As an English teacher in Vietnam, you will have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of your students. You will be able to share your knowledge and help them develop their English language skills. Additionally, you will be able to explore the country and experience its unique culture. From the bustling cities to the stunning countryside, Vietnam has something for everyone.
Life in Vietnam
Where do I go when I first arrive?
If you arrive with Teacher’s Friend then the language centre will already have provided you with a hotel for your first few days. This is usually for 7-10 days. The majority of my centres also offer airport pick up. After that, you will have a house or apartment ready because Teacher’s Friend will set you up with a housing agent who will show all of the properties available that match your criteria. During your time in the hotel Teacher’s Friend will get your accommodation sorted.
Where should I stay?
In Hanoi Tay Ho is the more modern, western area, where you will see a lot of expats walking about and much more Western (And more expensive) food options. Ba Dinh is the local area, with far fewer expats and more local cuisine which is cheaper. In between these two is Truc Bach, a beautiful lake offering Vietnamese local food for cheap prices, yet still very close to the expat area.
In HCM, District 1 and district 3 are for the younger expats, with district one being where the 24 hour party scene is. Bing Thanh is also popular with younger expats. District 2 and 7 are more for families and have a lot of the international schools and large complexes with Western amenities.
What should I look for in an apartment?
The best apartments will have a washing machine, clothes line, cooking facilities, a bathroom, be light and airy, close to your work, not down a dark alleyway that a taxi can’t get down, be reasonably priced, have a maid, wifi and bills included and have a trustworthy landlord. Teacher’s Friend will provide you with a contact from a trusted housing agent to find you the perfect place!
How much should I pay for Vietnamese lessons?
The average cost for a Vietnamese lesson in $10 and you can usually get discount if you sign up for more than one class at a time. You can choose to study at a centre with other people or privately, or you may choose to have a tutor instead. Obviously, private classes cost more.
Can I get a city tour?
Teacher’s Friend includes a city tour with all of it’s relocation packages to show you the best that your new city has to offer! I also offer discounted tours and travel throughout Vietnam through my partner travel agent.
How can I trust the landlord?
Teacher’s Friend only works with trusted housing agents who know the landlords and have a good relationship with them.
What's the best way to learn Vietnamese?
Get out there and do it! The time when I spoke the most Vietnamese was on my bike trip from Hanoi down to Ho Chi Minh. I met with a lot of local people who didn’t speak any English and so I had to use my very limited Vietnamese. Speaking with the locals really did make my time in Vietnam, so I strongly suggest taking at least a few lessons. You can also ask local people how to say certain things as they arise, that’s what I used to do. It is very easy to come to Vietnam and speak no Vietnamese at all because in the big cities everyone speak English. However, I used to speak in restaurants in Vietnamese as much as I could, and in café’s and bars and when I bought fruit from the locals. The more you speak the more you learn!
Where should I get Vietnamese lessons?
The best place to look is online, but try and get a teacher who is highly rated with good reviews. There are varying degrees of quality of Vietnamese teacher in Vietnam and the price usually reflects this. A great place to start is in Facebook groups and forums. If you purchase the “Go All Out” package then this comes with ten Vietnamese lessons included, in a small sized class, with a great company.
What places should I visit?
I highly recommend the following places. Sapa, Ha Giang, The Northern Loop, Mong Cai (Ban Gioc Waterfall on the border with China), Ba Be National Park, Tam Dao, Cuc Phuong National Park, Moc Chau (famous for blossom trees), Mai Chau, Ninh Binh (Tam Coc), Dalat, Mue Nue, Nha Trang, Vung Tao, Vinh, Can Tho, Ben Tre, The Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc Island, Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island, Phong Nha national park,, Cu Chi tunnels, Hue, Hoi An, DaNang, Phan Tiet (Fairy Springs), Ha Tien, HaiPhong, Qui Nhon. Of course, then you have all of the amazing countries bordering Vietnam such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand and the rest of Asia and beyond with cheap flight through Jet Star and Air Asia there is endless exploring to be done!!
Where can I eat and drink?
Teacher’s Friend will organise a city tour for you, and show you some great spots to eat! You can also speak to your language centre and to the other teachers in the Teacher’s Friend network. They’ve all been in your shoes! You can eat in in local places with cheaper prices or more expensive tourist restaurants. You can also choose from an array of Western restaurants that serve Western serve. The main places to find food are in Tay Ho, the old quarter (Hoan Kiem) and Ba Dinh. In HCM the best area for food is District 1, District 3 and Binh Thanh, Disctrict 5 (China town), and district 10 (cheap, local food). Of course, for local beer, go to the beer hoi’s (fresh beer) which are located all over the big cities.
How much should I pay for an apartment?
The average price for a room in a share house is $230-280 US per month while the average for a one bedroom apartment is $400-450 and upwards.
