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How to retire in Vietnam: costs, visas and more

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As one of the most welcoming and mysterious countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has a lot to offer retirees.

With over 2,000 miles of coastline, small fishing villages, and ancient Buddhist temples, Vietnam is a popular retirement destination for those seeking tranquility on a budget. But, before you take the leap and retire in Vietnam, it’s important to understand what the move entails so you can properly plan an overseas retirement.

Cost of Living in Vietnam

Before you sell your home and buy a one-way ticket to Vietnam, you should compare the cost of living. As many financial advisors would tell you, you’ll want to assess the total cost of living in another country versus the cost of living in the United States. According to Numbeo, a website that collects pricing data from citizens, the average cost of living in Vietnam is 46% lower than in the United States, not including rent.

In Vietnam, rent is on average 70% cheaper than in the United States. The U.S. national average cost for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,306, whereas a the average costs of a one-bedroom in Vietnam is $394 on average.

While your cost of living and rent will depend on your lifestyle as well as the city you live in, your dollar will go much further in Vietnam than in most U.S. cities. A three-course dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant is about $20. Gasoline runs approximately $3.40 cents per gallon, and a bottle of medium quality wine will set you back some $11.

Visas in Vietnam

While Vietnam does not have a retirement visa, there are several options for individuals who want to retire in Vietnam. Americans can apply for a visa to Vietnam through any Vietnamese embassy and will be approved for either six months or one year but can only stay in the country for three months at a time.

If you plan to live in Vietnam, you then have two options: make “visa runs” every three months or get an extension on your visas. Getting a visa extension incurs high costs, so most people make a visa run. This means that they leave the country for periods of a few hours to a few days. Then, they can return to Vietnam and their three-month “visit” can begin again.

Taxes in Vietnam

If you become a resident of Vietnam, you will be subject to taxes on any income you earn regardless if it was earned in Vietnam or not. These tax rates do not exceed 5% unless it comes from an inheritance or gift, which is taxed at 10%. Non-residents are taxed on income earned inside Vietnam at a rate of 20%. They are not taxed on income earned outside the country.

Keep in mind, that even if you live outside the U.S., you’ll still need to file a U.S. tax return as an expatriate. You’ll also have to file even if you don’t end up having to pay any U.S. taxes. If you’d like to forecast your tax burden more specifically, you may want to consult with a tax expert who is familiar with both U.S. and Vietnam tax laws.

Healthcare in Vietnam

Healthcare in Vietnam does not enjoy a great reputation. The World Health Organization ranks the nation’s healthcare system as 160th out of 189 countries. Vietnam has a universal healthcare system that combines Eastern and Western medicine. Everyone in Vietnam has access to basic medical care, and the cost and access to healthcare can range quite a bit between rural areas and cities. In urban areas, both public and private hospitals exist. Expats tend to favor the private hospitals because they more closely match the standards of care that they are used to in their home countries.

Most expats will get private health coverage while living in Vietnam. Most experts will advise that you get a plan that will reimburse you for any costs while in Vietnam so that when you pay for coverage, you can get your money back. Health insurance typically costs about $60 per month in Vietnam. Public hospitals typically only charge a few dollars for services, but private institutions do not charge much more. A consultation at a private hospital typically starts at about $30.


Many retirees choose to live in beach towns such as Nha Trang or Da Nang. It’s important to note that whether you choose to live in one of these cities, or a larger city like Hanoi, your cost of living and housing costs will vary.

The average home cost in Nha Trang is about $482 per square foot in the city center. This is in comparison to New York City, where homes cost on average $1,372 per square foot.  Overall, the cost of housing in Vietnam is significantly lower than in the United States.

Home Buying Process in Vietnam

In Vietnam, only Vietnamese people can purchase a property. This is because Vietnam is a communist country and the land is all owned by the state. However, foreign residents can purchase homes, they just can’t own the land that it sits on.

A foreigner can buy a 50-year lease on an apartment or home. With this lease, the buyer gets all rights to the apartment and can renew after 50 years. If the building that the apartment is in has to be sold, the buyer will get a portion of the proceeds. It’s important to note that foreigners can not sublet these homes.

Safety in Vietnam

While the United States government does not have any restrictions to visiting Vietnam, there are a few things that you may want to consider before moving there. These include:

  • The large cities in Vietnam such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh often have smog advisories that can be irritating to some people’s health.
  • The driving is very different from at home, so most people struggle to learn the customary driving skills.
  • The crime rate is very low in Vietnam, but the access to Western healthcare is limited, so personal safety may also be of issue to some foreigners.

The Bottom Line

Vietnam has dreamy landscapes, friendly locals, a low crime rate and inexpensive living. However, it also has no retirement visa scheme. And access to healthcare, while improving, is still not up to Western standards.

Tips for Retiring Overseas

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about making a plan for retiring overseas. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • An essential part of saving for retirement is making sure the money you save remains untouched. Dipping into your savings may seem tempting if you’re low on cash, but you’ll pay for it down the line. Consider creating an emergency fund so you can deal with life’s little challenges without raiding your nest egg.

By Ashley Chorpenning – SmartAsset – March 6, 2020

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