Welcome to my digital nomad guide to living in Ho Chi Minh City. I spent a glorious 6-weeks working remotely from this vibrant Vietnamese city and loved my time there. It’s such a spirited and lively place filled with color, culture, and great coworking spaces.
I left the UK over two years ago and currently travel the world as a digital nomad. I’ve worked remotely in dozens of countries but my trip to Ho Chi Minh was my first venture East. I quickly fell in love with all things Vietnam, to the extent that I’ve already planned my next trip to the northern city of Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh is one of the best cities to base yourself for remote working. Whether you’re seeking a dedicated workspace equipped with all the usual office amenities or simply wish to understand what life as a digital nomad might be like in Ho Chi Minh, I’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in and get started.
About Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon, is a bustling metropolis. It’s filled with an energy that never seems to diminish and a pulsating vibe that attracts people from all around the world. While the official name change to Ho Chi Minh took place in 1976 after the Vietnam War, many locals still commonly refer to it by its former name.
With a population of 9.3 million people, it’s the most populous city in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh is widely recognized as the economic powerhouse of Vietnam. It’s a major center for commerce, finance, and trade, and serves as a hub for business.
The stunning skyline of HCMC offers a glimpse into the financial successes of the city with huge skyscrapers that dominate the view. The juxtaposition between the locals selling fruit from roadside shacks and evident poverty can at times be startling, but it creates a tapestry of culture for travelers who will find everything they could want in a city.
For me, I’ll forever remember Ho Chi Minh for the motorbikes. My travel insurance strictly forbade riding one and after 10 seconds in the city, you will see why! Official stats put the number at 7.6 million motorbikes, but I’ve heard unofficially that it’s closer to 10 million! The traffic on the roads is a spectacle to witness, and it’s something I never quite acclimated to.
Digital Nomad in Ho Chi Minh: Personal Experience
I loved being a digital nomad in Ho Chi Minh City. I managed to secure a 3-week house sit which meant my accommodation costs were really low for my 45-day stay. It enhanced my overall experience and gave me a good home base to work from. If you’re interested in house sitting, check out my 8 expert tips for landing a house sitting job.
I sometimes like to venture out for some different scenery on work days and found that WiFi is available pretty much everywhere. I even managed to pick up free access while sitting on the beach in Vung Tau recently – the true digital nomad’s dream! Bars, restaurants, cafes, and even some public areas have good free internet access.
It was also easy to find affordable coworking spaces. There’s a real digital nomad scene and the prices are very cheap. I’ll be going into more depth on a few of my favorite spots later. Great coffee houses with outstanding coffee for cheap prices are abundant and are a great option for remote working.
The cost of living in Ho Chi Minh was another massive benefit for me as a digital nomad. Accommodation outside of my house sit was cheap and getting around and food shopping was both easy and affordable with the local ride-share app Grab.
Is Ho Chi Minh City Safe?
Safety is generally not a significant concern for visitors to the city. That being said, you should always exercise standard precautions, such as safeguarding digital devices and being aware of your surroundings. Overall, HCMC is a welcoming and secure destination for travelers and anyone seeking the digital nomad lifestyle.
Petty crimes like pickpocketing can and do occur, especially in crowded areas and busy tourist hotspots. I recommend that travelers remain vigilant at all times and secure their belongings as well as they would anywhere else.
Violent crimes are rare, and the local population is known for its hospitality. By conscientiously following basic safety guidelines and being aware of local customs, everyone can enjoy their time in Ho Chi Minh without major safety concerns.
Best Areas to Live in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh sprawls across a vast urban landscape, divided into numerous districts. Each has its unique characteristics, attractions, and cultural elements. Below, I’ve outlined the 5 best areas to live whilst working as a digital nomad in HCMC.
1. District 1 (Quận 1)
District 1 is the beating heart of Ho Chi Minh and where the energy is most palpable. It’s where I spent most of my time whilst in the city. Iconic landmarks such as the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon mix seamlessly with modern institutions like the Bitexco Financial Tower.
The streets are a mesmerizing blend of motorbikes, street vendors, and the constant hum of activity. Living in District 1 means proximity to lively areas such as Bui Vien Street, where bustling nightlife and a diverse range of bars, clubs, and street food stalls are at every turn.
