How We Got Settled in HCMC
After traveling for three weeks in Vietnam, getting the tourist prices for food and drinks but also seeing the natural beauty of the country, it was time to settle down in Saigon. Traveling with a year’s worth of things is not ideal. But we wouldn’t trade it for anything. With just a suitcase, a huge backpack and our MacBooks, we arrived in Saigon wearily but ambitious. We were excited yet a little nervous because we didn’t have a job. We had researched from other blogs like http://saigonalive.blogspot.com/ and http://itsthefinalword.blogspot.com/ about what the best steps are to getting a job in Ho Chi Minh City and it takes a totally different approach than what was required for Korea. We found out that we pretty much had to be here to get a job. There are so many teachers coming in and out of the city that it’s just better for the schools to know that you’re in town. Therefore, this post is to help our friends and anyone else who is interested in coming to Saigon to live and teach. Here are the steps that we took: 1. Find temporary housing. Because we were traveling, we relied on the Lonely Planet book quite a bit. We called several different hotels to try to get the best rate for staying for at least a week. We figured that it’s okay for us to be picky because we would be there for an indefinite amount of time (our goal was only to stay for one or two weeks). We ended up choosing the “our pick” for accommodation. We stayed at:
Miss Loi’s Guest House 178/20 Co Giang Street District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The guesthouse was really nice and clean and the staff was so helpful. They provided a simple breakfast. They charged us $13 per day. If you plan to stay for a month, for one person it should be $300 and for two people in one room it’s $350.
2. Find a job. A job as an English teacher is not hard to find. There are a ton of great language schools and many public schools hire a foreign English teacher. If you’ve made contacts before coming to Vietnam, you could email those schools to let them know that you are in town and can come in for a personal interview. Otherwise, just be prepared with your resume and cover letter and go to the schools! Make a list of schools with their addresses that you’d like to visit. Hire a xe om driver for the day. (A xe om is a motorbike taxi. It’s much cheaper than taking taxis all day.) They’ll try to charge you 800,000 VND for the day. But we talked them down to 200,000 VND (about $10). I think you could get it for cheaper.
As for teacher certification, most language centers don’t require much. ILA is the only school that we encountered that requires a CELTA and a bachelor’s degree. Most centers require a bachelor’s degree and a TESOL or TEFL certificate. But I’ve heard of some, like Cleverlearn that doesn’t even require a bachelor’s degree. It’s handy to carry any kind of certification copies with you.
We went to about 16 reputable schools during the first three days. We asked to talk to the hiring manager at the center. Sometimes they were available, sometimes they weren’t. Also, a lot of schools weren’t hiring at the moment. We had met some great people who told us about where to go and who to talk to. Because of this, we had an interview with Steve Baker, Human Resource Manager at VUS (Vietnam-USA Society of English Language Training) on the first day. We were then required to come in on the second day for preparation of our demo class, which would be on the third day. As we continued applying at other centers and schools, we went through with our demo class and passed! We received a call on the fourth day with a job offer at VUS!
VUS has 10 campuses throughout Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a reputable language center and we were happy to begin our teaching career in HCMC there.
3. Find more permanent housing. Now that we had the job, we had to get out of the guesthouse because our campus was near the airport (in Tan Binh district). From district one, it takes about 30 minutes to get to our campus without traffic, with traffic it takes about 45 minutes by motorbike. By taxi it could take an hour and a half! So we began the search. We met a friend of a friend, Chum, who is a real estate agent and who specializes in helping foreigners. Although we looked at other places with other agents, we were in love with the first house that Chum showed us. And we met our roommate at the guesthouse. He was ready to move out since he had been staying there for four months already. It’s set in a very Vietnamese neighborhood in District 3. The location is perfect because it’s right in between District 1 and our campuses. It’s a two-bedroom, three-bathroom, five-story house. We’re paying $500 per month. It was the best deal for a beautiful house.
4. Buy a motorbike. Two days after we moved in, we were on the search to buy a motorbike. For two weeks we were taking xe om drivers to work everyday. Even though that 30-minute drive only cost 30,000 or 40,000 VND ($2) each time, it can add up. And because we are planning to stay for at least a year, we wanted to buy a motorbike instead of renting one. Randy’s perseverance to buy a motorbike that day came through. We were on the prowl for a used automatic Yamaha Nouvo. First, we went to a shop near our house. The man was asking for $900! He wouldn’t budge on the price so we left and took a stroll on motorbike road (Ly Ty Troung) in District 1 and found the bike we wanted! Automatic bikes are much more expensive than manual motorbikes. So, we paid about $800 for the motorbike. It’s definitely a good investment because we can sell it when we leave.
So those are the steps we took to getting settled and in Ho Chi Minh City. I hope this helps and please feel free to comment with any questions!