Top 5 Ways to Prepare to Live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Something strange I found before moving out here was there aren’t too many guides that are centered around ways to prepare to live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Despite the fact there are literally thousands of English teachers around town, the lack of information is pretty astounding. Here are my top 5 tips for those of you preparing to live in Ho Chi Minh City.

1. Bring dollars 

Every single time I’ve re-entered the country there have been people sitting in a queue for their visa because they forgot to bring USD. While I wouldn’t say you need to bring too much, it’s a good idea to have at least one hundred US dollars with you to start for visa purposes. If you don’t get a job immediately, your employer doesn’t sponsor your visa or you decide to only work part-time, you’ll need to take a visa run to Cambodia every three months; you can only pay in US dollars at the Cambodian border.

2. Bring your favorite toiletries and quality undergarments

As with many countries within Asia, Vietnamese skin products are chock-full of skin bleach, known commonly on the market as “whitening” or “brightening.” It’s nearly in every lotion, soap, face wash and face cream within this country, but what was most shocking to me was that it is found in deodorant here. Unless you’re trying to bleach your armpits, bring your own items in bulk. 

For both men and women, underwear shopping can be a tricky and daunting situation. First of all, a lot of the items here are not made with the highest quality, so they will rip easily. In addition, it’s nearly impossible to find decent fitting bra sizes, so take your mom up on that offer to swing through Target one last time before you head out and get what you need. I’m telling you this because I failed to do so!

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3. Bring certified copies of all your paperwork

If you follow through with anything on this list, make it be this one. This is the single most important thing you need to do to prepare to live in Ho Chi Minh City. One of the stranger idiosyncrasies of Vietnam is how often the laws are changing. Although it’s currently alright for Americans to get everything certified and copied within the country, there’s just been a law implemented in recent months which states every U.K. citizen who switches jobs must return to the U.K. to get their diploma apostilled; British people can no longer complete this task within the country. Make sure you have a plan A, B and C if possible when it comes to this.

4. Get a police check 

As I’m currently writing this, Vietnam isn’t super strict with their police check laws. Unlike other countries such as South Korea, Vietnam does not require a federal background check in order to be employed within the country. In fact, you can honestly just get your background check from your state and order it online within hours, and even minutes. PRO TIP: Make sure you also obtain a Vietnamese background check once you leave the country!

5. Know that you’ll be living in confusion for a bit

It took me a solid six to eight months to finally feel settled in this city. There’s no way to prepare to live in Ho Chi Minh City in this regard, but don’t get down on yourself if you’re completely lost in confusion and translation for a bit as you find your grounding. Lots, er, almost everything in this country doesn’t seem to make much sense. There’s often no rhyme or reason for some things, and menial tasks such as going to the bank can be somewhat frustrating depending on who is helping you that day. Take it all with a grain of salt, understand that you chose to live in a different country and try to adapt as best you can.


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