The majority of people moving to Vietnam will want to consider living in one of the three largest Vietnam cities — Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, and Hanoi. They are all very different places, though, and there are a variety of factors to be examined before deciding on one.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is the commercial, entertainment, and business hub of Vietnam, as well as the country’s most progressive city. The center of the city is a little bit like the Manhattan of Vietnam, with tons of English-accessible activities at your fingertips.
Ho Chi Minh City is also one of the easiest cities in Vietnam for foreigners to get into business, whether that means establishing a restaurant or finding an office job. Perhaps it is for a combination of these two reasons that Ho Chi Minh City has more expats than anywhere else in Vietnam. Naturally, it also has the most expat social opportunities, such as pool and darts leagues as well as a number of sports clubs.
Mixers, pub crawls, concerts, and networking meetups are plentiful here, and expats who are determined to meet fellow nomads will have little trouble doing so.
Of course, life in Ho Chi Minh City also has its downsides. It is far from nature areas like forests with hiking trails. It can be difficult to get exercise if you’re not a gym person. Although it can be seen as an upside for some people, the Saigonese culture is very informal.
Going out with your buddies and having a few too many to drink or walking around your neighborhood shirtless on a hot day are normal occurrences in Ho Chi Minh City, whereas the comparatively conservative culture in most of Vietnam would frown upon such things. The weather may also be a concern, as Ho Chi Minh is essentially hot and humid all year round and rains every day for 6 months.
Danang is an awesome mix of city and beach town. It preserves that laid-back, tropical feeling you want in a coastal municipality, but it also has all the conveniences and amenities of a metropolitan area. No matter where you are in Danang, you’ll never be more than a few minutes away from beautiful beaches on one side of town or deep green nature on the other.
Because it is so easy to get away from things and relax with mother nature, life in Danang has a calm and sedate quality that neither Ho Chi Minh City nor Hanoi can claim. It is also a very quickly developing city, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector.
In 15 years, it may very well be on the same level as Saigon in terms of urban development. It’s exciting to be in the midst of such a quickly changing area.
Unfortunately, jobs other than teaching English are still fairly hard to come by for English-speakers in Danang. It may be a great place for remote workers, but there aren’t many opportunities in the city, including offices hiring expats.
There is a relatively small expat community in Danang because of this. Socializing will also be more difficult — especially because there are not many leisure activities in the city yet. This is certainly one of the most popular cities in Vietnam for expats considering relocating from Saigon or Hanoi.
The capital of Vietnam is a crowded and compact city with a considerable amount of expat activity. Even with a fast paced development, including luxury malls and apartment complexes, it still preserves some of Asia’s best colonial architecture.
The expat community in Hanoi is very diverse. Expats find it easier to get jobs here than anywhere else, even though there aren’t as many as in Ho Chi Minh City. Teaching jobs are very much in demand here and salaries are slightly better than other cities. It also has a relatively cheap cost of living.
Another great thing about Hanoi is that, unlike other Vietnamese cities, it has four clearly defined seasons and has genuinely nice weather part of the year.
Furthermore, not only does Hanoi have beautiful lakes and fantastic restaurants, but it’s also near a lot of different types of nature, so it’s not difficult to get out into the wilderness for day trips.
As noted, though, Hanoi is very crowded. It’s also more conservative than other cities. You are expected to act more “properly” in public, and you won’t find many bars and clubs open until all hours.
If you would like to find out more about living in Vietnam then check out our popular blog which is written by expats who have lived here for many years