Finding accommodation in Vietnam can be a potential minefield-trust me i know. The price of accommodation varies massively throughout the country although you have the usual options available to you such as hotels, hostels, serviced apartments for long or short stay and AirBnb. AirBnb is great when you arrive in a new city as it let’s you meet new people who can show the ropes quickly. Just avoid staying with the random couple with ten cats and 6 kids for obvious reasons…
On top of the obvious choices you can rent villas on the beach, houses in private complexes with security guards or Vietnamese style rooms with a mattress on the floor. There is something for every budget although the closer you get to the major cities the pricier accommodation becomes.
Initially when moving to a new city you will probably stay in a hotel or Airbnb apartment and this is what I did when I first arrived in Vietnam. Inexpensive hotels can be found for around $12 a night in the major cities and much less in the smaller ones.
I recommend a mid range guest house over a high end hotel or hostel most of the time-primarily due to the reason that they won’t care if you bring a ‘guest’ home for the night. Normally they will just ask for the girls ID card and she will be able to stay. In the more established hotels and some hostels though they are a little more strict and won’t let a foreigner share a room with a local. Always enquire with the hotel if you can before hand if the hotel is ‘girl friendly.’
There are a few golden rules to look out for when shopping for an apartment or room in Vietnam.
- Avoid websites in English targeting foreigners
- Look on Vietnamese websites such as Chotot.vn and craigslist.vn advertising in Vietnamese
- Always take a Vietnamese friend with you when negotiating or viewing places
- Look out for speakers on adjacent buildings or lamp posts. Noise can be a real issue in the bigger cities and you don’t want to move into a place, sign a 12 month lease to find out you have some random speaker outside your bedroom window blaring out public service announcements at 5 am each morning on repeat. Trust me I made this mistake and always look for speaker free areas now!
- Look out for roosters and dogs in the vicinity. Vietnamese love their animals but sometimes they will let their dogs bark all day and night. Roosters are popular pets hear and they love to squawk away at 4 or 5am most mornings. Not good when you’ve been out on the Bia Hanoi the night before
- Negotiate hard and don’t sign a lease longer than 6 months. Planning laws are open to ‘negotiation’ here and if someone wants to come and build a hotel right next to your apartment they will. Expect building work 24/7 for months
- Ask if your landlord will register you with the police. It is a requirement that all foreigners are registered in their ward by the local police. Many landlords don’t want to do this as it makes the rental more ‘official’ and they then have to pay tax and fees to let the property. This is not your problem however, and if you want to get a work permit in the future and also avoid 1 am knocks on the door by police demanding to see you papers, push for the registration.
- Use common sense. If something seems cheap and too good to be true it probably is.
Where to Live in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
A thriving business oriented southern city, Saigon lies in stark contrast to the more traditional Northern capital of Hanoi. Saigon bustles with activity day and night. Life here moves at a hectic pace, people work hard and play hard in it’s sprawling, densely populated metropolis.
Saigon is a city on the up. It’s known as the business capital of Vietnam and many young people come here to work and play and to find a better-paid job amongst the cities many employers.
I’ve recently re-located here from Da Nang and it took me a while to find a suitable place to live that struck the balance between value, size and location. The usual rules apply here when looking for a place as I’ve listed above, however you have to be extra vigilant as competition for the foreign dollar is fierce and there are many more unscrupulous agents situated here compared to smaller cities such as Da Nang and even Hanoi.
The most expensive areas to live in are undoubtedly District 1 (D1) situated in the centre of town and District 7 to the south of the city. In D1 you will find most of the nightlife, western orientated restaurants and most of the higher end hotels such as Pullman and New World Hotel. You will get a large room in a shared house here for $300 per month plus bills. A basic apartment or studio can be had for $400 upwards plus bills with western style places with decent sofas and a nice kitchen normally costing $500+ per month. A basic hotel room for the month will be around $250-$300 depending in your negotiation skills and the exact location but you probably won’t have a kitchen so will be forced to eat out all the time.
Other districts to consider in Saigon are District 7 where you will find larger more family orientated accommodation. This area is very modern and somewhat resembles a Western European town centre. There are many Western restaurants there and the roads are quieter and the air a little less polluted. I recommend this area for longer term living especially if you don’t go out and party all the time. I lived here for some time and enjoyed it, however it’s quite far from the centre of town so if nightlife is your priority District 1 or one of the more central districts may be better.
Adjacent to District 1 is Binh Thanh District and District 2. Both areas are popular with expats who want a more ‘local’ vibe but also what to be within a (roughly) 20 minute drive of the centre. Accommodation prices in these areas are rising steeply as locals catch on to the fact that these areas are becoming more and more popular with foreigners, so expect to pay similar prices to D1.
Phu Nhuan district also comes highly recommended and blends a more modern environment with a traditional Vietnamese feel. I’d recommend looking here especially if you work close by.
Travel time in the city is very traffic dependant and a journey of a few miles between districts can take over an hour in rush hour traffic. It’s always worth waiting until you know where you will be working before diving in and signing a rental lease as a short commute on paper can quickly become a nightmare in the Saigon heat and traffic.
As you progress further away from District 1 rental prices generally become less but are increasing rapidly. I’d recommend D1, 2, 7 or Binh Thanh for a new expat.
Weigh up how much you want to go out in D1 and prioritize your needs such as gym, workplace etc. Also take into account how busy the neighbourhood is what you want from your accommodation. This is the key to getting the best balance between a good apartment and time spent on the roads travelling around.