The famous Ben Thanh Market is another fun/chaotic experience. The mass of stalls sell everything from traditional textiles to local delicacies. As the central business and commercial hub, District 1 also hosts numerous upscale hotels, shopping malls, and coworking spaces.
2. District 2 (Quận 2)
District 2 has evolved into an expat haven and an escape for those seeking a slightly more laid-back HCMC lifestyle. Characterized by its spacious residential homes, international schools, and a growing number of Western-style amenities, this district stands out for visitors.
Expat-friendly restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets cater to the diverse community that calls District 2 home. It’s a welcoming tourist hotspot, that has some fantastic happy hours to be discovered! District 2’s appeal is amplified by some lush greenery and peaceful waterfront views, providing a stark contrast to the bustling streets of District 1.
The expat nature of D2 means numerous co-working spaces and tranquil worker-friendly cafes are easy to find. I had the luxury of living between D1 and D2 during my house sit and got to experience both in equal measure. It was a great way to fully experience both districts in more depth.
3. Binh Thanh District (Quận Bình Thạnh)
Located to the northeast of D1, Binh Thanh District offers an amazing blend of tradition and rapid urban development. Historically an industrial area, Binh Thanh has undergone significant transformation, with modern condominiums and high-rises which have created a stunning skyline alongside remnants of its industrial past.
The Saigon River lines the district, providing picturesque views. Binh Thanh District is increasingly becoming a sought-after residential area due to its central location and diverse international amenities.
Binh Thanh is an ideal option for digital nomads seeking modern facilities in an ever-modernizing setting, with the cultural gems of Saigon’s past all within easy reach.
4. District 3 (Quận 3)
District 3 is a beautiful place to situate yourself. It’s where French colonial history mixes with the culture of local Vietnamese life. D3 is revered for its picturesque tree-lined streets and well-preserved colonial villas.
Predominantly a residential area D3 has an authentic atmosphere with glimpses into the normal daily routines of local people. On the other hand, The Box Market offers a contemporary twist on traditional HCMC street markets. The comfortably laid out and manageable selection of stalls sells everything from local cuisine to designer clothes – all from local vendors.
Although the amount of co-working spaces is lower in D3, they do exist. Many cafes and coffee shops with excellent free WiFi are easily accessible in the area.
5. District 7 (Quận 7).
District 7, also referred to as Phu My Hung, is a modern urban development on the southern side of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a well-planned district that contrasts the city’s historic features with many contemporary elements and has an attractive international appeal.
The star attraction of District 7 is Phu My Hung New City Center, an area featuring wide boulevards, landscaped parks, and modern skyscrapers. The Crescent Mall, an iconic shopping destination, has a mix of high-end shops and diverse fine dining options. It’s also a great spot for remote working.
D7’s Crescent Lake is a popular recreation and relaxation spot and provides a serene escape with waterfront promenades and jogging paths.
How to Find Accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City
There are plenty of great accommodation options for people working remotely in Ho Chi Minh City. Here are a few of the best places to find them;
1. Booking.com: I’ve been using Booking.com for years and despite numerous other options on the market, it remains my go-to travel website. The perks and savings of attaining a Genius Level 3 membership can be pretty substantial. The option to cancel for free and book without payment is of great benefit to digital nomads like myself.
2. Airbnb: Another great option with thousands of listings for all budgets in Ho Chi Minh is Airbnb. I always recommend adjusting budgets to lower amounts to find cheaper options that might not come up on the first search. Many properties offer huge discounts on month-long stays.
3. Trusted Housesitters: I landed a 3-week HCMC housesit thanks to Trusted Housesitters. It’s my top choice for house and pet sitting, it always has thousands of properties seeking sitters. While Asia is emerging as a developing market for house sits, opportunities do arise, and I’m living proof that they can be secured. Use discount code GOATS20 for 20% off!
4. Workaway: If you’re up for exchanging a little of your time for a spot of teaching English, for example, you can land free accommodation with Workaway. Food is frequently included, and I’ve had some of my most memorable experiences around the world using volunteer placement sites like this.
Cost of Living in Ho Chi Minh City
The cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City is significantly lower compared to many other countries I’ve worked from remotely. I’ve categorized some everyday expenses below and will give you an insight into my typical experience with each.
