How to Travel and Work Abroad in Vietnam

That Perfect Asian Experience.

Vietnam is a country that’s still relatively unknown to many tourists. It is a country of adventure, culture, and beauty. It’s the perfect destination for anyone who wants to explore Asia without the hassle of flying all the way to China or India. And yet it still borders China, Laos, and Cambodia if you get the urge to cross borders and discover the differences.

It offers many different types of tourism, from the mountains and beaches to foodies heaven. You can start your day in Vietnam over a steaming bowl of Pho before wading through the markets with the locals who are buying their daily supplies. Almost every district has one major market or “cho” where the local inhabitants do their food shopping for the day. A bustling, shoulder-rubbing experience that proves people have forgotten about Covid perhaps more than they should have.

Work or Play in Vietnam.

Or are you planning to do a bit of both? Vietnam, like a lot of Asia, has become a hot spot for backpackers who beef up their travel funds by teaching English. However, things have changed, and not just because of the pandemic. Even prior to the lockdown there was a push by the Government to get better-qualified teachers into the Vietnamese Education system.

And now with the doors slowly creaking or in some cases cast aside quickly, open, there are many deals on offer for both the dedicated traveler, part-time tourist, digital nomad, or ESL teacher to take advantage of.

But first things first, let us look at the safety factor of traveling around this slightly pungent country. Has covid been entirely eradicated and what are the new visa and covid regulations.

The New Visa and Covid Regulations.

While Covid has not been eradicated it is under control with new cases dropping to under 100 in many localities on May 21, with a total of 1,457 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours from 4 pm May 20 to 4 pm May 21, according to the Ministry of Health ( Vietnam ).

On the streets, it is now common to see a lot if not most people walking around without masks, but that depends on what district you are in and if you are in a business building or not. People are becoming much more tolerant of others not wearing masks. Maybe it is complacency, but I do feel safer than I did 9 months ago.

The Visa Process.

The visa process can be confusing if you are not sure what you need to do and when. The best way to avoid any problems is by getting your visa before you go on your trip. You will also need a valid passport with at least six months left before it expires

There are some countries that have visa exemptions, and these countries are. From  Vietnam visas.

Chile90 daysFor tourist visas only
Panama90 daysFor tourist visas only
Cambodia30 days 
Indonesia30 days 
Kyrgyzstan30 days 
Laos30 days 
Malaysia30 days 
Singapore30 days 
Thailand30 days 
Philippines21 days 
Brunei14 days 
Myanmar14 days 
Belarus15 days· The 30-day interval between 02 stays with visa exemption has been removed in accordance with the new law on entry, exit, transit, and residence of foreigners in Vietnam which takes effect on July 1, 2020.
Denmark15 days
Finland15 days
France15 days
Germany15 days
Italy15 days
Japan15 days
Norway15 days
Russia15 days
South Korea15 days
Spain15 days
Sweden15 days
United Kingdom (Not applicable to BNO)15 days

These are the Countries requiring Visas.

If you are coming to work as an ESL teacher you will need a business visa.

CountriesTourist visaBusiness visaVisa on arrival
FranceNot required (15 days)Not required (15 days)Eligible
GermanyNot required (15 days)Not required (15 days)Eligible
Hong KongRequiredRequiredEligible
JapanNot required (15 days)Not required (15 days)Eligible
New ZealandRequiredRequiredEligible
SingaporeNot required (30 days)Not required (30 days)Eligible
South AfricaRequiredRequiredEligible
South KoreaNot required (15 days)Not required (15 days)Eligible
ThailandNot required (30 days)Not required (30 days)Eligible
United Arab EmiratesRequiredRequiredEligible
United KingdomNot required (15 days)Not required (15 days)Eligible
United StatesRequiredRequiredEligible

The following is a short, clear checklist of documents required for a Vietnam visa application. It applies to those who are not exempted from Vietnam visas.

Documents required for getting a Vietnam visa include:

1. Passport: valid for at least 6 months following your arrival date to Vietnam and have at least 2 blank pages for immigration stamps. A temporary passport maybe not accepted.

