Have the time of your life on this 4 week gap year Vietnam experience. Combining impactful volunteer work in Vietnam with a jam-packed travel itinerary, this is a gap year trip like no other! PMGY’s Real Vietnam Experience offers travellers the chance to see Northern Vietnam’s highlights in a structured group environment. Participants of this action-packed adventure will also have the unique opportunity to make a positive difference in volunteering in a rural village.
JOIN US IN 2023 - 12TH JULY & 9TH AUGUST
TAKE IN THE INCREDIBLE SITES OF HANOI, INCLUDING ITS BUSTLING OLD QUARTER
VISIT THE EXTRAORDINARY NINH BINH PROVINCE AND THE BEAUTY THAT ENTAILS IT
MAKE A DIFFERENCE TEACHING ENGLISH TO UNDERPRIVILEGED VIETNAMESE CHILDREN
KAYAK AND SWIM IN THE RURAL VILLAGE OF XOM KE
TREK THROUGH CASCADING RICE TERRACES AND TINY HILL TRIBE VILLAGES FROM SAPA
ADMIRE THE STAR STUDDED SKY ON YOUR OVERNIGHT CRUISE IN HA LONG BAY
LEARN TO COOK SOME OF SOUTHEAST ASIA’S MOST DELICIOUS CUISINE
SPEND TIME WITH ONE OF PMGY’S MOST ORGANISED TEAMS
EXPERIENCE VIETNAM IN FUN, SOCIAL AND STRUCTURED GROUP PROGRAM
SUMMARY OF THE REAL VIETNAM EXPERIENCE
The Real Vietnam Experience offers ambitious individuals the opportunity to join together and embark on a thrilling adventure across Vietnam. Our local team provides a structured, fast-paced and thrilling group itinerary across a number of amazing sites around the country. Your group will also dedicate time to volunteering projects to give back to local communities, developing and showcasing your skills. On this gap year Vietnam experience, you will arrive into Vietnam on a set date, joining your group before travelling and volunteering across a 4 week period. This makes the PMGY Experience trips ideal for anyone who wishes to explore and engage in new experiences in the company of others.
Individuals on this experience trip have the unique chance to engage in a variety of exciting activities across Vietnam. From teaching English in a village school to sleeping in a traditional stilt house and sailing through Ha Long Bay - there is something for everyone! Across this 28-day itinerary, be prepared for breathtaking sites, friends for life and complete cultural immersion. The adventure is perfect for anyone looking to travel within a safe, structured and social environment.
From one destination to the next, you won’t need to worry about a thing. All your in-country transport and accommodation will be arranged by our local teams. This helps to ensure that your experience abroad is as smooth as possible. Our team will arrange numerous activities for you to enjoy and engage in during your trip. For any spare time, our local experts will be able to help you discover the impressive range of activities you can get involved in during your trip to Vietnam. A portion of your time will also be dedicated to making a difference within a community in Vietnam. This will allow you to put your skills and enthusiasm into practice to make a meaningful difference to local communities overseas.
The trip’s group set-up makes this gap year Vietnam experience an exceptional social occasion. You have the chance to meet individuals from across the globe, forming friendships that will last a lifetime. You will stay together for your entire adventure, sharing moments and memories that will stay with you forever. You will also have the chance to immerse yourself with members of the local community, making your time in Vietnam even more special.
Vietnam is utterly sublime and totally compelling. Its history, strong cultural identity and breath-taking natural beauty mean travelling here is addictive. Experiencing a rapid change in the last 40 years, it’s a country that delicately balances the old and new.
Vietnam is a proud nation, and rightly so. Not many countries can boast such a diverse range of natural wonders, nor a profound culture that has overcome such tragedy. Vietnam will intrigue and excite, especially as there is so much to see and do in Hanoi. However, it will no doubt be the country’s striking landscape that will most impress. From the remote upland region of northern Vietnam to Ha Long Bay’s labyrinthine network of limestone outcrops, this will be a 4 week gap year Vietnam experience never to be forgotten.
Your group will travel together, visiting some of Nothern Vietnam’s best destinations and hidden gems most visitors never see! A local coordinator will accompany you throughout your stay. This will allow you to learn so much about the country’s rich culture and inspiring history.
You will volunteer for half of your time on this Vietnamese adventure travel trip! As a volunteer in Vietnam, you will be based in the village of Hoa Binh, within a residential school within the mountains. You will work in pairs to teach primary and secondary students, with classes of up to 15 students at a time. Your accommodation during this time will be based within the school.
