Vietnam

The Best Place to Live & Teach English in Vietnam: North or South – Ellie & Eddie’s story

Ntobeko Ntombela

Ntobeko Ntombela

October 26, 2018

We at TravelBud know how daunting it can be to leave your life behind and pursue your dreams of teaching abroad. Hence why we’re constantly seeking new ways to make your transition into teaching abroad as smooth as possible. With so much hype and interest in the region, Vietnam is quickly establishing itself as the go to teaching and travelling destination in Southeast Asia.

Teaching English in Vietnam is definitely our fastest growing program, and it’s very easy to see why! The country is beautiful, with so much culture and it has very low living costs. The most difficult thing about moving to Vietnam is choosing where to live; there’s something for everybody.

Eddie, a TravelBud participant from the UK, shares with us below, what he has discovered about Vietnam and gives you the pros and cons of living in the North vs the South of the country.

Halong bay in Full, Vietnam.

[Image source] This majestic place showing off all it’s beauty.

Finding a new home

Believe it or not, there are some significant differences to living in either the North or South of Vietnam. In regard to some aspects, they are like different countries altogether. It’s a big decision many expats have to make upon arriving here. Do we choose to live in the seasonal north, or the all year summer south?

north-south of Vietnam

Sadly it’s not as simple as weather differences. There are many aspects to life in either region that will considerably sway your decision. It’s also extremely difficult to describe these differences as pros or cons. This is mainly because pros and cons are opinion based and specific to the individual. 

Ho Chi Minh City 1, Vietnam

A snap of Ho Chi Minh.

Through discussions with expats we have met during our time in Vietnam, we have found that every single person paints a different picture of the country before arriving. They also tend to build a different image of what they are hoping to gain from their working experience here.

There really is no straight answer with regard to which region is the best to live in. In order to try and help you make this HUGE decision, we have summarized a few factors we took in to account before we had to make it ourselves.

Up North 

Sapa bars and restaurants, vietnam.

[Image source] A very tranquil setting.

Four Seasons

The north experiences 4 seasons. Summer, autumn, winter and spring. Summers in the North are very similar to the south and run from May to August. It’s hot, very hot, and it’s wet. Temperatures in the north soar to 33 degrees and the humidity can rise to 90%. It’s uncomfortable to say the least.

During this period Vietnam experiences its highest rainfall. And when we say it rains, it really does rain. Between September and November the heat becomes more comfortable as autumn sets in. The drop in humidity means that there is less rainfall and overall the weather is stunning. The sky is clear the majority of the time and you are able to start wearing your favourite pair of jeans again.

Terraced fields, Sapa, Vietnam.

[Image source] An ancient yet brilliant engineering.

As we move into December, we wave goodbye to the blue skies and the sunshine. The air becomes much cooler and the days are filled with an atmospheric mist. Temperatures drop to a chilly 15 degrees. It is extremely moody and a selling point for anyone who enjoys a bit of winter.

March brings much warmer temperatures of 23 degrees as the region begins to enjoy the sunshine again. Similar to autumn, spring in the North is wonderful. Grey skies are no longer a thing of the past and you can ditch the jumper for a t-shirt. Ideal for someone who enjoys a change in season and wrapping up warm.

Down South

Chau Doc, Vietnam.

[Image source] Chau Doc, Vietnam.

All Year Round Heat

The south is hot almost 24/7, 365 days of the year. It only experiences two main seasons, wet and dry. Temperatures stay around 30 degrees and never drop below 20. Rainfall remains fairly high between May and November, its wettest month being July. Unlike the north, there is generally very little way of knowing the heavens are about to open. It’ll catch you out.

Mui Ne Fishing village, Vietnam.

[Image source] Mui Ne Fishing Village, Vietnam.

Rain in the South is heavy and quick. Flash floods are common. The good thing is you don’t have to worry about it being wet ALL day. Like the North, humidity rises considerably over the wetter months, making it an uncomfortable place to be before the storms set in. 90% humidity is very common down South.

Over the dry months, the region becomes less humid and reaches a much more manageable temperature.

What to consider

Find out where you could be placed in Vietnam.

The north is full of vast open spaces and rolling green mountains. You are never too far from a National Park. With destinations like Ninh Binh, Sapa, Mai Chau, and Hai Giang only a bus ride away from the regions capital Hanoi, you can see why so many tourists and expats are keen to visit.

