Thailand vs Vietnam – Which is Better for Teaching English?

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 04/08/23 •  Teach Abroad

We have dedicated guides for teaching abroad in 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 critical differences to be aware of before going.

We will 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 still need to teach abroad, we suggest you read our dedicated guides on these two countries to understand what you’re getting into and this guide on the differences.

What we will compare in this content

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

The pay in Thailand vs Vietnam

Let’s start with pay, as this is the central question people contact us with most. Generally, 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 about 35,000 to 40,000 Baht (35,000 Baht is a little over 1k a month).

In Vietnam, you get paid a higher hourly rate and teach less. Most teachers 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 considering that you’re a new teacher with no experience. If you’re a fully licensed teacher, 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, school events, etc. The downside of Vietnam is that you’ll work at language centers. That means your hours will be evenings and weekends.

Where you will teach in Vietnam vs Thailand

Teachers in Thailand work full time, Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 4 pm, at a government school. You’ll get weekends and holidays off. There typically is no simple form of paid vacation, and each school has 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 work at an after-school language center where your studentsare typicallye 10-18 years old. These young learners are typically studying for a specific exam, or they are students whose parents want them to become more proficient in English.

You only have a few variety and teaching options in Vietnam. While it is possible to find a day job in Vietnam, like Thailand, it’s different. Expect to work nights and weekends in Vietnam.

Winner: Thailand

In Thailand, you have many schools to choose from, and you’ll have regular working hours and weekends off. Last, you can teach in a small city if you want to. If a small town or the countryside 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 nationwide. You could find yourself just outside of Bangkok in a province like Ratchaburi, or you could be down south near Hat Yai or north near Pai. The ESL scene in Thailand is vast and diverse. You’re not only limited to Bangkok.

Most teachers 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 easy to find work. Chiang Mai in the north is another popular location, but it is difficult to get a 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 want to teach somewhere a bit more rural or laid back, like Da Nang or Dalat, there are other options in Vietnam. However, both major cities are excellent places to live and have distinct cultures.

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

Winner: Thailand (ever so slightly)

This is tough as Vietnam is a beautiful country, and both major cities are a lot of fun. However, Thailand has Bangkok, the New York City of South East Asia. You can also teach outside of Bangkok and in a random province f you choose. For that reason, we have to give the edge to Thailand.

Cost of living for Thailand vs Vietnam

The cost of living in both countries is similar. In general, Vietnam is cheaper for everything except rent. What is great about both countries is your flexibility with how much you want to spend. You can live off $1200 per month comfortably in Thailand and Vietnam unless you’re in Bangkok, where you’ll need around 55K Baht (about USD 1,500) as it’s more expensive than a province.

In both countries, you can eat good cheap food from a local restaurant, go grocery shopping and buy food for cheap or do the 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 a salary, we prefer Vietnam because you can save a few hundred dollars a month.

Winner: Vietnam

Bangkok and Thailand are 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 stressful and annoying because you’re in this great country and city (Bangkok), yet many things must be put within your reach.

In Vietnam, you work less, get paid more and can save a portion of your monthly income for trips, last-minute problems, or flights home. Also, in Vietnam, nightlife is more low-key and less expensive. Beer is also significantly cheaper and better than what Thailand has to offer.

Legal requirements

As a foreign English teachers, both countries have their unique requirements required to work in the country legally.

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

If you wish to continue being a teacher after three years, you must obtain a degree or certificate to meet this legal requirement. We suggest you return to your home country and get a master’s degree in education so you can move on from low-paying government schools.

Vietnam recently changed its ESL industry to make it much more strict. Previously the only requirement was to have a bachelor’s degree. Now, you need a bachelors with a focus on teaching or a bachelor’s with a teaching certificate like a TEFL. Next, you need to show three 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, a resume, and a valid passport.

Winner: Thailand

In Thailand is easier to find legal work as they have a transparent, laid-out process. Vietnam, by contrast, has made it quite tricky for any new teacher to work legally. Teachers often get a business visa and then teach English on that visa, which is not allowed. In addition, Vietnam has made it a requirement for any English teacher to have a degree in education which now excludes a lot of potential candidates.

Overall, if you have yet to gain experience in Thailand, the best option is to find work for a year, then get a degree as a teacher. After, you could always move to Vietnam.

Should I teach English in Thailand or Vietnam?

In Thailand is easier to find work but lower paying for entry-level government jobs. Thailand is also a bit more developed, and Bangkok is an affordable international city. In Vietnam, you can only teach in Hanoi or Saigon. However, both cities are fun, charming and have an excellent expat scene. But if it’s nightclubs 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 do different activities at night. Overall we prefer long-term living in Vietnam and six months to a year stays in Thailand.

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 check out Vietnam and enjoy everything that the country has to offer.

Editorial Staff

I'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.