking garages.
Keep in mind that Vietnamese car insurance will not actually pay for damages, so drive at your own risk.
Many expats choose to rent a car monthly, either with or without a driver. There are many car rental companies in Saigon so it’s good to shop around to find the right one. Prices start from around 500USD without a driver. Some options are on Saigon’s biggest business directory.
Buying or Renting a Motorbike
Motorbike dealerships are extremely common, as motos are still by far more popular in Saigon than cars are. A new motorbike in Saigon can be acquired for as low as $1500 and can be as pricey as $7,500 or even more for a luxury model. Used motorbikes are even more prevalent than new ones, and they are easy to find for sale on expat-oriented social networks. They can be bought for as little as $200 with the pink slip. Be aware, though, that used models often require frequent maintenance which can be very expensive for non-Vietnamese speakers.
Like with car insurance, motorbike insurance doesn’t really pay out and is more a vehicle registration system than anything.
Many expats choose to rent a motorcycle from one of the many rental companies in Saigon. One such place is (Saigon motorcycles link). Prices can vary between 40-60 USD a month. However, they offer a full service in case of breakdowns. Although it might not be cost effective if you are here for more than a few years, most rental companies will change your bike if there’s a problem and regularly maintain it for you. You can take a look at our article Where to rent a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City for reputable companies.
Ride-Hailing and Taxis
Being driven around is the transportation method of choice for many expats because it is more convenient and does not require them to wade through the insane Saigonese traffic. It is also so very affordable. It is an especially good option for new expats since it enables them to learn the terrain (e.g. the layout of the streets) without being late to their destinations. Besides, they may not yet have any way to transport themselves.
To learn more about some of the best ride-hailing services in Saigon, review the guide on *“Ride-Sharing Apps In HCMC: 3 Main Options.”* Like with all ride-hailing services, a smartphone and an internet connection will be required to use them.
If you are unable to use a ride-hailing app or simply prefer to hail a taxi cab instead, you should have no problem — although ride-hailing is growing more popular in Saigon, taxis still rule the streets. If you do go for a taxi, though, be sure to get one from either Vinasun or Mailinh. All of the cabs from either company will have the company name printed on the side. These are the only two legitimate taxi companies in Saigon, and catching rides with other companies will likely end with you being scammed. The illegitimate cab companies know that expats and tourists will be given this advice, and they sometimes attempt to fool customers by printing a name similar to “Mailinh” or “Vinasun” on the side of the car. Read carefully.
Banking in Saigon
Money will get you everywhere in Saigon, and how you keep track of your savings is obviously of utmost importance. Here are a few tips that will have you managing money like a local in no time.
New expats often have trouble remembering the conversion rate since it is so lopsided — 23,200 VND to 1 USD at the time of this writing. It is crucial to remember, though, to avoid paying ten times too much for your dinner. This is especially important considering the fact that some Vietnamese business owners will try and vastly overcharge foreigners they know may not call them out on it.
Remember these basic conversions.
10k VND = almost $0.50 USD.
20k VND = just under $1 USD
100k VND = about $4.50
1 million VND = about $45
If you’re more familiar with another currency, convert the USD side of this equation.
Since almost all prices are calculated in thousands in Vietnam, know that you will be understood when communicating a price even with the “thousand” left off.
How to Open a Bank Account
Opening a bank account in Vietnam is easy, even if you don’t speak a word of Vietnamese. All you’ll need to do is go to the bank with the required documentation, which includes:
- A passport.
- A stamped visa with a duration of three to six months.
- Your work contract if you are registered to work (if not, then don’t worry about this item).
Most banks, especially those in the expat-heavy districts, have at least one employee who is fluent in English. After locating that employee and letting them know you want to open an account, they will ask for your documents and give you an application form. It will ask for information like Vietnamese phone number, contact address in Vietnam, and contact address in your home country. After completing the form, return it to the English-speaking teller and they’ll ask for a small deposit to get the account started. They’ll also ask you if you want to sign up for online banking and if you want a local debit card. Both of these services will automatically deduct a very small monthly fee from your account if used. Online banking allows you to check your balance and make transfers to other Vietnamese account holders on the internet, and the debit card allows you access to every Vietnamese ATM (more info on those can be found below).
