Anyone who has visited Vietnam will talk positively about the warmth of the local people, the diversity of the landscape, and of course, the rich history and heritage this country holds. It is no wonder that many people who visit Vietnam then decide to call it home since there is an array of benefits to gain from living in Vietnam.
Living in Vietnam offers a unique and unforgettable experience, especially for nature lovers, and let’s not forget the incredible local food which will captivate foodies. Still, in this article, we will weigh up the pros and cons of living in Vietnam to give an honest comparison.
Sure, Vietnam is home to incredible landscapes, beautiful beaches, and delicious street food, but this less-developed country has some downsides too. From its crazy traffic and pollution to the language barrier, Vietnam can be a struggle for those not used to the vast cultural differences, and that is what we aim to focus on here.
Sit back, take notes, and discuss the pros and cons of living in Vietnam.
Quick Overview & Comparison
|Pros of Living in Vietnam||Cons of Living in Vietnam|
|Its Low Cost of Living||The Crazy Traffic|
|The Landscape||The Language Barrier|
|The Friendly People||The Monsoon Season|
|The Food||It’s Crowded|
Vietnam has a prime location in Southeast Asia, neighboring China to the north, Laos to the northwest, and Cambodia to the southwest. It has an area roughly the size of Germany, with plenty of places to explore. Vietnam is also close to Thailand and Myanmar, which makes living here ideal if you love exploring. Its long coastline along the South China Sea is one of the major draws, and unlike its neighbor Laos, which is landlocked, Vietnam has plenty of exceptional beaches to discover.
The capital city of Hanoi is in the north, while the bustling economic hub of Hoh Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon) is situated in the country’s south. The country’s location means it has a diverse landscape, which is undoubtedly an advantage, but you must know the disadvantages of living in Vietnam too.
So, let’s jump in.
Here is a 10-second overview and comparison of the pros and cons of living in Vietnam.
The Pros of Living in Vietnam
1. Low Cost of Living
What can we say? Vietnam is cheap! This is undoubtedly one of the pros of living in Vietnam since your money will stretch much further than in North America. From delicious street food to rent, your costs will be much lower than in your home country, so you can live much more comfortably and perhaps treat yourself more often or save up for something special.
To give you an idea of just how cheap Vietnam is, let’s break it down.
Overall cost of living: 54% lower than in the US
Rent: Rent is 77.4% lower than in the US
Regarding food and drink, a local 0.5L beer will cost just $1, sometimes even less, a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost as little as $21.12, and a one-way ticket on local transport is just 0.30c. Of course, the incredibly low cost of living is a huge advantage of living in Vietnam, and if you are earning USD or are retiring in Vietnam, you can enjoy life’s luxuries without breaking the bank.
2. The Diverse Landscape
Vietnam is well known for its picture postcard landscapes, and one of the country’s most notable attractions is Halong Bay – tall rocks made from limestone which jut out of the sea. People travel from across the globe to see these formations, and they do not disappoint, but in addition to Halong Bay, you will notice rice fields, stunning beaches, waterfalls, forests, and mountains, which make Vietnam a joy to explore.
The bright greens of the hills and forests, teamed with the blue waters, make an incredible contrast. No matter where you settle in Vietnam, you will never be too far from an astonishing landscape, whether Dalat in the central highlands, Hoi An on the country’s coast, or the Sapa region with plentiful rice fields. Since the landscape choices are endless, this makes Vietnam an appealing destination for many ex-pats to consider.
3. The People
Like most people in this region of Asia, the Vietnamese people are among one of the kindest nations on earth. The people of Vietnam have an incredible love for their country and a strong sense of resilience despite their past struggles, and they can always be seen wearing a smile. Their strong sense of community is integral to their culture, and they always show each other support and compassion, which is one of the major draws for people considering a move there.
