Volunteer Work In Vietnam: A Comprehensive Guidebook
“A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling.” – This is exactly how the Lonely Planet describes Vietnam, and we couldn’t agree more with it. One of the most popular Southeast Asian backpacking destinations, Vietnam has seen some dark days in the past and has emerged out of it, beautifully.
With its rich culture, incredible topography, picturesque landscapes, and warm people – one can never really get bored of Vietnam. Whether you love the secluded countryside of Sapa or the hustle & bustle of the Old Quarter in Hanoi – this gorgeous country will definitely leave a mark on your mind.
There are quite a few reasons that would convince you to travel to Vietnam and volunteer, but we would just ask you one question – “Are you keen on making a difference in someone’s life?” If the answer in your mind is ‘YES’ – then probably you have the zeal to bring the change you wish to see in this world.
Your small step can essentially make a big impact on someone’s life – and it’s time for you to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer in Vietnam.
In this Comprehensive Guidebook, we have tried to answer all the questions that might pop up in your mind when you think of volunteering in Vietnam.
- Programs Available
- Requirements to be a Volunteer
- Accommodation and Meals
- Arrival Information
- Visa Information
- Dos and Don’ts in Vietnam
- Things to do in Vietnam
- Why Choose VolSol?
- Reviews from past volunteers
Which Volunteering Programs Are Available In Vietnam?
There are 5 programs available across 2 destinations – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Find out more about them, below.
This program is meant for medical practitioners and students (pre-med, medical) who wish to experience a new culture, work in a developing country, and learn more about the healthcare system abroad. Volunteers are mostly paired with professional doctors and nurses at a hospital/ health care center, and the main task would be to help in treating the patients. It would mostly be shadowing the doctors, rather than handling the patients by themselves. At times, depending on the volunteer’s level of experience, skills, and confidence, they may be allowed to observe serious operations, provide assistance in basic procedures, etc.
As a volunteer, one can choose to work in pediatrics, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy with children and adults who suffer from cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, congenital motor system deformity, and other disabilities. It’ll be an incredible opportunity to learn and grow while helping others to live a better life.
The minimum duration to be a medical volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City is for 2 weeks, the cost of which would be 600 USD.
For those who love to be with children, this is an incredible opportunity! Volunteers opting to join this program are usually placed in orphanages or child care centers where most of the kids are affected by Agent Orange Syndrome (A powerful chemical that was used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War to eliminate forest cover and crops for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. The dioxin contaminant, however, continues to have a harmful impact today, causing a huge number of disabled births.)
Most of the centers have around 75 – 80 children, and not many caregivers who can give proper attention to all the children. Hence, you can play a very important role. As a volunteer, your role will be to make life a tad bit easy for these little ones, by showering them with utmost love and care. Love them like your own, and you’ll feel the love from their side as well. Play with kids, take them out for walks, sing to them and teach them to be happy.
The minimum duration to be a childcare volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City is for 2 weeks, the cost of which would be 500 USD.
Being a volunteer for this project, you’ll be working in different daycare centers in Hanoi, including the Friendship Village, which was set up in 1992 by George Mizo, to take care of the children affected by “Agent Orange”. It’ll be somewhat challenging to look after kids who are suffering from various disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, physical deformity, and severe mental disability. But nonetheless, it’ll be a satisfying journey and teach you a lot about life.
Other than the Friendship Village, you might also get placed at the Khanh Tam Center which is run by an NGO, Xuan Dinh Kindergarten, and other places. No matter where you get to work in Hanoi, your experience will be worth sharing. Your small steps and actions of love can make incredible changes in the lives of these little ones.
The minimum duration to be a childcare volunteer in Hanoi is 2 weeks, the cost of which would be 500 USD.
As a volunteer teacher, you’ll be working in underprivileged schools, shelter homes, or community learning centers in and around Ho Chi Minh City. You can teach at primary schools, mostly engaging the kids in learning-based activities as well as extracurricular activities like music, drawing, crafts, etc. You might also teach students of the higher standards, helping them with their English language skills, vocabulary, and Maths lessons.
Since these education centers have inadequate teachers and most of them aren’t sufficiently equipped to handle the classes, you can assist them in planning their daily schedule. You can also lend a hand of help to sort the managerial work.