Restaurants and Groceries
There’s a big difference in what you’ll spend on food in Ho Chi Minh compared to say the UK or the USA. Although high-end bars and restaurants can still be expensive, there are so many cheap food options available that digital nomads can easily eat a good meal for around $2-$5pp.
Grocery shopping is a fun experience in Vietnam – the big supermarkets hand out so many tasters! The biggest savings are found in the price of things like meat, eggs, certain fruits, and vegetables. 2 decent size chicken breasts cost $3 and 10 eggs are around $1.
Prices for Western cheese, wine, and various non-dairy milks are fairly consistent with the costs I’ve seen elsewhere in the world. The deli counters are great places to pick up affordable lunches. Set Sushi plates and salad/meat combos are always available and cost around $1-$2.
The range of accommodation in Ho Chi Minh is quite impressive; there’s something for every budget. While booking my stay I found some fantastic-looking hotels and apartments for as little as $20/night. But during the same search, I found similar options for $300/night. The reason for the price disparity is unclear so it’s definitely worth taking some time to do your own research and make your own comparisons.
In my final week, I moved out of the city toward Vung Tau Beach and paid $120 for a week. Again, it was a great apartment in a beautiful complex with a rooftop infinity pool and gym included. My advice is to shop around, read reviews, and snap up the bargains when you find them.
Transportation Costs in Ho Chi Minh City
Grab is pretty much all you’ll need for getting around in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s like Uber and is reliable, safe, and super cheap. It’s an app-based service fully translated into English and as user-friendly as any ride-share app on the market.
Short journeys will cost around $1-$2, my 30-minute journey from the airport cost less than $10. If you dare, you can also book a Grab moped to come and pick you up, and this is usually half the price of a car. They thankfully bring a helmet for you to wear, but only 1 person can ride with the driver.
Grab also offers a food and grocery delivery service. The service charge and delivery fees are very low and again $2 will get you a decent lunch. I also joined Grab Unlimited which had a 2-month free trial and was cancelable anytime. It saves you around 10% on all journeys and pretty much eradicates most food delivery fees.
SIM Cards and Data
There are several SIM cards and Data plans available for tourists. I purchased a SIM from an official Vinaphone store during my first few days in Ho Chi Minh. Although you’ll find WiFi at even the most quaint of cafes, I recommend you get a data SIM, if only for booking a Grab when out and about.
I researched the prices and went in prepared, but they offered me a completely different set of costs and plans once I was there. Therefore, I won’t break down the tourist SIM options, of which there are many, for you here but rather tell you what I paid.
I received 6 GB of data plus calls and texts to Vietnam numbers for 160,000 VND which is around $5. It lasted a month, was activated immediately in the shop, and worked great for me. I did see and hear of people haggling with prices and plans but for $5 a month, I was more than content.
Money Saving Tips for Ho Chi Minh
- Eat and drink at local restaurants and cafes. You’ll expect to pay around $2-$5 per meal and the food is good.
- Though taxis are not overly expensive, you’ll save money over a month’s stay using Grab.
- Airbnb hosts usually offer terrific discounts on longer stays. This can amount to hundreds of dollars for a single trip.
- Booking.com’s Genius Membership Program has some amazing savings that include discounts, room upgrades, free airport taxis, and complimentary breakfasts.
- Sign up for a house sitting site like Trusted Housesitters and use the filters to search for stays in Ho Chi Minh City.
- Haggle for pretty much everything. Bargaining is a common practice in Vietnam, especially in the marketplaces.
Coworking Spaces in Ho Chi Minh and WiFi Speed
There’s a big digital nomad culture in Ho Chi Minh and I enjoyed working at numerous different spots during my stay. Some great options are available across the various districts. You’ll find everything from consistent and quiet working environments to energizing and motivating creative spaces.
If you mean business while in Ho Chi Minh City and want the full hot desk experience, I recommend Sharespace. With all the comforts of a modern office, high-speed internet, and multiple locations around the city, Sharespace is a one-and-done solution for those in need of regular and reliable office facilities.
They offer a host of options and prices to suit every digital nomad’s budget. Basic packages are around $15 and include everything a remote worker could need to get the job done, including free coffee!
