Heading to Hanoi

Hi there team - I’m Paul.

I’m 31 and heading to Hanoi in 2018 to work in an international school. I’ve never actually been to Vietnam before so it should be a steep learning curve.

I’m slowly going through some of the threads on here pouring through information.

If you have the time and can be bothered, I’d appreciate your opinion on the following.

1. Apart from this website, would you reccomend another for newbies in Hanoi?

2. What level of Vietnamese do you have and is it enough to get by?

3. If you knew what you know now, what would you have done differently when first moving to Hanoi?

All responses welcomed and appreciated.
Cheers and looking forward to chatting.

Paul 😄

P.S. Apologies if this is in the wrong thread. I did have a look for a new members introduction page but it looked like individual posts so hope this is ok.

Hi, and welcome to the forum.
The poster here are a wild but friendly bunch so you'll probably get quality answers quickly.
I suggest the first Vietnamese you learn is "Thank you". Polite is always good and gets you a surprisingly long way.
After that it's "how much?" and the numbers so you can understand the answer.

Cheers Fred,

Great advice already.
Much appreciated.

Something that has me a little worried if I’m honest... is getting around.
I realise the main mode of transport is motorbike - trouble is I’ve never really ridden one.
I’m not opposed to having a go but I also don’t want to cause a 3000 motorbike pile up on my first day... 😅

Do you Fred or anyone else reading have/had similar concerns?

Cheers again,

Motorbike riding anywhere in SE Asia is dangerous at best so I would recommend avoiding the things where possible but growing eyes up your bum if you really need to ride.
I found the best advice for bike riding in Asia is assume everyone is going to do something extremely stupid as soon as they get into range to do it to you.
If you buy one, little 110 cc auto scooters are light and very easy to control as well as being really handy after rain because the footwell protects you from road water splashing up.
They don't look sexy but the things are far better than 'real' motorbikes for city roads and bad weather.
Fit tubeless tyres as they reduce the use of bad language and save you falling off as much.



Thanks Fred. Not too worried about looking stylish - gave up on that a long time ago 😂

Hi Paul, a warm welcome from Vietnam :)

As for getting around in Hanoi (without driving your own motorbike) ....

- These days they have app-based ride hailing services (Grab and Uber) in Hanoi. You can book cars and motorbikes through their Apps.
You can download Grab and Uber apps on your handset from G-play or Apple Store.
Their services are  cheap (reasonably priced) and hassle-free (no haggling).
I use Grab all the time here in HCM.
These services are very popular with expats living in Hanoi and in Saigon.

- On occasions, you may have to take a taxi. Use ONLY Hanoi Taxi (white, red and blue) or My Linh Taxi (green). There are many other taxi companies operating in Hanoi.
In your initial days just ignore them even if they approach you and keep asking you to get into their taxies.

- If you want to try a bus ride in Hanoi, here's a list of bus routes. Be careful about your belongings, especially valuables (phone and wallet) in the bus stations and in crowded buses.

- In the first few weeks you will have a difficult time learning how to walk across a street where there's no red light.
You have to be brave enough to take a quick decision on exactly when to start crossing a street. The traffic won't stop for you. You have to find your way through that crazy maze.  Just keep waving your hands left and right. Don't worry, you will get used to it pretty soon.

Better still, you just follow the red (traffic) lights even though you may have to make a small detour to reach your destination. 

- If you take a taxi, use your GPS (on phone) to see if the guy is going in the right direction or not. Also, keep an eye on the taxi meter.
If you suspect any foul play, just ask the driver to stop, pay the fare and get out of that taxi.
Avoid altercations as best as you can.

- If you stay in Ba Dinh or Ho Tay (west lake) areas, you can walk around to access shopping centers, pharmacy stores, restaurants, bars and coffee shops without much hassle.
Especially in the Ba Dinh area they have wide sidewalks. Now they also have a walking street around Hoan Kiem lake.

- Wear a good quality face mask until your body gets used to Hanoi's poor air quality. Pollution in Hanoi (also in HCM) is a matter of serious concern.

- Whenever you are out on the street, be very careful about your phone and wallet. Pickpockets and bag-snatchers are just round the corner everywhere.

