Thao Dien has garnered a reputation among the Saigonese as a hotbed for foreigners to live, particularly English-speaking expats. It’s one of the largest expat areas in Saigon, with the other main spot for foreigners to settle being Phu My Hung in District 7. There are many reasons why expats might choose to live in Thao Dien; from the variety of places to eat, apartments with pools and a multitude of international/bilingual schools to either teach at or send your kids to. I’ve been living in Thao Dien for a couple of years and thought I would put together this guide with details on how to set up your expat life in this area of Saigon.
Where is Thao Dien?
Thao Dien is one of the wards that make up Saigon’s District 2. This district is found north of the centre of Ho Chi Minh City (District 1). Thao Dien is an enclosed neighbourhood, with the river looping around 3 sides and the Hanoi highway closing in the other side. Thao Dien is home to lots of international schools and where a large portion of Saigon’s expat community lives.
Why do expats like to live in Thao Dien?
There’s no denying that Thao Dien is a popular place for foreigners to live in Saigon. However, there is often a divide among expats with regards to this area of the city; some love it and some hate it. Ultimately it depends on what you are looking for in your neighbourhood. If you’re looking for somewhere comfortable where you can adjust to life in Vietnam then Thao Dien is a great option. However, if you’re looking to live in a super local area where you rarely see foreigners then you’re going to want to stay away from Thao Dien. Basically, the many reasons why expats might decide to base themselves in Thao Dien are often the same reasons why others want to avoid living in Thao Dien. Each to their own. These are the reasons why I personally decided to move to Thao Dien:
✅ Nice accommodation with security, gyms and pools
✅ An abundance of beautiful cafes to work from
✅ Both Vietnamese and foreign food for a cheap price (I adore Vietnamese food but sometimes you need to change it up)
✅ Can buy imported items easily (think cheese, pasta, beauty products)
✅ Lots of English spoken
✅ A large expat community, which especially if you’re single, makes it easier to meet people. For me, it means that most of my existing friends live nearby which is convenient. Plus, due to the high density of foreigners, Thao Dien has become a hub for social events.
✍️ Check out this post for more pros and cons of living in Ho Chi Minh City.
Where to live in Thao Dien?
There are lots of different accommodation options in Thao Dien, from studios and apartments to gated communities and villas. Most foreigners opt to live in one of the many apartment blocks, though gate communities are very popular with families. Some of the big apartment buildings are HAGL (popular among teachers), Masteri (minimal flooding), Tropic Gardens (has a beautiful pool) and the Vista (slightly removed from the hub of Thao Dien). These complexes are some of the most popular but there are hundreds of smaller apartment buildings.
Getting set up in Thao Dien
Here is a little rundown of where to find what you need in for living in Thao Dien. Everything is pinned on the map so you can find things with ease. These are just personal recommendations of where to go for things – if you have any other spots worth adding, please pop them in the comments so I can update it.
Shopping for food
• Fresh market – Quoc Huong street
• Supermarkets – Tops Markets, Aeon Citimart, An Phu Supermarket (also lots of import goods) and Vinmart (inside VinCom Mall)
• Specialist/import food stores – Annam Gourmet Market, Nam An Market, Black Market, L’Epicentre, Ryan’s Grocery
Fitness in Thao Dien
Beauty in Thao Dien
• For events – Saigon Outcast, Soma Art Lounge, The Hive
• Bars – Escape Lounge, Evita, Bia Craft, Aperitivo, 86 Proof, Twist Coffee and Bar
• Cafes – Dolphy Cafe, Twist Coffee and Bar, OKKIO, Shalom Coffee
Getting around Thao Dien
• Motorbike rentals – Saigon Motorcycles (they even offer Honda Cub rentals so you can grab a motorbike like mine)
• Ride-hailing apps – Grab Vietnam, Go Viet, Be (no English translation but cheaper)
Living in a foreign country isn’t easy, especially if you’re solo, which makes living in an area that is popular with other expats perfect for getting used to everyday life in Vietnam, even if it’s just while you find your feet. Thao Dien is that spot in Saigon, where you can get used to life in Vietnam at a leisurely pace, with home comfort and a community within easy reach.