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Posted by jeanseb on December 29, 2018

A French Expat living in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has been my home since 2003, a far cry from my original plan of just a few months! This dynamic city, then just a dream, turned into reality when I opened a real estate business. It’s been amazing meeting expats from all corners of the globe. Back then, Phu My Hung was yet to be built, and Thao Dien was a quaint village offering mostly villas for expats. Fast forward to today, and the transformation is incredible!

Leasing agent in Saigon

A lot has changed since then

Vietnam, with its rich heritage whispering to my French-Vietnamese roots, was a place I yearned to explore, language barrier or not. Stories of exciting opportunities, a vibrant culture, and new connections filled my ears from those who had already made Vietnam their home.

The arrival at the airport in the early morning was a full-on sensory experience – the intense heat, the symphony of sounds, and the bustling energy of vendors. It was a jolt from what I knew, but I was ready to embrace the adventure. With an open mind and a willingness to adapt, I quickly acclimated and became part of the vibrant tapestry of life in Vietnam.

Saigon, the economic capital of Vietnam

Thriving Ho Chi Minh City:

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s economic powerhouse, pulsates in the country’s southern heart. This dynamic metropolis, roughly 1800 km from the charming capital Hanoi, is a magnet for career opportunities. A booming middle class fuels a strong economy, creating demand for skilled professionals across various sectors – engineering, commerce, marketing, finance, and import/export to name a few. Many expats find Ho Chi Minh City an ideal springboard to advance their careers and finances.

A City for Expats:

The expat life in Ho Chi Minh City offers attractive perks. Often, employers provide comprehensive benefits packages, and some expats even rent out their home country properties for additional income.

Exploring the City:

Straddling the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City serves as the gateway to the Mekong Delta, a labyrinth of waterways and vibrant culture. Divided into 24 districts, the city is easy to navigate. Districts 1 and 3 offer a downtown experience, while Districts 2 and 7 cater to specific preferences. With a population exceeding 10 million (and perhaps even more!), the city brims with energy. For a beach escape, Vung Tau and Ho Tram are just a two-hour drive away. Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport provides seamless connections to neighboring countries, making it a perfect base for regional exploration.

Living in Ho Chi Minh City: A Guide for Expats

Ho Chi Minh City is a dynamic city with plenty to offer expats. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect:


  • Career Opportunities: The booming economy means ample job opportunities across various sectors.
  • Lower Cost of Living: Compared to Western countries, housing, food, and transportation are generally cheaper (except for imported goods).
  • Thriving Expat Community: You’ll find a supportive network of expats from all over the world.
  • Accommodation Options: The city offers a wide variety of housing options to suit all budgets and preferences.


  • Heat, Noise, and Pollution: The city can be hot, noisy, and polluted, especially with heavy traffic.

Visas and Permits:

  • Work visas are typically obtained through your employer.
  • Spouse visas are available for those married to Vietnamese citizens.

Finding a Home:

The city offers various neighborhoods, each with its own charm:

  • District 1 & 3: Bustling downtown areas close to shops, restaurants, and nightlife.
  • District 2 & 7: Popular expat areas with modern apartments, some with a “village” feel.
  • District 9: Appealing to those near the French high school and industrial parks, with affordable villas.

Cost of Living:

Here’s a rough estimate of monthly expenses for a typical expat:

  • Rent (2-bedroom apartment): $900-1200 USD
  • Food: $800-1000 USD (cooking at home may not be cheaper with Western ingredients)
  • Utilities: $100 USD (electricity is the main cost)
  • Transportation: Variable (motorbikes are popular, taxis are convenient but pricier)

Getting Around:

While the metro is under construction, you can use:

  • Public buses (with a handy app)
  • Ride-hailing apps like Grab and Go Viet
  • Taxis (be cautious of fake taxis)
  • Motorbikes (convenient but congested and polluted)

Food and Shopping:

Ho Chi Minh City is a foodie paradise, with everything from street stalls to fine dining.

  • Supermarkets like Co.opmart and Mega Market offer familiar brands.
  • Specialty stores like Annam Gourmet cater to Western needs.
  • Abundant fresh produce can be found at local markets.
  • Shopping malls offer international brands (often pricier than in the West).


The city has numerous international schools catering to various nationalities and budgets.


English and French-speaking doctors are readily available at reputable hospitals like FV Hospital and International Medical Center.

Leisure and Activities:

Ho Chi Minh City offers a vibrant nightlife scene, numerous sporting activities, and exciting weekend getaways.

Other related resources:

1- Expats living in Saigon: Facebook group

2- WILLFUL AND WILDHEARTED is a travel blog written by Laura, an american girl passionate about travel and food. You will find on her page some info about her experience living in Vietnam.

3- Shannon’s blog also provides practical advice for planning your expatriation. Check this page if you would like to know about the cost of living in Vietnam; it is very comprehensive.

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