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How to Open a Gym in Vietnam 2024: Ultimate Guide

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Health and well-being are becoming more popular by the day in Vietnam. From team sports to swimming to yoga and gym an increasingly wealthy middle class is going all in on making themselves feel and look good.

Opening a gym in Vietnam for foreign firms or individuals, however, is not always easy. Not only are there several technical and licensing requirements that need to be met, but Vietnam has also developed its own very distinct gym culture. This can take a little getting used to and may make penetrating Vietnam’s gym-going consumer class challenging.

Understanding the nuances of Vietnamese gym culture and the complexities of business establishment procedures in advance of entering the market can therefore be crucial to the success of a new gym in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s gym culture

Vietnam’s gym scene has a range of options catering to different budgets. These typically also attract different market segments with their own gym cultures.

Local gyms

Local gymgoers often refer to themselves as ‘gymers’. Crowds at local gyms take their training seriously and typically focus on their workouts rather than how they look. These gyms often charge around VND 300,000 (US$12.32) to 500,000 (US$20.53) per month with discounts for longer-term memberships. They will also often offer day passes which are not as common at higher-tier gyms. Local gyms generally do not have air-conditioning but favour fans instead but local gymgoers don’t mind.

Mid-tier and high-tier gyms

There are a number of mid-tier and high-tier gyms in Vietnam. Two of the most well-known chains are Elite Fitness and California Fitness. These gyms are typically based in high-traffic areas, like shopping centers, and are frequented by wealthier middle-class consumers. Memberships typically cost around VND 1 million (US$41) a month but discount packages are usually available.


Typically membershuips are sold for three, six, or 12 months though in some instances, some gyms will offer heavily discounted rates for memberships that last up to five years. Memberships are usually paid for upfront. It is unusual for a gym to offer direct debits or payment plans, but not unheard of.

Personal trainers are common

Personal trainers in Vietnam are a dime a dozen and often relatively cheap. The quality, however, can vary wildly. Their skill level aside, it is quite common for Vietnamese gym goers to engage the services of a personal trainer on a daily basis. Clients will usually pay for this by buying a package of a handful to up to a few hundred sessions which can cost several hundred dollars. Note, that is not unusual for gyms to go bust and close up shop without refunding unused training sessions.

Establishment procedures for gyms in Vietnam

Gyms in Vietnam with foreign ownership are generally established as a limited liability company either as a wholly owned foreign enterprise or a joint venture with a Vietnamese partner. This article provides a broad overview of establishment procedures with a more thorough, detailed technical guide available here: How to Form a Company in Vietnam: Technical Guide 2024

Wholly foreign-owned gyms in Vietnam

A wholly foreign-owned gym in Vietnam allows a foreign investor complete control over a company’s operations. It is, however, generally more costly and time-consuming.

Specifically, before they can apply to register a business, foreign entrepreneurs who want to set up a wholly foreign-owned company will need to first apply for an Investment Registration Certificate (IRC) which they do not have to do with a local partner.

An IRC is required to ensure that foreign firms are not engaging in business in restricted or forbidden business lines. The conditions for approving an IRC are outlined in the Law on Investment which also states that IRCs should be issued in between 5 to 15 days. In reality, however, it is usually around 30 to 45 days.

Joint venture gyms in Vietnam

With a local partner foreign business persons do not need to file for an Investment Registration Certificate, but rather the Vietnamese partner establishes the company and the foreign investor buys a share. In this sense, working with a local business partner can considerably reduce setup costs and application processing times.

Joint ventures, however, can be risky. A mismatch in work ethics and management styles can cause conflict in the workplace, particularly in cross-cultural settings. For example, whereas in Vietnam it is common to financially penalise staff for arriving late or for using their phone during work hours, in Western countries, this would be unacceptable. Understanding these little nuances of cross-cultural communication, in a joint venture environment, may be crucial to a business’s success.

