About six months ago, I moved from Seoul, Korea to Hanoi, Vietnam. I remember feeling overwhelmed, excited, and frankly a little terrified at the prospect of this chaotic city becoming my home. Now, I have become a more seasoned expat in Hanoi with a house, a motorbike, and a job. (Almost properly adulting!)
Living and Working in Hanoi, Vietnam
When people message me with questions about living and working in Hanoi, they usually ask the same things. I will try to address all of the questions in this post. If there is anything you are still unsure about, please feel free to get in contact!
It’s important to remember that unlike teaching in other countries, nothing is set up beforehand in Vietnam. Jobs that do offer gigs beforehand are usually not the best and tend to pay less as they are aware you don’t know any better. My advice would be to come here with a hostel booked for a few weeks. You’ll figure it out from there, I promise. I know this can be intimidating for some, but you just have to trust in the process and know that everything will work itself out when you get here.
Housing is easy to find and very cheap in Hanoi. Prices range from about 150$-300$ per month depending on what you are looking for. Many people opt for shared houses with other expats, as they are cheap and convenient. Living with other expats also makes it easier to meet people and make connections. I will link facebook groups in the resource section below to find listings for housing.
As I moved here with my friend from Korea, we opted for a shared house together. We are living in a five-story house with our own bedrooms and bathrooms for 300$ per month. Considering my shoebox of an apartment in Seoul, this was a major upgrade for me!
Most expats live in Tay Ho or Ba Dinh.
Both of these places are great options and much quieter (for Hanoi) than the bustling and touristy Old Quarter. Tay Ho definitely has more Western amenities than Ba Dinh, but Ba Dinh is closer to more language centers and is a little cheaper.
If you are planning on moving to Hanoi, it is essential that you learn how to drive a scooter.
I know some people that rely on Uber or Grab, but in my opinion, that’s not realistic for the long-haul. It can be nerve-wracking driving in the city, but it’s something you will get used to. There are many motorbike companies that will rent on a monthly basis. It’s also a great idea to buy a motorbike on one of the expat Facebook groups and sell it back when you are ready to leave Hanoi.
Many people ask me if they need a license to drive in Vietnam.
Technically, yes. Legally, yes. Do I know anyone that has one? No. Foreigners very rarely get pulled over by police. The majority of traffic cops don’t speak English and won’t bother pulling you over.
The demand for English teachers in Vietnam is quite high. Therefore, if you are halfway qualified and can speak English, you will find a job in no time. The more qualifications you have, the higher the pay. Most people I know make between 19-27$ per hour. The better jobs require a TEFL and a Bachelors Degree. Most international schools require a teaching certification from your own country.
It is very easy to find work in Vietnam, and you shouldn’t take the first position offered to you. I would recommend shopping around and going on at least a couple of interviews before you make a decision. Some language centers have terrible reputations and are known for not paying their teachers. Trust in your gut instinct and get recommendations from other expats before you sign with a school!
Language Centers are where children go after their regular school hours to learn English. Most of these jobs are paid hourly. The benefits of positions like this are that they are flexible. If you want to take time off, you usually just need to find another teacher to cover your shift. This was what I went for, as I was looking for a flexible job so that I could still have time to travel. I even picked up work as a kids yoga teacher, which has been loads of fun!
Keep in mind that you are technically a freelance, hourly worker. These jobs don’t offer security that a normal job would. If you are sick or class is canceled, you will not get paid.
Full time jobs at schools are also an option. These can be through public or private schools. The benefits of these positions are that they provide you with a work permit and visa. You also get time off and benefits such as insurance and medical care. However, the pay for these jobs usually comes out to be quite lower than the language centers.
Money Matters & Visas
Most expats arrive in Vietnam on a 3-month tourist visa. From there, it depends what type of job you get. Many expats work for language centers, so they need to leave the country every 3 months and come back on a new tourist visa.
If you work for a school, they will usually provide you with a year long visa and work permit, so you won’t need to leave Vietnam.
As for money, the same problem arises when you consider working at a language center or a school. If you work for a language center and don’t have a work permit, you cannot open a bank account in Vietnam. Expats who do this tend to wire money home via Western Union. There is also many tour agencies who will provide wiring services for you for a fee. If you work full-time at a school, they should take care of opening a bank account for you.
Sim Cards and Phones
You will need to get a new Sim Card for your phone when you arrive in Hanoi. The best providers are Viettel and Mobifone. You can walk into any one of these shops and they will set up a plan for you based on what you want. I pay around 80,000 VND per month for unlimited data, texting, and calling.
Things To Consider
Moving to Vietnam certainly isn’t the easiest destination to transition to. The chaos can be overwhelming, and some people may not like the prospect of arriving with nothing set up beforehand.
However, my response would be to JUST GO FOR IT. Have some money saved beforehand and book a hostel. That’s all you need to do. Everything else will come when you arrive.
Overall, living and working in Hanoi has been an incredibly positive experience. I’ve made friends I won’t forget, had an incredible work/life balance, and am able to take time to travel. Hanoi is a quirky place, and living here as been an experience of immense personal growth and discovery.
If you have any other questions or need advice, feel free to email me.