Vietnamese Bank Account Restrictions
Unfortunately, Vietnamese banking does have a few restrictions for expats. Perhaps the most inconvenient one is that you cannot deposit cash into your account. You can receive payments from companies or individuals via bank transfer, but physical cash payments must remain in cash form. Another annoying restriction is that Vietnamese bank cards cannot make payments to recipients outside the country. This includes most online vendors.
A popular way expats remedy both of these issues is by banking with Timo instead of a traditional bank. Timo is a digital bank that is recognized throughout the world. You can even deposit cash directly into your Timo account by inserting the cash into a Timo-enabled ATM. A list of Timo ATMs throughout Vietnam can be found here. There are over 30 such machines scattered across Saigon. You can even get a full-fledged Mastercard with Timo that will allow you to make payments worldwide. You have to supply a work permit to get the card, though.
For those who don’t use Timo, there is another way to send or receive money from outside of Vietnam. There are multiple digital money transfer services (several are listed below) that allow users to send money to or from Vietnam from most places in the world for a small fee. You can even use the service to send money from your bank account in another country directly to your Vietnamese account.
A few good digital money transfer services:
Vietnam’s ATM Availability
Saigon itself is packed with ATMs. You’re never more than a few blocks away from at least one, and they tend to be clustered together. It’s a bit more difficult to find ATMs in small towns. They are not as easy to find as in Saigon, but there is usually at least one even in a small village, and there is more than likely to be some kind of banking district in any mid-size town.
Shopping in Saigon
There are lots of places in Saigon to shop for whatever goods you might be after. Options range from inexpensive locally produced items to international luxury brands. The most affordable things will likely be available at one of the big markets in District 1, while the upscale items will be found in shopping mall outlets. Be careful only to buy the branded items at legitimate shop outlets, as there are next to no IP protection laws in Vietnam and knockoffs are an epidemic.
Market Clothes Stalls
The cheapest option. Picking up a t-shirt or a few packages of socks at the wet market is a good way to go if you need more clothes for lounging around the house. A shirt might run you $2-3 and jeans might cost $5-6. Market clothes will probably not be of very high quality, though, so we would not recommend to buy them as work garb. Know that you’ll need to bargain here to get the best prices possible.
Local indy outlets and supermarkets
The Saigonese love their fashion, and the city’s streets are abutted by many independently owned local clothes outlets. The outlets are generally open air and open directly onto the street. They have more selection than a market and usually sell higher quality locally-produced items since clothes are their specialization. You can find some nice stuff at these places if you look hard. Supermarkets in Vietnam sell clothes in addition to food, and they will offer the same quality, albeit less selection, than local indy outlets.
Vietnam has several national clothing chains, like Blue Exchange and Ninomaxx. These chains offer medium to high-quality stuff and do a good job of upholding their brand reputation. It’s not hard to find top-quality garments, and this is a good option to find workwear.
If you want top quality but do not want to put up with the iffy English of the clerks at domestic chains, head to one of the international outlets like H&M or Hermes. They are scattered throughout the city center. The prices are higher than any of the other options listed here, but so is the clothes quality and level of English-friendly service.
Shopping for Food
Saigon has basically every kind of food you could need for cooking, including those that are not grown or produced in Vietnam. You need to know where to look, though. Check out our guide on *”Where To Buy Cooking Ingredients In Saigon*.”
Unfortunately, Saigon does not yet have any really great online shopping options like Amazon. It does, however, have its own options, all of which are much more limited. Two of the most popular sites for general online shopping are:
- https://tiki.vn/ — Tiki is very cheap and has two-hour delivery available on many items.
