Vietnam. The country of many millions of motorbikes, steaming bowls of pho and… lightning quick Wi-Fi speeds. Beyond being a fantastic place to travel, full of iconic landmarks and world-class cuisine, Vietnam has reimagined itself as a digital nomad’s paradise, offering much to the international employee.
So, why should roaming workers base themselves in Saigon (the former name of Ho Chi Minh City)? We delve into the key reasons that digital nomads should choose this captivating city as their base of choice.
Connectivity – it’s all about the wifi
Digital nomads looking for a base in Southeast Asia will know the perils of finding a good place for an internet connection. Perhaps the Thai island of Koh Lipe looks enticing, but you’ll probably suffer in terms of wireless speed. And yes, you could hunker down in other Vietnamese hotspots like Ninh Binh or even Halong Bay for the charm but be prepared for a frustrating time syncing your inbox.
Ho Chi Minh City has one of the fastest wireless networks in Southeast Asia, as the average Airbnb for rent will offer you unlimited broadband at speeds of over 100 MB/s as part of the standard deal.
5G mobile connectivity is the norm not the exception and even picking up a basic SIM card with heaps of data won’t set you back more than a few dollars.
Beyond the virtual connectivity, the city is a great hub for travellers wanting to explore Vietnam. Quick trips to the sandy dunes of Mui Ne or the hillside town of Da Lat are easy to manage, or even a hop into Cambodia for culture in Phnom Penh. The international airport is well-connected with daily flights to Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and even Paris.
Accommodation – affordable luxury at its finest
Rooftop infinity pool? Tick. World-class fitness facilities? Tick. Fully equipped kitchen, dining area and comfy beds? Definitely tick.
Ho Chi Minh City has undergone a construction revival in the last decade with a plethora of high-end buildings popping up across the city suburbs. Most of these are mixed commercial and residential spaces offering premium apartments along with all the key amenities you’d expect in cities like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
A standard one-bedroom apartment in one of these well-positioned blocks will set you back approx. 11.8 million VND (500 USD) per month including that all-important unlimited wifi, making Ho Chi Minh City a pretty favourable place to find an apartment for the short-term.
Workspaces – from coworking to cafes
Want to spend your days sipping perfectly poured lattes while bashing out your developer code or blog posts? The city has a great number of fantastic coworking spaces all geared towards the nomadic lifestyle.
Take, for example, The Hive. A space with all the basics like comfy desks, phone booths, printers and meeting rooms but also a rooftop terrace where you can use the free coffee and tea station to make a cuppa, and network with like-minded nomads. The space even hosts movie screenings and art workshops for its vibrant coworking community. Day pass: 240,000 VND (10.20 USD)
Hot desk for one month: 1.5 million VND (63.50 USD)
Address: 94 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
Other popular coworking places include Officespot and CirCo.
The city also has a vibrant café culture, beyond just the usual hawker stalls or just the standard Starbucks working model. A number of large coffee chains are absolutely happy to accommodate digital nomads, giving you space to work with comfy chairs, plug points and free filtered water.
Notable ones include The Teaspoon Coffee & Tea Room and The Workshop Coffee, an industrial-style achingly trendy coffee shop full of comfortable tables, handy plug points and a masterful list of brews to satisfy even the biggest of coffee snobs. Walking into any of the cafes will see you encounter many a keyboard warrior on hushed conference calls.
Cost of living – cheap and undoubtedly cheerful
Most travellers don’t need to be convinced that Vietnam is one of the cheapest places to travel in Asia, with a beer usually coming in at under a buck (or three beers for a dollar), and a bahn mi (a lip-smackingly good toasted baguette) only a couple of dollars.
Similarly, living in Ho Chi Minh City can see you living for under 50 USD a day. Beyond the cheap confines of your accommodation, you can really skimp on the standard prices.
Want to get around on the cheap? Just hail a Grab taxi or if you know how to handle one, rent a motorbike for a month for about 1.4 million VND (60 USD). Need to cut down on your costs for eating out? You can probably sort out all your groceries for the month for under 1.1 million VND (50 USD) if you’re frugal. Plus, you could hit up a hawker stall and eat your supper for around 200-500 VND (1-2 USD) for a hearty meal.
Community – building a network of nomads
Like other digital hubs in Asia, including Chiang Mai and Bali, Ho Chi Minh City is a relatively popular scene for remote workers, meaning you’re likely to find a lot of peers to socialize with. Whether you’re finding them at coworking spaces or cafes, the city has a friendly community that often hosts meet-ups or, more informally, sees like-minded people congregate together.
A quick search of Facebook even sees a number of support groups, including Expats in HCMC and Expats in Saigon where you can do everything from buy a second-hand couch to find a new friend to work on an international project.
Ease of Entry
Now this might be a difficult one for some, specifically those from more restricted countries, but Vietnam offers a 90-day e-visa for many countries meaning you’ve got at least 3 months in the city. And, if you’re a US citizen, you’re definitely in luck since its relatively easy to secure a one year visa, that can be renewed. Not keen on Vietnam for your digital nomad exploits? It’s definitely worth checking out other major expat cities including the island of Bali, Indonesia, foodie paradise Chiang Mai Thailand or fellow high-rise haven, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.