One of the main things is that Vietnamese people are very approachable and friendly, which is essential for anyone planning to move to Vietnam since this aspect of the culture will make you feel supported and comfortable. According to a 2022 report, Vietnam ranked 15th happiest in Asia, with a score of 5.76, a step up from the previous year when they ranked 18th with a score of 5.49.
4. The Prime Location
Vietnam may be far from the United States, with a flight from Los Angeles to Hanoi taking over 17 hours, but once you are in Vietnam, the possibilities to explore a variety of other nations are endless. Vietnam is situated next to many exciting destinations like Thailand and Cambodia, and it is also very close to The Philippines, which means you will never be short of places to expand your horizons.
In addition, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia are all only a short flight away, so you can easily hop on a direct flight to Bali which takes just over 5 hours. When moving abroad, many people consider the country’s location and the opportunities to venture off occasionally to explore their surroundings. If you are living in an isolated island country, this can prove to be challenging and sometimes expensive. Still, luckily this isn’t the case for Vietnam, and its location is undoubtedly a significant benefit.
5. The Climate
When it comes to the climate of Vietnam, the country keeps its lush green landscape because it features both a tropical and temperate climate zone, with rainy seasons and monsoons at certain times of the year. The country can be split into different regions, with the north and Hanoi being cool and dry between November and April. In Central Vietnam, it is hot and dry between January and August, but in the south, it is generally dry and hot between November and April.
The fact that the climate varies across the country can be a pro of living in Vietnam because you can treat it like three separate destinations and decide which suits you best. As well as this, if the weather is bad where you are living, you can venture to another part of the country, where the weather is milder, without having to go abroad at all.
6. The Food
Vietnamese food is considered one of the best cuisines in the world. Think Vietnamese spring rolls, Pho, and Banh mi – all of which can be found in Vietnamese restaurants worldwide. Like Thai cuisine, food in Vietnam incorporates the five fundamental tastes, sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy, which give the cuisine its distinct character and have made it hugely popular worldwide.
Not only is the food freshly made and incredibly delicious, but you will pay a fraction of the cost that you would pay in a Vietnamese restaurant in the US or anywhere in the world. When living in Vietnam, you will quickly begin to familiarize yourself with some prominent ingredients used in this cuisine: lemongrass, ginger, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Sagon cinnamon and chili line, and basil. According to recent evidence, there are nearly 8,000 Vietnamese restaurants in the USA, which shows its popularity.
The Cons of Living in Vietnam
7. The Crazy Traffic
If you plan to move to Vietnam, chances are you have already visited the country and fallen in love. While visiting, there is no doubt that you have experienced the crazy traffic that has made Vietnam famous. Despite the chaos, it somehow works seamlessly, without everyone knowing how to navigate the craziness with ease.
While this is doable, it certainly takes a lot of getting used to, and you should consider the dangers of driving in Vietnam. Just last year (2022), the number of deaths caused by road accidents was reported to be approximately 6.4 thousand, an increase from 2021. With people driving on the wrong side of the road and driving against the traffic, driving and even crossing the street in Vietnam can be a stressful experience and something you cannot avoid if you live there.
8. Its Less Developed
Vietnam was once one of the poorest countries in the world, and while the country is developing and is considered one of the…. in Southeast Asia, it still has a long way to go. If you are moving from the United States and expecting the economy or infrastructure to be on par with your home city, you will be in shock since Vietnam is still developing, and patience is required when living there.
By 2045, the country aims to be a high-income country, but there needs to be a significant improvement in certain areas for this to happen. The good news is that between 2002 and 2021, Vietnam’s GDP per capita increased 3.6 times, while poverty rates declined from 14% in 2010 to 3.8% in 2020; However, it is vital to understand that Vietnam is nowhere near as developed as the United States in various ways.
9. The Language Barrier
According to a survey in 2021, English was revealed to be the most prominent second language among locals, with 86% of Vietnamese people learning English compared to 16% who learn Japanese or 15% who learn Chinese. With that being said, Vietnam has become more touristy over the years, and this figure is most likely focused on tourist areas, bigger cities, where job opportunities are, and knowledge of the English language is beneficial.