2. The Hive
With 3 locations in Ho Chi Minh, including a convenient base in D2 for those staying outside of the city center, The Hive is an excellent option for anyone living in HCMC as a digital nomad.
Their daily rates start at 190,000 VND (around $8) and includes everything you need to complete a good solid shift on the laptop. The Hive’s monthly 24/7 access membership costs around $90 and offers access to a pool; meaning you can take regular dips between conference calls – bliss!
3. Hello World Saigon
If you fancy being in the heart of D1’s pulsating financial district while you work, Hello World Saigon may be the coworking space for you. Here, you’ll be working steps from the beautiful Saigon River and in the immediate presence of the towering Landmark 81 building.
This modern, comfortable, and well-equipped environment is a great choice for any kind of digital nomad. It was a place where I spent more than a few afternoons working away. The very affordable day rate of around $8 includes coffee, water, and business-hour access.
Best Cafes to Work From in Ho Chi Minh
In addition to the many official coworking options available, Ho Chi Minh is home to many cafes with excellent WiFi and comfortable spaces for digital nomads. The cafe culture is huge and you won’t have to travel far to find a good coffee shop in HCMC. Here are a couple of my favorite spots for working in;
- Beenthere Cafe: A bright, spacious, and comfortable cafe with outstanding coffee, reliable, fast WiFi, and friendly staff.
- The Coffee House: A sleek and professional environment with an atmosphere that makes for a very inviting place to work.
- Highlands Coffee @ Landmark 81: A huge chain of coffee shops that offers very affordable and varied coffee options, and free WiFi for all customers. Highlands are everywhere in HCMC, but the branch at Landmark 81 is a great spot.
Activities and Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh
We don’t just travel to Ho Chi Minh to work, right? There are so many cool things to do in the city once you’ve ticked off your tasks for the day. Here are a few of the great activities that make HCMC such a captivating place to work remotely.
1. War Remnants Museum
As museums go, the War Remnants Museum has to be one of my all-time favorites. Situated in the heart of D1 is a bunch of memorabilia left over from the Vietnam War. You can see a lot of it from the street, but with tickets priced at around $1.50pp, it’s worth every cent.
On top of numerous intact military aircraft such as helicopters, jets, missiles, and heavy artillery, 3 floors of exhibition rooms showcase many horrific aspects of the Vietnam/America conflict. Be warned, some parts are shocking to look at and act as a harsh reminder of the devastation of war.
2. Ben Thanh Market
As a right of passage, everyone should visit Ben Thanh Market at least once during a trip to Ho Chi Minh. It’s a chaotic and fun experience to be embraced and enjoyed.
Too many stalls to count sell everything from clothing and fabrics to watches and peanuts. If you want it, you will likely find it in Ben Thanh Market. Don’t forget to haggle – it’s an acceptable approach to shopping in Vietnam marketplaces. I was told to immediately halve whatever the stated price is and keep lowering my offer until they cave!
3. Landmark 81
It’s impossible to miss the Landmark 81 building during a trip to Ho Chi Minh. It’s not only the tallest building in the city, but it’s also the tallest in Vietnam. It lights up beautifully every night at 6 pm and is a stunning and iconic symbol.
You can take an elevator to the top for a small fee of around $10. Alternatively, there’s a bar on the 75th and 76th floors that has a free elevator and undoubtedly the best views in the city. Aim to arrive at 5.30 pm so you can sit with a cocktail as the sun goes down and the Landmark lights up.
4. Craft Beer Bars
If you love craft beer then Ho Chi Minh has got you covered. The explosion in the craft beer industry has not escaped Vietnam and there are some great bars to be found all across the city. Prices are a little more expensive compared to local beers but it’s still much more affordable for a great pint than anywhere I’ve ever visited in the UK or the US.
The Heart of Darkness and Belgo are two outstanding breweries and craft beer bars that I frequented many times. Belgo offers a 2-for-1 happy hour every day from 3 pm-6 pm on its draft beers. The food in the Heart of Darkness is outstanding. Be warned, the Macho Nachos are a party platter big enough for 8 people. I saw an American couple learn this the hard way.