The minimum duration to be a volunteer teacher in Ho Chi Minh City is 2 weeks, the cost of which would be 500 USD.
If you are looking forward to gaining some international work experience while making a difference in the lives of the little ones, then probably you should choose to volunteer as an English Teacher in Hanoi. Kids and teens in Vietnam are still a little weaker when it comes to communicating in English. With the steady growth of tourism and other sectors in the country, it has become necessary for the children to brush up their English speaking skills, in order to keep up with the world. Hence, you’ll get to play a major role in the lives of these children, as a volunteer.
You’ll be working mostly in schools in the Cau Giay District and other areas around Hanoi. These schools have an extremely poor teacher-student ratio, which often is as low as 70:1 and the teachers are often not well-versed in English. Thus, apart from teaching the students, you can also guide the teachers and boost their confidence.
The minimum duration to be a volunteer teacher in Hanoi is for 2 weeks, the cost of which would be 500 USD.
What Are the Requirements to Be a Volunteer in Vietnam?
In order to be a volunteer for any of the above-mentioned programs in Vietnam, you should be at least 17 years old or more (18 years or more for medical volunteering program). You must have a flexible and patient attitude, and be willing to live out of your comfort zone.
It is essential for a volunteer to be open-minded and understand that no luxuries would be available on this journey.
People can volunteer as individuals, in groups (students, corporate, or friends), and/or with families. Volunteering is a serious task and needs immense focus and sincerity. So, if you have the motivation to help others, the dedication to be a part of a meaningful project, and, the enthusiasm to travel abroad and live out of your comfort zone, we believe that you can be a volunteer.
Volunteers who are keen to work with children, at any of the locations, will have to provide the Criminal Background Check Report. Medical volunteers will have to provide their college enrollment documents and a copy of their passport.
What Kind Of Accommodation and meals Can I Expect In Vietnam?
Volunteering Solutions makes sure to provide comfortable living facilities to all the volunteers so that you can have a ‘Home Away From Home’ feeling. However, we would request you not to expect very luxurious accommodation. Be sure of the fact that this is a volunteering journey and not just another vacation!
Accommodation in Hanoi
In Hanoi, you’ll be staying at the volunteer house which is located in a safe and friendly neighborhood approximately a 45-minute bus journey from the Old Quarter of Hanoi, one of the most popular tourist destinations. This house also has the Vol Sol Vietnam Office on the ground floor, so you’ll be having our local team available 24/7. Rooms are provided on the same-gender sharing basis, and there’s a fully equipped kitchen which can be used. All the rooms have air-conditioning facilities, along with wardrobes, where you can keep your luggage. The bathrooms have Western-style toilets and showers. Wi-Fi facilities will also be provided to you.
Meals in Hanoi – On weekdays, 3 meals will be served to you at the house. Local Vietnamese food is provided to the volunteers and the meals are cooked by our amazing local chef! Meals mostly comprise rice accompanied by a chicken, pork, vegetable, or fish dish. On weekends, we would encourage you to head out and try the local street-style food or hit the cafes in the Old Quarter. Meals won’t be provided on weekends.
Accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City
Volunteers live in the beautiful volunteer house at Phu Nhuan district of Ho Chi Minh City. Rooms are provided on the same gender sharing basis and the house has got all modern facilities such as Air Conditioning in the rooms during the night, Wireless Internet, TV, Fridge, and Washing Machine etc. It’ll be a nice experience for you to stay with other volunteers under the same roof. The rooms are big and we can accommodate 24 volunteers at a time, at this house. Our coordinators will be there, to help you in case you need them.
Meals in Ho Chi Minh City – We have one permanent cook and one part-time cook who’ll be there to prepare a wide variety of delicious and authentic Vietnamese dishes for you, with locally sourced, fresh, and daily produced ingredients. 3 meals will be provided on weekdays, and on weekends, you can head out and savor the taste of the food at the Vietnamese restaurants.
When Do I Need To Arrive In Vietnam For My Program? What Will Happen Once I Arrive?