- https://www.lazada.vn/ — Lazada doesn’t have Tiki’s incredible turnaround time, but it has a large selection of goods.
Note that these sites are not very English-friendly, and it would behoove you to search for the item you want in Vietnamese rather than English.
Groceries can also be purchased online, although choices are as limited as with general items. Prices are also considerably higher than they would be outside. As of now, https://en.chopp.vn/ is the only such site that is up and running.
Fun Things To Do in Saigon
Saigon is a huge city with a lot to do, even for those who don’t know any Vietnamese. It is known as the best city for nightlife in Vietnam. It is also known as the country’s most progressive city, which means its young residents are always up for trying new activities and meeting new people. Whether you want to join a social group or prefer to engage in a more organized activity, you’ll almost certainly be able to pursue your hobbies and find new ones in Saigon without any issue.
Finding Your Social Group
The key to finding groups of like-minded people is by using your hobbies. It might sound obvious to go out and join a group for your hobby, but a lot of expats in Saigon never do because they fail to understand one of two things.
First, they don’t understand that a solitary hobby can always be made into a group one, and it’s an excellent way to network. Are you a passionate drawer, but you’ve always worked alone? Join one of Saigon’s many English-language drawing workshops. If you love cooking, join one of the expat groups that get together and tackles new recipes every weekend. If you loved playing board games with your friends back home, start going to one of the city’s board game cafe meetups. Even the blandest among us have some interests, and any interest can be leveraged into meeting new people.
Second, many new expats do not realize how many niche groups Saigon has to offer or how to find these groups. The best resource for finding local activities is likely one of the Expat groups on Facebook, where Westerners (or English-speaking locals) can go and post an inquiry about any topic they want, from where to buy a certain product to, more relevant in this case, where to go in order to practice a specific hobby with other people. There are also plenty of sites like Meetups and Internations that facilitate lots of Expat hobby meetups.
There are tons of leisure activities around Saigon. The country’s upper-middle class is currently in the middle of a period of explosive growth, too, which means there are more and more cropping up every day. You can read up on a few of our picks for underrated gems in our piece on “*5 Leisure Activities in Saigon that are Often Overlooked*.” Keep in mind that there are many, many more though. Meeting expats who know the area or locals with enough money to explore the city’s luxury activity scene will help. Of course, there’s also good ol’ fashioned independent research.
Where To Meet Expats in Saigon
Saigon is one of the top expat cities in the world, so meeting other expats is easy. The best place to start is the meetup sites mentioned above, all of which are totally English-friendly and list lots of events in Saigon specifically meant for expat fraternization. Some of the events center around niche interests and some are more general mixers. Again, the sites include:
Vietnam’s Visa and Passport Procedures
Even for seasoned expats, maintaining a valid Vietnam visa can be a pain. For new expats who don’t know where to start, it is even worse. To at least let you know what you’re dealing with, we’ve put together a short overview of the different types of visas, as well as a guide on how to make a visa run.
Types Of Visa
Here is a cursory overview of the common types of Vietnam visas expats might get:
- Tourist visa — This is by far the most popular type for expats. It technically only allows for a few months stay, but it can be extended or even renewed by making a visa run. For more info about visa runs, read the section on visa runs below. If you are fortuante to have a US passport then you can get a 1 year tourist visa.
- Business visa — Technically, only people working for a Vietnamese company are supposed to get a business visa. Even those who are not, though can get one without any hassle from a visa agent. It will basically function as a tourist visa with a longer duration and easier to renew in Vietnam without doing a border run.
- Residence visa — If you have a work permit you will be eligible for a work permit. These are multi-entry and the duration can be upto 2 years depending on the length of your contract. Also, if you get married to a Vietnamese national you can apply for a 2 year temporary residence card (TRC). They are inexpensive and fairly easy to obtain.
