Travel Tips Vietnam – Intern Insight

Dear Vietnam, Bless your public transport system


The city of Hanoi can grow tiresome. There I said it.

If I had to publicly announce this, half the internship would be outside my door with pitchforks, whilst the other half would be hiding in the shadows with me. The city is polarising.

Don’t get me wrong, Hanoi has its charm, but for those who are accustomed to greenery and open spaces, you need to leave every once in a while to regain some sanity.

I have done so most weekends, hence why I am fairing so well.

Do I have dark circles around my eyes, suffer from occasional memory loss and have an unhealthy reliance on ice cream?

Yes. Especially the ice cream bit.

But in my opinion, things could be worse (think ice cream addiction opposed to reliance) and I have my weekend trips away to thank for that.

As I’ve got quite a few memorable weekend trips under my belt, I thought it would be fun to share my: Travel Tips Vietnam.

Vietnam Travel Tip #1 – Destination 


My first trip away has been my most memorable thus far, simply because it was long overdue.

I went to the lush mountains of Nihn Bihn.

Ninh Binh Vietnam

Although the destination was worth it, it became quite apparent that comfort is not a priority when travelling in Vietnam.

This was realised within the first 5 minutes of our bus journey.

Vietnam Travel Tip #2 – Public transport


Initially, there were 22 seats made for 22 derrières. Before leaving the bus terminal another 3 boarded.

This was all thanks to a man who stood at the parting doors, hollering words that obviously announced our destination and the fact that there was still space on the bus- a travelling salesman in the most literal form.

At first we were all shocked- where were these people going to sit?

But never fear when the travelling salesman is near!

Row by row, he pulled out padded planks which he then began to wedge in between seats, creating a make-shift bench.

When there was no more aisle left to utilize, a tiny stool was then provided and placed on the raised platform next to the driver.

We continued to get more passengers throughout our 3 hour journey and grew from a comfy bus of 22 to 35.

Squashed bus on i-to-i TEFL intern trip to Ninh Binh Vietnam

Leg room was non-existent and neither was privacy.

At one point, a Vietnamese woman seated on the ‘aisle bench’ next to me had a casual, little nap on my shoulder.

Thank goodness Nihn Bihn was worth it.

Vietnam Travel Tip #3 – Party with the locals


Our hostel was off the beaten track, nestled amongst the peaks of Nihn Bihn.

It was run by a vibrant and sassy Vietnamese man who had his own special blend of homemade rice wine.

Due to this ‘home brew’, he soon went from professional hospitality manager to frat boy, along with the best of us.

He was pouring shots, declaring his love for us and busting out some of his favourite lyrics.

It was lovely.

i-to-i TEFL intern hostel Ninh Binh Vietnam

However, the free entertainment he provided wasn’t the best thing about the trip.

That title goes to the unparalleled beauty and peaceful atmosphere. Nihn Bihn is as picturesque as they come.

Vietnam Travel Tip #4 – See as much as you can…even when exhausting  


One afternoon we took a rowing boat tour along the winding river of Trang An.

It’s the kind of scenery that you only see in movies filmed in exotic locations.

Throughout the trip you pass by ancient temples and enter damp and musky caves.

One would think that the caves would be vast, allowing boats to easily pass through them.

This was not the case. We constantly had to ‘duck duck duck!’ as our friendly guide put it.

A more apt instruction would have been ‘contort your body so as to not be pummeled into cave walls or bash your head on the ceiling’.

Dragon Mountain lake trip Vietnam

The reminder that I need to stretch more, was worth it though.

Another reminder that was harshly delivered the next day is that I do not do enough cardio.

Our wonderful group decided to rent bicycles and ride to ‘Dragon Mountain’.

The cycling was wonderful, despite the fact that my handlebars kept on falling off- the price you pay for hiring cheap bicycles.

There’s nothing quite like weaving though the shadows of mountains and the journey itself let me have my first real experience of a Vietnamese rural village.

In my opinion, it’s far more appealing than the concrete jungle that is Hanoi.

Dragon mountain loomed ahead and as we neared, a feeling of dread slowly took over.

There were steps.

Hundreds of steps leading up to the peak where the dragon of ‘Dragon Mountain’ could be properly appreciated.

The mountain wasn’t just to be viewed, it was to be climbed. The steps where made for giants, which is rather ironic taking Vietnamese stature into consideration.I lagged behind as my thighs burned and longed for release from this cruel endeavour.