In case you have opted for a volunteering program in Hanoi, you’ll have to arrive on a Wednesday (kindly check the program dates mentioned on the website). Our country coordinator will be there at the airport to greet you and take you to the accommodation where you can rest. On Thursday, there will be an Orientation Session, where you’ll get to know in detail about your program, the city, and the places that you can visit. You’ll also be taught some basic Vietnamese words, that can be used to initiate a conversation. On Friday, you’ll get to pay a visit to the project site.
On Saturday, you’ll be taken for a city tour of Hanoi. Sunday will be your free day to relax and unwind.
You’ll commence work on the project on Monday, and continue till Friday.
Ho Chi Minh City:
In case you have opted for a volunteering program in Ho Chi Minh, you’ll have to arrive on a Thursday (kindly check the program dates mentioned on the website). Our country coordinator will be there at the airport to greet you and take you to the accommodation where you can rest. On Friday, there will be an Orientation Session, where you’ll get to know in detail about your program, the city, and the places that you can visit. You’ll also be taught some basic Vietnamese words, that can be used to initiate a conversation.
On Saturday, you’ll be taken for a city tour of Ho Chi Minh City, and you’ll get to explore the major touristy locations. Sunday will be your free day to relax and unwind.
How To Get A Vietnam Visa?
Citizens of most of the countries are provided visas on Arrival in Vietnam. You can seek guidance from our Program Advisor once you have successfully applied for the program, and you’ll be told how you can go ahead with the procedure. You can also look for some help on the internet, in case you need some info. Some websites for your reference are as follows:
What are the dos and don’ts that need to be followed in Vietnam?
Abiding by the dos and don’ts of the host country is something that we always suggest to our volunteers. The Vietnamese are appreciative if they see a traveler trying to follow their norms and customs. For you also, it’ll be a delightful experience to do things the way they should be done.
- Dress moderately, especially for female travelers. Vietnamese are usually a little conservative, hence, it’s better to avoid skimpy clothes. However, when you are at the beachside (especially on the weekends) you can wear whatever you wish!
- Vietnam experiences a hot & humid tropical climate, so you must always carry your bottle of water and keep yourself hydrated.
- If you are invited for dinner, make sure to leave your shoes outside before entering the house.
- Make sure to carry toilet paper with you – it’s absolutely essential.
- Learn a few local words – it’ll be great if you greet a Vietnamese person in their language, such as “Xin Chao” instead of “Hello” or say “Cam on” instead of “Thank you” for their help.
- Whenever you for shopping, make sure you bargain to get the best deal. Often, overpriced things are sold to travelers from the West!
- Don’t ever bring up the topic of the Vietnam War, which the locals term as the ‘American War’.
- If you are traveling with your partner, make sure not to hold hands, kiss, or show affection in public.
- Don’t carry too much cash, or show off your expensive belongings.
- Don’t lose your patience or temper, in case something doesn’t happen the way you want it to happen.
- Late risers, beware! Vietnam starts moving at 6 am and the noise can be too much to spoil your sleep.
- Don’t take photos of the locals, without taking their permission. Often, people find it to be very intrusive if you take their photos or videos.
- You might find that beer is cheaper than water – but make sure not to drink too much alcohol as it’ll dehydrate you!
- Don’t go out alone at night without seeking permission from the country coordinator.
What Are The Things To Do In Vietnam During My Volunteer Trip?
We know that ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – hence, we always encourage our volunteers to explore a country while on their volunteering trip. Vietnam, being a marvelous destination, has so much to explore that we won’t be surprised if you fall short of time!
During the weekdays, you can mostly explore the city you choose to work. Other than that, you can surely head out on weekends and tick off the things that are there on your checklist.
Here’s a list of things to do in Vietnam – find out the ones that you’d love to explore!
Explore Ho Chi Minh City – There are some historical monuments and museums that are absolutely not worth missing out. These include – Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, War Remnants Museum, Independence Palace etc. All these places will narrate to you the history of this place and tell you more about what the country has been through.
Crawl through the Chu Chi Tunnels – It’s a must while you are there! Located at a distance of about 1.5 hours from Ho Chi Minh City lies the Chu Chi Tunnels, which were dug by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Set amidst the lush green jungles, it’ll be totally worth exploring the tunnels, covering hundreds of miles, underground.
