Taking a year out from study or work to travel abroad is an enriching and often life-changing experience. With the coronavirus pandemic having an impact on jobs and higher education, now could be the perfect time for a sabbatical.
University students who have decided to put their degree on hold until the situation improves can use their time to explore another part of the world and learn about a culture different from their own. A worthwhile way to spend their gap year.
Similarly, workers who are usually too busy to consider a sabbatical may now be able to take some time away from the office to travel.
Choosing where to spend a gap year is not easy, there are many things to take into account and the decision deserves careful consideration. Travelers planning a trip in the near future will also need to check the latest entry restrictions in response to COVID-19.
For many, Vietnam is the perfect gap year destination: the low cost of living and beautiful landscapes are just 2 of the many reasons to choose the southeast Asian nation.
Vietnam Gap Year Visa Requirements
The type of visa required to travel to Vietnam on sabbatical depends on the length of time a foreigner wishes to spend in the country and what they plan to do whilst they are there.
Visitors who wish to spend up to 30 days in the country can apply for a Vietnam eVisa. This is the simplest solution as the process is fully online, with no need to attend an embassy or consulate in person.
Some tourists can extend their Vietnam eVisa. Travelers should contact their nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate for further information on visa extensions.
Foreigners who wish to stay in Vietnam for longer than the time permitted, or to work or study in Vietnam, need to apply for a visa at a Vietnamese embassy.
Reasons to Go to Vietnam for a Gap Year
Other than being a beautiful country to visit, there are many reasons why Vietnam is the ideal choice for anyone taking a study or career break. When asked why they chose a gap year in Vietnam, travelers often mention the following points.
The cost of living in Vietnam is low
The cost of living is an important factor when selecting a gap year location, particularly for students. Accommodation, food, and transportation are inexpensive. In fact, Vietnam is one of the most affordable Asian destinations.
Accommodation and food for a gap year in Vietnam
A month’s rent costs around $300 to $400 USD depending on whether it’s in the city center. Food is inexpensive, groceries at the market, and restaurant meals are much cheaper than in most western nations.
Transportation and communications
Most forms of public transportation in Vietnam are low cost, local bus fares are often under a dollar whilst even longer journeys by deluxe coach services rarely exceed $5.
A Vietnamese SIM card can be purchased for just over $2 and date packages of up to 30GB are available for around $13.
Other Asian nations are easy to reach from Vietnam
While there is plenty to see and do in Vietnam, travelers may wish to make the most of their gap year and visit nearby countries.
The geographical location of Vietnam is perfect for exploring Asia: there are Vietnamese land border crossings with China, Laos, and Cambodia.
International travel options from Vietnam during a gap year
Just some of the routes available are:
- Laos: bus from Hanoi to Luang Prabang
- Cambodia: bus from Hanoi to Siem Reap
- China: train/bus from Hanoi to Nanning
In addition, short-haul flights take passengers from Vietnam to nearby destinations including Thailand and Malaysia. Vietnam can therefore be easily included on a route around Asia during a sabbatical year.
There is a large expat community in Vietnam
Although travelers will enjoy getting to know local people and experiencing Vietnamese culture, it can be reassuring to know that there are other people from back home.
In particular, people visiting Vietnam alone may be hoping to meet other like-minded individuals. Fortunately, there are many expat groups and bars in Vietnamese cities where foreigners can feel at home.
Things to Do in Vietnam during a Gap Year
Gap year travelers can visit the country’s top attractions and get an insight into the history and culture of this fascinating nation.
To get the most out of a study career break, foreigners may also like to join a voluntary project or enroll in a short course while in Vietnam.
Explore Vietnamese cities and idyllic island destinations
Travelers who plan on spending several months in Vietnam will have time to explore several different destinations. From bustling cities to scenic natural island destinations off the Vietnamese coast, the landscapes are varied and interesting.
Towns and cities worth visiting
- Ho Chi Minh city, a hub of commercial activity
- Hue, a historic town
- Hoi An, an ancient town by the sea
- Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital
Island and beach destinations
Voluntary work during a gap year in Vietnam
With more time in Vietnam than regular tourists, foreigners on a gap year can get involved with volunteer projects.
Volunteering is a rewarding experience and a chance to use skills and knowledge to help others. Carrying out unpaid voluntary work can be a good way for students to get a feel for a particular career before they commit to a university degree or higher education course. Teaching English is a good example of this and one of the most popular voluntary positions.
Professionals such as doctors can use their experience to help those most in need, continuing the good work they do back home in different, perhaps even more challenging, surroundings.
Take a course during a sabbatical in Vietnam
A sabbatical is the ideal opportunity to learn something new or brush up on existing skills. Visitors will find courses, many taught in English, to suit a wide range of interests.
Cookery courses are popular, participants can learn how to prepare authentic Vietnamese food so that they can continue to enjoy the cuisine even after returning home.
Some travelers may like to learn some of the local language, there are language schools in the major cities than running Vietnamese courses for foreigners.