Spending a holiday in Vietnam is great! Culture, people, food, weather: it has it all. But this South East Asian country also deserves a shot as a short term resident when you can work remotely. Here’s why:
1. The convenience of eating out
This is obviously reason n°1. Probably because I can’t cook anything else than pasta’s and that I’m addicted to Asian food. In Maslow’s pyramid of needs, food is also close to number 1.
People who work online can have busy lives. These are spent between discovering a new environment and making some money to sustain a living. The balance between the two changes towards the 2nd one the longest you stay somewhere I guess. We’d rather make the food experience the best we can. In Western Europe, eating out is either a luxury or a bad diet habit. People like me who have to eat on their own struggle.
The food in Vietnam (and South East Asia in general) is the answer to this: it’s available everywhere, at (almost) any time of the day and really quick to be served.
You might know fresh spring rolls, Phở (1-3$) or Banh Mi (Viet sandwich, 0,6$). But there are many more local dishes: Cơm Tấm (broken rice with a piece of meat, 1$) for breakfast or Bún Bò Huế (beef noodle soup that isn’t pho, 1$) for lunch or a crab & snails Bún Riêu for dinner. Of course, these prices are for street food or family owned places. Aluminium tables and plastic chairs reflects this feeling and I never feel alone. Also, different parts of the country have new foods to try out. There are many specialists out here that will tell you this better than I do.
Quick, diverse and delicious meals are the key to a nomadic lifestyle. Oh, and it’s extremely cheap, which leads us to the next point.
2. The cost of living
Vietnam is more than affordable if you start living with daily habits (by opposition to a tourist lifestyle where you move around and do a lot of activities). If you want your home comfort (foreign food and imported beer), it can jump quit fast. In my situation (part time freelance gig), it is a great place to live for your money. Slow travel/short term residency in Vietnam is a great opportunity to save money on rent and create connections there.
Here’s an essential costs breakdown for a working-traveling person who doesn’t need fancy in his/her life.
- Housing: 300$/month – A spacious room with a desk and a private bath is all I need. (remember, the food listed above is to be found outside of your home). You can find monthly rentals on Facebook groups, or get Airbnb’s monthly discounts if you book 28 days or more. If you like to move a little more often, you can get cheap hotel rooms as from 8$, or hostels for even cheaper. Another solution is to rent door to door with a local’s help to get the best price.
- Transportation: +- 80$/month – This one is subject to changes if you fly or take day trips within the month. I use my folding bicycle to go to the café/restaurant and use Grab bike (the local Uber) for longer distances and urgent rides. I also have friends who can drive me around on their scooters (kudos to them). You could also rent a scooter.
- Food: 250$/month – If you stick to local places and eat out twice a day. Add an extra 50$ if you fancy coffee places.
- Internet : 9$ – This will get you 30 days and 60 GB of high speed data (2 GB every day). The home wifi is included in your appartement and favorite café.
To keep track of all this, I highly suggest the Tripcoin app. Categories and currencies conversion makes it easy and fun to use.
3. Internet, Coffee and temporary offices
As said above, data is cheap, reliable and fast here. I often share my data from my phone to my laptop and can virtually work anywhere. I have already worked from a taxi on the way from the airport.
But we all like quiet and comfortable environments. I usually go to a café to get my work done when it’s not too late. The chain The Coffee House has decent prices (about 1,3$ for an iced Vietnamese coffee), different floors, outlets and good Wifi, but tend to be busy/noisy on weekends. They are in every major city in Vietnam. Of course, there are plenty of other options. But when you just arrive in a new city and don’t have a desk in your hotel/hostel room, you’ll be happy to find an immediate solution that isn’t a Starbucks.
If you just want to enjoy a coffee without the work & air conditionner, I’d highly suggest to get one at a local place for half the price (0,6$), with it’s complimentary Tra Da (tea) and comfy reclining chairs. or even better, get a street café on plastic chairs for even cheaper, as pictured above.
Artfolio Coworking Space & Café is my go-to place in Saigon. It’s a cafe and coworking space. I don’t use the coworking part as I’m not part of the entrepreneurs scene (yet). I only work part time to fund my travels at the moment.
4. The weather
Most people like sunny and refreshing weather. Sunlight give us a mood boost thanks to a release of serotonin.
If you can’t stand the heat of Saigon, you can always stay north in Da Nang or in Hanoi, the capital. Da Nang & its neighboring Hoi An (center of Vietnam) is the perfect spot temperature-wise. You’ll still get your tan and daily dose of serotonin but are less likely to suffocate.
Vietnam has a great weather, except maybe for it’s tropical part: as I have spent most of the time in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), I can say that it’s hard to stay outside during the afternoon, but that’s an excellent reason to find asylum at coffee places to get some work done. I haven’t experienced the rain season but it’s quite extreme from what I’ve heard. Another downside is the traffic under the heat & pollution. My Airbnb host, Tan, told me that UV rays were extremely dangerous at this time of the year (March/April).
5. Landscapes and culture
During one month in Vietnam, I have maybe seen less than one percent of the country. Since I have to log in almost everyday for work purposes, I stick to day tours and city explorations for the time being. Plus I love staying at my temporary base in Ho Chi Minh city. It’s also better for your work to have a stable situation, even on the go.
That being said, I couldn’t miss out on things, such as the ancient town of Hoi An, Halong Bay or the Buddhist pagoda of the Marble Mountains. If you want to travel around Vietnam as a digital nomad and still get some work done along the way, I’d recommend stopping north (Hanoi), center (Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An) and south (Nha Trang, Da Lat or Ho Chi Minh City). If you are looking to travel backpacker style or crossing the country on a motorcycle, there are many tips out there.
Have you ever been to or lived in Vietnam? Please share your experience in the comments below.