ho chi minh city saigon vietnam pros and cons expat living tefl

Picking the right place to call home will shape your experience in Vietnam. No two cities offer the same vibe and with Vietnam being such a long country, the difference between living in the north versus living in the south can be vast. Considering I’m still living in Ho Chi Minh City, 4 years after moving, I think it’s safe to say that Saigon was the right choice for me! I have fallen head-over-heels for my adopted home. Not everyone suits this vibrant city, and some elements might suit your personality, yet overwhelm others so it’s important to consider what matters for you. We all have different perspectives of what is important, but here is a rundown of the pros and cons of living in Ho Chi Minh City, from my personal experience.

ho chi minh city saigon vietnam pros and cons expat living teflReasons to live in Ho Chi Minh City

Here are some of the pros to living in Ho Chi Minh City from my personal experience.

1️⃣ Vibrant expat scene

As the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City offers a dynamic expat scene with lots of opportunities to build a bustling social life. There are hundreds of events happening every month. Whether you’re interested in music, art, sports, comedy, cooking or club nights, you’ll be able to find events where you can meet like-minded friends. I post weekly round-ups of events happening in the Saigon on Facebook if you are in the city and looking for fun things to do.

2️⃣ Vietnamese in the south are notoriously kind

From my personal experience travelling all over Vietnam, I have to agree with the general consensus that Vietnamese in the south are more welcoming and open-minded than in the north. Living among locals who are welcoming of foreigners helps make the experience of living in Vietnam special.

3️⃣ Ho Chi Minh City is well developed

Between the French colonial buildings and the modern skyscrapers, it is easy to adapt to culture shock in Ho Chi Minh City. When it comes to infrastructure, the city is serviced by a network of ride-hailing services and buses (use BusMap to find routes etc) to help you navigate. Saigon is also home to some of the best hospitals and schools in Vietnam. Wifi is available everywhere and there is a huge variety of apps for everything from grocery deliveries, to cleaners and handymen.

4️⃣ An abundance of job opportunities

The teaching English market is booming in Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh City is no exception. As the largest city in Vietnam, and the most developed, there is a huge push to increase English fluency and as a result, there is a high demand for TEFL qualified teachers in Ho Chi Minh City.

✍️ This guide share how to find a job teaching English in Vietnam

5️⃣ Ho Chi Minh City is a major travel hub

Being close to Vietnams biggest airport makes travelling across Vietnam simple, and often, very cheap. The city is also a major train and bus hub. For me, this is one of the biggest advantages of living in Ho Chi Minh City.

In addition, the city is well connected with bus routes to Cambodia and the international airport has links with most countries in Asia opening up convenient travel across the continent.

6️⃣ Lifestyle to suit every budget

Ho Chi Minh City is a huge city. One of the pros that come with this is that there is a massive selection of accommodation, transport options and general lifestyles you can live. Different districts offer different expat experiences, so whether you’re looking to save money or live it up, you can find it in Saigon.

7️⃣ Amazing and cheap food

Food all over Vietnam is fresh and cheap, but what sets Saigon aside from other locations in Vietnam is the abundance of high-quality international food. From Italian to Mexican, Japanese to Middle Eastern, Ho Chi Minh City offers it all. Plus the majority of restaurants in Saigon offer home delivery through apps like Foodie and Grab Food.

8️⃣ Lots of English is spoken

Vietnamese is a complex, tonal language and very challenging to pick up. Ho Chi Minh city is a youthful city with a relatively high English fluency (compared to the rest of Vietnam). Knowing basic phrases is enough to be able to live without issues.

9️⃣ Year-round warmth

Ho Chi Minh City experiences two seasons: wet/monsoon and dry. However, the weather remains hot throughout both seasons. Hanoi, in the north of Vietnam, experiences 4 marked seasons with accompanying changes in temperature. Some people might not enjoy living in a hot, humid climate but I love having year-round warmth.

ho chi minh city saigon vietnam pros and cons expat living teflDownsides to living in Ho Chi Minh City

These are some of the cons to living in Ho Chi Minh City.

1️⃣ Traffic is busy and can be overwhelming

For many, the busy traffic is a huge con to living in Ho Chi Minh City. Thankfully traffic jams move fast and aren’t a huge issue. The roads are dominated by motorbikes which can be overwhelming and of course, pose safety concerns. When you’re new to Vietnam, crossing the street can be a scary prospect and learning to ride a motorbike is not for everyone though it does make travelling around the city much more efficient.

✍️ Learning to ride a motorbike in Vietnam.