Together, the local team and the school staff will have generated a curriculum for you to follow during your time. They will also share with you some ideas of what and how to teach during your preparation day. There will be teachers and PMGY staff members at the Vietnam volunteer program at all times to help with translation when needed. Should you have any resources, such as flashcards or pencils/crayons, you are welcomed to bring these! However, this is not mandatory.
Hoa Binh is by no means on the tourist route, making the student’s interaction with you truly special. This location allows you to truly immerse yourself within a traditional Vietnamese community. The village is located around 80km outside of Hanoi.
The placement will be under-resourced and often overcrowded. Your role at the project is primarily to teach English to the children. However, there will also often opportunities to get involved in hands-on work. Where possible, volunteers will be paired up, but there may be times where you lead activities independently. You will have a curriculum and textbooks to shape your lessons around. However, volunteers are encouraged to work together to plan lessons. Through a more fun and interactive lesson plan, you will encourage even the shyest students to be more open and confident. The opportunity for these kids to learn from and interact with native English students is a unique experience.
You will volunteer for around 6 hours a day: usually with a long lunch break in between. Volunteers will usually be at the project setting from 8:30am-5pm. The project is located on the same grounds at the dedicated volunteer accommodation during this time. Therefore, volunteers will not need to be transported to and from the project during the time here.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
Itinerary Schedule - The itineraries for our PMGY experience trips are subject to change, as a result of unforeseen circumstances. We will always do our best to notify participants of changes in advance of the program start date. However, activities day to day during time in-country also remain subject to unanticipated changes.
TEFL Course - We encourage volunteers to prepare as much as possible for their teaching program overseas. You can make the most out of your time by completing our convenient, inexpensive and international accredited 60 hour Online TEFL Course. The cost of this course is only 120 USD.
Please make sure you arrive into Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi (HAN) on the selected Wednesday start date.
Day 1 (Wednesday) Welcome to Vietnam
You will be met at Noi Bai International Airport by a member of our local team. From here, you will be taken you straight to our main Volunteer House in Hanoi. There are no activities planned for today, as people will be arriving throughout the day. You can spend the day relaxing and getting to know your fellow travellers. If you fancy it, you can also explore the local area.
Day 2 (Thursday) Orientation Day
After a good night’s sleep, you’ll start your orientation period to prepare you for the upcoming weeks. The purpose of today is to provide you with an introduction to life in Vietnam. The day will also offer you a chance to get to know your fellow travellers. Our team will teach you all about Vietnamese culture, transportation and cover issues of health and safety. We’ll go through all the relevant safety protocols. This will include emergency procedures, staff contact details and ‘dos and don’ts’ whilst in Vietnam. You will meet a variety of the team across the day who all take different leads during your induction.
Your orientation will be broken up with a Vietnamese lesson. This will offer you the opportunity to learn important words and phrases in preparation for your volunteer placement. Depending on timings and how the day runs, it may be the case that the Vietnamese lesson runs into Friday morning. The team will also be sure to introduce you to the neighbourhood with a tour. During this, you will have the opportunity to get any money exchanged or SIM cards arranged.
Your final activity for the day will include a visit to the Museum of Ethnology. The museum first opened in 1997 and focuses on the 54 officially recognised ethnic groups that exist in Vietnam. It is recognised as one of the finest modern museums in Vietnam. You will then spend your evening socialising and preparing for your exciting adventure in this gap year destination!
Day 3 (Friday) City Tour
Today on your gap year Vietnam experience, you’ll make some stops across some of Hanoi’s top destinations. First up is the Vietnam Women’s Museum. This beautiful museum flaunts the colourful and unique outfits of Vietnamese women across the ages. The centre offers the chance to explore Vietnam’s cultural diversity. Furthermore, you are able to appreciate the significant contributions women have made to the nation across time.
Old Quarter is next up on today’s agenda. This is a ‘must-see’ in Hanoi – a warren of old-style, narrow, meandering streets and antique brick houses. Old Quarter once hosted merchants and artisans, selling their wares. It offers French-colonial architecture, rich food culture and a long history. Your visit here will give you the chance to explore how the locals lived a hundred years ago.
The evening time is the moment all you shopaholics have been waiting for! The group will return to Hanoi’s bustling Old Quarter to shop until you drop. Our local team will take you to visit the popular Hanoi night market. Here, you will have the opportunity to pick-up some traditional Vietnamese gifts, souvenirs and clothing. Remember to leave some room in your suitcase as this won’t be your only opportunity to shop!
Day 4-5 (Saturday-Sunday) Ninh Binh
After a good breakfast, the group will travel by private minibus (for around 2 to 3 hours) to Ninh Binh province, where you’ll be spending the next two days. The area is renowned for its green valleys, imposing mountains and conservation centres. It is home to impressive hiking trails and caves.