There are a few ways to make visa runs from Saigon. Most people go to the Moc Bai crossing on the border of Cambodia. This will take you 2 hours to get there. Some visa agents are putting on bus services to accommodate the large number of expats doing this. Obviously, flying in and out of the country is an option but is considerably more expensive. Check out our article in more detail about how to make the border run.
What Vaccinations should I have before I move to Vietnam?
Its extremelly important that you check with your local doctor about what injections or medicine you should take before travelling to Vietnam. Whilst most of the big cities are generally quite safe, poor hygiene and contaminated food is very common in the rural areas. What’s more, mosquioes do carry diseases so it’s important to bring a good quality mosquitoe spray such as DEET. For full details about what injections you should get before visitng Vietnam, visit our guide here.
No matter where you are in the world, tragedies can happen. Hopefully, they won’t, but they can. People can become sick or injured, or crimes may be committed. If, god forbid, disaster does strike, it is good to have a guide of what to do rather than having to figure it out yourself in the heat of the moment. So we’ve put together a very brief set of instructions to point you in the right direction in the case of an emergency.
Unfortunately, medical emergency response for expats is not as simple as calling 911 or driving to the local Emergency Room. There are a few things you need to know.
Emergency Room Visits in Saigon
Most expats will visit one of the international hospitals below if they need to pay a visit to the doctor. For obvious reasons,health insurance should be a priority for expats in HCMC. Depending on your age and medical history, you can pick up a good plan from as little as 50 USD. Without it, the costs can be very high if you have a more serious matter.
- Hanh Phuc International at 97 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1
- Maple Healthcare at 6 Nguyen Luong Bang (there’s another international hospital, FV Hospital, across the street)
- Columbia Asia International at 8 Alexandre de Rhodes, District 1
- American International Hospital at 6 Bac Nam 3, District 2
There are also many local hospitals in HCMC that are both affordable and have well trained doctors and nurses. Cho Ray Hospital being one of the biggest.
For more hospitals, including the ones intended for cosmetic treatments in addition to emergency services, head over to Saigon Expat Services’ medical providers city map.
Calling an Ambulance
The best choice for expats in Saigon when it comes to ambulance service is buying a yearly subscription to EMR, the city’s privately-owned ambulance service. It’s affordable service and provides top rate emergency response, especially in comparison to the shoddy local ambulance services. Also unlike the public ambulance service, which you pay for only when you need it, EMR is a yearly subscription. Fortunately, it only costs 575.000 VND (about $25) per person per year. Although the services provided by EMR are technically available to anyone, though, only those who have the subscription will receive the full service without any additional charge. The annual subscription for the service is very cheap, but those who lack forethought and have not paid for the service beforehand will have to pay a lot for the ambulance. For more information about how to call an ambulance you can read our article here.
Reporting a Crime
Unfortunately, crime response is one of the most sorely lacking public services in Vietnam. This is especially true with expats, who cannot generally communicate with the almost exclusively Vietnamese-speaking police.
The only method that is occasionally effective for reporting a crime as an English-speaking expat is going to your embassy and filing a report there. The embassies in Saigon can usually network with local authorities, speak Vietnamese to them, and make more headway than an individual can. If you’re lucky, the crime you reported may even be taken seriously and looked into.
The process of obtaining medical insurance is actually quite simple for expats in Vietnam, although they will still have to go through the painfully judgemental process of submitting their full medical history and awaiting for the provider to deem them worthy or not of being covered. Some local providers try to stiff their customers at every turn, so we highly recommend that you contact a reputable Insurance agent before choosing a plan suitable for you. A quick search on our business directory will bring up some companies.
It is also recommended getting travel insurance before you arrive as there have been many instances of expats injuring themselves in the first few days – especially the ones who go straight to Bui Vien area.
Using your phone or laptop.
For anyone who has visited Asia in the past 10 years, you will understand that the mobile phone is probably the most important item a local can own. If it’s not taking selfies at every possible moment, it’s the never ending chatting to friends wherever they are. The good news is that you will be hard pushed to find a restaurant, or even local coffee shop that doesn’t have wifi – even outside the major cities.
