What's the best digital nomad city in Vietnam?

@azurio - so if you use 3G it somehow gets around the cables? Does it stay around 4-5 Mbps down or is there a noticeable decline when the land-based connection fails?

@jonmyers as usual, many insightful ideas from you. My reference point in SEA is the Philippines more than elsewhere as a place to work remotely. I’ve realized Vietnam is polar opposite to the PH for the area. My biggest issue with the PH is it’s basically a failed state. It’s a big like Burma with tiny group that steals and hoards all the resources and everyone else is ****cked. That always makes me mad and frustrated when I’m there and my college educated friends with, for example engineering degrees, have zero opportunity. They earn about minimum wage USA or less. And of course most gave to go to middle east and separate from their children and family. Change is happening for the better but it will take a very long time. Cambodia has better internet speed than the PH. Go figure.

The Vienamese don’t have a sense of fatalism which is so pervasive in the PH. Also they like to learn, whereas in the PH people are mostly not too cerebral. Having said that, the people in the PH are amazing…just more different than me.

The whole “elephant in the room” thing about westerners dating Asians is really too bad but true. I sometimes think it means that the guys that are not cool about how they relate to women win because somehow they’re not afraid to share online. Honestly, there is so little discussed about healthy dating attitudes and relationships for those going to SEO from outside.

I do SEO and data driven content analysis, so hope to talk to you when I’m closer to making the transition.

My question is similar to Marko’s, above: what’s the visa situation like for Americans in Vietnam? How does one stay while working, legally and long-term?

Same question for Thailand as well, especially given the situation there now. I’ve found that a lot of similar discussions tend to skirt around this topic.

Building a business won’t be helped by deportation, or even the threat thereof!

3 month multiple entry business visa (easy to obtain through agency) - I believe is now about $125 - $150usd. The renewals rules keep changing due to WTO compliance - but, still easy to get around.

You can pop on a bus to Cambodia to renew (out of country) - you used to be able to renew in country - some people do, you just pay more. You have to see if the math works out in your time and favor.

Also, very easy to get a 1 year multiple entry business visa here. Once approved, you will have to exit the country and get the visa at a Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia (PP) or Thailand, etc…

I believe that one runs about $750usd.

You can renew visas here - fairly indefinitely.

There’s no max amount of time/ visas and you have to leave.

Compared to Thailand, I find the visa situation to be far better for a longer term home base. If you’re just popping in as a tourist, it can be annoying.

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@jonmyers, thanks so much for the detailed response.

I’ve been parsing the information you provided, and may pester you further. :wink:

As a potential, newer nomad, I imagine following the non-business visa path, at least initially and until I better learn the ropes.

Honestly, either are easy to obtain. There is no red tape.

I forget which one is more advantageous.

I have used these guys, evisa in the past.

They’re solid.

When you have firmer plans, give me a shout. I’ll be here.

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Eric, yeah I have been to the PH. I really LOVE the people, fun, amazing people, but overall, it just doesn’t float my boat.

I actually have a few friends who have been long term PH peeps. My buddy Chris in Cebu, and my buddies Justin and Joe were based in Davao for a long time.

When my buddies Justin and Joe came to Saigon, they definitely experienced an adjustment period. Something to keep in mind.

It’s just a very different style here in Saigon and it takes awhile to get comfortable and find a rhythm that works for your style.

Sometimes I call it the Brooklyn of Southeast Asia. lol

With awesome, experimental venues like Saigon Outcast, youth culture is alive and well in this city.

Anyhow, often new visitors will misread perceived indifference - when often, the opposite is true.

Just takes a while to get into the groove.

Good luck and hope to see you here.

@jonmyers yea I can see it as a world of difference. I went with three of my employees from Cebu back in 2007 to Bangkok for work. I was fascinated by their experience with the Thai, also a world away. Interesting that people in the Philippines almost always prefer to visit a “wealthy” country. But I get that. They want to go to HK or Singapore if somewhere in SEA. I think my employees (two women) saw the Thai as just as “exotic” (a word a hate, but don’t have a better one for what I’m trying to say) as two backpackers seeing Asia for the first time and landing in Bangkok.

Certainly I know I’d love being around people that believe in Buddhism, and that’s a big appeal for Vietnam for me. Would be interesting to see how their religious ideas are a mix and include Confucianism (which is not technically a religion). Was there for three weeks before, but didn’t talk to people about that.

Hi All, cheers for all the cool tips. Its looking like we will be in HCMC at the end of this month. While Da Nang may be more my kind of area there’s some business reasons to spend some time in HCMC. I noticed a lot of places on Agoda for the town were high end but found the references by @jonmyers here and that will be invaluable. Will be heading to the Japantown region and looking for accom to get started.

