Vietnam for Digital Nomads – A Complete Guide to Saigon
Saigon — or, as it’s officially known, Ho Chi Minh City — is Vietnam’s largest city and financial center. Although it’s not a major city for tourism, it’s emerged as a favorite of digital nomads over the last few years.
From a low cost of living to year-round warm weather, Saigon has a lot to offer for long-term travelers and digital nomads. Below, you can find a detailed guide to Saigon for nomads that covers everything from the top reasons to visit to where to work, live and more.
For short-term tourists, Saigon is mostly a gateway to Vietnam’s other destinations — a brief stopover on the way to places like Hoi An, Phu Quoc and other traveler favorites.
Vietnam for Digital Nomads – A Complete Guide to Saigon
However, for long-term tourists and digital nomads, Saigon has a lot to offer, from its cost of living (one of the lowest of any major city in Southeast Asia) to its diverse range of cafés and dining options. Key features for digital nomads include:
Low Cost of Living
One of Saigon’s biggest advantages for digital nomads is its low cost of living. While it isn’t the cheapest destination in Southeast Asia, it’s one of the most affordable big cities that still offers an extremely safe, modern living experience. Here’s how much you can expect to spend:
Nomad List calculates an average cost of living of between $961 per month for a single person to $1,822 per month for a family.
A Little Adrift calculated an average monthly cost of living of $750 to $1,300 per month, one of the lowest of any major city in Southeast Asia.
Saigon expat blogger and digital nomad David Hehenberger reported a monthly budget of around $1,200 to live well in Saigon, including a Western-style apartment, maid and motorbike rental.
Easy Access to Other Destinations in Vietnam
Although Saigon itself isn’t a major tourist destination, it’s the gateway to several of Vietnam’s most popular beach cities and other favorites. From Saigon, you can reach all of these places within three to four hours by car, or for under $60 return by plane:
Mui Ne, a seaside destination famous for its red and white sand dunes, is about four hours from Saigon by van or five hours by bus. Accommodation here is highly affordable — you can stay in a beachside three star hotel for $25 a night, or rent a private house for under $50.
Although it isn’t Vietnam’s best beach destination, Vung Tau’s proximity to Saigon (it’s only two hours away by bus, van or boat) and great selection of hotels and places to eat make it a great place to enjoy a weekend.
Vietnam’s most popular island, Phu Quoc offers a laid back vibe similar to famous destinations like Phuket and Koh Samui a decade ago. Accommodation is cheap, beaches are plentiful and the island’s peaceful feel makes it perfect for weekend trips.
When to Visit
Saigon is hot year-round, making it a good choice if you’re looking for a warm climate. Like in other tropical destinations, there are two seasons — a dry season that lasts from December to April, and a rainy season that lasts from May to November.
Most visitors to Vietnam come near the end of the year, from November until February. You can find cheaper accommodation during the rainy season, but be aware that heavy rainfall is quite a common occurrence during this time of year — a factor that may limit your ability to travel.
Where to Work
The Hive Thao Dien. One of Saigon’s first coworking spaces, The Hive is located right in the heart of nomad-friendly Thao Dien and offers affordable day passes and monthly memberships.
Saigon Coworking. Located in Phu Nhuan District, Saigon Coworking is a better option for those staying in District 1, 3 or Binh Thanh District.
Cafés. Saigon has a huge selection of great cafes. Good cafés for working include VCR, The Workshop, Bosgaurus Coffee Roasters, The Loft and The Maker.
Where to Live
Saigon is a huge city, meaning you’ll get a completely different experience depending on where you choose to live. Most digital nomads opt to stay in one of the four following areas:
District 1. District 1 is the city’s commercial center. It’s busy, bustling and full of life, but can be a little overwhelming as a place to live. This is where most of Saigon’s hotels are located and the area most short-term tourists stay in.
Apartments in District 1 tend to be on the small side and are more expensive per square meter than elsewhere.
District 3. Located directly adjacent to District 1, District 3 feels more laid back and has a great selection of cafés, restaurants and bars. Rents here are cheaper than in District 1 and the area has more of a local feel.
Binh Thanh District. One of the densest areas of the city, this is where you’ll find many of Saigon’s newest apartment developments. A good place to consider if you want to be close to District 1 but have a modern place to live.
District 2. District 2, and particularly the Thao Dien area, is Saigon’s expat hub. This is the place you’ll want to stay if you’re looking for more of a European lifestyle, with lots of cafés, restaurants and modern apartment buildings to choose from.
For short stays of a week or less, staying in a hotel is almost always the most convenient option for visiting Saigon. You can book your accommodation with Booking or Agoda here before your next trip.
If you’re staying for longer than a week or two, you’ll save a large amount of money and vastly improve your quality of life by renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel.
Recommended areas for apartments include Thao Dien (good choices here are Masteri Thao Dien and The Ascent) and Binh Thanh District, both of which have good access to the city and lots of cafés for working in. Both of these buildings are easy to find on AirBnB.
If you choose Binh Thanh District, the best option is to rent an apartment at Vinhomes Central Park, which has a great location beside a huge riverside park and one of Saigon’s newest and best shopping and dining areas.
If you decide to go the apartment route, the usual rules apply — negotiate (especially if you’re visiting in the July to November rainy season, which attracts fewer visitors), check reviews in advance and prioritize nomad-friendly areas like Ben Nghe, Da Kao and Thao Dien.
Other Tips for Digital Nomads
Buy a SIM card once you arrive. 4G is cheap in Vietnam, making it a good idea to pick up a local SIM card. Viettel and Vinaphone have the widest network coverage and both offer cheap 4G packages that are convenient for mobile working.
Make sure you have a visa, or invitation letter, before you arrive. Unless you have a passport that allows for visa-free entry into Vietnam, you’ll need to prepare a visa or visa-on-arrival letter before you travel. Most airlines will require this for you to fly to Vietnam.
If you’re staying long-term, consider renting a scooter. While driving in Saigon can look terrifying, it’s less chaotic than it appears, especially in areas like Thao Dien. Older bikes are available to rent for less than 1 million dong ($43) per month.