My cyclo adventure….in Vietnam

Cyclos Vietnam

By ntt (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in 2006 with plans to achieve 3 long-held goals:

1. set up a brilliant ‘teaching English to speakers of other languages’ (TESOL in Vietnam) program;
2. ride a motorbike from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi; and bizarre as it may seem;
3. to take a day trip on a Vietnamese cyclo.

The TESOL in Vietnam goal was achieved a few years ago and I completed a motorbike trip to Hanoi in 2012. It’s the cyclo adventure that has eluded me for the past 8 years – until last weekend!

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Everything You Need to Know About Teaching English in Vietnam


As the plane began it’s descent into Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi, my breathing was shallow and my palms sweaty. The ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign lit up and I gulped. Loudly. No, I am not a nervous flyer. In fact, I quite enjoy flying. No… it was much more terrifying than that.

Making the decision to pack up and move to Vietnam in search of English Teaching work, without ever having actually visited the country (or Asia for that matter), was one of the most nerve-racking things I’ve ever done. Armed with my 150 hours of TEFL training and a copy of my degree certificate, I was hoping for the best… and preparing for the worst.

I had heard mixed reviews about Vietnam: the life threatening traffic, the barbaric practice of eating dog, the unhygienic food and questionable manners of the locals. I needn’t have worried. As true as a lot of this may be, I loved it as soon as I arrived.

Yes, Vietnam takes a little bit of adjusting to and there are certain things which I will never understand. This, however, is all part of its charm and if I could offer one piece of advice to anyone considering Vietnam as a TEFL location, it would be: do it!

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Taxis – your best friend or your worst nightmare

Hong Kong Taxi

By Liuchoi (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Every person who has travelled a bit has a taxi story to share. Over the past 30 years or so that I’ve been travelling, I can safely say that I’ve heard a taxi story from every continent. I’ve heard some shockers in Vietnam where I live and work nowadays, but equally, I’ve had my own less than desirable experiences in more developed parts of the world including Australia where I come from – and North America.

Some taxi-tales are a good news story – the birth of a baby in the back seat and alike – but most are about the kind of situations that travellers dread. We’ve all heard stories (or experienced them first-hand) about getting ripped off, taken to the wrong location, ‘lead foot’ taxi drivers, arguments about tips, traffic accidents and much, much worse.

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So, you want to teach English in Vietnam…

So, you want to teach English in Vietnam

I, Ondřej Žváček [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Vietnamese Government is very focused on improving the quality of English language teaching across the country. Unlike a number of countries in South-East Asia – Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia for example – the days of the ‘backpacker’ foreign English ‘teacher’ have largely finished in Vietnam with more hoops to jump through to be eligible to work.  Over the past year or so, there’s been a noticeable exodus of backpacker ‘teachers’.

With backpacker ‘teachers’ leaving in droves, there is huge demand for foreign English language teachers in Vietnam who meet the requirements to be eligible to work, laid-down by the government. Specifically, if you wish to legally work as an English language teacher in Vietnam for a period exceeding 3 months, you need to produce the following:

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Top 4 weekend escapes for TEFL ers teaching english in Vietnam

By: James Whiteman

Top 4 weekend escapes for TEFL ers teaching english in Vietnam

By Gilad Rom from Israel (China Beach) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

If you can bear to tear yourself away from Saigon or Hanoi’s bia hoi, delectable street food and always vibrant culture, for just a few days, you will find Vietnam has even more to offer. Here are a four of my personal favourite short breaks from my time there:

China Beach and Hoi An

There are few finer ways to escape Saigon’s heaving streets than a few days R&R on picture-postcard China Beach, a legendary former American GI hangout. Follow this by wondering around the charming pedestrianized streets of nearby Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with wonderfully well preserved architecture. A tailored outfit or three may help you further unwind.

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Teaching English in Vietnam – “Yes, I was in ‘Nam!”

By Daniel Cariello (BA Hons English Literature)

Teaching English in Vietnam – “Yes, I was in ‘Nam!”

By Petr Ruzicka from Prague, CZ (Treti Budha) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Are you looking at teaching English in a foreign country but having trouble deciding between the myriad of choices? Are you interested in experiencing different cultures and learning about a country with a rich and interesting history? Then maybe Vietnam is the country for you. Vietnam is a country of contrasts; while the strong influence of it’s colonial past and it’s heritage are clearly visible, it’s main cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are becoming increasingly urbanised and modern thus offering travellers the best of both worlds.

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