2. Visa Approval Letter: required if you want to get a Vietnam visa on arrival at Vietnam international airports.

3. Photo: two (2) passport-sized photos (4×6 cm) and must be taken recently without glass-wear.

4. Visa application form: Immigration entry and exit application form for Vietnam visa on arrival.

5. Vietnam Visa Stamping Fee: paid in cash upon arrival (for Vietnam visa on arrival)


  • Travelers who transit through Vietnam airport should check the airlines for Vietnam visa requirements;
  • Travelers directly visiting Phu Quoc Island, either by boat or airplane from a country other than Vietnam, and staying for less than 30 days are not required to have a Vietnam visa.
  • In case you are granted visa-free access to Vietnam, you just need a passport with at least 6 months of validity following your date of entry into Vietnam.
  • The visa approval letter is valid at the airport only. So if travelers enter Vietnam by land or cruise, they can apply for a Vietnam visa via the local embassy.

Source; Vietnam Visa.

The Best Destinations in Vietnam.

From Hanoi in the north to Phu Quoc island in the south of Vietnam, you will be inspired and enthralled every step of the way. It has become common practice for tourists to travel from South to North, although in my opinion, I think going from North to South is better.

There are many sights and places you can stop off and see and I will cover some of these. But I will show you how you can organize your own holiday and stop off at some more obscure places. Do not think you will get to see all of Vietnam in 4 weeks. I have been here 15 years and still discovering new places in this amazing country.

Three Regions.

Vietnam is typically classified into 3 regions. The North, Central, and the South. Each of these regions has its own climate and with coastal influences and Mountainous regions you can break these down again into sub-climates.

To find out more about when the best time to come, click on “Is Vietnams rainy Season a bad time to visit?”

The Cities of Vietnam.

The ten biggest cities of Vietnam population-wise are listed below, however, in my opinion, not all are equally deserving of your time. And there are some smaller cities and regional centers that are well worth a visit for various reasons.

RankBiggest Cities in VietnamPopulation
1Ho Chi Minh City8,244,400
2Ha Noi7,379,300
3Hai Phong1,946,000
4Can Tho1,238,300
5Bien Hoa1,104,495
6Da Nang1,007,700
7Vung Tau450,000
8Nha Trang392,279
9Buon Ma Thuot340,000


Depending on the length of time you have would define your choice in what you see. The cities I would make an effort to see would be;

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the most developed and the most bustling seemingly dis-organized city, yet it all comes together in a perfect mix of food, nightlife, and shopping. Although Saigon is not rich in natural resources, it has a wide range of street food and nightlife activities to choose from. If you can drag yourself away from the beaches or mountains, you will have a ball.

If you want to learn something new, there are a number of museums and galleries distributed across the city that you may visit while also seeing the city.


It is always worth visiting the capital city of any country and when I was in Hanoi a few years ago staying in the French Quarter the architecture amazed me. There was a saying in Vietnam, Same same but different and it would apply here perfectly.

There are never-ending streets that crisscross and take you from back lanes, through markets, moving from silk street to funeral street. Cotton street to chicken street. Appliance street to noodle street. And then a “bia hoi” stall where you can relax with locals on plastic stools slurping down. 25-cent beers and restoring some semblance of sanity to your day.


The best time to visit the imperial city is in March. Hue has a reputation for great cuisine, which dates back to when it was Vietnam’s capital and its imperial courts were brimming with refined fare.

Hue is also known for its lush streets lined with mossy pagodas, art déco palaces, and vibrant marketplaces. The Perfume River runs through the entire picture, providing a relaxed rhythm that the rest of the city is pleased to follow. A slightly calmer and more easygoing city to visit.


March to May and September to October are the best times to visit Da Nang. Personally, I prefer Nha Trang to Da Nang but chose Da Nang as it is close to Hoi An and My Son Sanctuary.

