Best Places to Retire in Vietnam
Overall. Vietnam has a curious relationship with foreigners, particularly Americans. The French colonized the country and many of the former elite still strongly identify with that culture. The current relationship with China, its ally in the American conflict of the 60's and 70's, is quite strained in reaction to Chinese territorial expansion aims. America fought a war against half the country, but there does not appear to be much, if any ill will today. Many American GIs are tempted to return to visit where they spent a tumultuous year in their youth. The country is still controlled from the top with limited freedom. Taking pictures of goverment institutions, criticizing the government, or religous proselityzing can result in detention.
The country has started to embrace a free market economy and is growing very fast. There are many beautiful places in the country and a wide variety of terrain - from beautiful ocean beaches, to huge rivers, to tropical mountains.
Residency. Foreigners can apply for a Permanent Residence Card, although the process seems set up for people who want to further the success of the Vietnamese government, who have already done something to benefit the country, or who are of Vietnamese descent. After 5 years with that card you can apply for citizenship, but you must renounce current citizenship. A Temporary Residence Card is less strict and can be valid from 1 - 3 years. The country does not seem to want expatriate retirees, as nothing is mentioned about them in the various residence or citizenship programs.
Crime and Security. This is what the U.S. Department of State OSAC report says about crime in Vietnam:"Although most travelers feel relatively safe, pick-pocketing and petty crimes do occur. Crimes of opportunity are much more common, especially in crowded or tourist-oriented areas. Petty theft, purse snatching, and pick pocketing are most common in the areas, such as major hotels, tourist sites, airports, and public parks, frequented by foreigners. One common method of purse snatching used employs two people on a motorcycle with the passenger snatching the victim’s valuables, often while traveling at the same speed or faster than street traffic. This method can be especially dangerous if bag straps are over the shoulder or around the neck." When it comes to safety, "The two most dangerous activities are crossing the street and driving/riding in traffic. The road system is underdeveloped, and traffic rules are widely ignored. The lack of open sidewalks and adequate traffic controls creates a precarious situation for all pedestrians and motorists." You might be harassed by beggars or aggressive street sellers in some locations.
Taxes. Residents pay 20% tax on Vietnamese generated business income. There is a standard VAT tax of 10%.
Medical. US Medicare is not honored in Vietnam. Visitors and residents should be aware of the limitations of medical care. Even when adequate medical care is available at private clinics, it is often rather expensive. The quality of medical care in major cities is limited, and medical care in rural/provincial areas can be non-existent. It is recommended that you have some kind of medical insurance.
Cost of Living. The numbeo.com price comparison (CPI plus rent) shows Vietnam with a very low index of 31, vs. the U.S. with 60 and UK at 73. The Local Purchasing Power Index shows 23 for Vietnam vs. 89 for the UK and 136 for the U.S.
Best Places to Live. See the list of the Vietnames cities we have reviewed in the top right hand column. For reasons of atmosphere plus famiiarity many retirees prefer to live in cities and regions popular with expats. Cities have plenty of attractions and living options, although they will generally be more expensive.
Pluses and Minuses. Vietnam is one of the most inexpensive countries anywhere in the world. Expats can expect a fair amount of culture shock - particularly with dealing with the bureaucracy, finding a place to live, getting a telephone, etc. - this is a 3rd world country. There is a relatively small number of places to live where expats will feel comfortable. The economy is growing thanks to manufacturing for first world countiries. The government tighlty controls things and freedoms are limited.
Weather. The weather is warm year round thanks to the country's proximity to the Equator. in the northern and mountainous areas of the country it can be cooler in winter. The rainy season features intense daily downpours.