Work and Travel in Vietnam
VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN VIETNAM FOR TRAVELLERS
Vietnam is a growing favourite of backpackers in Southeast Asia. If you want to work in Vietnam throughout the year you have an increasing number of options available. But there are fewer opportunities than neighbouring Cambodia and the rest of the region. Most foreigners who work and travel in Vietnam are professional development staff sanctioned by the government.
Foreigners are still extremely limited in their ability to find paying work in the country and most volunteer roles revolve around traditional industries, such as tourism.
Professional development organisations are always looking for new skilled professionals who want to work in Vietnam, whilst dedicating some of their time to a good cause. It can sometimes take months for an application to one of these companies to be accepted. Furthermore, most of them demand a minimum commitment from you, which may be between three and six months.
This guide is going to introduce you to some of the options for work in Vietnam and how you should go about volunteering legally during your stay.
VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR VIETNAM
The Vietnam Immigration Department is responsible for issuing visas to those who want to come to Vietnam. You should bear in mind that Vietnam operates a policy where only 23 countries are entitled to visa-free travel in the country, including France, Russia, and the UK, but not the US, Australia, or New Zealand.
You should apply for the business visa if you intend to work and travel in Vietnam. Those who work in Vietnam should apply for a pre-arranged visa. This can extend your visa-free access from 15 or 30 days to three months. Most visa applications are prompt and can be picked up at any airport in the country.
Remember that Vietnam is one country that demands you have proof of onward travel to a third country in order to enter. Some travellers have been stopped at the border and have had to book flights and return in five minutes to get through the border, despite already having a valid visa. These flights can be cancelled immediately after, but Vietnam is still extremely bureaucratic when it comes to the border police.
We recommend that you do things right and don’t work for money under the table. Although there’s a thriving black market work industry with foreigners, the police are cracking down on it and the penalties can be serious. If caught, you could be heavily fined, imprisoned, or deported.
SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN VIETNAM
The spring of Vietnam is the low season. For many, this is the ideal time to tour the country. Unlike other countries in the region, many of the roads are kept in good condition. The only parts of the country you should beware of are the central and northern coastlines. Typhoons can hit these parts of the country, making volunteering extremely difficult.
The wet season is the time where many farms have a lot of work. An extra pair of hands is always needed. Some of the more modern organic farms often put out calls for foreign volunteers who want to work and travel in Vietnam. Take note that most farm work is conducted in extremely remote areas. Most farmers also prefer to take on locals for paid work. The majority of farms offering positions to work in Vietnam are organic farms, and they may even be attached to eco lodges and resorts.
There are plenty of summer jobs in Vietnam because this is when most resorts and restaurants open up to welcome tourists. All Vietnam, other than the far north, is hot and humid at this time of year. Summer monsoons are often present at this time of year, but this doesn’t impact the number of volunteering opportunities for working travellers in Vietnam.
One type of job you’ll find in abundance is adventure specialists. If you have any experience working with adventure sports, or simply with managing people, you’ll find opportunities in this sector. Vietnam’s growing adventure tourism industry requires practitioners who know the industry, and that expertise simply isn’t available on a local basis.
You should also bear in mind that many resorts and guesthouses open up for the high season and need volunteers. Unskilled travellers who want to work and travel in Vietnam should find it fairly easy to pick up one of these roles.
The autumn season is the second shoulder season and takes place after the relatively short high season. The main type of job on offer during autumn is English teaching. This is because most schools are beginning a new year and English teachers are either moving on or moving into new positions.
You can find independent schools if you want to work and travel in Vietnam. If you want a long-term position you may want to look into working at a government-run university. Government-run universities are increasingly hiring foreign tutors to help students. Take note these positions are much harder to get and usually require evidence of teaching qualifications, such as the TEFL.
Working in Vietnam as a teacher also extends further than English. There are limited opportunities for French teachers and Mandarin teachers.
Winter in Vietnam takes in the Tet festival and more movement as people head home for the national celebrations. You may be able to find some temporary work in the tourism trade for the Tet Festival. However, there are no specific seasonal positions for the winter period.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN VIETNAM
Southeast Asia as a whole has become a hotspot for volunteers over the last decade. Work and travel in Vietnam is much less developed, but it’s become common to see foreign volunteers operating throughout the country. The majority of work taken on by foreigners can’t be picked up by locals, so there’s little friction between foreigners and locals.
Bear in mind that working alongside local people carrying out menial work may lead to some irritation in remote areas. There’s still a lot of poverty in this country and regular work is hard to come by for many locals.