Da Nang is a coastal sea paradise. It has some of the most beautiful and secluded beaches around which are hardly ever busy. It is worth the time taken to stop over with spectacular mountain temples, nice bars and restaurants.

You can also take a motorbike and go for a road trip around Son Tra Peninsula, then set out to conquer the Hai Van Pass or simply walk the majestic Golden Bridge.

Da Nang represents “boom time” in Vietnam and it has become a gleaming, modern tourist magnet, complete with condos, theme parks, and brand-new resorts. But the city’s earlier charm is still present, including laid-back, friendly locals and incredible street eats.

Hoi An

November to February is tourist season in Hoi An and it won’t be long until it becomes a tourist mecca all year round again.

Hoi An, also known as the Ancient Town, boasts hundreds of years of cultural exchange between China, Japan, and Vietnam. This small town will captivate you with its bustling lifestyle and historic architecture.

The speed and quality with which you can have garments created and shipped are still extraordinary but they are no longer as inexpensive as they once were.

Hoi An is also known for its wonderful cafes and restaurants, many of which have tranquil views. Even for a local, the town’s specialties are one-of-a-kind, and choosing between the delicious meals will be difficult.

My Son Sanctuary

During the 4th to 13th century, a unique culture came to Vietnam from India. Commonly referred to as “Champa culture” the remaining temples, in various states of decay, are well worth a visit. And you can easily spend a day walking around the ruins of the once political and religious capital of the Champa kingdom.

You will also get some fantastic photo opportunities. Find out more about “My Son at UNESCO



I have to add at least one city from the more mountainous regions and I would choose Dalat.

Dalat is a small city in Vietnam’s Central Highlands surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, calm lakes, pine forests, and lush agriculture. The area’s 4,900-foot elevation ensures pleasant spring-like weather all year.

It’s dubbed as “the Flower City,” and you’ll see flowers almost everywhere—on practically every street and in every city park. Outside of town, flower fields spread for miles, bursting with the vibrant colors of lilies, chrysanthemums, and roses.

There is a population of just over 400,000. And the lifestyle is much more relaxed and the weather more accommodating in this “Little Paris of Vietnam”.

There are so many more places to see in Vietnam that I could continue to write for another 2 days and still not cover everything. But as a start, whether you are here as a tourist, digital nomad or ESL teacher there is a lot to do.

Getting Around Vietnam.

Ever since I arrived in Vietnam there is only one booking agency I have used for my trips in Vietnam and around Asia. And that company is Booking dot com.

I have used them for short trips from Ho Chi Minh city to Vung Tau and also longer trips to Thailand. I have never had any problems in 15 years and strongly recommend them.

Yes, I make a commission from them but this does not influence the rate that you pay, also I sometimes get discounts because of my relationship with booking dot Com which I pass along to my readers.

So, if you would like to see what discounts you can get from, whom I believe, are the best in the industry, please click on the booking dot com logo.

Travel Advisors

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There will be no extra cost to you and at times due to my affiliation, you could actually save money.

You can read our full affiliate disclosure here.

Places you must see in Vietnam.

My favorite “Must See’s” in Vietnam.

Whether you come for a holiday or like me an ex-pat who has lived in Vietnam for 15 years, there are myriads of places to see and adventures to experience. These are some of my favorite places I have visited and some of the experiences I have encountered.


Vietnam is almost the same area as New Zealand and could easily fit into the United States 25 times over, yet with nearly 100 million people and a spectacular landscape, there are a million things to do.

Here are some of my favorite spots to visit in Vietnam, ranging from jagged highlands in the north to tropical beaches in the south, and with a wealth of history and culture in between you will never be left bored.

And let’s not forget about the strong as superman coffee and cheap beer and amazing food.

A Little Background First.

I came to Vietnam over 15 years ago and it still feels like yesterday. The day-to-day life is funny, frustrating, complex but never boring.

I still remember stepping off the Vietnam Airlines plane where the seat felt like torture because it had a metal rod inserted in the middle of the chair. Vietnamese love a firm chair.