- From 'shoe-polish scam' to 'coconut scam' we have them all here in Vietnam. :)
I'm sure there will be a few new ones by the time you land in Hanoi.
Please keep your eyes open and senses alert to avoid scams on the streets and in tourist areas.
Here's the latest one.

- For accommodation etc., I'm sure your school (and your colleagues) will introduce you to some trustworthy estate agents. You can follow their leads.

As for 'survival Vietnamese' my strategy has always been to keep it short and simple, with a bit of body language and/or hand gesture (where necessary) to emphasize politeness, disagreement etc.. It really helps.
Don't forget to wear a smile even in disagreement.

Apart from what Fred already said ... and others are going to suggest, here are three expressions which you will find extremely useful while getting around on a Grab or taxi.
- rẽ phải (pronounced 'ze phai' ) meaning Turn Right
- rẽ trái  (pronounced 'ze tchai') meaning Turn Left
- đi thẳng (pronounced 'di tan') meaning Go Straight

You may wish to take a look at these basic phrases.
Use Google Translate to listen to the exact pronunciation. 

That's all for now.
Let's wait for other members, especially those from Hanoi, to add their thoughtful inputs.

Please feel free to ask questions if you can't find them already covered on this forum.
Hope you'll have a great time in the city of four seasons and beautiful lakes. :cheers:

Wow - Thank you Senwl!

Lots of great info in there. Especially about getting around. I might grab those taxi's until I get a lay of the land and ready to grab the very slow and unsexy scooter Fred mentioned.

I didn't even think about air pollution! Yikes. Does it have much of a negative impact on your health?

The school I'll hopefully be working at is in Cau Giay if that helps as a point of reference.

Thanks again team!

Starx Rox :

Wow - Thank you Senwl!

Lots of great info in there. Especially about getting around. I might grab those taxi's until I get a lay of the land and ready to grab the very slow and unsexy scooter Fred mentioned.

I didn't even think about air pollution! Yikes. Does it have much of a negative impact on your health?

The school I'll hopefully be working at is in Cau Giay if that helps as a point of reference.

Thanks again team!

Pollution in Hanoi, especially in the downtown area during rush hours, is a matter of serious concern.
You can get a real-time updatehere.

That said, there are many expats living and working in Hanoi for years. I spent three years in Hanoi and some of my then-colleagues have been there for over ten or fifteen years. Some have their families in Hanoi.
Most of them are from Britain and Australia ... a few from other EU and Asian countries, couple of them from the US as well.
So please don't panic.
Just avoid heavy-traffic areas in rush hours. You will be fine.

Since it's your first time in SE Asia, initially you'll need some time to get used to everything here ..
Just bring a few high-quality pollution masks for extra protection, just in case.... That'll do.

Cau Giay is a district next to Ba Dinh. It's a very urban area. You will get all the facilities there.
No worry.
Back in 2013 I stayed in an apartment in Cau Giay (on the Ba Dinh side) for nearly a year. Even then, it had everything.
By now it must have developed more. :)

All the best!

Hi again team,

Just wondering salary for English teaching over in Hanoi.

Can anyone give me a point of reference as in what would be a low, med, generous salary?

Kind regards,

Scratch that - just found a similar question in another thread.


senwl :

- If you stay in Ba Dinh or Ho Tay (west lake) areas, you can walk around to access shopping centers, pharmacy stores, restaurants, bars and coffee shops without much hassle.
Especially in the Ba Dinh area they have wide sidewalks. Now they also have a walking street around Hoan Kiem lake.


Hi again - just re-reading these comments and as I’m starting to get a bit more of an idea what to expect, I’m starting to look at districts.

Could anyone give me the lowdown on the districts of Hanoi?

I know Tay Ho is expat central - would I be right in saying more expensive than others?

My place do work would be in (if I’m reading the map right) in Cau Giay but almost in Dong Da.

Any advice on housing, tips, tricks, do’s or dont’s would much appreciated.

Thank you again.


Hi Paul,

I'm still waiting for our friends from Hanoi to share their opinions and suggestions.
Seems they are all too busy getting ready for the cold damp Hanoi Winter which is about to set in .... ;)

Looking at the map below, I figure you will be working somewhere in that extended orange zone (part of Quan Dong Da) between Quan Ba Dinh (pink) in the north and Quan Cau Giay (green) in the south.