How do I speak basic Vietnamese?
Teacher’s Friend provides a basic Vietnamese language sheet for you to start practising your Vietnamese. If you wish to take your own lessons then Teacher’s Friend can recommend where to find a good teacher.
How can I stay safe?
As a general rule. Behave the way you would I your home country (don’t walk alone at night, don’t flash your cash, don’t go down dark alleys, keep your belongings hidden etc) and you will be perfectly safe in Vietnam. Just stay aware, as you would anywhere and remember that you are slightly more of a target because you are a Westerner in a foreign country.
I am an older teacher, will it be a problem finding work in Vietnam?
Unfortunately, for irrational reasons, it is harder for us to find anyone work who is over the age of 40, as many language centres and schools will not accept anyone above this age. However, if you have teaching experience, a degree, a 120 hour face to face TEFL certificate and are a native speaker, we will gladly apply for jobs on your behalf and if we can’t find you five promising interviews, then we will offer you a full refund for the package. It is also likely that smaller provinces will be more inclined to hire older teachers, as the amount of qualified teachers available in smaller cities is far less.
Do I need a degree to teach English in Vietnam?
You don’t need a degree if you come from a native English-speaking country. However, you need to have an internationally accredited TEFL/TESOL certificate.
But to have a work permit in Vietnam you need to have a degree. There are
exemptions sometimes although which is very rare when schools can show that a candidate is suitable for a job despite not having a degree.
I've been warned never to pay to get a teaching job?
Yes, you should not pay for a company to find you a teaching job because a reputable recruitment agency should get a high commission from the schools or language centres which they work with, so there should be no cost for the teacher.
However, we are not a recruitment agency. We are an organisation which helps teachers move to Vietnam. We offer relocation packages which include assistance finding a job, as this will be a huge part of your new life in Vietnam.
As well as job placement for the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh packages we offer other services such as assistance finding a motorbike and free lessons, a reliable mechanic, assistance with accommodation, help applying for visas, professionally written documents on life in Vietnam, lesson plans, a meet and greet city tour, a language exchange, discounted Vietnamese lessons, discounted tours and travel throughout Vietnam and excellent service and support throughout your time here. All of this is provided from people who have lived, taught and travelled extensively throughout Vietnam. So, you are also paying for our experience and expertise, ongoing support and excellent contacts.
Again, you are not paying to get a job, you are paying for an entire relocation package which offers a number of services.
This service is very similar to an “Internship program”, offered by many other internationally recognised companies. However, many “Internship” programs will take a large cut of your salary which is paid by the school and make huge profits- at your expense. I know, because this is what happened to me when I first moved to Vietnam. I do not think this is fair and so want to offer a service where people can get genuine, real help and advice and be given excellent, trustworthy contacts when in Vietnam, without having to sacrifice their hard earned salary.
Teacher’s Friend does not take a penny of your wage. We also do not charge schools or language centres in Vietnam for our service (although we do offer Premium Rates if the schools wish.) We believe that schools and language centres in Vietnam should be entitled to FREE, QUALITY teachers, who will give Vietnamese students the best possible education.
If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com
What is the pay?
A new teacher salary is usually $1200 US per month for around 18 hours per week. Experienced teachers can earn more and there is lots of room for progressing.
What resources are there?
It depends. If you sign up with Teacher’s Friend then there the language centres have comprehensive resources- guide books, lesson plans, teacher drives, equipment (balls, bats, bean bags, swat sticks), flashcards, board pens, interactive white boards etc. Bringing stickers from your home country is a great way to get popular with the kids!
Whats the difference between a school and language centre?
In general the pay in public schools is lower than in the language centres and the students are poorer. People in the public schools usually work 8-4pm with a break in-between from Monday to Friday, whereas in the private centres you work three evenings a week plus weekends. In both centres you work about 18-20 hours per week. In the public schools there are about 30-50 kids per class whereas in the language centres the numbers are about 5-20 kids per class. There are way less resources in the public schools, usually just a blackboard, whereas the language centre’s have interactive whiteboards and WIFI/ internet access.
Can you save in Vietnam on a Teachers wage?
Yes, you can save money in Vietnam depending on your spending habits. I taught about 22 hours a week with a large language centre and then another 10 outside the classroom (which you’re not technically meant to do on a full time contract but everyone does). These extra ten classes were paid at $25 per hour, cash in hand. On this wage I was SAVING about £1000 GBP a month and still going out, eating what I liked (both Western and Vietnamese food) and also I had a gym membership. Not everyone saves that much but they also don’t usually work that many hours either. My boyfriend spent about $800 a month, including accommodation and going out drinking most nights. I would budget for $1000 a month for general living costs.
