Vietnam is a top destination in Southeast Asia for many types of travelers, including digital nomads. With a low cost of living and a plethora of things to do, Vietnam has a lot going for it. On this basis, here is a complete Vietnam digital nomad guide.
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Welcome to Vietnam: a Fascinating Country in Southeast Asia
Run by various local dynasties throughout the centuries, Vietnam became a French colony in 1887. The French influence is still visible through architecture, while some medieval Vietnamese imperial structures still stand in places like Hue.
Divided into two countries in the 20th century, Vietnam defeated both the French and the Americans and reunified in 1976.
Today, Vietnam is a country of contrasts. The traditional rural society is slowly adapting to globalization, and the formerly communist regime has softened its grip over the country.
Officially, Vietnam is a socialist one-party state, but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re there. On one hand, Vietnam is an agriculture-based economy with state-run farms, but on the other hand, Bentleys drive around Gucci stores in Saigon.
It is a place full of contradictions and challenging to understand as a Westerner. Nevertheless, its mind-blowing landscapes, especially in the North, will leave any foreigner speechless.
The Best Places to Live in Vietnam as a Digital Nomad
Vietnam is an amazing country to visit, but most tourism hotspots are unsuitable for digital nomads due to a lack of amenities. The following are the best places to live in Vietnam as a digital nomad.
Hanoi: the Crazy Capital
Hanoi is the country’s capital and second-biggest city.
It has lots of tourist sites, crazy motorbike jams, and various lakes, giving it the nickname “the city of lakes.”
Hanoi has a lot of amenities, even though it’s a bit less modern and developed than Saigon. In this context, the West Lake area is arguably the best for remote workers while the Old Quarter is the epicenter of Hanoi tourism.
All in all, Hanoi is an excellent choice for digital nomads. It is also the gateway to many incredible nature sites (Ha Long Bay, Sapa, Ha Giang, and Ninh Binh).
Ho Chi Minh City: the Most Modern City
If your priorities include high levels of development and Western-style amenities, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is undoubtedly the best nomad base in Vietnam. The biggest city in Vietnam is the country’s financial capital and more westernized than other parts of the country. After all, it’s the former capital of South Vietnam, a country that leaned more toward the West than the modern Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
You’ll find every type of Western comfort here, a bustling nightlife scene and nomad-friendly coffee shops.
The downsides of Saigon are its size and its lack of tourist sights. It’s modern, chaotic, and developed, but it certainly isn’t the prettiest city in Vietnam.
Da Nang, Na Thrang, Phu Quoc: Beach Towns
If you’re looking to stay in a beach town, Da Nang, Na Thrang, and Phu Quoc are recommendable options in Vietnam.
Da Nang and Na Thrang are very developed, with Na Thrang being more resort-orientated.
Phu Quoc is an island off the coast of Cambodia. The beaches there are fantastic, and the amenities are good enough for the average Vietnam digital nomad. The downside is that you’ll have to take a plane or long ferry to get there as it’s not really connected to the rest of Vietnam.
Ninh Binh, Hoi An, Dalat: Backpacker Spots
These three towns are well-established on Vietnam’s backpacking trail.
All three – Ninh Binh in the North, Hoi An in the Center, and Dalat in the South are beautiful and laidback.
They aren’t really nomad hotspots, but if you want to stay in a smaller town with decent tourist infrastructure, they are worth a shot, especially Hoi An.
Hue: a Beautiful Second-Tier City
If you want to base yourself in a smaller, more laidback Vietnamese city, Hue is a great alternative.
Located in the center of Vietnam, Hue is big enough to cater for your needs but small enough not to feel like a big chaotic city.
It’s home to some of Vietnam’s most beautiful imperial structures and only a short bus ride away from the beach town of Da Nang and the famous city of Hoi An.
Cost of Living in Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in the world, explaining its popularity among backpackers.
As long as you don’t go to fancy restaurants and bars in Saigon or Hanoi, you can easily live on 1,000 USD per month here.
Here is a breakdown of the digital nomad cost of living in Vietnam.
- Hotels and Airbnbs in Hanoi and Saigon: 700 USD per month;
- Food and Drinks: 200 USD per month;
- Transport: 50 USD;
- Tourist Activities and Weekend Excursions: 100 USD;
- Miscellaneous like Sim Cards and Barbershops: 30 USD.
Total Vietnam digital nomad budget: 1,080 USD per month.
You could live on an even lower budget if you rent through a local agency and don’t splurge on tourist activities.
Infrastructure and Connectivity
Accommodation for Digital Nomads in Vietnam
Airbnb is present in the big cities and also in small towns. Booking.com, however, has a lot more options and the prices are generally similar. As such, I would suggest Booking.com for digital nomads in Vietnam.
Getting around Vietnam is relatively easy as there are many ways to travel between cities and towns.
Traveling by plane is the quickest but also the most expensive option. Apart from that, you can only use planes to get to the big cities like Hanoi, Hue, Saigon, and Na Thrang. Vietjet and Vietnam Airlines have routes connecting all the major cities.