Go for a boat ride on the Mekong River – It’ll be a tranquil journey, floating on a traditional boat and crossing the Vietnamese countryside. Stop at a village, to meet the locals and try some authentic countryside cuisine. It’ll be an absolutely laid-back and relaxing experience.
Walk down Hanoi’s famous train street – Sounds crazy right? The train street, located between Lê Duẩn and Khâm Thin Street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, is a place worth exploring. Twice a day, the train passes through this line, and in some places, the train is mere inches from the buildings.
Explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter – It’s the favorite destination of the tourists and you will know the reason as soon as you visit the place! The beautiful cafes and shopkeepers wearing Vietnamese hats will greet you with warmth. Exploring the Old Quarters of Hanoi will surely be one of those experiences that will keep you captivated for days to come.
Go for a Cruise on Ha Long Bay – Of course, when you are in Vietnam, you just can’t miss this! Marked as a UNESCO Heritage Site, this place of incredible natural beauty will definitely win your heart and leave you speechless. Sailing across the beautiful karst rocks on the turquoise water will absolutely be delightful. You can choose to stop by an island and soak in the sun at a pristine secluded beach. In case you are keen on some adventure, you can also go for exploring the caves or hike through the jungles at any of the islands, where your boat stops.
Head Towards Sapa Village – Let the serenity of Sapa village sink in you, as you walk along the rice fields on the mountain terraces. Located in the North Western Part of Vietnam, Sapa is one of the most popular destinations among backpackers, and you’ll absolutely fall in love with the hill tribes residing here.
Binge On Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine – For all the foodies out there, you can’t miss exploring the night markets at Hanoi/ Ho Chi Minh City, because they are a paradise for food lovers! Don’t miss out on savoring the taste of delicious Goi Cuon, Banh mi, Cao Lau, and a bowl of Pho! Vietnam will absolutely drive your taste buds crazy – so be prepared for it!
Volunteering Solutions ensures that all the volunteers in Vietnam get a chance to see the various sides of the country, and hence, we provide amazing weekend excursions including Cu Chi Tunnel Tours, Hanoi Cultural Tours, Mekong Discovery Day Tours, etc.
The weekend tours can be chosen from the ‘ADD ON TOURS’ section in your ‘My Account’ while you apply for a volunteering program, for an additional cost. You can also seek guidance from the country coordinator, in case you wish to explore a place of your choice.
Why Should I Choose To Volunteer With Volunteering Solutions In Vietnam?
Obviously, when you are searching for a meaningful project to contribute your valuable time and energy, you’ll want to go with an organization that would satisfy your wants and provide you with adequate facilities so that you can put your 100% into the project. It’s quite a reasonable thought to strike you, and we are not asking you to join us blindly!
Volunteering Solutions, a reputed international organization, has been hosting volunteers for the last 11 years across 20 different countries. Over the years, we have had more than 13,000 participants who worked with us, with the aim of bringing sustainable change and providing support to the underprivileged sections of people dwelling in developing societies.
We work in association with local organizations in Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City, and thus, we are able to provide you with the most trusted and affordable volunteering opportunities. Whether it’s the childcare project, teaching, or medical project, we ensure that there’s a ‘WIN-WIN’ situation where the giver and the receiver, but gets benefitted. Gladly, all our volunteers who joined us in Vietnam had immensely meaningful experiences (you can read the reviews in the next section) and they succeeded in making an effective difference.
Being a VolSol volunteer, you’ll get to meet a lot of like-minded people and work with them, sharing thoughts and ideas. Living together at the volunteer house will also give you the opportunity to know more about their countries, cultures & lifestyles. It’ll help you to broaden your social network. You’ll also get to polish your skills and there will be immense scope for peer learning.
We will also look after your safety while you’re in Vietnam, and our in-country coordinators will be available 24/7 to guide you, whenever you need their assistance. We shall also help you with your project work, providing you with a detailed Orientation Session before you commence work on-site. As mentioned, we’ll also take you for city tours and can arrange for weekend trips (for an additional cost) in case you wish to opt for them.
Reviews Of Past Volunteers In Vietnam
If you wish to connect with past volunteers in Vietnam, you can join our Facebook Group. In case you need to know more about volunteering in Vietnam, you can simply drop us an email at [email protected]
We’ll be glad to host you in Vietnam!