Hanoi is particularly good for savings because if you have the time/ energy then there are always extra private classes to be taken. If you took on just four extra teaching hours a week, which paid $20 per hour, then you’d be making an extra $320 a month, so you can see how it all starts to add up quite quickly. I did ten extra hours on $25 an hour, so was making an extra $1000 a month…
Getting private classes in HCM is perfectly do-able but slightly harder. Getting private classes in smaller towns is way less likely but you will also be spending a lot less.
So yes, the wage will be absolutely fine, although everyone has different spending habits and living standards. This is based on a house share price of $200 per month for rent. I lived in an apartment with my boyfriend which was $400, but because we split the rent I still only paid $200 per month. If you wanted your own apartment, you’d be looking at $400-500 minimum for rent.
Travel / Getting around
Is it safe for me to ride a motorbike?
Riding a motorbike is definitely risky, especially in Vietnam. With apps such as Grab, getting on the back of a bike is now so much easier and you don’t have to haggle with the driver or pay in cash, it can come straight out of your bank account. If you are seriously considering buying a motorbike then I highly suggest buying a descent crash helmet from your home country and brining it over with you, as well as sturdy riding shoes to protect your ankles. Don’t drive drunk and try to avoid driving in the dark. When driving in the dark be especially aware of other drunk drivers. Always wear your helmet and don’t do something that you wouldn’t do in your home country, For me, riding a bike really makes the entire experience of being in Vietnam, but be careful and it isn’t for everyone. Also note that the majority of insurers will not cover you for riding a motorbike abroad if you don’t have a motorbike license in your home country- for obvious reasons. You will also need to be riding legally, which means wearing a helmet and having a motorbike license from Vietnam.
Where can I buy a bike?
There are a lot of dodgy motorbike dealers out there who care about profit over your safety. Read reviews and ask around before buying, or buy off a backpacker- although they too can be a little sneaky! When you sign up with Teacher’s Friend I will put you in contact with a trusted motorbike mechanic and dealer who will sell you a safe bike in a good condition for a reasonable price.
How can I find a reliable mechanic?
Teacher’s Friend will provide you with a trusted motorbike mechanic who I have used for years. He will sell you a descent bike, at a good price and offer free repairs for two months. After this, he will fix your bike for you at great rates and using proper methods- not cello tape and glue!
Do I need a license to ride a motorbike?
To ride a bike legally in Vietnam you will need a Vietnamese license, regardless of whether you own a motorbike license from your home country or not. To get this, you will need to first pass a written test and then to show your riding ability by completing an obstacle course that usually requires you driving in a figure of eight round some cones and driving slowly in a straight line. The best way to get the license is to find a local who will go with you and translate for you/ write the answers for you in Vietnamese. This can be arranged. You will then have to drive the bike around the cones to prove that you can actually ride. Sounds a little daunting if it’s your first time riding but let’s face it, if you can’t do it, should you be riding on the roads?! The majority of foreigners skip this and ride illegally and risk being fined if stopped by the police. This is rare because most of the police can’t speak English and so avoid stopping Westerners, but the amount of police who can speak English is increasing…
What should I look for when buying a motorbike?
- Firstly and most importantly check that the motorbike is being sold with it’s Blue card (paperwork). Check that the registration number matches the number on the blue card AND the chassis number which will be on the chassis of the bike. (Ask your dealer to show you if you can’t find it). You will find it very difficult to sell your bike without these papers.
- Check the brakes- front and back.
- Check that the horn works- a life saver in Vietnam!
- Make sure the battery works properly and will hold it’s charge
- Check that the lights work and are strong enough- some lights are barely noticeable when switched on!
- Check that the wheels are aligned with the chassis and not bent
- Check the transmission- can you change gears easily?
- Check the suspension- can you see any rust? Is there cracks? Do the wheels wobble or vibrate when riding?
- Although you will want the bike to have an electric start it’s always a good idea to check the kick starter too, in case of emergency
- If you’re buying manual check the gears and the clutch
- Check the tires- do they have enough air?
- Is oil leaking form the bike?
- When you ride, does the bike generally sound OK? If it’s making a weird noise, probably best not to buy it!
- Are the handlebars straight?
- Can you see any cheap repairs? (e.g. something stuck on with black tape?!)
- Is the chain tight?
- Has the engine been replaced? Check for scratches, loose bolts
- Check the electric start- does the bike turn on by pressing the button?!
Then take it for a test drive for at least twenty minutes and go on the highway and get up some speed, this is usually when you may notice problems. Check for any weird noises, strange movements, how easy ad smooth it is to change gear, how quickly the brakes work
What are the students like?
In general the students are fun, enthusiastic and very loud but on the whole well behaved, Good classroom management is needed, especially in the public schools. The students have a lot of respect for the teachers and usually shower them with gifts in teachers day and run up to them to give them hgs when they arrive for class.