What was I doing?!

However, the view made up for the jelly legs that accompanied me for the rest of the day.

Dragon Mountain Vietnam View from Mountaintop

We were surrounded by rolling hills as far as the eye could see and sweet silence.

You forget how good silence sounds when revving scooters and loud hailers become your new norm.

So, that is the answer to keeping a sound mind in Hanoi- get out and explore the countryside.

I’ve been to numerous locations, all stunning and all with a unique appeal.

The one great thing about Hanoi is that these places are all within your grasp- you don’t need to travel for days or make extensive plans.

You simply hop on a bus, train or ferry and become a pillow for a stranger… or two.

And if you’re looking for your own Vietnam adventure, then don’t forget to take a look at i-to-i’s Paid Vietnam Internship

or download the Vietnam internship guide:

Hope you enjoyed my travel tips Vietnam.

9 things you need to know about Vietnam

I’ve just got back from the Paid TEFL Vietnam Internship and it truly was an eye-opener. My fellow interns and I experienced a whole lot and balanced our days with teaching some of the smiliest pupils around with exploring this amazing country together.

Here’s my top 10 list of what you need to know about life as a TEFL teacher in Vietnam.

1. The locals are the friendliest bunch you’ll come across

Vietnam is a country with a long, rich history – and in more recent years, it’s experienced some of the most astonishing tragedies. A lot of people lost family, friends and homes in the 2006 and 2006 typhoons, which swept the country. Climate change is suspected to be the cause of the increased frequency of typhoons, as well as floods.

The people here are resilient though, and are keen to look to the future. Community and hospitality are very important in Vietnamese culture so wherever you go, you’ll be welcomed like a friend. Make the most of this and find friends amongst the locals as well as your fellow travellers. It’s amazing what language barriers can be overcome with a smile!

2. When it rains, it pours!

And we mean that literally. As a country with a tropical climate, Vietnam is lush and green – but it only stays that way because of the regular torrential downpours the country experiences. A word to the wise: invest in one of the cheap-as-chips waterproof ponchos you’ll see on offer at roadside sellers. These hooded sheets cover your whole body and will keep a backpack dry, too.

3. You’ll be a minor celebrity

In many places in Vietnam (particularly rural locations), tourists and western travellers draw a lot of attention. You’ll hear calls of ‘hello, how are you?’ from old and young alike wanting to test out their English skills – so why not join in? A friendly smile and a hello will be really appreciated even if you don’t fancy a full-blown chat – and for extra brownie points, why not take the chance to pick up a few key Vietnamese phrases? Start with xin chao (that’s hello).

Children in Hanoi_Vietnam

4. Be prepared to throw the schedule out of the window

As in many Asian countries, the Vietnamese have a relaxed approach to timekeeping and scheduling. It’s highly likely that at least once, you’ll turn up to school at 7am only to find out there and then that your lessons are cancelled.

Don’t get frustrated, just follow my fellow intern Vicky’s advice:

 ‘I jumped straight back in my taxi at 7.10, and was back in bed for a bonus lie-in at 7.30!’.

5. The traffic is not playing ball

The best way to sum up Vietnamese roads is: total chaos. There are no lanes as such, traffic lights are more suggestions than rules, and pavements aren’t necessarily off-limits to scooters. We advise our interns against travelling on scooters because of the high incidence of traffic accidents in Vietnam, and good luck getting insurance to cover you without a Vietnamese license.

All that said, you’ll quickly get used to navigating the roads safely – just follow these invaluable tips from our Vietnamese intern support coordinator, Yen:

‘Be cautious, look both ways and never stop moving!’.

Cars will slow and scooters will weave around you, but always keep your eyes peeled.

Traffic in Hoi Ann_Vietnam

6. Bartering is expected!

Grabbing some souvenirs at the market is a must! Fragrant incense, a painted rice bowl, patterned fisherman’s trousers, a hand-made notebook, a hand-printed silk scarf… the list goes on. You’ll notice a lack of price labels, though – which is a signal to get your bartering hat on.

It can feel strange at first to westerners, but just start with a shake of the head and a counter-offer of around half the price stated – you’ll usually be able to meet somewhere in the middle. Just remember to keep currency in perspective – the amount you’re haggling over likely won’t be worth that much to you, but to the local person who relies on selling, it means much more.