Gym franchises in Vietnam

Gym franchises in Vietnam are common. There are a number of gym chains spread out around the country–Califonia Fitness and Curves, for example. Buying into a franchise is an option for foreign investors but foreigners should be mindful that establishing a business via a franchise has its own governing regulations for foreign traders.

Those regulations are covered in Decree 35/2006/ND-CP and Decree 120/2011/ND-CP.

To open a franchise in Vietnam approval must be granted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Said approval requires traders to compile an application including the following:

  • A franchise brochure containing the full details of the agreement to be entered into between the franchisor and the franchisee.
  • Documentation proving the existence of the foreign trader as a legal entity.
  • Documentation outlining the protection titles of any industrial property rights.
  • Audited financial statements of the franchisor for the previous year.
  • Evidence of sub-franchise approval (if applicable).

According to Decreed 35/2006/ND-CP after submitting a franchising application to either the Ministry of Industry and Trade or the provincial Department of Industry and Trade, applicants should receive a response in five working days.

Visas for foreign gym owners in Vietnam

Foreign business persons who establish a gym in Vietnam are likely to qualify for investor visas. The length and cost of an investor visa will depend on the value of the investment. There are four categories of investor visas. They are:

Vietnam investor visas

Investor visas in Vietnam are known as DT visas (DT stands for đầu tư which translates to investor). There are four types of investor visas which vary in length depending on the value of the investment.

Investor visas in Vietnam 2023

DT1Investments over VND 100 billion (US$4.15 million), or for investment into ‘prioritised’ sectors, professions, or areas of Vietnam.5 years
DT2Investments between VND 50 billion (US$2.07 million) and VND 100 billion (US$4.15 million), or for investment into ‘prioritized’ sectors, professions, or areas of Vietnam.5 years
DT3Investor visa: issued for investors with total investment capital between VND 3 billion (US$125,000) and VND 59 billion (US$2.07 million).3 years
DT4Investor visa: issued for investors with total investment capital less than VND 3 billion (US$125,000).12 months

Source: Law on Entry, Exit, Transit, and Residence of Foreigners in Vietnam

Choosing a location for a gym in Vietnam

Choosing the right location for any business can be the difference between success and failure. Firms and individuals looking to establish a gym in Vietnam should consider the best market for their products and services. That said, future gym proprietors, wherever they choose to establish themselves, will very likely have to sign on to a commercial lease.

Commercial leases in Vietnam

The Law on Real Estate Business 2014 regulates leases broadly and this includes commercial leases. A typical lease agreement in Vietnam will have several key features:

  • The length of the lease: In Vietnam a commercial lease typically runs for about five years;
  • The payment terms: How often rent payments will be made and how. Typically, rent payments are made quarterly, however, they can also sometimes be monthly, every six months, or yearly; and
  • The division of responsibilities: who is responsible for what and when between the landlord and the tenant.

These are just the broad strokes but are also the most pivotal components of the agreement. Other aspects of the agreement can generally be negotiated between the landlord and the tenant without too much direction from the real estate law.

Commercial real estate rents in Vietnam

Rental costs can be a significant factor in choosing the right location and these will depend on a broad range of factors, however, the following ballpark figures for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from CBRE may be useful as a rough guide as to what to expect.

Average rent, ground/first floor, per-square-meter

Q1 2023Q2 2023
Ho Chi Minh CityUS$224US$41US$235∼US$45

Key regulations for gyms in Vietnam

Gyms in Vietnam, including their equipment, facilities, and staff are regulated by Circular 10/2018/TT-BVHTTDL.

Training facilities and equipment

There are a number of technical requirements outlined in the circular pertaining to the facilities and equipment gyms should meet. These include:

  • Training rooms should be ​​at least 60 meters square and 2.8 meters high and must also be well-ventilated.
  • The distance between training equipment must be from 10cm to 30cm.
  • The brightness of the lighting should be a minimum of 150 lux.
  • The sound system needs to be in good working condition;
  • There must be restrooms, changing areas, and places to store personal belongings.
  • There must be a first aid kit meeting Ministry of Health regulations; and
  • The should be rules that cover: Opening hours, who can and cannot use the gym, and safety requirements.

