“We’re Living Much Better, On Much Less”

Fourteen months ago my partner Rachel and I decided to realise our dream of living overseas. After a lot of research, we decided to try teaching English in Vietnam. Once we’d made the decision things quickly fell into place. We found jobs with an English centre in Hanoi. So far, so good. We love it here.

Living in Hanoi is never boring. It’s a bustling city, rich in culture and history. We’re never short of museums and cultural sites to explore—many of them located near the historic Old Quarter.

It’s also a city of lakes. Hoan Kiem, Ho Tay and other lakes are great for a nice walk or just sitting and relaxing.

There are countless cafes where I can get $1 beer, coffee or fresh lime juice. And there is amazing street food for a similar price. On the income I get from teaching, I never have to worry about cooking my own food.

Many teaching jobs in Hanoi—including ours—require between 18 and 24 teaching hours per week and pay around $2,000 to $2,500 per month. Our salaries are at the top-end of that and because we can split costs as a couple and have an incredibly low cost of living, we can usually save at least $1,000 a month each.

We both use some of our free time to supplement our income. Rachel teaches English online and I do freelance teaching and tutoring for about 15 hours per week, for which we can both make around $1,200 extra per month on top of our regular teaching salaries.

Hanoi has a relatively large expat community. Most live in the Tay Ho District where numerous shops and restaurants cater to foreigners. We chose to live in the centre of the city and currently rent a spacious two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for $700 per month. This includes a cleaner twice a week, internet, Pay TV and water. Electricity is the only additional expense.

A nice one-bedroom apartment can be found starting from $525. A luxury high-rise apartment starts at around $1,100. And if you’re looking for a two- to three-bedroom house, they start at about $650.

Hanoi has a seemingly infinite amount of restaurants, watering holes, cafes and shops of all kinds. Clothing can be difficult to find in Western sizes but luckily there is also an abundance of tailors. I was able to get two pairs of top-quality dress pants made from the fabric of my choice for only $33 each. Shopping is fairly easy and many restaurants, grocery stores and shopping centres can produce someone who speaks at least a little English.

Transport in Hanoi can be a bit chaotic as it’s dominated by motorbikes, but finding an Uber or taxi is easy and very affordable. My current commute to work is about 10 minutes and usually costs only about $2 with Uber.

When we want to escape the city, there are plenty of great places nearby to visit. Hanoi is the gateway city to the world-famous Ha Long Bay and the less-famous, but just as beautiful, Lan Ha Bay. Rachel and I regularly spend time on Cat Ba Island. On one stay there we had an entire beachfront resort to ourselves, except for a family of four and a small tour group, neither of which we saw more than twice. We spent three days lying on the beach drinking cocktails and enjoying the picture-perfect view.

Our first year in Hanoi has been so enjoyable. We’re living much better, on much less and we have no plans to leave Vietnam anytime soon. I recommend anyone considering moving abroad to consider this wonderful country.

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