Vietnam is fast becoming one of the "in" destinations on any TESOL teacher's itinerary. Not only is it close to home but it is one of the most exciting, friendly and cheapest spots in south-east Asia. Work is generally available in the larger cities, however, for the quintessential cultural experience, head to the mountains and try your luck there. Although a university degree is generally not required, it is often requested, but there are still opportunities if you don't have a degree. Salaries are lucrative at US$12-$25 per hour depending upon experience and qualifications.
Eating while in Vietnam is a delight for visitors, because many of the local specialities come straight from the imperial kitchens that served the emperors of Vietnam. The diversity of dining options is tremendous, ranging from cheap street-side noodle stalls to banquets of freshly caught seafood. Seasonal fruits such as dragon fruit, rambutans and longans, can be enjoyed. Vietnam truly is a beer culture for the expat community, and there are plenty of local as well as imported brands. Carlsberg, 333, Hanoi, Tiger, Saigon, La Rue, San Miguel and Heineken are some common brands, not to mention the good but cheap homemade brews that sell for around 20 cents a glass at the local Bia Hoi.
Bargaining is customary at roadside stalls and open markets. Many of the preferred great bargains are carved wooden furniture, fine lacquer ware (these can be shipped home upon request), traditional Vietnamese hand-made silk dresses, kimonos, and embroideries. On top of these, antiques, fine ceramics, old watches or loads of imitation objects are available.
Vietnam is by and large a very safe country; violent crime is extremely rare. Unfortunately you cannot expect hospitality at every turn and you may experience problems with petty theft and pick pockets as you would in any developing country.
Some great places to consider include the two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Although both are equally fascinating, many travellers regard the two as very different.
Hanoi, the capital, is famous for its slow-pace, lovely landscape of lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and French-colonial architecture. It is the jumping-off point to popular tourist spots such as Sapa, with its incredible mountainous terraced rice fields, or Halong Bay with its unusual 1969 limestone islands which rise spectacularly from the ocean. Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam. It is the industrial, commercial and cultural centre of the country. The central city area is still called Saigon. Formerly known as Saigon in general, Ho Chi Minh City is a sprawling metropolis that is home to more than five million people. Vibrant and alluring, this city offers something for everyone. It is a study in contrasts: traditional and modern, young and old, rich and poor.
So, if you are after a truly unique and authentic taste of Asia, then consider Vietnam for your first, or next, teaching destination. With the cost of living very low, you will find you will enjoy an extremely comfortable life, and even be able to save, in this amazing little pocket of south-east Asia.
To find out how you can join us as we travel up to Hanoi twice a year with a group of like-minded individuals go to our Study Overseas Programmes, where recent graduates of the Hanoi courses talk about their experience.
Comprehensive country guides are available for all Teach International students and graduates. These guides include helpful information on the ESOL market, visa requirements, cost of living, salaries, and numerous web links referring you to more helpful advice on accommodation, employment and media in the country where you are headed.