8 Essentials to Prepare for Teaching in Vietnam

Thinking of Teaching in Vietnam?

It’s hard to know exactly what you will need to prepare before moving to the other side of the world, and it can be an extremely daunting thought.

That’s without even considering the fact you’ll probably be starting a whole new career path too!

Sadly there is no checklist that says exactly what you will need, mainly because nobody knows! However, this is our attempt at packing the last 28 years into two backpacks. Here’s what we think are our 8 Essentials to Prepare for Teaching in Vietnam.

Clothes that should be considered when moving to Vietnam
Clothes to pack

1. Clothes

There are a few main weather conditions in Vietnam, hot, very hot, boiling hot and torrential rain, with a seasonal cool period in the North.

How are you supposed to prepare for that?! Light clothes, a coat and a wet suit?

We’ve also had the added challenge of packing clothes to teach in, and yes that means trousers, shirts and ties for you guys! Admittedly this is an easier challenge for the ladies.

A few dresses, blouses, skirts and light trousers should do the job. It is important to remember that as a teacher you are a highly respected individual in Vietnam, and your school will expect you to dress and behave that way.

In order to be respectful, you must consider how much skin you have on show. Ladies should always cover their knees, shoulders and chest as best they can.

We opted in the end for an array of light summer clothing, some smart clothing for work and a couple of solid ponchos to protect us when the heavens open.

Tip: Vacuum storage bags. They are pretty cheap and they will increase the volume in your backpack by around 50%!

2. Makeup and Toiletries

It can be pretty easy to buy your favourite brands in the big cities for similar/slightly higher prices to home. However, if you’re like me and your makeup is your bread and butter, it’s probably best to take a 6 month supply.

Many Vietnamese products have whitening agents in, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Toiletries however, seem to be pretty much available anywhere in Vietnam. So unless you’re very specific about your shampoo, don’t over pack. Save those kilos for something more important.

3. Shoes

The Vietnamese have considerably smaller feet than us Westerners, with an average , it’s safe to say our feet will not fit in 98% of the shoes available.

Take shoes for all weather conditions as it’s not easy to find our sizes on the high street in Vietnam. We appreciate packing wellies isn’t practical, but we’ve heard crocs are widely accepted in Vietnam!

We picked up some decent walking shoes/lightweight trail running trainers for our wet days and all the outdoor activities, and then also a pair of tidier trainers for beers around the town. A good pair of flip flops is a must too, you’ll be living in them.

We were told we’d need brown and black shoes depending on the placement we got for our teaching jobs, but opted to leave this out and get them made in Hoi An during our first couple of weeks…

4. Visa

It’s hard to tell what type of visa you’ll need for your first few months and without a little bit of research we had literally no idea which one we should get. In the end we decided it would be best to get a 90 day business visa with single entry costing $70 each (£51).

This gave us enough time to obtain our TESOL and apply for a teaching position, at which point we would be able to gain support from the school to obtain a working visa for the upcoming year.

Documents that are required to obtain a Visa in Vietnam
Visa requirements

5. Documents to Teach

Probably our most important essential. If you have a valid passport, a degree certificate and a criminal background check, you might think you’re ready to go!

Sadly, this is not the case.

There are certain expensive processes that need to be followed before your documents can be used by a school in Vietnam to obtain a work permit. The process you need to follow may change dependant on your country of residence, so be sure to check.

This is the checklist we followed:

Which totals a hefty £240! Sadly it’s not a cheap process, but it is worth it.

If you wish to work under a business visa for 3 months there is no essential need to legalise your documents as many schools will offer positions with just original copies.

It is however important to remember that if you wish to teach legally for a period longer than 3 months, you will be better off applying for a work permit.

This will ultimately save the hassle and expense of leaving and re-entering Vietnam on a 3 monthly basis, which could eventually mean your visa will be questioned.

Tip: If you are happy to wait until you are in Vietnam to prepare your documents there are cheaper options available to you if you visit countries Embassy in the main cities. However, please note that for us Brits we can no longer legalise our documents at the British Embassy in Vietnam, they MUST be legalised in the UK.

Documents that will be required for teaching in Vietnam
Documents to teach

6. Immunisation

Don’t risk it. We’ve heard Polio isn’t very nice. And Beadle is no longer about.

For UK residents, most vaccinations are available on the NHS. Some are free and some come at a fee, but it’s 100% worth the cost.

The essential vaccinations are as follows (all are available on the NHS):

  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio (Combined)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Typhoid

Travellers intending to stay for longer than a month are advised to have:

  • Japanese Encephalitis (JE) – £90
  • Rabies – a full course costing £120

Your GP will know what jabs you will need by looking at your records and the area you are travelling to. It is advised you arrange for these 4-6 weeks prior to your travel.

Tip: Rabies vaccination is lengthy, expensive and many travellers choose not to have it, only to remain sensible and avoid touching any animals or entering caves with bats. If you were to be bitten, there is a post bite rabies vaccination available in Vietnam. It’s personal choice really.

It is a well-known fact that mosquitos love humid weather and permanent water, which is why they thrive in Vietnam and particularly in land. Dengue Fever is particularly prevalent during the summer and wetter months.

Other borne mosquito viruses such as Malaria and Japanese Encephalitis occur in Vietnam during the wetter seasons.

Tip: Make sure you pack as much insect repellent as possible. We’ve found it extremely difficult to find any! 

7. Sun Cream and Talcum Powder

We tend to burn when it’s 30 degrees outside and it’s often 30 degrees in Vietnam (much to Eddie’s dread).

Be prepared, you may not be able to find sun cream straight away in Vietnam depending on where about you are. Also, the majority of the sun cream available in Vietnam contains whitening agents and are generally sold in very high factors.

Oh, and if you thought we said talcum powder…we did.

Tip: This one’s for the men. If you’ve never experienced a long walk or a trek in 30 degree heat, you luckily may never have experienced chafing. Sadly we have experienced this numerous times (well Eddie has).

It is never pleasant and can be extremely painful. The most efficient solution appears to be simple talcum powder and it has become an essential tool in our backpack. Other solutions such as antiperspirant and baby oil can also do the trick.

8. Be Mentally Prepared

We consider ourselves extremely lucky to be fortunate enough to have found each other to travel the world with. Even if we can be each others worst nightmares at points (stop snoring Eddie).

But I honestly don’t think we’d be brave enough to do it alone.

Vietnam offers a way of living that is literally half a world away from our comfortable lives in the UK. Although many of the aspects that might draw you to teach in such a country are extremely appealing, nothing can truly prepare you for the culture shock that will inevitably come.

Take time to explore and research other teachers experiences. There are so many blogs and accounts I have followed on social media that have brought me to the ultimate decision to move and teach. These accounts have been a lifeline when I’ve often thought “why am I doing this again?”.

Consider studying your teaching qualification with a company in Vietnam before you’re placed in a role. This method might be slightly more expensive, however the support you will receive from fellow new teachers will be priceless.

Not to mention the future life long friends you will make from all over the world.

We opted to choose a program run by a travel company called Travel Bud who have been nothing short of amazing during the lead up to our qualification. Our qualifications were delivered in Hanoi by Xplore Asia, whom ensured we achieved our TESOL qualification within 4 weeks and also supported us with placement.

It’s also good to ask anyone you know who may have visited the country about how they found it, what challenges they faced and most importantly, what they loved. It’s amazing what we have learned through talking to friends and friends of friends about their experiences in Vietnam.

I have to say…only one couple said they didn’t enjoy their visit, and we spoke to a lot of people.

Ellie & Eddie

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