Sim cards and network providers
The most popular network providers are Mobifone and Viettel. You can buy a Sim-card either at Tan Son Nhat airport on arrival or one of the many shops in the city. These cost from 100k-300k.
When you want to add money to your phone you can top it up at most convenience shops in the city such as Circle K or 7/11 or straight from your phone. Furthermore, you can add unlimited 3G or 4G for around 70,000 VND (3 usd) per month.
Some expats buy unlimited phone calls and 4G for about 4 million per year. You will need to visit the network provider office with your passport to set this up.
How to find reputable maid services and other businesses in Saigon?
Saigon Expat Services Business Directory has over 2000 business listings on our website. This makes us the biggest business directory by far in all of HCMC. We update it regularly so you will find the latest businesses. Some of the most popular searches are maid services, lawyers, relocation companies, bars and restaurants.
Where to get FREE advisory services for expats and locals.
If you are looking for information that is not in this guide or on our website then you can contact one of our experienced expat team to help you. With over 35 years of living and working in Saigon we have built up solid relationships with many of the expat and local reputable businesses. Contact us today through our website! https://www.saigonexpatservices.com/
Must-Download Apps for Expats in Saigon
The following apps are ones that will make the life of an expat in Saigon easier. They are all in English, and they all help the user to obtain services or information that expats will want to use. Some of them are mentioned elsewhere in this guide already.
- Vietnammm — For all of your upscale dining takeout needs. .
- Now.vn — Now.vn is not as English-friendly as Vietnamm and the food is not as high-quality. It allows the user to order locally-priced street food, though, so it’s a better everyday option.
- Grab — Grab is the city’s most popular ride-hailing app ever since it bought out Uber in 2018. More detail is given in our piece entitled *”“Ride-Sharing Apps In HCMC: 3 Main Options.”*
- GoViet — GoViet only offers motorbike taxis. It is safe and well-organized though. Unlike Grab, Go Viet does not let its users set up accounts for cashless transactions. The app is discussed in greater depth in the piece mentioned above.
- Google Maps — The reason Google maps is in the “transport” apps section rather than “navigation” is because of its bus route planning feature. Simply search for an address or establishment name in the city and ask for public transit directions, and Maps will show you precisely which busses you need to take to get there, as well as where they leave from. The actual timing of Saigon’s public bus stop arrivals and departures changes on a daily basis, so you cannot trust the times shown in the app. Since the city’s bus lines run every 10-25 minutes, though, it should not be a major problem.
- Timo is the international digital banking app that, among other features, allow people to make cross-border transactions from anywhere. We talk about it in the “banking in Saigon” section of this guide.
- Coc Coc Maps — Google Maps is fairly good with navigating you around the city, but Coc Coc Maps is better. It’s the local option, and it does not have the occasional error Google Maps does when it comes to the streets of Saigon.
- Google Translate — There are a lot of English-Vietnamese translation apps available, but the OG Google Translate is as good as any of them. It even allows the user to download the English-Vietnamese dictionary to do offline translations, something most similar apps can’t do.
- Zalo — It’s a pain that there are so many messenger apps out there, but Zalo is the most popular one in Vietnam and that is why it is included here.
- Btaskee — One difficult part of being an expat in Saigon that is not really mentioned elsewhere in this guide is obtaining services for around the house. Things like hiring a maid or a nanny can be extremely difficult for an expat, especially because very few service workers speak English. The app Btaskee allows users to find and hire such workers and lets them leave reviews and recommendations for future searchers. Its English portal allows you to work in a language you’re comfortable with. Even without the language barrier, though, this would be a useful app.
That brings us to the end of this year’s Expats in Saigon Beginner’s Guide. The guide will continue to be updated as time goes on, both the provide info on more topics and to stay up-to-date. If there’s a section you’d like to see, feel free to send us a messege through our website Saigon Expat Services.