While this is excellent if you plan to live in a major city or tourist tub, getting by without any Vietnamese living in rural Vietnam or just outside these tourist destinations will be tricky. Learning some of the local language before moving to Vietnam is highly recommended, which will make your life a lot easier, help you make friends and find support, and integrate into society.
10. The Pollution/Littering Situation
As you can imagine, with hectic traffic comes high pollution, and in 2022, Vietnam’s air quality index was 5.4 times that of the WHO air quality guideline. If you have asthma or other respiratory issues, living in Vietnam could be difficult, and another country with a lower AQI might be a better choice, despite the array of benefits Vietnam might have.
According to the AQI, the most polluted city was Hanoi, while Nam Sach, Tinh Hai Duong was the cleanest city. As Vietnam develops, it has committed to reducing methane emissions by 30% and halting deforestation by 2030 while achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Still, its high pollution levels must be acknowledged if you plan to live there.
11. Too Many People
Vietnam is Asia’s eighth most populous country and the world’s fifteenth most populous country. While it is not as crowded as India or China by a long shot, it is still very crowded for its size and population. The country has an area of 331,212 sqm, which is similar to that of Germany, but the population of Vietnam is 100 million compared to 83.2 million, with around 311 people per sqm.
There are quiet spots around the country, but you must be prepared for bustling cities, crowded beaches, and traffic that seems like constant rush hour, which can sometimes be frustrating. If you like your space and want to enjoy a relaxed and peaceful way of life, the truth is Vietnam might not be the right fit for you.
12. Monsoon Season
Yes, the country is dry and pleasant at certain times of the year with very little rain, but you need to know that the country does experience a monsoon season. Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, with the south or southwesterly monsoon dominating from May to September and the northeast monsoon from October to April.
Monsoon rains are not ordinary downpours; they are heavy and unpredictable and come with high humidity, which can be frustrating at the best of times. July – September is often the rainiest period when the country experiences extreme weather, boats cannot sail, and flooding can occur. One of the cons of living in Vietnam is you will have to deal with a rainy season every year, and if you don’t enjoy the rain, this will be a struggle if you move there permanently.
How safe is Vietnam?
One of the best things about Vietnam is its low crime rate, which is generally safe for tourists and expatriates. Violent crime is relatively low, and locals are very friendly towards foreigners.
However, petty theft and scams can occur in crowded tourist areas, so it’s essential to remain vigilant and keep your belongings secure as you would anywhere else. One thing to be aware of is the traffic, where accidents can very quickly happen, so always be cautious, driving or crossing the road – which needs to be seen to be believed.
What are the main transportation methods in Vietnam?
While the go-to method of transport in Vietnam is undoubtedly the motorbike, you will need to brace yourself for the crazy traffic and unwritten rules, which come with experience.
To begin with, you can easily take public transport or use taxis or moto-taxis, which are all very cheap and easily accessible. Domestic flights are also provided by reliable airlines at affordable prices, which is an easy way to get from one end of the country to another.
Can I find vegetarian or vegan food options in Vietnam?
Yes, vegetarian and vegan food options are widely available in Vietnam, and the food generally is very healthy. Buddhist influences and a growing health-conscious community have led to abundant plant-based dishes, so you will not find it hard to find meat and dairy-free options.
From fresh spring rolls and vegetable-based soups to various tofu stir-fries, there are plenty of delicious choices for vegans and vegetarians in Vietnam, especially in the cities.
What is the education system like in Vietnam?
Vietnamese people value education greatly; it is not wealth but education that gains you more respect here. Primary education is mandatory for five years, followed by lower and upper secondary schools.
Plenty of higher education facilities and universities exist, especially in the major cities, and parents can also choose from various international schools to send their children to. The drive for academic excellence within the culture is an advantage for families moving to Vietnam, and you can rest assured that there will be many great opportunities for children and teenagers.