7. The ‘traveller’s hump’: the struggle is real

And no, it’s nothing rude! Many interns (including myself) admitted to, at certain times, feeling out of their depth and overwhelmed with culture shock – even wanting to turn tail and go home at times. It’s natural to experience homesickness, but don’t let the traveller’s hump ruin this amazing experience for you. Some coping tips from our teachers:

• Share your feelings with others

• Speak to family and friends back home

• Catch up on your favourite shows on Netflix

• Treat yourself to your favourite western food

Rest up, be kind to yourself and you’ll be ready for bia hoi again in no time!

8. Expect to pay a little more than locals

Even in salons and cafes where a price list is present, you may find yourself faced with a larger bill than you expected. This discrepancy will usually only be a few thousand dong more, and is informally known as a ‘westerner tax’.

The Vietnamese are aware of how astonishingly cheap everything seems to western travellers, so are taking the opportunity to make a quick buck from those who can afford it. Unfair? Maybe. But again, ask yourself if it’s worth fighting over the equivalent of a few pence. Probably not.

Market Stall Vietnam

9. It may seem overcast… but that sun is HOT

Your intrepid writer is penning this, shame-faced, in a Hoi An coffee shop with a stomach the colour of beetroot – and it hurts! The sun in Vietnam is sneakier than back home – it’ll seem like a grey, cloudy day in the morning, but that doesn’t mean that’s how the weather is going to stay.

Always, always slather on that sun cream, and try to avoid the sun or keep well covered in the hottest hours around noon. Nobody wants to have to miss lessons or exploring because of easily avoided sunburn.

Overall, teaching English in Vietnam is an amazing way to experience the local community first hand, make a real difference in the lives of your students, and gain some stellar professional teaching experience that’ll stay with you forever.

As teaching destinations go, Vietnam can’t be beaten – so what are you waiting for? Grab our inspiring Vietnam TEFL Internship guide here.

5 Reasons to go on the Vietnam TEFL Internship

Are you considering trying something new this summer, but you’re a bit unsure as to whether to take the plunge?  Our paid internships are extremely popular and allow you to get great teaching experience while embracing a new culture. Oh and did we mention you get paid too!

So what are you waiting for? Find out why you should join our Vietnam TEFL Internship!*


1) You’ll get a great living allowance


TEFL intern cycling in Vietnam

Whilst $700 a month may not initially sound like a lot, when you consider the cost of living in Vietnam, you’ll be able to live a very comfortable life – especially as your accommodation costs are already covered!  With all that spare cash it’s up to you how you spend it – work your way through the local Vietnamese delicacies or make the most of your spare time and take a trip to one of Vietnam’s hot spots.


2) You’ll make friends for life


TEFL teachers having fun at a bowling alley in Vietnam

When you think about it, the whole situation can be overwhelming: moving to a foreign country (potentially for the first time), starting a new job and leaving your friends and family behind.  But put those worries to bed! You’ll be sharing the whole experience with plenty of other interns who you’ll no doubt end up forming really close relationships. Nothing bonds you like sharing tales of the classroom over a couple of beers at the local karaoke bar!


3) You’ll have a great support network


TEFL teachers smiling together

If you love the idea of moving to another country, but you’re not so keen on the idea of doing it by yourself, then the Vietnam internship was made for you!  Not only will you move abroad with a bunch of other people who are in the same position as you, but you’ll also be fully supported by our expert in-country partners, they’re based in Vietnam, not just for your orientation week, but for the entire 4.5 months overseas.


4) You’ll get valuable experience teaching


Class of TEFL students in Vietnam

Let’s get one thing straight: if you want to go abroad for 4.5 months just so you can party, then this internship isn’t for you (although you will have time off to go and enjoy yourself!).  You’ll have a guaranteed teaching placement in a school where you’ll have your own class to teach and put all your TEFL theory into practice! After 4.5 months teaching you’ll have gained valuable experience as a TEFL teacher.  In fact, many of our interns continue working overseas once their internship has ended, either having signed a contract with the school they worked at, or getting a job in another school.