@jonmyers any tips on transport from airport to Japantown? Unfortunately I’m still lugging a surfboard with me everywhere and it can be a real pain in the arse to fly in blind and work it out with so much luggage.

@jonmyers I just re-read your response after over 3 months to my questions about Saigon. As I recall, your post with the pic of you in a band ranks VERY high in Search Engine Results on Google related to “nomad” and “vietnam”…I forget where you wrote it. I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve read about living in Saigon.

But also in the top 4 is this response you wrote! You should just copy some of what you wrote on here. It’s darn good stuff. I’d say you’re a bit more optimistic about life for those single in HCM, but no matter. I still seem to read everywhere that there is little “dating” in Vietnam, and for women over 27 there are in a rush to marriage. I don’t like that because I do want a healthy dating life.

The pollution seems a bigger issue now. Not sure how much it’s addressed on here, but I’m very interested in chance for a subway to succeed. Bangkok’s was too little too late. I was in Manila for 2 months this winter and it’s a disaster for traveling just a couple miles. Forget being part of “the city” in Manila. A person choses a part of a city and really needs to just stay there. The subway was destroyed by corruption as most everything is in the PH. I do think Makati is an awesome places in many ways. It’s about 1/2 the cost of Singapore and a bit similar, but with Filipinos instead of Singaporean folks.

My digital consultancy is going great. Hope to meet you in the next year. Rock on.

Eric

Yeah, that image has some age on it. lol

Thanks for the praise on the article.

I think I said it somewhere here before, it’s in desperate need of an update, gonna here soon, but will have it on my own site.

So much more I want to do and say in a story now.

Video, better photos (if any videographers out there or photographers come to Saigon, I’d love help) - and of course, more writing. There’s a lot more to capture now beyond the usual - where’s cheap to stay?

As I dig myself deeper into this country, and become more connected, my perspective and spectrum of awareness of Vietnam has grown. For example, just today, I had an acquaintance I had met one drunken night out in Taipei 3 years ago roll into Saigon to give the keynote at an event. Met up with him today, and he introduced me to the CEOs of 3 different substantial companies and startups.

The longer you’re in a place, the more those serendipitous things happen.

If you’re scrambling place to place, it’s hard to capture those moments and connections.

Yeah, I don’t think dating is an issue here. Like I mentioned before, just be direct. I was talking to a buddy this morning who has been using Tinder (probably not the best) to find dates. He said he’s burned out on it, and finds just going to yoga class and tech events to yield more desirable dating prospects.

All depends on what signal and frequency you want to broadcast on.

It’s all here though.

On pollution, I just came back to Saigon after a two-week stint in Thailand. Comparing the two, I’d say Bangkok has far more severe pollution. Again though, I’m probably the wrong guy to ask.

I have a fairly high tolerance for most things. I’ll be the guy out til 5AM and up at 9AM, fine, and off to the gym or for a swim. Thus, the pollution doesn’t bother me much in Saigon.

That said, with the burning in Indonesia, we did get some fallout - and there was more haze than normal. But, with the warm dry season coming up, I would bet that the haze will chill out.

I’ll share a story about what was one of the best times I’ve ever had here in Vietnam.

So, there is a beach town about 90 - 120 minutes from Saigon called Ho Tram, and there is a really nice casino on the beach called The Grand Ho Tram. You can just hop in a cab and go there or catch one of the free buses.

A group of us had rolled out there earlier in the summer for a poker tournament. It was great fun. One guy in our group hit the final table. Most of us just ended up chilling at the pool after the tournament.

Anyhow, the casino at the beach, The Grand Ho Tram, had booked the EDM act Above and Beyond. One of my closest friends here in Saigon loves Above and Beyond, so do I, and thus, we rallied a big group to go to the show, which was last September.

And, so we went - I honestly lost count and track of the pack, and we ran into others there.

Maybe in all 30 - 40 of us in our direct group, what an incredible night.

That’s a snapshot of the glow paint beginning. lol

Polished casino video of the night:

They had laid out fresh sod/ grass on the sand for the event.

The scale of the event itself was manageable. Enough room for everyone to dance.

Sound quality was spot on, and it was just positive vibe overall.

And so amazing to be around that kind of company.

We had a blast, and again, you’ll hear me hammer this, something I emphasize over and over.

The community.

Great people here.

My favorite shot of the night.

Jonmyers,

You’re right about the “longer you stay somewhere.” That’s always the 1 mm dolar question for those of us that want to be nomadic: it’s hard to deny all we MISS by not planting roots. I’ve been living in Philadelphia for 5 years now (a long time for me, other than my hometown city of Boston) and the “roots” have done tons for me at this point. I would hate to move to another city in the USA even though a couple jobs could lure me 2 hours away to NYC.