There is also a list of equipment that gyms are required to have including a treadmill bicycle, bench press, weight rack for back training, squat rack, boxing ring, ropes, balls, a jump rope, hand weights, and powder for grip, along with a handful of other bits and pieces outlined in the circular under Appendix I. It seems unlikely, however, that these regulations would ever be enforced.

Personal trainers and fitness instructor regulations

Requirements for personal trainers and fitness instructors are outlined in Circular 07/2021/TT-BVHTTDL.

Fitness instructors and personal trainers are required to:

  • Formulate training plans;
  • Organize training documents;
  • Provide adequate facilities and equipment for training;
  • Ensure that any tutors or assistants are qualified;
  • Organize the training, examination, and assessment of a trainer’s competency; and
  • Consolidate and recognize training results.

Note that, Circular 10/2018/TT-BVHTTDL also stipulates that there should be a ratio of no more than 70 students per fitness instructor.

Hiring gym workers, personal trainers in Vietnam

Entry-level gym workers, like cleaners or receptionists, in Vietnam are generally paid around minimum wage. Minimum wages in Vietnam are different for each of one of four key regions. These are outlined in Decree 38/2022/ND-CP.

Regional minimum wages, current as of September 2023


See also: Minimum Wage in Vietnam 2024: Your Questions Answered 

Gyms manager wages in Vietnam

Whereas entry-level staff are paid close to minimum wage, gym managers in Vietnam can earn substantially more. According to Persol Kelly’s 2022 Salary Guide, Vietnamese gym managers with more than seven years of experience can earn anywhere between US$1,500 to $2,500 per month in Ho Chi Minh City or US$1,000 to US$2,500 per month in Hanoi.

Personal trainer wages in Vietnam

Local personal trainers in Vietnam typically earn around VND 22 million (US$905) per month according to the Economic Research Institute. Personal trainers often have a lower base rate and receive a commission for each training session they conduct. As such, gym owners can often get away with budgeting for a much lower base rate.

See also: Average Salary in Vietnam 2024: Quick Guide 

Market research

Market research is essential when choosing a location for a new gym in Vietnam. Given the number of gyms in Vietnam’s biggest cities and the propensity for consumers to frequent establishments closest to their home or place of work, the right location depends greatly on the individual establishment and therefore offering broad advice can be difficult.

It should be noted, however, that in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City there are specific enclaves in which the bulk of foreigners live. In Hanoi that area is known as West Lake (Tay Ho) and in Ho Chi Minh City it’s District 1. Foreign-owned gyms may find these areas easier to penetrate with Western-style gyms. In other areas, gym owners may need to cater more to local gym habits and culture.

Intellectual property protection

Protecting intellectual property in Vietnam can be challenging. It is common for local businesses to use brand names and logos of other more well-established businesses. As of 2022, Vietnam remained on the Office of the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report which labelled IP enforcement as ‘a serious challenge’ for the burgeoning nation. That said, it is a signatory to most international intellectual property treaties and it has made a number of key reforms in recent years to strengthen IP protections.

Trademarking a gym’s intellectual property in Vietnam

With respect to establishing a gym, there are a number of items of intellectual property that gym owners may want to consider trademarking. A unique product name, a brand name, or a company logo could all be the subject of a trademark application.

Note that Vietnam is a signatory to the Madrid Agreement and therefore, firms with trademarks approved in other countries that are also party to the agreement will automatically have their trademarks recognised in Vietnam.

Likewise, businesses that register a trademark in Vietnam will automatically have protection in the other countries party to the agreement.