2️⃣ Pollution is high

Living in any Vietnamese city is going to come with air pollution due to the high density of people and motorbikes. Ho Chi Minh City has cleaner air than Hanoi but there are some days where you can feel it. To avoid inhaling polluted air many people wear pollution masks (I recommend the AQ Blue masks which can be ordered online). Personally, I hardly notice the pollution when it comes to breathing. However, I know that some people are more sensitive to it than me. If you find yourself sensitive then getting an air purifier for your house can help.

3️⃣ The city floods in monsoon season

With a large tidal river running through the city, it’s unsurprising that areas of Ho Chi Minh City experience flooding during monsoon season. Often the flood damage isn’t major and, because it is the same streets that flood every-time, locals are somewhat prepared. Normally flooding is gone overnight but it can make it challenging and dangerous to travel around the city in monsoon season.

4️⃣ Easy to fall into an expat bubble

The majority of expats chose to live in District 2 (Thao Dien) or District 7 (Phu My Hung), I think originally because these are where the international schools are. As a result, businesses in these areas cater heavily to expats. For example, you’ll find lots of import stores, gyms with classes in English and lots of luxury accommodation. Living in an area that has lots of western influence will appeal to some and not to others. However, it’s important to note that it is easy to slip into an expat bubble when you live in these areas. By this I mean you only spend time with foreigners and don’t interact with the local population much.

✍️ A Guide to Living in Thao Dien

5️⃣ Not as many day trips as Hanoi

The south of Vietnam doesn’t have the same dramatic scenery as the north of Vietnam and so there aren’t as many interesting day trips to take from Ho Chi Minh City. Some of my favourite day trips are hiking Black Virgin Mountain in Tay Ninh province, and a ride to Can Gio Island. There are lots of overnight trips options like the beach towns of Mui Ne and Vung Tau, or mountains destinations like Bao Loc and Dalat.

6️⃣ Not many parks to relax in

Ho Chi Minh City is dense and many of the parks are surrounded by busy roads and skyscrapers. This can make finding calm areas challenging. Some of the best parks in the city are Vinhomes Central Park, Sala Park, Binh Thanh tourist village and The Crescent Walk (at Crescent Mall).

The lowdown on pros and cons of living in Ho Chi Minh City

While picking a city to move to is an important decision, don’t forget that you can (and should) change base if you arrive and things don’t suit your needs! I hope my personal experience of the pros and cons has offered some insight into what it is like living in Ho Chi Minh City. If you have any more questions be sure to put them in the comments and I can share further insight.

Meet Frances; Scottish lass turned Vietnam expat, and creator of this space. She can be found sippin’ ice tea’s and writing about her adventures from her sunny base of Saigon, Vietnam’s southern metropolis. All with a healthy side of researching her next road trip. With 5 years of living, travelling and scooting around Asia under her belt – let Frances be your guide to travelling the region.


  • February 15, 2018

    Such an exceptional read, Frances! I’ve learned so much about Ho Chi Minh City from reading your post and I would love to cross it off my bucket place soon!

  • Samantha Elisabeth

    February 28, 2018

    Ah such a helpful guide! I haven’t totally ruled moving Vietnam out in the future especially if I want to go back to teaching for another year. I was surprised by how much I preferred HCMC/Southern Vietnam to Hanoi/Northern Vietnam in terms of interactions and weather!

  • May 12, 2018

    Wonderful guide. I ‘ve never put much thought into Vietnam, but the way you’ve described it puts it in a beautiful light. I need to check it out some day

  • Anita Paul

    June 27, 2018

    Great read, thanks. I am trying to decide between Vietnam and Thailand for my next teaching job, and your list of pros and cons has been super helpful! I’m a bit put off by the lack of nature escapes.. what do you do for exercise?? Is there anywhere to walk around, or are you restricted to the gym?

  • July 20, 2018

    Very entertaining post! Beautiful pictures

    • angie

      October 19, 2018

      Thanks for the post. Great help. How’s the roaches there? Do you see many of them indoors?? How do you handle them? (I know it could sound trivial, but serious consideration for me – thanks for the answer in advance!)

  • February 26, 2019

    very interesting topic, great post.

  • Diane

    March 12, 2019

    Great post!! My husband and I will be moving to HCMC this summer. What are your insights about living in Bin Than, the area near the river opposite the zoo? We wanted to be close to downtown but still have an authentic experience and be somewhat out of the “ex-pat bubble”.

  • Roto

    March 20, 2019

    Where did you buy irn bru? Because I didn’t see any of it in an nam gourmet


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