The first point of interest in Ninh Binh will be Tam Coc, which stands for ‘three caves’. Tam Coc is essentially a miniature landlocked version of Ha Long Bay. You’ll be taken on a 3 hour boat ride along Ngo Dong River, sailing peacefully, surrounded by colourful rice fields and karst towers. You’ll also twist and turn through the river’s three caves. Remember to keep an eye out for the mountain goats, kingfishers and monkeys, which can often be spotted from afar!
Today, you’ll also have the chance to visit Thai VI Temple – a really tranquil and atmospheric spot. Your two days in Ninh Binh, there will be the chance to take in other impressive sights and landmarks, from Cathedrals to Pagodas. At the end of this 2 day adventure, you will return to the Volunteer House in Hanoi.
Day 6 (Monday) Introduction to Volunteering Project
This morning is your chance to learn everything you need to know about your volunteering project! Our local team will spend the morning outlining expectations. They will also provide you with tips you may find useful to have a successful and enjoyable time teaching. You’ll have a chance to begin planning your lessons, in preparation for your first few days at project whilst you find your feet.
After lunch, it’s time to make the journey to Hoa Binh district. Hoa Binh is home to the largest hydroelectric dam in South East Asia and is located around 80km outside of Hanoi. It is sure to provide volunteers with a more authentic feel to their gap year Vietnam experience. You will be accompanied by our local coordinators who will help you settle into the projects.
Upon arrival into Hoa Binh, you will first meet with the school representative. This will provide you with the opportunity to learn about the school, its morals and the students. After getting your bearings around the school, you’ll have a chance to explore the local area with a neighbourhood tour. Dinner time after this will offer you a chance to reflect on your hectic and exciting day ahead of your volunteering! You may also spend some time making some last-minute preparations before the project tomorrow.
Days 7-10 (Tuesday-Friday) Volunteering Project
It’s time to get down to business and start your volunteering! Your role will be predominately teaching. In general, you can expect to volunteer for around 4-6 hours per day. You may find yourself teaching students of primary or secondary school age. This will be outlined to you during your orientation period.
In addition to English teaching, volunteers here will also have the opportunity to get hands-on throughout the week. This may include anything from farming work to a range of maintenance and renovation work. With the village home to hundreds of children, you’re sure to be the centre of attention most days as well!
Days 11-12 (Saturday-Sunday) Weekend Trip to Xom Ke
This weekend trip is a truly unique experience, setting this tour apart from others across Vietnam. Across these two days, you will experience true traditional Vietnamese country-life. For the night, you will be put up in a homestay within the village. More specifically, participants will spend the night in a stilt house, surrounded by towering mountains in Xom Ke.
Stilt houses first made an appearance in Vietnam around four thousand years ago. The buildings were created to protect the livelihoods of locals living in flood-prone plains. Even after all of this time, this type of housing remains popular amongst more than 50 ethnic groups across Vietnam. The houses are typically made from cane, bamboo, rattan or wood. During your stay here, you will have the chance to experience true, authentic village life in Vietnam. Across the weekend, you will have the opportunity to swim, and perhaps even kayak. This is the perfect cultural and relaxing get-away after a busy first week at the project!
Days 13-17 (Monday-Friday) Volunteering Project Continues
Your students will be sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting your return after your weekend away! This will be your second and last week on the project. It is therefore important to put in everything that you have got to ensure that you make the biggest impact as possible.
Day 18 (Saturday) Back to Hanoi
After an emotional goodbye from the students and teachers, it is time to leave Hoa Binh and return to Hanoi. The journey will take around 3 hours. The journey will offer you the chance to reflect on all the challenges you have overcome and amazing memories you have made over the last two weeks.
After lunch back in Hanoi, you’ll have a chance to return to Old Quarter. By now, you should have a good idea of how to give the best barter. This is a chance to enhance these skills further and perhaps pick up some street-food along the way!
Days 19-21 (Sunday-Tuesday) Sapa
Sapa is arguably the highlight of any trip to Vietnam, however, it is often overlooked. This incredibly picturesque town is surrounded by the Hoang Lien Mountains – including Fansipan, which is the highest mountain in Vietnam. The town of Sapa was a favourite retreat amongst French colonists in the 19th century and was nicknamed the ‘Tonkinese Alps’. Numerous ethnic minorities live in small villages throughout the valleys. The Hmong and Dzao people are the largest ethnic groups in the region.
The train arrives in Lao Cai at approximately 5:30am. Breakfast will be provided prior to your transfer to the town of Sapa – which takes around 1 hour. On-arrival into Sapa you’ll check-in to a hotel close to the town centre. You will spend your first night here You’ll share a room with fellow travellers. All rooms have an en-suite western bathroom and Wi-Fi is available at the hotel. After settling in, we’ll take a wander around some of the surrounding villages, the town centre and market. There are a number of fun bars and restaurants you can go to in the evening.
