With just a few weeks left until I embark on my journey, I thought it only apt to make a post listing exactly what needs to be done beforehand.
For those who haven’t yet read my “about“, I’ll be moving to Hanoi (which is in the north of Vietnam) in just over a month or so to teach English to some of the locals. I’m incredibly excited about the adventures that await me, however there has been a lot which I’ve had to do in order to prep for my travels.
I’ve decided to bestow unto you, valiant readers, everything one might need to consider before jetting off to a new country (who knows, it might inspire you).
The most vital task you will need to complete well in advance is your TEFL course. TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. If you don’t plan on teaching English whilst on your journey, then obviously this section does not apply to you.
A TEFL course can be completed either online, in person, or through a mixture of the two. You don’t need a university degree to do your TEFL course, but you do need your Matric. I did my TEFL course through a UK-based international website, and it cost me about R7000. This price includes a 120-hour online course that tests your lesson planning abilities, vocabulary and grammar skills, and general classroom knowledge. I found the online course to be extremely effective because I could go through the sections at my own pace (which was helpful considering I was working part-time as a waitress). On top of that, you have the option of attending a 20-hour intensive weekend practical course whereby you’d be able to put your online learning to use. This is included in the original R7000.
Upon completion of the full 140 hours, you would be posted your official TEFL certificate which would allow you to apply for jobs as a certified second language English teacher.
Passport and Visa
If you do not yet have a passport, it would do you good to apply for that first. Without a passport, you can’t get your visa and you can’t book your flights. Without flights, you have no time-frame in which to plan your adventure (and that is something that would put me in a mild panic).
The idea of sitting at home affairs for a passport is enough to make my head spin. Luckily, you can now apply for your passport online which makes everything a whole lot easier. Once your passport application has been received, you can then go into home affairs to have your fingerprints and photographs done. After about two weeks, you should be able to collect your passport, and then you can finally book your plane tickets. I suggest using TravelStart to find cheap and convenient flights.
Once this process is done, you can apply for your visa. Because I will be looking for potential work in Hanoi, it was imperative that I applied for a 3-month tourist visa. This will allow me access into the country for a maximum of 3 months (which will give me more than enough time to find a job). After becoming employed, I will then have to fly out of Vietnam (just to one of the neighbouring countries like Thailand) and then fly back into Vietnam whereby I will be granted a working visa upon arrival. It sounds complicated but it’s actually pretty simple.
Applying for a tourist visa is the tricky part. It seems so much better to just get it all done online, but it’s a lot safer to just go to the embassy and apply for it in person (even if it did mean, for me, travelling from Johannesburg to Pretoria). A tourist visa for Vietnam takes about 5 working days to process, which isn’t too awful.
Forget about applying for any job in another country without a police clearance. It’s simple to do, so do not overlook this point.
I went to the Sandringham Police Station to fill out the form and do my prints, although you can do all of this at any police station near you. Once this is done, you pay a fee of R96 and they send your information through to the Criminal Record Centre in Pretoria. After everything has been checked out and cleared, they will send your police clearance form back to the station at which you filled out your original forms and you can collect it from there. This whole process takes about 3-4 weeks if you are in the Gauteng region (but it can take longer if you live in other South African provinces).
If you, like me, are planning on travelling straight out of university without having your physical university degree with you, then you need to remember to email your university and ask for a formal transcript of your academic results. This will allow you to apply for jobs while waiting for your certificate.
If you won’t be attending graduation, your university will also be able to post your final certificate to you.
International Bank Account
This is an easy one but is often forgotten. Before leaving to work in another country, you need to be sure to pay your bank a visit and inform them that you will be using your card overseas. This will avoid any security disruptions once you are at your destination.
In Vietnam, they use both the US dollar and Vietnamese Dong as their currency. Apparently it is super straightforward to convert cash there depending on what you need in the moment. It is, however, important to open up an international bank account into which your salary can be deposited.
Vaccinations and Drugs
Every country has different risks when it comes to diseases. It is important to do some research online and find out which diseases are most prevalent in the country which you’re planning to visit.
After speaking with the nurse at my local travel clinic, I decided to get shots for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, and Tetanus. These will suffice for my journey to Hanoi. I was told to also visit my GP just before leaving to get scripts for antibiotics against bladder/respiratory infections and stomach illnesses (just in case). You can take any medications down with you so long as they are in their original packaging. I’ll definitely be taking some Myprodol and Buscopan with too.
Because I’m a walking pharmacist, I not only love my over-the-counter drugs but also my prescribed medication. Something about which I was quite unsure was what I would do with regards to my contraceptive pill, anti-depressants and anxiety medication. After speaking with my doctor, she gave me a script to receive 6 months worth of medication from my pharmacist which I could then take down to Vietnam. After my 6 months stash has been depleted, my mom could then collect my next script for 6 months worth of medication and post it to me.
I know this all seems like a lot to remember and makes the planning part of your journey not so fun, but I guarantee it is worth it. I hope this list makes everything a lot more easier for prospective travellers. Until next time!