10 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Vietnam


Sweeping views, impressive architecture, profound history and vibrant cuisines — Vietnam is no doubt a bucket-list-worthy destination. Whether you are just visiting or setting roots, here are 11 things I wish I knew before moving to Vietnam.


*Please note that I (Kelsey) have lived and worked in Hanoi for three years but I am in no ways a Vietnamese expert, I do not claim to know everything about the country and you can choose not to listen to any of this.* 🙂 Right, let’s get to it!


Location matters

First things first, Vietnam is a large country. With dozens of micro-climates, ethnic minority groups and hundreds of cities, there is a wide variety of experiences to be had when visiting or moving to Vietnam. Depending on where you will be, different tips are applicable. For example, in major Vietnamese cities, you won’t have a problem finding organic imported peanut butter, but two hours outside the city you will struggle to find any imported goods. 


Moving to Vietnam

Food knowledge

Chances are you have heard of pho, but what about Bún riêu, mì xào, or che? There are hundreds of Vietnamese dishes and it is super useful to learn about them. This will increase your meal options and keep your tastebuds happy. You can read more about the top Vietnamese food dishes here

When eating Vietnamese food it is common that the spices and extra flavours have not been added during the cooking process, meaning — you add them yourself. Everything is cooked so that you can customize the flavours. Tables will always have some key ingredients which you can use to help the dish fit your flavour profile. 

Common add ons are vinegar + garlic, fish sauce, fresh chillies, homemade hot sauce, limes and or kumquats (calamansi), white pepper, and, sometimes sugar. Ah, we can’t forget the aromatic greens which also accompany dishes. These herbs are meant to be eaten in the dish. Just tear off the leaves and add them in. 

Here is a foodie ingredient cheat-sheet. Dishes in Vietnamese are very literal and if they include one of these ingredients as a main, it will be in the name. 

Bún= rice vermicelli

Mì = egg noodles

Xào = stir-fried

Bánh = bread

Cơm= rice

Miến = glass noodles

Cá = fish

Rau = vegetables

đậu hũ = tofu

Thịt heo = pork

Gà = chicken

Bo = beef

moving to vietnam


Related: A foodie Guide to Hanoi

Temperature + climate varies a lot

There, unfortunately, isn’t an easy way to figure out the weather in Vietnam. It varies incredibly from city to city and even then, some regions have 4 seasons and others just 1. Do your research before reaching your destination. Northern Vietnam does get quite chilly, whereas there are monsoons in the South. 


Here is another cheat-sheet:


Northern Vietnam experiences 3-4 seasons in the traditional northern hemisphere sense. December – March is cold and wintery, April – November is a traditional spring into summer vibe. 

Central Vietnam is tricky as the summer is rainy and winter pleasant. 

Southern Vietnam consists of two seasons both are hot, just one has more rain. 



Related: 10 Hilariously Real Things that Happen When you Move to Vietnam


Do your visa homework

Vietnam currently makes getting a visa quite confusing. Check out more information here on the National Tourism Board website or, a contact I’ve used is Mr. John Pham you can email him at contact@quickvietnamvisa.net. You can pay him to help you sort it.  


Work on your squats 

In Vietnam life is lived on the sidewalks, and whether it’s a grabbing a tea or a lunchtime meal, chances are you’ll be squatting on a small plastic stool. This is a unique skill which requires some practice to perfect, so I suggest you get to it. 

Grab taxi’s are incredibly useful

Before moving to Vietnam make sure to download the app Grab. This taxi-hailing service is widely used across the country *more so in major cities* and can make getting places incredibly easy. In Hanoi for instance, taxis are notorious for ripping off their customers, whereas in HCMC rates are set. If you aren’t sure, download the app. 


Facebook communities are helpful

Before moving to Vietnam joining some Facebook groups can be very helpful. If you search the city combined with ex-pats or living in, you should be able to find some good ones. In these groups, you can ask detailed questions, buy goods, or find houses. 

Side note: In Vietnam, looking for apartments is usually done through these FB groups or through an online agency. You can email an agent and they will set up a time to meet with you. We have found places to rent in a day or two, so don’t stress. 


You don’t have to teach English

Even though the vast majority of English speaking expats here do teach English, you absolutely don’t have to. There are many different jobs available in many different professions. They can be more difficult to find, but they do exist. Check out job listings on Linked In, and at Western Companies with branches here. Many tour operators need western staff for copywriting purposes and marketing. Keep an ear out and email options!


Related: A Guide to Teaching English in Vietnam


You will get quoted in USD but pay VND

Commonly when buying big-ticket items or when paying your rent, you will be quoted in USD and then when it comes time to pay, you’ll pay in VND. When possible pay in VND and leave the USD conversion. It will be more expensive in USD.


TIP: Bartering is OK in a lot of situations. For example with rent, it is totally acceptable to barter the price down 50-100 dollars. 


Related: Hanoi Neighbourhoods: Finding the Right Location


You can get good insurance outside of the workplace

If you are working here, you’ll most likely get insurance through your company. If you don’t feel it is sufficient, Pacific Cross is an excellent option to beef up your insurance. 


 Have you visited? What are the things you wish you knew before moving to Vietnam?