Filing a trademark application in Vietnam

In order to apply for a trademark a firm must first complete an application that includes:

  • A trademark registration declaration,
  • An image of the trademark between 3cm x 3cm and 8cm x 8cm,
  • A list of products and services that are to be registered;
  • A power of attorney, if necessary, and
  • Proof of payment of all necessary fees and charges.

Trademarks in Vietnam are then filed with the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam (IPVN). It can take 12 to 18 months for a trademark application in Vietnam to be approved.

Marketing a gym in Vietnam

Gyms in Vietnam can be marketed much like they can anywhere else in the world, however, there are a couple of small nuances to Vietnam’s communications landscape that foreign gym owners should be aware of.

A social media presence is essential

Traditional media in Vietnam is heavily regulated (see: Vietnam News Media Regulations: An Overview) and this has led to social media taking an increasingly more important role in Vietnamese society.

Not just in gyms in Vietnam, but businesses across the board need a social media presence. Many gyms in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City don’t have websites but rather publish their opening times and class schedules, and manage customer enquiries, via their Facebook pages. New gyms should establish themselves on social media quickly and pay particular attention to these channels.

Photos are almost as important as the workout, sometimes more

In Vietnam, sharing photographs online is a national pastime. Many Vietnamese will spend a good part of their workout photographing themselves. As a result, it is common practice to put branding materials on gym mirrors so that they are visible in the photographs of gym goers. Furthermore, ensuring this obsession is catered to with good lighting, excellent presentation, and a unique interior decor will likely see these photographs, and a gym’s brand, shared widely online.

Special offers and promotions

Vietnamese love a good bargain and are always looking for good deals. Gyms frequently run promotions and it’s common for Vietnamese gymgoers to haggle over the price. It’s also normal to sign up for long-term memberships, sometimes a few years at a time, in order to get a better deal. Foreign gym owners should keep this in mind when establishing themselves in Vietnam.

Fees and taxes for gyms in Vietnam

New businesses will need to register with the General Department of Taxation to pay their taxes and ensure they are tax-compliant. There are also several recurring fees and taxes that new gym owners in Vietnam should be aware of.

Business licence fees

Limited liability companies in Vietnam are required to pay a business licence fee annually. This must be paid by January 30. These fees depend on the registered capital of the firm.

Business licence fees, 2023

Registered CapitalFee (VND)
Less than 10 billion VND (US$415,671)2,000,000 (US$83)
Greater than 10 billion VND (US$415,671)3,000,000 (US$124)

Source: Decree No. 20/VBHN-BTC

Value-Added tax (VAT)

The specifics of the VAT are outlined in Law No. 13/2008/QH12. Broadly, this is a consumption-based tax on goods and services in Vietnam. It is generally charged at the point of sale for retail businesses. There are some exceptional circumstances in which VAT declarations and payments can be made quarterly, however, payments are usually made to the General Department of Taxation each month. VAT is generally charged at 10 percent of the sale price, though for select specialty items, it is only 5 percent, and some items are also exempt.

Personal Income Tax (PIT)

PIT is levied on a worker’s wages in Vietnam. The amount to be collected is on a sliding scale, the more a worker earns the more PIT they pay. Employers are required to collect PIT on an employee’s wages and pay said tax to the General Department of Taxation each month. If approved by the authorities an enterprise may be able to make tax payments quarterly instead. The PIT is governed by Law No. 04/2007/QH12.

Corporate Income Tax (CIT)

CIT is the tax a company pays. The standard CIT payment is 20 percent of assessable income, however, on large investments foreign firms have been known to receive tax breaks. This tax is paid yearly though firms can make payments quarterly. The CIT is governed by Law No. 14/2008/QH12

Getting help opening a gym in Vietnam

There are a broad range of tax agents, lawyers, market research firms, human resource professionals, and all-in-one consultancies in Vietnam that can assist entrepreneurs in establishing a business in Vietnam. Let us connect you with an expert.

For up-to-date information on what is happening in Vietnam’s food and beverage sector at any given time, hospitality business owners should make sure to subscribe to the-shiv.


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