When I stepped off the plane in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh city, the first thing I noticed was the smell. The people smelled cleaner and fresher somehow.

It wasn’t until some time later I realized this was because of the diet. To Vietnamese most foreigners smell like meat sacks.

The smell of the streets though is a different matter. Mixed in with the aromas of great food you will find the smells of rubbish, and worse affronting your nose. You will get used to it.

Off the Plane.

After catching a bus from the plane to the interior of the airport I had to get my bags to go to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

Hanoi is an amazing place, although I did have a guard point an automatic assault weapon at me when I climbed the steps of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. My first of many out-of-the-ordinary experiences. I am sure he would have not shot me.

After a week in Hanoi, including “bia a hoi’ing” (Drinking homemade beer with the locals) it was off to Halong Bay and then so many other places that I have come to love. So let’s dive into my favorite spots.

My Favorite Spots in Vietnam.


The Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake in Vietnam’s capital city is rich in history and culture. With market streets, a thriving nightlife, and some of the best Vietnamese food on the planet, this is the city’s tourism epicenter.

There’s a lot to see and do here, but the most important thing is to immerse yourself in Hanoi’s pulsing heart. Go bia a hoi’ing and eat on a plastic seat while slurping up a bowl of hot noodles and nodding furiously to other patrons.

The people in Hanoi are more reserved than those in the south but there is no animosity about the war years so you can relax and enjoy your “Pho”. It is nice that they are more reserved as it is not as much of an in-your-face city as Ho Chi Minh.

Halong Bay.

I took a taxi from Hanoi to Halong bay, which shows you how cheap taxis are in Vietnam. But that was 15 years ago, although the prices are still amazingly cheap.

This journey was an eye-opener as I had never seen a huge pig on the back of a motorbike before. Have I said this already, this country has great opportunities for the photographer in you?

Got to Halong bay and got on a Junk and sailed around the karst systems of Halong Bay, absolutely one of the wonders of the world.

Halong Bay is breathtakingly magnificent, and you can book overnight cruises that not only take you to the most remote regions of the Bay but also include activities such as kayaking or, if you’re like me, just sunbathing.

You may explore this gorgeous location on day trips, two-day trips, three-day trips, and even longer getaways.

Da Nang.

After the excesses of Hanoi and the overeating and sun baking in Halong Bay, it was nice to get to Da Nang. Da Nang was and still is a very touristy place but it has a nice underbelly of life once you get to know the area a bit more.

When I first went to Da Nang I stayed in a 5-star hotel and had a wonderful time. Since then, I have been back a few times and stayed in less expensive accommodation and probably have had more fun.

However, for your first trip, I would recommend a beachfront hotel with all the amenities. It worked for me.

Da Nang is Vietnam’s third-largest city, and it is the country’s commercial, tourism, and educational hub. Locals consider it to be the most worthwhile place to live in Vietnam, and many ex-pats consider it to be one of the best places to retire.

But, whatever the hype, it’s definitely worth visiting and, depending on your mood, partying in or just relaxing.

Hoi An.

The next stop was Hoi An and I had a great but expensive time. My fault entirely, the clothes are so cheap and you get them made to measure in 24 hours. I still have my silk nightgown.

My only unpleasant experience here was a young lady who tried to exchange foreign coins with me and got quite aggressive. So I gave her $5.00 and threw them into the water, I am sure she went swimming later.

Apart from that touristy event, yes it is a very tourist place now and charges just to get into some areas, you can have a great time.

Hoi An is noted for its celebrations, with the Full Moon Festival, held on the 14th of each lunar month. This is one of the most well-known nights before the full moon. During this time “Old Town” becomes much more festive, bustling, and magnificently decked with lighting.

And what I enjoyed the most was the floating lanterns next to the hotel I stayed in. I was told that Graeme Green also stayed in the same riverside hotel as me. So it was dinner on the patio with a bottle of red.

My Son.

Those who wish to make a day trip from Hoi An to other tourist attractions in the vicinity such as My Son will be blown away much like I was.

