All the key indicators – job advertisements, pay rates, low cost of living – suggest that Vietnam is the hottest destination in Southeast Asia, arguably the world, for teaching English as a second language (ESL).  If you’re somebody who is planning to teach ESL in Vietnam, here’s some good news from an ‘old timer’.  It’s a positive experience like none other where you’ll see tangible results for your effort in a relatively short period of time. Vietnamese people, the length and breadth of the country, are right up there with friendliest folks you will find anywhere on planet earth. On top of job satisfaction and spending time with lovely people, you’ll earn a decent income and save money due to the relatively low cost of living, especially if you choose to teach in a regional or rural location.

While there is every reason to believe that your experience teaching ESL in Vietnam will be every bit as rosy as my own and tens of thousands of others over the past three decades, travelling anywhere abroad comes with risks. Heaven forbid you have a motorbike accident, pick up a horrible bug of some kind, be attacked by a rabid dog or meet some other misfortune. We might think we’re indestructible, but the reality is we’re not. The risk of an accident, illness or injury occurring is not a reason to cancel your plans to work in ESL in Vietnam. In the main, the same risks would apply if you stayed home.

The consequences or fallout of meeting misfortune while abroad, as distinct from on your home turf is where problems arise. Days, weeks or perhaps even months recuperating in a Vietnamese Public Hospital do not come cheap for foreigners. There are sad stories all over the internet of mums and dads in England, the US, Australia and elsewhere being lumbered with huge medical bills because their son or daughter had an accident, got sick or suffered an injury while abroad and they didn’t have insurance. What’s my advice? If you’re unable to meet the cost of basic medical insurance for the full period you’ll teach ESL in Vietnam, then it’s best to put your plans on hold. It’s that important.

Like you, I’m not thrilled about paying insurance premiums, but the idea that my old mum and dad (both in their 80s) would be forced to mortgage or sell their house to cover medical bills that I’ve clocked up abroad, fills me with horror.

Decent travel insurance with medical coverage is relatively easy to find with a simple Google search. ‘Compare, compare, compare’ is the key to getting a good deal. You may be surprised to learn that cost of insurance is less than you expected and the inclusions are more than you expected. Personally, I’m covered by World Nomads and I have been for all but one year of my time working in ESL in Vietnam, but you’ll make up your own mind about what insurance policy is best for your circumstances. Here are some of the key items that a decent travel insurance policy will cover:

Medical: This is not an area where you can scrimp. There’s zero ‘wriggle room’. Your insurance policy needs to cover all medical expenses in the event of an accident, sickness or injury while you’re teaching ESL in Vietnam. The language that’s typically used in a travel insurance policy is ‘Unlimited’, or words to that effect. You need ‘Unlimited’ medical coverage.

Baggage: Depending on the value of your worldly possessions, this might be an area where you can cut corners with your insurance coverage. It’s about the replacement cost of items that are lost, stolen or damaged while travelling to Vietnam in this instance, while you’re teaching ESL in Vietnam and travelling back home.

Trip cancellation: If it happens that you need to cancel your trip to Vietnam for whatever reason, you’ll be able to claim non-refundable fees. For example, you may have paid US $800.00 for an airfare from Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh City. You need to cancel your ticket. The airline charges you a US $250.00 fee. It’s possible that this fee will be covered by your insurance. This is also an area where you can be thrifty.

Death or disability: The cost of having mortal remains shipped from Vietnam to another country is astronomical, in the realm of someone having to mortgage their house. Without insurance, either a family member or friend will have to meet all expenses to get you home for burial, or you’ll be shelved in a Vietnamese mortuary as an unclaimed body. Both options are intolerable. The consequences of suffering some kind of permanent disability while you’re in Vietnam are equally dire without insurance. Scrimping with death or disability cover is not an option.

The message in this short article is straightforward. Teaching ESL in Vietnam is an experience like none other, but without travel insurance that includes medical coverage (as a minimum) it can easily turn sour if you have an accident, get sick or suffer a deliberating injury of some kind. If you’re unable to pay for insurance at this time, put your plans on hold until you can. Shop around until you find an insurance policy that’s affordable, comes with unlimited medical coverage and meets your personal needs. Enjoy your time in Vietnam – and stay safe.

About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam and Cambodia. AVSE-TESOL offers an Australian Government accredited TESOL programme in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh – a brilliant pathway for people looking to teach ESL in Vietnam and elsewhere.


About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam and Cambodia. AVSE-TESOL offers an Australian Government accredited TESOL programme in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh – a brilliant pathway for people looking to teach ESL in Vietnam and elsewhere.