If that's the case, your best options are Lang Ha or Lang Thuong wards of Dong Da district.
I know that area as one of my friends used to stay there.
- That part is a typical Hanoi urban area, densely populated  and traffic is pretty intense, especially in rush hours.
- You can still access Ho Tay (West Lake), Ba Dinh, Hoan Kiem (Old Quarters) and Hai Ba Trung districts.

OTOH, if you live in Cau Giay, it could be a bit far and isolated for a new expat. However, that area ... or at least parts of that area ... is now very well-planned and many modern high-rises and apartment blocks are there.

I found this 2015 article for your quick reference.
Living in Hanoi: The low down on which district to live in

- Always choose your first accommodation not too far from your workplace.
- Compared to HCMC, Hanoi is smaller in size, although these days it is expanding.
  Accessing West Lake and Hoan Kiem areas from Lang Ha is not difficult in the weekends (with less traffic on the streets). Takes about 20-30 mints max in a taxi.

* I'll answer your other questions in another post

Source: Hanoi Districts

Back again ....

Housing/accommodation etc.

I'd suggest you start by reading the following articles in our Living in Vietnam guide section.
- Accommodation in Vietnam
- Accommodation in Hanoi

A few websites are mentioned there. I'd like to add one more.
- batdongsan.com.vn/
You can compare accommodation costs from different districts of Hanoi on that site. (for reference only).
(note: this site has a Vietnamese version. You can find more properties listed there. Use G-translate.)

Also take time to check the properties listed in our Hanoi Housing section.

The reason I mentioned "for reference only" is on most RE sites the prices of properties are almost always inflated .... mostly so on the English language websites.

In reality, the best way to look for accommodation anywhere in Vietnam is through local connections / search ... or, to walk around in the neighborhood with a VN friend and spot the properties that are up for rent.
Most of them hang/paste (handwritten) notices with contact numbers on their boundary walls.   
Anyway, It may not be an option for you in your initial months.

As I said in an earlier post, follow the leads from your school and colleagues. Ask your colleagues to introduce a dependable agent to you.
When you arrive in Hanoi, stay prepared to spend at least a week in a small Hotel somewhere near your workplace.

As for tips and tricks ....
Please go through all the posts in the "'Accommodation Category" of Vietnam forum.
Tips and tricks are mostly same all over Vietnam when it comes to finding and renting a property.

A few more ....
- Make it very clear to your agent that you'll be paying your rents through Bank Transfer (preferred) or in VND cash. Just tell them you don't have any USD cash with you.
(note: Dealing in USD cash is illegal in Vietnam .... even though most landlords may still insist on that.)

- Make sure your landlord registers you with the local police in his/her Blue Book and gives you a copy of that page. You may need to hand over your PP to him/her for that.

- A deposit of 1 or 2 months worth of rental is normal. Try to keep it to 1 month through negotiation. Although refundable, don't expect a full refund when you leave.

- Always ask for a front door (gate) key so you can come and go anytime you want. Hanoians tend to sleep early at night.

- You don't pay any brokerage to an agent. Property owners pay.

- All properties in the West Lake area are not necessarily super expensive. It depends on the kind of accommodation you choose... and bit of luck as well.

That's all for now.
Feel free to ask questions as you continue your research ....  :cheers:

Regarding English teacher salary, if you are a certified teacher in the US, just stay away from language centers. The legit International schools pay between $2500 - $3500 and up, plus housing allowance, paid holidays (2 months in the summer plus other school holidays), flights home once a year, health insurance, work permit, etc and usually you need to sign a 2 - 3 year contract.

British Councils is probably the closest thing to International school standard pay, it's also a language center, they're affiliated with the British International school, the pay is $2500 per month, plus benefits.

Most language centers pay between 27mil- 35mil ($1300 - 1600) after tax per month on full-time contract; 20 - 25 teaching hours per week, maybe a week or two weeks paid vacation, "basic health insurance" (depending on the school)
A lot of teachers work at a few different places on part-time contract, they get paid hourly, ranging from $17 - $25+ per hour.

I've been living in Vietnam for the past 4.5 years (mainly in Saigon - Southern part of VN, just relocated to Hanoi about 5 months ago), I've in the teaching industry for awhile now, worked as both teacher and teacher recruiter. Feel free to PM me if you have other questions, I'd be happy to help.

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