Ho Chi Minh City’s expat enclave of Thao Dien tends to divide opinions. It’s certainly a popular place to live but some expats disparage the neighbourhood as a westernised bubble. Whilst this might be true to a degree, there are some undeniable advantages of living in T.D. Since I live there myself and LOVE it, I’m probably a little biased but I do understand that it’s not the best place for everyone. I’ve broken down the pros and cons of Thao Dien for you so you can decide whether you want to jump right in or steer clear. For more on prices and how to go about finding a place, check out this post!
What is Thao Dien?
Thao Dien is a ward that forms part of District 2. To be honest, though, the two are almost synonymous – if you venture into D2, nine times out of ten you’ll be heading to Thao Dien. It’s located 15-20 minutes from the city centre but it has its own amenities and nightlife.
Now we’ve established that, let’s get down to the pros and cons of Thao Dien. Positivity is key, so I’ll start with the good.
The Pros of Living in Thao Dien
Amenities: Thao Dien is full of western-style bars and restaurants, imported goods stores and international schools and hospitals. There are two malls, a ton of gyms and plenty of big supermarkets. You can find these things all over Ho Chi Minh City, but in Thao
Community: There’s an undeniable community feel around Thao Dien thanks to the high volume of expats who live there. There are expat clubs, societies and sports teams as well as regular events, such as movie screenings at the Soma Art Cafe and festivals at Saigon Outcast. You’ll often run into someone you know when you’re out and about which for may just makes the whole place feel a lot more homely than anywhere else I’ve lived in Ho Chi Minh City.
Peace and Quiet: Ok, so Thao Dien isn’t the quietest place in the whole wide world. Nowhere in Ho Chi Minh City is. It’s definitely a lot less chaotic than most other places, though, and there’s a very laid-back vibe. The streets are pretty quiet during the day and only really get busy around 4pm when the international schools let out. For me, it’s just a more laid-back and comfortable place to live.
It’s Pretty: Thao Dien is easy on the eye. It’s still got its fair share of tangled power lines and rubble, but the buildings are generally colourful and well-maintained and some of the streets are even lined with trees and pinky-purple crape-myrtle flowers. That’s right, actual trees! (Not something you can take for granted when you live here, trust me).
Accommodation Options: There are tons of expat share houses, villas and luxury apartments available in Thao Dien. Finding something to suit your needs and budget is easy-peasy in this neighbourhood. It took me all of an hour to find a new apartment last time I moved!
The Cons of Living in Thao Dien
It’s Expensive: Thao Dien is one of the most expensive areas of Ho Chi Minh City to live in, although it’s still very affordable for most westerners. Most bars and restaurants in the area are western-style, so eating out and drinking costs more. It’s still cheap in the grand scheme of things, but not dirt cheap – there aren’t many places selling 10,000 dong bottles of beer. There isn’t much street food either, just a couple of pho joints and banh mi stands. It’s more expensive to rent a place here than in Phu Nhuan or Binh Thanh, but not dramatically so, and it’s cheaper to live in Thao Dien than in District 1. For more on that, click here.
Tip: To shave a couple of dollars off of your rent, consider renting an apartment in the Binh An or An Phu wards of District 2. They’re both right next to Thao Dien but rent tends to be $25-50 cheaper! You’ll drive everywhere anyway, so it doesn’t make much difference living a little outside the area.
It’s a Bubble: It’s easy to get sucked into the Thao Dien bubble and realise that you haven’t left the area for days. Everything is close, convenient and comfortable in T.D, which is great, but sometimes you miss out on more ‘authentic’ Vietnamese experiences like street food, hidden bars and local markets.
It’s Westernised: If you really want to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture, Thao Dien isn’t the best place to do it. It’s definitely not so westernised that you forget you’re in Vietnam but
It Floods: Thao Dien floods pretty badly during rainy season (May-November). Driving through knee-deep water on a moped really isn’t much fun. It hasn’t bothered me that much since I’ve lived in the neighbourhood but I could definitely do without it.
At the end of the day, Thao Dien is popular for a reason. It’s not for everybody, sure, but I love it and I wish I hadn’t waited so long to move there. If you’re on the fence about moving there, my advice would be to DO IT.