There’s no place like home, so choosing the right nest when living abroad is crucial. Finding living quarters you’re actually happy with is a big part of feeling settled in a foreign country. There’s a lot to think about when choosing a place to live in Saigon, so I’ve put together this guide to finding yourself a home in Ho Chi Minh.
I know ‘what?’ tends to come before ‘where?’ but honestly, the first thing you should probably think about is what part of the city you’d like to live in. Ho Chi Minh City is divided into 19 different districts, so choosing just one might seem like a bit of a daunting prospect. I’d recommend deciding on an area first and finding a job close by, rather than letting your job dictate where you live. The reverse might sound easier, but you don’t want to be stuck somewhere you don’t like, or suffering through an hour-long commute during rainy season (been there, done that). The most popular areas for expats are as follows:
- District 1: The thriving city centre is definitely a fun place to live, with hundreds of bars and restaurants just outside your door. Accommodation is a little more expensive here, but still very affordable compared to western prices.
- District 2: District 2 is home to the popular expat enclave of Thao Dien. It’s a pretty westernised area that’s quieter and cleaner than the rest of the city, although there’s still plenty going on. For many, it’s a more comfortable place to live. There are tons of lovely apartments here and as well as international house shares.
- District 3: This district is the geographic city centre which means it’s a super convenient place to live. It borders District 1 but rent prices are a little lower, so you get the best of both worlds. One of the greatest things about District 3 is that there’s so much variety; it’s filled with authentic street food and cheap beer bars, but also boasts some of the city’s most exclusive and upmarket venues, such as the Hotel Des Artes rooftop.
- District 4: District 4 is what you might call authentic – western influence has hardly touched this fascinating corner of Saigon. Plenty of expats live here but the population is still predominantly Vietnamese. Wedged between Districts 1 and 7, District 4 is a much cheaper place to live than either of its neighbours due to its chequered mafia past. Today, however, District 4 is just as safe as any other, and is one of Saigon’s most vibrant and entertaining areas. It’s teeming with incredible street food – especially Vinh Khanh road, which has recently been named as an official food street.
- Phu Nhuan: Located close to the canal, Phu Nhuan is filled with cute boutiques and quaint coffee shops. Rent prices are reasonable and there are plenty of expat house shares in this lovely area.
- Binh Thanh: This area is inhabited by wealthy Vietnamese and creative expats, although it’s nowhere near as westernised as Thao Dien or D7. Located between Districts 1 and 2 (and offering spectacular views of the former), Binh Thanh is a charming labyrinth of hems and alleys that house hundreds of hidden gems. There are some great accommodation options in this area, including Vietnamese houses, studio apartments and even Vinhomes Central Park if you’re looking for luxury.
- District 7: Also known as Phu My Hung, the city’s southernmost district is only twenty minutes from the centre, yet it often makes you forget you’re in Saigon at all. Its villa-lined streets are some of the most tranquil in the city and almost everything here is upmarket. If you want to live somewhere western with a slower pace of life, Phu My Hung is the place for you.
Once you work out where you want to live, you should consider what type of accommodation you’re actually after. There’s a range of options in almost every district to suit every need and budget:
- House/Apartment Share: If you’d like to live with roomies but don’t have any potentials lined up, there are always people looking to fill up empty rooms. This is a great way to get started in the city as it not only helps you meet new people, it tends to be a pretty casual arrangement; just find someone else to take over the lease if you want to move out. It’s also a fair bit cheaper than renting a place on your own. You can save some money and find your feet, then move out if and when you’re ready.
- Apartment: There are more apartments than people in Ho Chi Minh City. Older buildings are cheaper, but many of the luxury apartment blocks are cropping up all over the city are very reasonable when compared with UK/US prices. They often come with gyms, pools and tennis courts, so you really feel like you’re living the high life. They’re often serviced, too, although if not you can always hire a cleaner for around ₫60,000 (£2/$3) an hour.
- Studio: Studio apartments tend to be significantly cheaper than one-beds, so they’re a budget-friendly option for those looking to live alone. You can often find these types of apartments in smaller blocks rather than soaring skyscrapers. Small pools and/or gyms are often part of the deal. I’d advise choosing one with a divider between the ‘bedroom’ and ‘living room’ section (or if not, fashioning one yourself) so that it feels a more like a whole apartment.
- Room: If a bedroom is all you need, you can find cheap rooms for rent. There are lots on 18A Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (aka ‘expat alley’) in District 1. Many of these are month-to-month arrangements, ideal for when you’re first finding your feet in the city.
One of the best ways to find apartments is via Facebook – it’s how I’ve found three of my homes. You can either scroll through the listings or just post what you’re looking for and you’ll be inundated with messages. You’ll then arrange a meeting with an agent or landlord who will show you the property/ies. Some good groups include:
- Housing/Apartments for Rent in Saigon – Vietnam: pretty much everything gets posted on here, so if you’re only going to join one, this is the group for you.
- Houseshare / Flatshare / Room For Rent in Saigon: this is great if you’re looking for roomies!
- Apartment for Rent in Saigon: if you’ve got a specific area of the city in mind, there’s a series of groups titled ‘District Name – Apartment for Rent in Saigon’, which means you don’t waste time with listings for districts you’re not interested in.
Alternatively, VN Rental is a helpful website if you’re looking to lease an apartment. You can sort your options by area and even narrow the search down to specific apartment blocks.
Rent prices tend to be relatively low in Saigon compared to the western world, so you can take advantage of this to save money or treat yourself to a lil’ luxury. The location of your place also has an effect on the price, with areas like Thao Dien, District 1 and District 7 being a little more expensive, although still affordable on a teacher’s salary.
- House: House rental prices start at as little as $500/month for a 3-bed, or $700 in a more expensive area – although this can rise to upwards of $1500 depending on how luxe you want to go.
- Apartment: You can rent a one-bed apartment for $400/month in cheaper districts, or $500 for a two-bed. Meanwhile, a place in a luxury block will start at around $600 for a one-bed, $750 for a two-bed and $1000 for a three-bed.
- Studio: Studios tend to start at around $300/month, although you’ll be shelling out at least $400 in Thao Dien or District 1.
- Room: You can rent a room for as little as $200/month, or around $250 in the city centre, although prices will vary according to size and facilities available.
As in most places in the world, you’ll need to pay a deposit on your place when you first move in. Usually, this will be one or two months’ rent, according to the length of the lease, the landlord and possibly your negotiation skills. Most shared options will be one month, but be sure to check this before you shell out. Also, pretty much all rent prices are exclusive of electricity, which will be your largest bill unless you have a superhuman lack of need for air-con. Talk to your landlord and be clear on exactly what is and isn’t included in the rent so that there are no nasty surprises at the end of the month – ask about the water, wifi, tv, parking and service fee.