VIETNAM REVIEWS


Vietnam Map

2015:



CLOSED:

My tour of Vietnam is done, at least for now.

Please SEARCH FOR ‘vietnam‘ to find all of my Postings, Travel Budgets and Retirement Reviews.

Meanwhile, here is some general information about Vietnam and / or the places of interest that I did not get to…


GENERAL INFORMATION:

Unspoilt and undeveloped, Vietnam is still super cheap as well as being a beautiful country in many respects.

Vietnam is, now, a well-established stop on the Southeast Asia trail, but despite its increasing popularity, Vietnam can still claim to be one of Southeast Asia’s bargain destinations.

Local Cafe and Street food, in particular, is excellent value: bowls of delicious Phở (pork, chicken or beef noodle soup) can be found for as little as VND30k and even a meal in a simple restaurant is unlikely to be more than VND100k.

And, a pint of local beer (Bia Hoi) can be found for as little as VND3k per glass (half a pint) with some places offering ‘buy 2 and get 1 free’ – making it VND4k per pint.

If you can get the local rate, bus travel and motorbike hire are also great value. Scooter hire is, typically, between VND80k and VND120k per day.

If you can get the local rate, flights are also cheap with someone like Vietnam Airways offering 1 hour flights between major cities for as little as US$25 inclusive of checked-in luggage.

This country offers multiple destinations for budget senior travellers and retirees.

You can go almost anywhere in Vietnam (except for Phu Quoc) and live a 3 STAR lifestyle on a Retired Couple’s State Pension. Your ‘Cost Of Existence’ is typically only 50% of your total daily retirement budget… leaving you plenty of spare cash to LIVE on and have fun with.


TECHNOLOGY COSTS:

VND350k / month should be enough for your phone service with plenty of Mobile Data… so, when your hotels’ wifi is poor, just use your smartphone as a wifi hotspot.

 A SIM card is usually US$5 in Vietnam and data is about US$5 for 1 GB.


SAIGON GREEN BEER:

A word of warning…

The cheapest beer in Vietnam is usually Saigon Green. It may be cheap but it has a bit of a ‘side effect’… a bit like Chang Beer does in Thailand. After drinking a few, you can feel ‘pretty rotten’ the next morning.

I would suggest that you keep away from Saigon Green and pay a little bit more for a ‘better brew’… something like a Tiger beer leaves you feeling a lot better the next morning.


SAIGON / HO CHI MINH CITY (HCMC):

DISTRICT 1

Touted District 1 touted as the most modern and exciting district and is a top-notch district for expats to live in.

District 1 is in a strategic position. Most foreign embassy offices or governmental offices are located in District 1.

In District 1 there are lots of recreational activities which is why District 1 is also known as the “sleepless district” where a great deal of entertainment keeps you awake all night.

Foreigners from all over the world can be found here – so the chance of meeting new expat friends are higher than in other districts.

Pham Ngu Lao street is a Westernised road where there are a lot of Western-styled restaurants, coffee shops, bars and other services for foreigners. Thanks to the high density of foreigners, there are more citizens in District 1 who speak English than in other districts.

Though life seems to be pink in District 1, there are reasons that deter expats from staying here. District 1 is considered to be the most expensive district, like New York City in the States. Everything seems to be more costly here. A cup of coffee is twice or triple in comparison with other districts.

DISTRICT 2

Located a little bit out from the city center, District 2 is a less crowded and less expensive district to live in. A lot of expats choose to live in District 2 for that reason. There are villas and high class apartments available for leasing at more affordable prices. If an expat rents an apartment here, (s)he can save at least $US200 / month depending upon the size and amenities.

It is not too far from the city center: just 10 km (6.22 miles) away. Thanks to the new Dong-Tay Boulevard project, it normally takes only 15 minutes to 20 minutes to commute between District 1 and District 2.

However, there are some drawbacks you need to look at before making a decision. There are not many entertainment activities taking place in District 2. If you are a dynamic young person who can’t stand being home in the evening, you may think twice about living in District 2. It seems district 2 is more suitable for middle-aged and elderly expats who prefer fresh air, fewer people and a peaceful life.

DISTRICT 3

Not so far from District 1, people living in District 3 tend to use a cab or rent a motorbike as a means of transportation. District 3 is suitable for those who stay in Ho Chi Minh City just for a short time and travel on an economy basis. One advantage of living in District 3 is various kinds of recreational activities: coffee shops, movie theatres, and parks (Tao Dan Park, Le Van Tam Park).

