International volunteers often have lots of questions for us before they arrive in Vietnam. Here are a few of the most common questions we receive.
- Where will I stay during my time volunteering at CSDS?
During your time with CSDS you will live at our Volunteer House which is located in a quiet and friendly neighbourhood and is approximately a 45-minute from the Old Quarter – the heart of Hanoi. Everything you need is within walking distance of the Volunteer House: ATMs, supermarkets, laundry, pharmacies, and even a movie theatre! There are also some great cafes and local bars nearby. You’ll be living with other volunteers from around the world, so you’ll make plenty of friends along the way.
- Will I have my own room?
Volunteers live together in a shared bedroom with bunk-beds. There is a maximum of 6-8 volunteers per room and each room has western-style toilets. Air-conditioning is also available in each room. Each volunteer will be assigned a personal locker. Personal and valuable belongings should be locked in this locker.
- How are meals prepared?
Lunch and dinner will be freshly prepared by a lovely nanny. Volunteers will have a chance to try different Vietnamese dishes, so brave yourself for a lot of rice! Cereals, milk, toasts and jam are available for breakfast.
- Is there a place to wash and hang my clothes?
There are 2 washing machines on the top floor of the volunteer house. Our volunteers are free to use them to wash their own cloths and hang them there. Also, there are laundry stores around the neighborhood with very reasonable prices.
- Where are the project sites? How do we get there?
CSDS has 2 offices: one in Hanoi and one in Ho Chi Minh City. Our volunteers wrork in projects that located in the city, not too far from the volunteers’ house. All the project sites can be easily reached by walking or by bus. Our staff will introduce the volunteers how to get to the project in the most convenient way.
- How long can I volunteer for CSDS?
There is no limit on how long you can volunteer with us. From our years of experience hosting international volunteers, we have learned that it takes at least 2 weeks for our volunteers to get used to the culture and the project. We encourage volunteers to stay longer than 2 weeks to become immersed with the local and experience it as a true volunteer.
- I do not speak Vietnamese. Will that be an issue working with local people?
All staff at CSDS speak English but in general, not all Vietnamese people can speak English and it possible that not everyone at your placement will speak English. However, we are known for our hospitality and friendliness, which means we will try our best so that you can understand us. Body language and Google translate helps! At CSDS, there will be basic Vietnamese lessons for our newly arrived volunteers and volunteers who stay in Vietnam longer than 2 months. Vietnamese might be a bit tricky to learn but with our 24/7 support, the language barrier can be overcome.
- Should I bring a laptop/computer with me?
Depending on the project that you sign up for and also your length of stay, you might want to consider packing your laptop with you. We recommend our volunteers working in the teaching projects and NGOs support project to have their laptop with them, as it would be a great asset to work with lesson planning, searching for materials and working with projects of the local NGOs. There is wifi available in the volunteer house, as well as a public computer and printer that all volunteers can access to.
- What are the working hours for a volunteer?
Our volunteers are scheduled to work from Monday to Friday (with Saturday and Sunday off), around 4-5 hours a day on average. Generally, the working day will start from 8:30 and end at 4:30 with a lunch break in the middle. Depending on the requirements of the project, the working hours might vary.
- Can I withdraw money in Vietnam?
Yes. There are a few ATMs close to the volunteers’ house and you can easily find them around the city. It is recommended that you contact with your bank before leaving to Vietnam to make sure that your card will work here.
- Can I pay with credit card, Euro or US Dollar in Vietnam?
You can pay with credit card in most of big shops and malls. However, for local shops and markets, you would need Vietnamese cash. Euros and US Dollars can easily be exchanged to Vietnam Dong in Hanoi and other big cities.
- How is the weather in Vietnam? What should I pack with me?
Vietnam is a tropical country, so expect it to be hot, like really hot. In the northern areas (Hanoi for example), in May – Sep, the temperature can get to 38 – 40 degrees Celsius (100 – 104 Fahrenheit) with sudden rain downpours. In the winter, it can be around 8-10 degrees Celsius (46 – 50 Fahrenheit) with almost 100% of humidity, chill, foggy and drizzling are expected in Feb and March.
Ho Chi Minh city is even hotter, the average temperature around 30 – 35 degrees Celsius (86 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit) all-year-round, and can sometimes can be more than 40. There will be rainy season for half a year and dry season for the other half.
Comfortable clothing should definitely in your bag coming to Vietnam. A jacket or wind-breaker might be coming handy in winter, especially in Hanoi, as well as comfortable shoes and sandals. Other than that, you can easily find them for sale in local markets and shops. In case you need special medical attention, please let us know in advance and pack your own required medicines, it might be hard to find the exact same medicines in Vietnam.
- What is the dress-code to work?
In Vietnam, people are a little conservative when it comes to dressing. It is considered rude to expose to much of your body in public. Going to work, the volunteers are required to dress to cover from their chest to their knees and have the shoulder covered. For example: O-neck t-shirt, knee level shorts. Please be noted that volunteers who sign up to work in local NGOs and schools should dress more formally (smart/semi casual).
- Is it safe to come to Vietnam?
Vietnam is one of the safest countries in the world. Vietnamese are well-known for their tolerance, kindness and friendliness. There are barely any earthquakes in Vietnam. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city are occasionally hit by large typhoons. Terrorism and attacks are not commonplace in Vietnam. The largest concern for volunteers will be our “perfectly-organized-chaotic” traffic (which you will get use to in no time).