Why would you go halfway around the world to retire? In two words, it’s cheap. It costs much much less to live in Vietnam than in the U.S., and it’s also a charming country to live in. It is all coast, mostly what looks like a strip of land bordering the South China Sea.
Kathleen Peddicord, founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group, writes that English is becoming more and more common throughout the country, that the Vietnamese have a passion for the internet (which is available everywhere), and that despite its history of war and colonial rule, the people are “perhaps surprisingly gracious and friendly to Westerners.” (See also the helpful information in Plan Your Retirement Abroad.)
In Da Nang, for example, according to Peddicord's writing in U.S. News and World Report, you (two of you) can live on $1,200 a month. Wouldn’t that leave at least a little something for traveling back home occasionally? Da Nang, she says, is not a tourist trap. It is situated on the South China Sea coast at the mouth of the Han River and is also home to Vietnam’s best golf course (so said Golf Digest last year), and it has a long, beautiful beach. Da Nang is where a major U.S. Air Force Base was located during the war, but that was a long time ago, and the Vietnamese apparently welcome American visitors and retirees now. The Vietnamese are a hardworking people determined to make it in today’s world, according to all reports. Vietnamonline.com describes the city, third largest in the country, as becoming an "organized urban area, with beach front villas on one side and (the) Han River flowing on the other."
Da Nang, a city of a million people dotted with new skyscrapers, is also a place of wide, easily-traveled roads and wide sidewalks, too, for those who like to walk free of bikes and especially motorbikes. It still retains its small-town feel, says U.S. News, and it is, amazingly, litter-free, Peddicord reports, and it has an active recycling program. How rare that is in Southeast Asian countries, you may know from your own travels. The beach is utterly beautiful and very clean, with lifeguards and litter barrels, and yet it is not a “beach town,” so it’s easy to find a deserted stretch for lolling.
Nha Trang lies on southeastern Vietnam’s Nha Trang Bay, about 275 miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a popular Vietnamese vacation destination, with more than four miles of beaches. And it’s home to 400,000 people, including hundreds of expats. The city has a tropical climate, with high temperatures ranging from 82 F to 91 F and lows in the high 60s F. Best of all, Nha Trang has a long dry season, which runs from January to August. It experiences its heaviest rainfall in October and November. Mountains surround three sides of the city, and a large island just off the coast shelters Nha Trang during heavy storms.
One couple, described on International Living’s website, rent “a modern studio apartment – a five-minute walk from the ocean –… fully furnished and includ[ing] cable, Wi-Fi, a small kitchen, maid service, laundry six days a week, a security guard, a weight room, and utilities for $300 a month.” There are also long-term hotel stays for about $200 a month. Grocery prices are way below what US citizens are used to – 10 cents for a baguette (the French colonial influence), 10 eggs for under a dollar, and two lbs. of potatoes for less than a dollar. And the food in restaurants is delicious – Vietnam's cuisine is much influenced by French cooking but has its own distinct style of light, bright flavors – very fresh food and of course a lot of seafood.
Dalat is a quite different kind of place – not on the coast, for one thing. But it has a big advantage in a hot country: While it’s further south than Nha Trang, it has an average yearly temperature of 57 F. It’s really a mountain resort complete with pine trees. You can rent an apartment in Dalat for around $300, eat out for less than a dollar…and get a good hour-long massage for $5. The city is famous for its flowers and holds a flower festival in December and January. It’s not easy to find English-language real estate agents and service providers, but you can always try the local university.
According to International Living, if you choose to live there, you should choose a place on the outskirts, no matter how tempting the center is, with its thriving seafood market and its (man-made) moon-shaped Xuan Huong Lake. Charming French architecture from the colonial days is still in evidence, but the outskirts are prettier than the center of town, experts say, with better views. Dalat is not on the sea, but it’s just three hours from Nha Trang, where you can go for a beach vacation. Some retirees divide their time between the two.
If cost of living is a major consideration in your retirement, Vietnam could be the answer. For your home base, you can choose between the mountains and the beaches. (You may also be interested in reading Retirement Planning: Introduction and Find The Top Retirement Cities In The Philippines.)