But spending part of the year in Vietnam, well I guess the key is it would always be “part.” I think splitting time between two vastly different worlds is very cool vs. say two places in a home country.

I think the serendipity you experience in Vietnam is great. I’ve also seen that when I had some small roots in Cebu or Makati in the Philippines. Very small world of expats leading similar lifestyle (RE: serious about their work, not just slacking because SEA is cheap).

Always the quandary with this lifestyle, should I stay or should I go…

Kinda like debating religion or food.

Just depends and depends on the person.

Though, incorporating one thing into your perspective will be helpful, and that one thing is - purpose.

What’s your personal purpose?

What purpose do you have where you are at?

How does that location serve your purpose?

How does your presence there serve other’s purpose?

Being caught up in the chase of location, location or ticking boxes off the bucket list without much purpose may leave one in a precarious situation where the bank account starts dwindle, the skills that put the money into the bank account begin to atrophy, and it can be unsatisfying and painful trying to claw your way to a mean.

Been there done that when I was younger.

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Hey @jonmyers. I’m getting serious about coming in Jan or Feb for 1-4 months or longer (let’s see how well I handle the pollution). Can you suggest an updated piece about the merits of different Districts and neighborhoods in Saigon for someone with good/decent spending budget living more than 1-2 months? As with others on here, I’m looking to be very close to the fun and excitement (mostly District 1, but hey maybe there is plenty in other areas) but I definitely don’t want an apartment that’s loud from construction or street noise. Anything to help get with quiet when I’m home.

For me, I plan to take taxis or motorbike taxis. I can’t ride a motorbike because…long story to do w/ an accident in Thailand (my parents and friends might kill me for riding a motor-bike after my accident in Thailand).

I’m budgeting 500 USD to 950 USD per month for 1 BR apartment. I’d like to be close to the co-working space I use.

Right now my top choice for co-working is http://saigoncoworking.com. I’m not looking for a cheapo place: all co-working is super good value anyway.

Thanks, and hope to meet up for beers on me in 2016.

Sounds good man.

I would suggest definitely staying in D1.

Specifically, I would stay in the area known as Japantown. It’s central, it’s close to the main streets, tons of restaurants around there - and mainly it has a network of alleys with lots of buildings with serviced rooms and apartments for rent.

This area is the most walkable part of Saigon, in my opinion.

Japantown - Thai Van Lung/ Le Tanh Ton - Google Street View to get a feel for the area.

No other way but to get here, get on the ground and walk the alleys. If the inventory were online the price would be higher. There are a few entrances to the alleyways, and the maps fail to capture the full network of them. There are some on the other side of the street as well.

There are some decent Agoda hotels around that area in the $25 - $40/ night range. Just get on the ground, post up at one of those and hit the alleys.

In terms of coworking, that place is far out. I wouldn’t do it.

My friends just opened a new coworking place in D1 - not too far from Japantown.

It’s called - Dreamplex

The other option is there are plenty of cafes to work from in Japantown.

This one is a favorite there - Bang Khuang Cafe

Definitely give me a shout when you roll in!

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@jonmyers you have been a Ministry of Hospitality for a country in a prior life, I think. Thanks for more fantastic advise. Japantown sounds perfect. Dreamplex is perfect for those that want quality surroundings like me (RE: not just cheap desks and cheap plastic chairs). Their one problem, which I’ve seen at over 1/2 of al co-working places in USA and Asia, is the close too early. I sent them a message to see if I could team up with a few others to get a “studio” sized space. I’m guessing co working places only want the private office spaces to have 24/7 access, but they lose tons of biz by shutting at 6PM when some are working with folks in the West.

@jonmyers quick question. I’m making my preparations for coming. Am working at Dreamplex. Can you tell me if VoIP via Skype or something like Vonage is good enough to use from a strong ADSL in an apartment building? I need to talk to people in USA at 11PM from a home apartment. Not sure I can get a good enough call quality. Thanks!

I have no problems with Skype making calls at home.

You working at Dreamplex now?

I work on the 11th floor. Cheers.

@jonmyers, I’ll probably do my deposit with Dreamplex in a few weeks. I’ll be coming March 1. Are you in a “studio?” I told them I’d consider finding a group to share a studio since it’s 24/7 hours which I’d prefer.

I’m terrible at learning language. I love learning about cultures and the way things are done in other places, though. I’m guessing English speaking is strong with Vietnamese that work in Dreamplex. So you make “business calls” from home and VoIP is good enough? Thanks.

Eric

Great info in this thread!

Will be making my way to Da Nang on February 7th and will be living there for four weeks. My first go around at living the digital nomad lifestyle internationally!

Would love to meet any of you who are in town. LMK!

(Note: Visiting through Hacker Paradise)