Thinking of Moving to Vietnam? What Soon to Be Expats Should Know

Thinking of Moving to Vietnam? What Soon to Be Expats Should Know

 Vietnam is one of the top destinations for expats in the world. There’s so many reasons to move to Vietnam, including the extremely low cost of living, beautiful weather all year round, high salaries for ESL teachers, a booming infrastructure, and its proximity to some of the top tourist destinations in the world. Vietnam is a culturally rich country that hasn’t yet lost all its culture to commercialism. It’s untouched beauty continues to inspire travelers to come back. So, you went to Vietnam and fell in love. Now you’re ready for the big move..

 

C’est la Viet-Nam!

 

What Documents Should I Bring?

 

Here are some important documents you should bring with you, since most companies ask a scanned copy of your degree and other identifications:

 

  • Copy of your passport
  • Copy of your college degree
  • Copy of any teaching certificates you have (TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, etc)
  • Copy of your CV 

 

What About the Visa?

 

Tourist Visa On Arrival – This is the fastest and easiest route to obtain your Vietnam visa. Once you apply online, you’ll be sent a visa approval letter in Vietnamese, indicating the amount of the time you have for your visa. The visa approval letter costs around $30-50, depending on if you want to buy a single entry or multiple entry one. The single entry visa only allows you only one entry into Vietnam, but the multiple entry visa allows you to leave and come back whenever you want, which is why I recommend getting the multiple entry visa. I suggest using My Vietnam Visa for getting your visa letter. They’re fast, reliable, and send you all the documents you need in a timely manner. All you need to do is just show up at the airport and present the visa approval letter, then purchase the visa and pay the stamping fee. The one month single entry tourist visa costs around $30, and the one month multiple entry tourist visa costs $50. The visa stamping fee costs around $50.

The ‘Visa Run’ – Lots of expats have to do this. Once you have the three month tourist or business visa, and you are already working, you have to leave the country by flight every three months, then fly back and obtain a new visa.

Work Visa – This visa is a lot trickier to obtain. Most companies won’t offer to help you get this unless you have a full time contract with them for at least one year, then they might help sponsor you. Getting a work visa can be expensive and a headache, but if you plan on being out here for the long haul, it’s probably worth it, since you’d be getting a 1-3 year residence card and wouldn’t need to worry about doing any visa runs or getting new visas all the time.

 

Should I Already Have a Job Before I Get There?

 

It depends on what type of job you’re looking for. If you want to teach English, then you don’t really need to secure job before moving. Why? Because it’s extremely easy to find a job teaching English in Vietnam, especially if you’re a native English speaker, then you’d most likely be able to find a job within days of your arrival. You can read more about finding an ESL teaching job in Vietnam in my previous article Teaching English in Vietnam: Everything You Need to Know.

 

How Do I Find A Job in Vietnam?

 

I highly recommended that you look at jobs right before you come to Vietnam, or you can also look for one right after you get here, since you’ll likely find a job in no time at all. Yep, that’s right. Just showing up is the most important thing, especially if you’re looking to work as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, which is the most lucrative type of job you can find in Vietnam.

The best resources to search  a teaching job include Facebook groups such as Hanoi Massive and Ho Chi Minh ESL Teaching Jobs. These Facebook groups post jobs regularly and very frequently. Another good resource is TNH Hanoi. These groups post everything from teaching jobs, to apartments and rooms for rent, to social and cultural events. Another reliable resource is Vietnam Teaching Jobs. Just search for the city where you’re wanting to work, and you can even filter out the specific type of teaching job you’re looking for. I found that using Facebook is the most reliable way to find a job, since most companies reply faster via Facebook than by email.

 

 

My fifth graders are so sweet, they brought me some strawberry tea on the last day of class!

 

Teaching these cuties the Hello song! 🙂

What Qualifications Do I Need to Be An ESL Teacher?