If you are a coffee lover and want to discover different themes of coffee shops, District 3 is your right choice.

DISTRICT 5

District 5 is known as the China Town of Saigon. Unlike District 1, District 5 is more ancient and oriental in its architecture and people’s daily activities. There are more pagodas and temples than other districts. The cost of living in District 5 is not as expensive as living in District 1 and just about the same as living in District 3.

One disadvantage of living in District 5 is that not many people speak English.

DISTRICT 7

Like District 2, District 7 is chosen as Vietnamese homes by many expats. Though it is a little bit away from the city center, District 7 is touted as the future face of Saigon.

Because it was planned to be a Western district serving high income, there are a lot of high quality villas available for long-term leasing.

The Phu My Hung area offers high living standard apartments which are available for either purchasing or renting. Fast food restaurants, coffee shops, bars are also modified to be suitable for foreigners. You may feel less homesick when living in District 7.

However, there are 2 disadvantages of living in District 7. Firstly, it is a remote area and there are not many nightlife activities and public transportation is not as convenient as in District 5. Secondly, because of higher quality standards and services, the cost of living is higher.


VISAS:

Keep an eye on the internet as there are currently rumours that Vietnam is likely to scrap visa requirements for some targeted western countries (like the UK, France, and Australia). And, that visitors may be able to enter by land.

Vietnam currently offers no retirement visa scheme, and retirees living in Vietnam are required to make use of either long-term tourist visas (which are available for a maximum of three months at a time) or five-year long-term visas (which need to be ‘checked up’ and renewed at immigration offices every three months).

While neither of these options are ideal, they are both relatively affordable for those wishing to retire to Vietnam, and the inconvenience of reporting to the Immigration Department of Vietnam is somewhat reduced by the fact that all foreign retirees that live in Vietnam are required to do so.

For some passport holders (including many from western Europe), you can now enter Vietnam free on a 2 week Tourist Visa. But, this may NOT be renewable whilst in Vietnam.

Three month tourist visas must be acquired from Vietnamese embassies abroad in advance, and are issued to all those that meet the ‘minimum funds’ requirement for Vietnam – a figure that’s typically around $1,000USD per month spent in the country.

While a three-month visa isn’t exactly long term, it’s an option that many retirees have been using for several years – renewing and / or doing a ‘visa run’ as their visas expire.

It’s worth noting that tourists in Vietnam, including those staying long-term using a tourist visa, are able to apply for extensions while still inside Vietnam. You can use any one of a number of local travel agents. These agents apply directly to the Immigration Department for an extension of stay – typically a three-month visa extension.

The alternative, and one that many retirees to Vietnam pursue, is to invest in a five-year multi-entry visa, which allows for multiple entries into Vietnam within a period not exceeding five years. The requirements to apply for one of these visas are higher than those for a simple three-month visa, and may be off-putting to some applicants.

A 3 month, single entry Tourist Visa purchased at the Vietnamese Consulate in Wellington, NZ in October 2015 cost me NZ$150 / US$95 / €88 / £63. I understand that renewal for a further 3 months should cost about US$60 (including local Vietnamese Travel Agent commissions); but, shop around as different agents charge different commissions.

If you need to do a ‘Visa Run’, it is easy to take a trip by boat from Phu Quoc to the mainland near Cambodia. From there, you can catch a minivan to the Cambodian border. At this border, you can pay US$35 each for a 1 month Cambodian Tourist Visa. Spending 1 month in Kampot would be a pleasant option for many… before getting your Vietnam Visa In Advance in Kampot and returning to Phu Quoc using the same route.

Visa runs from other locations, such as Da Nang are a bit more wearisome but perfectly do-able.


USEFUL PHRASES:

You may find they, following, phrases useful (I have spelt them phonetically so that you know how to pronounce them):

  • Co = Yes
  • Kong = No
  • Car Mon = Thank You
  • Car Mon Rat New = Thank You Very Much
  • Kong Car Mon = No Thank You
  • Kom Ko Chee = You Are Welcome
  • Chow Boy Sang = Good Morning
  • Sin Loy = Excuse Me / Sorry
  • Sin Loy Kong = Sorry, But No
  • Em Oi = Hi There (to get someone’s attention – e.g. a waiter)
  • Toy Ham Fup =I Am Happy

GRANDPAcking RETIREMENT LOCATIONS:

There are multiple GRANDPAcking Retirement Locations in Vietnam. For my suggestions, look at the VIETNAM REVIEWS SUBMENU in MY REVIEWS such as Phu Quoc and Hoi An.