The title says it all... sadly my time in Vietnam is up as we are moving to other pastures...not sure where yet... but wherever I go ... will of course be blogging about that too...
In the meantime I have every intention of trying as many places here as possible...so that if any of you ever visit Ho Chi Minh... you will have a fair idea of what to do...first things first..if you are an expat about to move here or thinking about moving here .. quick run down
First thing you will need of course is accommodation. Try to avoid going through an agent if you can. On google mail join a group called An Phu neighbours and that will be a great resource for just about anything you want to know about settling in to Saigon. Sometimes people even post when a house or apartment is going up for rent. Or .. drive around and look for signs outside apartments or houses saying they are up for rent. Agents only get paid by landlords, not the tenants so they will only do what is beneficial for the landlord. Make sure you have everything taken care of in the contract down to the last detail.. as once the contract is signed... that's it... you are done!
The local currency is Dong... and like the old Italian Lire, you will be dealing with hundred thousands and millions. Don't let that scare you... just do the conversion and you will breathe easy. As a family of four you can live comfortably on about $1200-$1500 a month. That includes groceries, utilities, internet, cable tv, a helper... I had this lovely Phillipino lady called Lizelle, who we will miss very much. This is being written in 2013 so you may want to check. I know that inflation is an issue here.. imported good are of course expensive.
If you are lucky and have the company taking care of the rent of your accomodation guess you don't have to worry about it... but rents can vary from $500 all the way up to $5000 depending on if you get a house, villa, apartment and of course which location you are in.. and how many bedrooms does it have. Rents have gone down considerably this year as a lot of expats are leaving due to the hit the Vietnam economy has taken, but they say 2014 is when they expect things to take off again. Sadly we won't be around to see that happen
If Halal food is a concern for you, Halal restaurants can be found in the street behind the Sheraton mainly .. as there is a mosque there. You can also order Halal meat .. speak to the Imam at the mosque and he will make sure you are sorted.
A lot of the expat children go to schools in District 2 which is the An Phu neighbourhood. There is ISHCMC, which is a fantastic school that offers the IB program. My kids are going there and they have loved every minute of it. If your kids are used to the American system this may be a better option. There is also the BIS which also offers the International Baccalaureate, and if your kids are used to the British system, this may be a better option for you. The Australians, Germans and Americans have schools in this area too. There are a number of options for you to choose from, but the top two are extremely expensive so try to work that into your contract when you are negotiating. The school fees, depending on how many children you have will eat away a major chunk of your salary.
There are some good hospitals... but for minor stuff. FV Hospital, Family Medical, Victoria Hospital and SOS. They are all expensive so make sure you get medical insurance ...though most expat packages usually have that covered. Just be sure. For serious ailments you will need to fly out to Bangkok or Singapore. The medical field in Vietnam is not advanced enough yet to handle the serious cases.
Everyone always told me how great the shopping would be in Vietnam. They lied. There really isn't that much to shop for here. Yes you can find some great household stuff and you can get some great bargains in certain items. Will take you about a year to settle in and finally figure out where everything is. I will be divulging all details bit by bit here before I leave and hope it proves helpful. Things to keep in mind...
The Vietnamese people are petite... so unless you are petite too.. finding sizes here are ridiculously difficult. The good news is that its getting better but for the most part finding clothes, shoes and underwear can be a nightmare or in some cases impossible.
Payless just opened up at Vincom 1 and mercifully they have large shoe sizes too, but are very limited in choice of shoes so you may want to bring those with you as well as lingerie which is practically impossible to find here.
Naturally you will be excited about moving to a new place and will want to do all the exploring you can. My advice... Do it. Don't keep putting it off like we did.. we kept saying to ourselves... we live here now.. we can go anytime.. you never know when you will be posted out again.. so take advantage of every long weekend you can and get out. There is a lot to explore, Cambodia and Laos are right next door... so don't lose this opportunity or you will regret it. Vietnam itself has much to explore. Hoi An is supposed to be amazing and I hope we make it up there before we leave. Nha Trang is supposed to be a great beach destination too. If you can.. try and make it there too.
Look for The Sinh Tourist, they offer fantastic deals and their service is really pretty good. If you are not happy where they have placed you as far as accommodation is concerned, call them right there and they will change it. They are located in the backpackers district of Saigon also known as Pham Ngu Lao pronounced as Farm Noo Laoo
Well that's all I can share with you today. I will keep adding tidbits when I can that I think will be helpful to you. If you are just moving here, let me tell you it is a wonderful country with much to offer. Can be hard at first to live and work here because of the language difference, but if you have an adventurous spirit, I hope you will come to love Vietnam the way I have. I wish you all the luck and best wishes as you start your journey of discovery here.