 

One of the highest paying jobs in Vietnam is being an ESL (English As a Second Language) teacher. The main qualification you need to find a teaching job is just being a native English speaker. Yep, I said it. If English is your first language, you’re guaranteed to find a job, easily. The second helpful (but not always necessary) qualification would be having a college degree. The third thing (Which is not even necessary to find a job but still helpful if you want to find a higher paying job) is having a either a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA teaching certification. Click here to read more about the differences between these certificates. The TEFL course is around 150 hours and is easy to get, but a bit pricey (The cost of the TEFL course ranges from $150 on up).  You can check out Groupon to find discounts on online TEFL courses. There are plenty of TEFL courses offered online, and in no time you’ll have your teaching certificate, which will make you more attractive to employers offering higher paying jobs. You can check out some online TEFL courses, and see which one would work best for you. You can read more about finding an ESL teaching job in my previous post Teaching English in Vietnam: Everything You Need to Know.

 

 

They almost rolled me up into a burrito!!

 

Teaching English is fun!

 

 

Should I Live in A Big or Small City?

 

Most of the expats who are living in big cities such as Hanoi and Saigon are often juggling multiple part time jobs and working on shorter term contracts. When you work lots of part time jobs, you have the potential to earn a lot more per se since the hourly pay rate is higher, however it will take you time to build up those hours and fit them all in your schedule (I never managed to do this, which is why I ended up moving outside the city). Most of the full-time teaching jobs outside the big cities have benefits such as free accomodation and three free meals a day, plus a free motorbike for transporation, in places such as Hai Phong, Hai Duong, Ha Long Bay, and many others. The salary is competitive, and most companies pay you between $1500-2000/month or more, and that’s after taxesMost companies pay you in cash, either Vietnamese dong (VND) or USD.

 

Traditional Vietnamese hat 

 

Please don’t ask me what’s in the balloon! 😉 All you need to know is that all of this cost me under $3

 

If you sign on with a job full time, most companies will offer you free accommodation, motorbike, and some even provide you with three home cooked meals a day. Many companies will also provide you with a work permit and resident card if you work full time for them. If you choose to work part time, you’ll have a lot more flexibility, however most companies don’t provide many hours for part timers since they have to pay them a higher hourly rate compared to their full-time employees.

One of the advantages of working outside the big cities is that you don’t have to deal with all the horrible pollution every day. I remember driving to work in Hanoi and sucking down all the exhaust from all the motorbikes all the time. It wasn’t fun, and I ended up having a terrible cough after some weeks. Now I’m living in a smaller and quieter city, but the air is much less polluted and I can actually breathe here without constantly inhaling harmful motorbike exhaust.

Another benefit of working outside the city is that you’ll have some stability and a somewhat normal schedule. When I was working in Hanoi, I was often working all kinds of random hours, and could be called in by any of my jobs at the drop of a hat with no prior notice. Now I have a fixed schedule, and still have plenty of breaks in my day between classes. I usually teach around 15-20 hours per week, which is considered full time. Another pro of living in a smaller city in Vietnam is that you don’t have to deal with all the crowds. And trust me, there’s a lot of overcrowding in the cities here, so much to the point where you can’t even walk down a pedestrian sidewalk without motorbikes honking and creeping up behind you. Now I can actually jog outside without be worried about getting hit by a motorbike or hacking my lungs out from all the toxic fumes in the air.

 

 

 

Relaxing by the lakeside in Hai Duong

 

The big cities in Vietnam are attractive, but they’re also some of the most polluted cities in the world

 

Top Complaints From Expats

 

Despite the many advantages of living and working in Vietnam, there are still some issues that expats frequently complain about. Pollution is a major problem in Vietnam, especially in cities like Hanoi and Saigon, and it’s common to see people wearing masks in order to prevent the inhalation of dirty fumes. Another major problem is the traffic conditions. The streets are regularly congested with extremely high volumes of cars and motorbikes, and Vietnam has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world. People drive like they’re crazy here, and most people drive right into oncoming traffic without even using a turn signal. There aren’t any traffic rules here. You always have to watch everyone around you and can’t take your eyes off the road for even a second when driving out here, since there really aren’t any road rules and one slight look away from the road could lead to an accident, or worse.

 

Expect to drive in this kind of rush hour traffic if you live in Hanoi or Saigon

 

What About Transportation?