This place is old and amazing. When I visited I was told not to stray off the paths as some old bombs had still not been found or diffused. It certainly livened up the whole experience.

My Son is a photographer’s delight and you will be pleased you made the effort to get here. But if you don’t want hundreds of people in your pictures do what I did and get there early.

My Son History.

Between the 4th and 13th centuries, a unique civilization formed on the coast of modern-day Vietnam, with spiritual roots in Indian Hinduism.

The ruins of these spectacular towers and temples are built in a spectacular jungle setting and served as the Champa Kingdom’s religious and political capital for most of its existence.

Unfortunately, it was bombed by the Americans during the liberation of Vietnam from foreign aggressors, much like the Ukraine of today.

When I last visited they were still unsure as to how the construction and mortar were combined to make it as long-lasting as it is. Another lost art. And the photos I shot are still some of the best I have ever done.

Nha Trang.

Nha Trang nearly ruined me, and it was here that I famously lost an eyebrow. When you have to join a full group for breakfast with only one eyebrow, it doesn’t look good.

This place is much busier than some of the other southern beach towns, which means there is a lot more to see and do. The nightlife is vibrant, and adrenaline enthusiasts will enjoy a variety of extreme activities such as jet skiing, surfing, and even fly-boarding.

There’s a lot to do, so take it slowly.

During the holidays, Nha Trang is filled with local families on vacation as well as international visitors.

The water here is clean and clear for swimming, and with dedicated swimming areas and landscaped sunbathing areas, this makes it a terrific choice for restful days at the beach.

If you get tired of sunbathing, head north across the Xom Bong Bridge to the historic Po Nagar Cham Towers, which have been utilized as a place of prayer since at least the 7th century.

There is also an excellent museum dedicated to Alexandre Yersin’s work, who discovered the cause of the bubonic plague and built the Pasteur Institute in Nha Trang.

There was a lot to see and a lot to do, but now it was time to head even further south. Into the bowels of the wicked city and wonderful nightlife.

Ho Chi Minh City.

My home town, if you can call it that. Overcrowded, bustling, and smelly in good and bad ways. I love it. I have spent the majority of my time in Ho Chi Minh City and it is all the best of Vietnam and all the worst at the same time.

I live in a district called Go Vap and it is not foreigner-friendly but in nice ways. Most foreigners will not move from districts 1, 2, 7 and the surroundings but the blessing of moving further out is you get to understand the culture and see what real Vietnamese life is like.

So what is life like here? Interesting to say the least.

Ho Chi Minh City, originally Saigon, is the economic capital of Vietnam and the southern region’s major center.

HCMC’s dynamic cityscape, a freewheeling, global metropolis, brings old and modern Vietnam together in the smallest of areas, signifying the city’s past as well as its future.

The Notre Dame Cathedral, the city’s Central Post Office, and the Saigon Opera House are all located near Dong Khoi street. The more upmarket end of town.

‘Pham au Lau” is or was the famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, backpacker area of Ho Chi Minh City. In the past, it has been notorious for prostitutes, drugs, and petty crime. But also great nightlife and amazing experiences.

These days it is a sad area with most businesses being closed because of high rentals and no visitors. All thanks to Covid.

The Chinese neighborhood known as Chợ Lớn is still great for exploring on foot. Head for Bình Tây Market, a wholesale trading center, and Thiên Hậu Pagoda, a temple that pays homage to the sea goddess.

And if you come, it is always appreciated if you try to speak a few words of the local language. Correct or not you will get respect for the attempt. 


And there is so much more. If you come to Vietnam on holiday or for work take the time to explore the country and get to know some of the people and culture of this wonderful country.

Who am I?.

My name is Stephen and I have lived in Vietnam for 15 years and have my own school here as well as having an amazing Vietnamese family. I am also the author and owner of this website. I hope you have enjoyed this short article about Vietnam.

If you want to have a look at walking around Dong Khoi street and looking at the TET Flowers click on the YouTube button below.

TET 2022

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