Teaching English in Thailand vs Vietnam

We have dedicated guides as to teaching abroad in both Vietnam and Thailand, so which one is better? As cliche as it is, both countries are excellent places to teach abroad, you’ll enjoy what both have to offer but there are some important difference to be aware of before going.

We are going to break down the differences between the two countries based on pay, students, where you will be teaching, the legal requirements and our overall recommendation. So if you’ve not yet taught abroad we suggest you read our dedicated guides on these two countries to understand what you’re getting into as well as this guide on the differences.

What we will compare in this content

For any sort of ESL teacher there are a few things to look at when moving abroad to teach English. Pay is important, but it’s conly one aspect. In this content we will compare with our Thailand vs Vietnam for English teachers across a few different metrics:

  • Pay
  • Where you will teach
  • Life in Vietnam and Thailand as an expat
  • Cost of living
  • Legal requirements

The pay in Thailand vs Vietnam

Let’s start with pay as this is the main question people contact us the most about. In general, if you’re a UK national or American you can expect to be paid $19 to around $22 an hour in Vietnam. In Thailand, you’ll be paid around 35,000 to 40,000 Baht (35,000 Baht is a little over 1k a month).

With Vietnam, you get paid a higher hourly rate and you teach less. Most teacher work at one or two language centers and can typically get around 20 hours a week for about $1600 monthly income. In Thailand you work at one school and one school only.

Now this is taking into consideration that you’re a brand new teacher with no experience. If you’re a fully licensed teacher then you can work at an international school in both countries and be paid a western salary.

Winner: Vietnam

In Vietnam you’re paid a higher hourly rate and you work less as you don’t have to be present at a school all day like you do in Thailand.

You also don’t have to do any unpaid work like in Thailand with things like English camps, events at school and so forth. The downside of Vietnam though is that you’ll work at language centers. That means your hours will evenings and weekends.

Where you will teach in Vietnam vs Thailand

Teachers in Thailand work full time, Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm at a government school. You’ll get weekends and holidays off. There typically is no real form of paid vacation and each school has their own policies. Last, you can work at any government school anywhere in the country, no need to limit yourself to Bangkok.

With regards to classes, you can teach kindergarten all the way up to seniors in high school. You can also teach in dedicated, immersive English programs where all the subjects like science and health are in English. So if you don’t want to teach English and would prefer to mix it up a bit, there are opportunities in Thailand.

In Vietnam you will be working at an after school language center where your students will typically be 10-18 years old. These young learners are typically studying for a specific exam or they are students who’s parents want them to simply become more proficient in English.

In general you don’t have a lot of variety and teaching options in Vietnam. While it is possible to find a day job in Vietnam like Thailand, it’s not the norm. Expect to work nights and weekends in Vietnam.

Winner: Thailand

With Thailand you have a wide range of schools to choose from and you’ll have normal working hours and weekends off. Last, you don’t have to teach in a big city if you don’t want to. If small town or the country side is more your vibe, you can find it in Thailand.

Life in Thailand vs Vietnam as an expat

In Thailand you can be an English teacher at any government school around the country. You could find yourself just outside of Bangkok in a province like Ratchaburi, or you could be all the way down south near Hat Yai or way up in the north near Pai. The ESL scene in Thailand is wide and diverse. You’re not only limited to Bangkok.

To be honest though, most teachers do tend to find themselves in Bangkok as it’s a fun, dynamic city with great bars and world class clubs. Bangkok also has a lot of schools so it’s fairly easy to find work. Chiang Mai in the north is another popular location, but it is difficult to get teaching job there as the teaching jobs are fewer and the competition is higher as it’s a beautiful small city.

With Vietnam, your options for teaching are only in the two major cities of the country, Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. So if you were wanting to teach somewhere a bit more rural or laid back, it’s not an option in Vietnam. However, both cities are excellent places to live.

Most expats prefer Ho Chi Minh City as it’s larger, has more expats and things to do. But Hanoi is quite beautiful and charming in it’s own right but Saigon is a bit more cosmopolitan. Compared to Bangkok, Vietnam cities lack the night life of Thailand.

Winner: Thailand

This is tough as Vietnam is a seriously beautiful country and both major cities are a lot fun. But Thailand has Bangkok and it’s the New York of South East Asia. You can also teach outside of Bangkok in the provinces if you so choose to.

Cost of living for Thailand vs Vietnam

The cost of living in both countries is pretty similar. In general Vietnam is cheaper for everything except rent. What is great about both countries is you have flexibility with how much you want to spend. You can live off $1200 per month pretty comfortably unless you’re in Bangkok where you’ll need around 55K Baht per month as it’s more expensive than a province.

With both countries you can eat good cheap food from a local restaurant, go grocery shopping and buy food for cheap or you can do the total opposite and spend a lot of money per month. Again, it’s up to your lifestyle and spending habits. But as an English teacher on an English teacher salary we prefer Vietnam because you can save a few hundred dollars a month.

Winner: Vietnam

Bangkok and Thailand is very fun but teachers are paid quite a small salary. You’ll be breaking even each month unless you take on extra classes. As such, it can be quite stressful and annoying because you’re in this amazing country and city (Bangkok) yet many things are out of your reach.

Where in Vietnam you work less, get paid more and can actually save a portion of your monthly income for trips, last minute problems or flights home.

Legal requirements

As an foreign English teacher both countries have their own unique requirements required to legally work in the country.

For Thailand you’ll need a bachelors degree, transcripts, police background check, and a health check done in country. Once you assemble all your required documents you can the apply work a work permit. If your degree is not in teaching you’re allow a temporary teacher license for up to 3 years.

If you wish to continue being a teacher after 3 years you’ll need to obtain a degree or certificate to meet this legal requirement. We suggest you simply go back to your home country and obtain a masters degree in education so you can then move on from low paying government schools.

Vietnam recently implemented changes to their ESL industry to make it much more strict. Previously the only requirement was to have a bachelors degree. Now, you need a bachelors with a focus on teaching or a bachelors with a teaching certificate like a TEFL. Next, you need to show 3 years minimum of teaching experience.

If your experience is outside of Vietnam, it needs to be notarized. You’ll also need a local police background check, a health check, resume and of course a valid passport.

Winner: Thailand

Thailand is easier to find legal work as they have a clear, laid out process. Vietnam by contrast has made it quite difficult for any new teacher to work legally. What teachers often do is get a business visa and then teach English on that visa which is not allowed.

Overall, if you don’t have any experience Thailand the best option of you to find work. After, you could always move to Vietnam.

Should I teach English in Thailand or Vietnam?

Thailand is easier to find work but lower paying. Thailand is also a bit more developed and Bangkok is an affordable international city. Vietnam you can only teach in Hanoi or Saigon. However, both cities are fun, charming with a great expat scene. But if it’s night clubs and bars you’re looking for, you’ll be disappointed by Vietnam. That’s not to say Vietnam is worse, it’s just not at the same level and locals and expats alike do different activities at night.

Conclusion

That’s it for our guide on teaching abroad in Thailand vs Vietnam. We hope you found it helpful in your research. We have teachers who taught in both places and the consensus was to start in Thailand as it’s easier. Get the night club, party scene out of you. Then checkout Vietnam and enjoy everything that country has to offer.