Another option is train travel. There are many connections and many different classes. However, train travel in Vietnam is slow.
From Hanoi to Hue (North to Center), for example, the trip easily takes 12 hours by train. It’s also more expensive than buses, so it’s more of an “experience” than a convenience option.
Buses are by far the most budget-friendly option. There are different types of buses for every budget and preference.
Ask your accommodation for recommendations. It’s also a great idea to ask them to book for you. The bus stations are confusing, and they often fail to display prices. As such, they can ask foreigners higher fares than what locals would pay.
Keep in mind that Vietnam is a vast country and that there aren’t many fast highways. Traveling from the North to the Center or from the Center to the South by bus will easily take 12 hours. On the plus side, buses are cheap. A 12-hour night bus will usually cost around 15 USD.
The Wifi speed in Vietnam is generally decent, especially in the cities. Expect to get around 20-30 mbps in most places. For faster Wifi, you’ll have to go to a high-end coworking space.
You can buy a SIM Card directly at the airport (easiest option) for around 10 USD. The provider Viettel has the best coverage all over Vietnam. Mobifone is another decent option.
Vietnam Digital Nomad Guide: Remote Working Locations
Here are some of the best coworking spaces and coffee shops for digital nomads in Vietnam. Coworking spaces in Vietnam are generally expensive. If you’re on a budget, coffee shops might be a better option.
- Toong Trang Thi Hanoi Coworking Space: one of the best places to work in Hanoi. Located in a French villa, Toon Trang Thi has all the amenities you could desire.
- Regus Ly Thai Loi Coworking Space Hanoi: an excellent location in the French Quarter of Hanoi, open 24 hours a day.
- Highlands Coffee: a chain of coffee shops present in Vietnamese cities. Highland generally has decent Wifi and top-notch coffee.
- NOLA coffee shop Hanoi: a cute little coffee shop inside a former French building where you can spend hours getting things done in a stylish ambiente.
- The Vibes Coworking Saigon: one of the most upscale coworking spaces in all of Vietnam. The Wifi is world-class, and so are the amenities, but you’ll have to pay a premium to work in such a sleek location.
- Dreamplex Coworking Space Ho Chi Minh City: another excellent location to work remotely in Saigon.
Culture and People
Vietnam has over 40 ethnic groups. And all of them have particular traditions and ways of life.
For the most part, Vietnamese people are open and welcoming. Nevertheless, many places aren’t geared toward foreigners, and you get a few looks when you walk into a more “local” spot.
Apart from that, rural Vietnam is still highly conservative. When you venture into more rural regions, dress modestly and respect the elders.
Vietnam is not as well-equipped for mass tourism as Thailand, and you’ll see that in many places. Don’t expect everything to run smoothly as the service and business culture is still far less developed than in other Asian countries.
Vietnam Digital Nomad Guide: FAQ
To complete our guide on living in Vietnam as an ex-pat or DN, here are some FAQ.
Is There a Vietnam Digital Nomad Visa?
At the time of writing, there is no bespoke Vietnam digital nomad visa.
Most Vietnam digital nomads opt for the tourist e-visa, which allows you to stay in the country for 30 days. The visa is available on the official site and costs 25 USD.
Is Vietnam Safe?
Vietnam is generally safe, and you don’t have to worry about violent crime.
Petty crime, on the other hand, is more prevalent in Vietnam than in other Southeast Asian countries. Always keep you belonging safe and watch out for motorbike snatchers.
Finally, be careful with prices and services in tourist areas to avoid scams.
How Are English Levels in Vietnam?
In truth, pretty terrible.
The people who work in tourism are generally able to communicate, but outside of that, very little English is spoken apart from highly educated professionals. In Saigon and Hanoi, you’ll find more English speakers than in the rest of Vietnam.
To survive as a Vietnam digital nomad, it’s highly advisable to learn a few basic phrases in Vietnamese.
Are There Many Fellow Nomads in Vietnam?
Vietnam is definitely more popular among backpackers than digital nomads, but there are sizable nomad communities in Hanoi, Saigon, and some beach towns.
If meeting fellow nomads and ex-pats is your priority, focus on the big cities (Hanoi and Saigon) and don’t spend too much time in backpacker-geared towns like Ninh Binh, Hoi An, and Dalat.
Vietnam Digital Nomad Guide: the Bottom Line
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Vietnam. Nevertheless, I would say that the country is more of a backpacker than a digital nomad destination.
The cost of living in Vietnam is unbeatable, explaining why so many backpackers choose the country as their first ever destination. You’ll meet a lot of 19-year-old Westerners on their first ever backpacking trip. As such, many places in Vietnam cater to those people, and fewer places cater to people who work remotely.
In short, the main reasons not to go to Vietnam as a digital nomad are that Thailand and Indonesia have more nomad infrastructure and more welcoming locals. In that same vein, Vietnam doesn’t have the infrastructure of Thailand and is more chaotic than Malaysia.
On the other hand, it’s hard to beat Vietnam’s sheer beauty. The landscapes are epic, and the culture is unique, making Vietnam a must-visit destination in Southeast Asia.