Bai Bien, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Bai Bien beach in Nha Trang,

The south is not short of its beautiful scenery either. In the south you are never too far from white sandy beaches and palm trees. Destinations such as Nha Trang, Da Lat, Phu Quoc and the Mekong Delta are appealing to most. All destinations are an easy journey from Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh City

Most expats in Vietnam will decide to live in one of the countries two biggest cities. The cities themselves are very different and come with their own pros and cons. Ho Chi Minh is a sprawling concrete jungle alive with the buzz of busy city life. The city is has various different districts that offer many different cultural experiences.

ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The Grand Palace.

District 1 is packed full of quirky and mainstream shops, a dream to any shopaholic. And with restaurants/bars around every corner, it’s hard not to keep yourself busy. District 1 is also popular with the backpackers who are visiting the city to experience its 24-hour nightlife. You’ll never be too far from a party.

District 7 is a more relaxed area, home to many businesses and residential buildings. The area has various different international schools and is very popular with expats who choose to live in the city. Across the city there are many different museums and tourist attractions that are worth visiting. You can try and navigate the city using the metro, or alternatively on a Grab bike.

Ho Chi Minh City motorbikes, Vietnam.

Best way to travel through the city.

The short of it, you’ll never find yourself with nothing to do in this city. If you’re someone who loves the buzz of a big city and the feel of a 24-hour vibe, then HCMC might be the one for you.  

Hanoi

Hanoi 2, Vietnam, Sian Owen.

[Image source] A magical building peeping through the bushes.

Hanoi offers a calmer and greener way of life. The city itself is broken up with various lakes and huge trees that line the streets. Many also say the people in the North have a more relaxed nature. And if you choose to live here, it’s quite addictive.

The city itself is not without it’s craziness however. Despite the fact that the roads are somewhat quieter, they are still outstandingly packed with bikes. I wouldn’t advise trying to cross the city in rush hour.

A mobile food market in Hanoi, Vietnam.

[Image source] A very practical way of selling some fruits

Areas of the city popular with tourists and expats tend to revolve around two lakes: Tay Ho (West Lake) and Hoan Kiem.

Cafe’s, restaurants and markets surround each lake, offering an array of things to keep you busy. There are also many different museums, galleries and attractions that are worth a visit. If you are a fan of a bit of peace and like wide open spaces, then Hanoi is probably for you.

The Driving

Driving in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

Busy road Ho Chi Minh.

It is a well-known fact that the roads in Vietnam can be hectic and unnerving. This is consistent across the country. There are however some slight differences. The roads in the North can be more difficult to ride than in the South. This could be mainly to do with the weather conditions being more strenuous on the roads that have been built.

Drivers in the North tend to disobey the rules more regularly as well. Maybe this is due to their more relaxed nature or just the fact that the roads are slightly quieter. It is common for drivers to jump red lights up North for example, whereas down South most drivers will wait before speeding off.

The Locals

A very colorful ancient town - Hoi An.

[Image source] Hoi An, a very colorful ancient town.

The Vietnamese are incredibly hospitable and this remains the same throughout the country. It is not uncommon to be invited into someone’s home for dinner and to be handed drinks until you can barely stand.

In the south the Vietnamese are sometimes too hospitable and it can be a real challenge just to say no. Whereas in the north, they do have a more relaxed approach and are more likely to take no as an answer.

A beautiful flower farm in the Dalat countryside.

[Image source] A beautiful flower farm in the Dalat countryside.

The Vietnamese are also early risers, very early risers in comparison to most. In the south the streets are already bustling with people exercising, on their way to the market or setting up their street food stand by 5am.

Whereas in the north, the streets are generally not busy with people until 6-7am. This could be to do with the weather difference and the seasonal changes in sunrise. Or it could just be because the north is just that bit more chill.

Mama Sa, Sapa, Vietnam.

[Image source] The wonderful mama Sa in Sa Pa.

The hills of Vietnam.

[Image source] Majestic hills in Vietnam.

My choice

Someone once told me that when you visit Vietnam, you just know whether you’re going to be north or south. It’s almost a gut instinct and a decision you can make pretty quickly. I suppose it all depends on what it is you’re trying to achieve from your time here.

Colorful Hoi An, Vietnam

[Image source] Hoi An showing off such stunning colors.

Whether you’re a country bumpkin or a city dweller. It’s a decision you can only make when you’ve touched down on Vietnamese soil. The best option you have is to visit both cities. Take a flight, or train or even bus. That way you know yourself and don’t just have to rely on what you see and read online.

It was the North for me!

Ellie and Eddie are a married couple from Leeds, England. They decided to pack up their comfortable lives in 2018, contacted TravelBud about teaching English and now they’ve just completed their in-class TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh City.  Here are their handles, to keep up with their journey:

Blog: https://idiotsteachabroad.com

Instagram : @idiotsteachabroad

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