5. Binh Quoi 1 Tourist Village
I was a little put off by the name ‘Tourist Village’ at first too, but don’t be deterred. Binh Quoi is a beautiful and tranquil setting and a great place to visit. The free-to-visit park is a reflection of the Mekong Delta with stunning water features, river views, wooden bridges, and amazing flower arrangements and gardens.
On weekend evenings the park offers a huge buffet. For around $12 visitors can feast on a mixture of fish, barbecued meats, vegetables, rice, and noodle dishes, in addition to many other traditional delicacies from dozens of different stalls. All in the tranquil setting of Binh Quoi.
Weather in Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City has a tropical climate marked by distinct wet and dry seasons. Average temperatures range from 22 to 34 degrees Celsius (72 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit) year-round. The dry season, from December to April brings pleasant and sunny weather, while the wet season, from May to November, has much heavier rainfall, high humidity, and occasional tropical storms.
During the wet season, Ho Chi Minh City encounters monsoon rains, especially in June, July, and August. The humidity levels rise and can create a sweltering atmosphere. Brief but intense afternoon downpours are common but they do provide some light relief from the heat.
I visited Ho Chi Minh City during the dry winter months of December and January. It was comfortably warm, had minimal rain, and the humidity was completely manageable. It allowed me to comfortably explore all the city’s cultural sites, lively street scenes, and delicious cuisine without the intense tropical heat and heavy rainfall.
Pros and Cons of Living in Ho Chi Minh
If you’re planning to spend some time in Ho Chi Minh as a digital nomad, consider first these pros and cons;
Pros of Living in Ho Chi Minh
- Cheap cost of living: Everything from accommodation, food, drink, and transportation is significantly cheaper in HCMC than in many other countries I’ve visited.
- Warm Weather: Ho Chi Minh has an average temperature of 22 to 34 degrees Celsius (72 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit) year-round.
- Ample Coworking Space: A big digital nomad culture means that there are plenty of spaces to affordably base yourself for remote working.
- Great Coffee: There’s a huge cafe culture and many places that offer reliable WiFi and comfortable working environments for a digital nomad living in Ho Chi Minh City.
- Friendly People: Locals and expats alike are welcoming of visitors and HCMC has a friendly inviting feel.
- Great Social Scene: Outside of working hours, digital nomads can enjoy the fantastic bar and restaurant scene that is prominent throughout the city.
Cons of Living in Ho Chi Minh City
- Language Barrier: Although many Ho Chi Minh residents do speak English, it’s not uncommon to interact with locals who do not speak anything but their native tongue.
- Different Culture: Traditions, cultures, and cuisines are considerably different in HCMC and could be challenging for anyone used to home comforts.
- Heavy Rain: Ho Chi Minh can experience huge amounts of rain and even monsoons during certain seasons, making the city a difficult place to traverse.
- Pollution: With so many mopeds and vehicles on the busy streets, Ho Chi Minh has a significant amount of smog which may affect those with asthma or similar respiratory conditions.
- Traffic: The roads can be pretty crazy. Whether driving, in a taxi, or walking as a pedestrian, visitors should take all caution and remain vigilant when out and about.
- Time Difference: HCMC is 7 hours ahead of the UK and 12-15 hours ahead of the USA, which can require efficient scheduling and lead to some strange meeting times!
Digital Nomad Visa for Ho Chi Minh
There isn’t currently a specific visa for digital nomads in Vietnam. Visitors from the UK and 12 other countries can enjoy 45 days without the need to apply for a visa. For a small fee, before arriving, visitors can apply for an E-Visa online and stay for up to 90 days.
Visitors from the USA must attain a visa. This can be done online before arriving or at international airports on arrival. A fee of $17 – $65 is payable depending on the length and number of entries required per visa. Canadian visitors must also follow a similar process, click here for more info.
All passports must have at least 6 months of validity, be in an acceptable condition, and have two blank pages for visa stamps.
I can’t speak highly enough about my time in Vietnam and I hope that’s come across in my digital nomad guide to Ho Chi Minh. It’s a truly magnificent place in which to base yourself as a remote worker for so many reasons.
From the ample coffee shops and cafes to the fully equipped and readily available coworking spaces, digital nomads won’t have any issues finding some ideal spots to work from. With all the benefits of a metropolitan city on tap too, it’s a great place to perfect your work-life balance.
There’s so much to love about Ho Chi Minh. Enjoy!