 

Rent or buy a motorbike. It’s the easiest and most reliable way to get around Vietnam. If you’re afraid to drive a bike in Vietnam and just the thought of driving in what looks like a Mario Kart race makes you want to wee yourself, then the local bus is a cheap, easy and efficient option. It shouldn’t cost you more than 1 million dong (Around $40) to rent a motorbike on a monthly basis. I found it’s better to rent a bike on a monthly basis, since it’s a lot cheaper than renting per day.

The good thing about renting a bike versus buying one is that you don’t have to pay for any maintenance, so if anything happens with the engine or anything else the bike shop will take care of it. You can also rent it for longer if you’re planning to stay in one place longer term. I rented my bike from a shop in Hanoi called Phung Motorbikes. The manager there is professional and friendly and they have all kinds of bikes to suit your needs, from pure automatics to full manual bikes. Depending on where you work, some companies will offer you a free motorbike. If you take the risk and buy your own bike, it could end up being a lemon, so it’s best to take a local with you who knows what they’re doing and can communicate and negotiate for you.

 

The best way to get around Vietnam!

 

Chicken bike

How Do I Find An Apartment?

 

If you don’t have a lot of money when you arrive in Vietnam, I’d suggest staying in a hostel for the short term until you can find a room or apartment for rent. I stayed in Flipside hostel in the Old Quarter (Hanoi’s backpacker’s district) until I found my room. It has clean and modern facilities and the staff are extremely friendly and helpful. Plus their veggie burgers are to die for! I used TNH Hanoi  to find my room.  You can find a private room with a private bathroom in a shared house for around $150-200 per month, which includes wifi and all utilities except electricity. Studios range from around $275 and up, and one bedroom apartments are generally around $300. A useful Facebook group to check out is Hanoi Massive, which always posts ads for rooms and apartments.

 

What’s the Cost of Living Like?

 

Expats are able to live an extremely comfortable life in Vietnam due to the high salaries for ESL teachers and the incredibly low cost of living. The average rent in Hanoi is around $150-$350/month, depending on the type of accommodation you’re looking for. Private rooms usually cost around $150/month, and this includes all utilities except electricity (Which should be no more than 2,000 dong/kw hour, so beware of some of the ads that try charging you a higher rate for electricity). You can easily find your own studio apartment with all utilities included for under $300/month.

Transportation is extremely cheap here also. You can rent a motorbike every month for less than $40, and you can download apps like Uber and Grab to get extremely cheap rides.  You can even join a decent gym in Vietnam for around 200,000 dong/month, which is around $8 per month. The average cost of a meal in Vietnam is around $1 or less, with tasty cheap street food abundant. The cost of having lunch in a restaurant or café is around $2-3. Coffee is less than $1. A beer costs you less than 50 cents.

 

At a Bia Hoi with one of my teacher pals, the place to go in Vietnam for some of the cheapest beer in the world! We got two big pitchers of beer for under $2

 

 

 

Smoking the famous Thuc Lau pipe

 

Stunning mosaic temple in one of my favorite places in Vietnam, Dalat

 

Watching the sun go down in Da Lat, my favorite place in Vietnam

I hope this article was helpful in making your decision to come and live in Vietnam! If you’re looking to escape the boring routine and are looking for a real adventure, then Vietnam is the place for you! Let me know what you think in the comments section or by sharing it with the social media links. I’d love to keep giving you tips and advice so feel free to subscribe by email in the subscribe below. Stay tuned for my upcoming article “Four Things I Dislike About Living in Vietnam.” Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram!

 

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    2 thoughts on “Thinking of Moving to Vietnam? What Soon to Be Expats Should Know

    1. Thanks for all of your tips and comprehensive guide to working and living in Vietnam. It was great to get advice on how much you’ll need to make to live in a city in Vietnam–very helpful when you’re making a decision about where to relocate to. You also look like you love teaching English, it’s great to see you love your job just as much as you love traveling. 🙂

      1. Hi Brooke,

        Thank you for all your kind words! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this post and found it to be helpful. I do really enjoy teaching English in Vietnam, it’s been such a rewarding experience so far. I love how your blog incorporates all different facets of travel with articles about fashion, cultures, and the arts. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your work and discovering these experiences from your perspective. I’m so looking forward to your new posts!! 🙂

        -Blossom

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