5) You’ll be more employable back home


TEFL teacher in fancy dress with his class

All our interns are different and you might find that whilst you enjoyed the whole experience, teaching isn’t for you.  One of the biggest myths about moving abroad is that you’ll instantly become unemployable – this couldn’t be further from the truth! After you’ve completed the internship you’ll have lots of new skills to put on your CV: organisation skills, time management, leadership qualities, just to name a few! And let’s not forget your independence and drive to move and work in a foreign country to teach children and make a difference to their future, not just lie on the beach for 5 months!  Employers genuinely will love that.


So what are you waiting for?

Our next departure is in August, so if you’re ready to try something new and teach in a foreign country this summer, hurry up and book your place – they’re filling up fast!  Not sure if Vietnam is for you? We also run Paid TEFL Internships in China and Thailand.

*Please note: to qualify for the Vietnam internship you must be under 35 and have a degree.

Top 5 Cities to Visit in Vietnam

Whilst you’ll spend a lot of your time in the classroom teaching your students on the Vietnam Internship, make sure you’ve got some fun trips lined up from when you get a break from school life.

We thought long and hard about where our favourite places to visit in Vietnam are and managed to get it down to our top 5!

What do you think? Have we got it right or have we missed your top spot? Get ready and start planning your next trip!


5. Dalat

Dalat really is a feast for the eyes: beautiful flowers fill the fields, with a backdrop of rolling hills and Alpine Lakes – it’s often described as a fusion of Vietnam and Switzerland! The Vietnamese like to retreat here in the height of summer, as temperatures remain cool (they can drop to about 10 degrees Celsius at night).

Whilst the scenery certainly is something that should be enjoyed (a leisurely stroll around Ho Xuan lake, anyone?!), one place you simply MUST see is the Hang Nga. Translating to ‘crazy house’, this fairy-tale inspired treehouse was designed by architect Dang Viet Nga, with a series of ten guest rooms, including the Tiger room and the Eagle room, representing China and America respectively… it certainly lives up to its name.


4. Hanoi

So the first thing that you won’t be able to avoid are the swarm of motorbikes driving round the streets, but Hanoi has so much more to offer than that! There’s a constant buzz in the air, which is especially present at the bustling street markets. Be sure to head along to a night market for socialising Vietnamese-style, whilst checking out all of the deals!

Finally, no visit to Hanoi is complete without catching a show at the Thang Long Water Puppet theatre: an ancient Vietnamese tradition dating back to the 11th century, the puppet show takes place in a pool of water – well worth a watch!


3. Hoi An

Named the Best City on Earth 2013 by Wanderlust, it’s definitely worth exploring when you’re on the Vietnam internship! As the culinary capital, it’s the perfect place to try your hand at cooking traditional Vietnamese food, with lots of schools offering classes at very reasonable prices.

If you can still move once you’ve snaffled all of those tasty dishes, take a trip slightly outside of the city to the beautiful paddy fields, or alternatively relax on the golden shores of An Bang or Cua Dai (you’ll find much more tourists here – we’d recommend the former!)


2. Nha Trang

Voted one of the most beautiful bays in the world, Nha Trang is a popular seaside resort with golden sands and tranquil blue shores. The diverse mix of fish makes it ideal for scuba divers; but if you’d prefer to stay on land, you can visit the amusement and water park, both located in Vinpearl Land.

But it’s not all built-up touristy areas! Nha Trang has natural beauty by the bucket-load, with a backdrop of mountains, forests and waterfalls. Plus, it’s home to the stunning Long Son Pagoda, mosaic dragons adorn the roof, and a giant sitting Buddha statue, it’s not to be missed.


 1. Ho Chi Minh City

The largest city in Vietnam – there’s an air of sophistication about it, with its classy bars and swanky shops! One place you MUST go to is Alto Heli Bar – situated on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower, you can enjoy amazing views of the city’s skyline whilst sipping on a cocktail or two.

But it’s not just the glamorous nightlife that makes Ho Chi Minh worth a visit (and worthy of our top spot!); it’s got culture, history and stunning architecture in abundance. Pay a visit to the Ho Chi Minh museum to learn about the country’s tragic past, or check out the Notre Dame Cathedral to see a piece of history! Of course, the day isn’t complete without a stop at the street markets to pick up some tasty Vietnam cuisine, and bag some (more) bargains – be prepared to haggle!


Are you ready to pack your bags and join the Paid Vietnam TEFL Internship? We’ve still got places left so make the dream a reality. You can find out more by downloading the Vietnam Internship guide here.

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