Life is interesting in Ho Chi Minh City
If you’re looking for a place to fully shift your focus and be able to dedicate time to your business, Ho Chi Minh City, often known as Saigon, may be an unlikely surprise. It’s a hectic city, but equipped with modern conveniences at reasonable prices. This allows you the opportunity to have everyday errands and chores taken care of, while you dedicate precious time to your freelance business and your online career. Becoming a digital nomad is a lifestyle that is attractive not just for its freedom from the office, but also because it allows you the ability to prioritize what’s important in life.
By moving to a place where cost of living is lower, you get the chance to try out living in a way that allows modern technology to make your life easier. Public WiFi is surprisingly accessible and stable. Cleaning, transport, grocery delivery, meal services, laundry and countless other daily duties are at your fingertips through apps and hiring people to help out. Need products to make you feel at home? Lazada has you covered, importing products from China to you in mere days.
Want to get to a meeting, but don’t feel like walking because crossing streets feels a bit too much with all the traffic? And yes, the traffic might even follow you onto pedestrian pathways if motorbikes and scooters see an opening to get through. Grab (who recently took over for Uber in Vietnam) is ready to pick you up and get you to most reasonably close places for about $2. Overall, we would recommend that using Grab over taxis, as none of the taxi drivers speak English. By predetermining your destination address in the app, you can avoid the painful of exercise of trying to communicate via a map on your phone. Attempting the buses, although possible, is bound to be an adventure – keep an offline map with you! Like us, you might decide to walk to most of your definitions. If so, it’s often a good idea to plan your pedestrian route around how many intersections and streets you might need to cross. With a dense population of motorbikes, crossing the street is an adventure of playing “Frogger”. Search YouTube for frogger+Saigon and you’ll see what I mean.
If you’re anything like me, part of the reason to travel the world as a digital nomad is to explore amazing culinary experiences. Not only is Vietnam a prominent coffee region, it offers a range of street food and healthy (or not) local eats at some of the lowest prices in the world. Make sure to learn the phrase “ca phe sua da”. This will ensure an endless supply of iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk and a comfortable afternoon working from any number of cafes around the city. You may notice French influence at restaurants, providing a marvelous blend of culture, atmosphere and flavor.
A fantastic variety of cafes are available around Nguyen Hue Road or Le Loi Road. L’Usine Le Loi is one such café on the higher side of prices at approximately $4.00 for a cappuccino. The readily available access to WiFi makes it really easy to find a spot just about anywhere and get some work done, especially since there appear to be coffee shops literally about every 2-3 doors. This means you can save some hard-earned cash by just walking around and choosing any one of the other options available! Although all of the cafes can make it tempting to set up an office there, if you find you need a quiet place with great internet for some meetings or simply want to socialize with other likeminded freelance consultants, head over to The Hive Saigon or any number of local coworking spaces. At The Hive, you’ll pay approximately $6.50 for a drop in pass.
In addition to cafe culture, European influences pave the way to an abundance of street life with little local shops, open spaces and so much opportunity to interact with the everyday culture of Vietnam. The traditional shopping malls and big box stores are not as prominent, allowing for deep variety, as opposed to nearby countries where malls reign supreme as a place to socialize.
You can start by introducing yourself to the city by way of the recently established hop on hop off tourist service. This is a great way to learn what areas of the city sell specific types of products such as furniture, home products, or computers/electronics. For example, Nam Quoc Camg was introduced as the street for computers and electronics. Be mindful that, as hop on hop off tours go, the system still needs some development. The tour only starts at the bus terminal and is quite short, with some poor signage. No matter how you do it, be curious and get involved in your new community. You will surely be immersed in Vietnam in no time.
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