The following morning, you’ll embark on an all-day trek to the surrounding villages. The terrain can be pretty steep but is absolutely fine for people of moderate fitness. Our guides will make sure we all go at a comfortable pace and as a group. The length of the trip will be decided as a group prior to departure that day. That evening, you’ll have the unique opportunity to stay within a homestay in one of the ethnic villages. Accommodation will be basic but it’s definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. We’ll provide you with a mattress, bedding and mosquito net.
The following day, you will continue to explore Sapa through various treks. A hearty dinner later that day will mean you’ll have no problem drifting off to sleep on your train back to Hanoi in the evening! Upon arrival back into the city the next morning, you’ll be met by a team member. They will take you from the train station to the Volunteer House.
Day 22 (Wednesday) Pottery Village
Today, you will be exploring Bát Tràng village. The village is famous for its unique style of ceramics that they produce. During this day, you will have a chance to make your own pottery products to bring home! After lunch, you will have some spare time to continue exploring the village.
Days 23-25 (Thursday-Saturday) Ha Long Bay
It’s the moment many of you will have been waiting for – time to visit one of the most scenic regions of Vietnam, Ha Long Bay! We’ll transfer you from your homestay to Ha Long City by private minibus. The journey takes around 2 hours. You’ll have lunch in Ha Long city before boarding the cruise ship that will be taking you on your voyage of the bay. After checking into your cabins, usually two people per room, you can chill out on the deck and enjoy the awesome scenery of this majestic spectacle. You will be taken to various sightseeing locations, including some of the enchanting caves of Ha Long Bay. In the evening, you will have dinner on the boat, before finishing the day hanging out on the boat under the starlit night!
The following morning you will set sail for Cat Ba Island, enjoying a variety of activities and sightseeing during the day. Kayaking, swimming and a catalogue of breathtaking scenery will keep you entertained until you arrive at Cat Ba in the evening. You will have dinner at a restaurant in Cat Ba and spend the night at a hotel. The next day will be time to say goodbye to this outstanding area of natural beauty and head back to Hanoi.
Days 26 (Sunday) Cultural Day
Today is the final official day on the itinerary, and what better way to top it off than a cultural day! In the morning, we will visit the magnificent Thay Pagoda. In its most basic form, a ‘Pagoda’ is defined as a tiered tower with multiple eaves (the edges of a roof that overhand from the side of a building). Typically, these are Hindu or Buddhist temples.
Thay Pagoda, also known as ‘Thien Phuc’ is a Buddhist Temple, located approximately 24 km west of Hanoi. This temple is particularly unique, homed on stilts within the middle of a pond – certainly not a commonplace to find a building! The history of the temple dates all the way back to the 6th century. Not only will you spend the morning admiring the temple itself, but you will have the opportunity to walk around its grounds. Along the way, you will be met by hundreds of intricate statues – like nothing you’d find back at home!
In the evening, you will experience a unique and dynamic cultural show in Duong Lam village – the Tonkin Show. The area is located in Son Tay Town, around 60km west of Hanoi. Duong Lam has a history of around 1,200 years to investigate. The village gate, communal house, banyan, well and houses date back hundreds of years. Together, these regions are all important factors, classifying Duong Lam as an ancient village – incredible features to see first-hand.
Buildings in Duong Lam Village are made up of only laterite and mud (two materials abundant in the area). This makes for fascinating viewing! The village also represents a place that is important to scientists who study resident communities in ancient agriculture. Your visit to Duong Lam Village allows you the opportunity to embrace such an iconic part of the national cultural heritage of Vietnam.
The Tonkin Show in the village is performed on water, artistically showcasing the cultural highlights of northern Vietnam. This is a spectacle not to be missed!
Day 27 (Monday) Free Time & Farewell
All good things must come to an end, as you prepare for your final day on this gap year Vietnam experience. This day is free in Hanoi for you to make your final memories to top off your Vietnam travel and adventure trip. You may choose to visit the sites you haven’t seen so far and pick up any last-minute souvenirs. Perhaps you’ll visit some famous French colonial architecture, like St Joseph’s Cathedral, or maybe take a pit stop at the famous Train Street.
At some point throughout the day, our team will be sure to check in with you on how you have found your 4 week PMGY experience trip in Vietnam. In the evening, we’ll then have a farewell party, offering you the chance to say goodbye to your new-found friends. It’ll definitely have been a life-changing 4 weeks.
Day 28 (Tuesday) Time to Say Goodbye
That’s it – the last day of the Real Vietnam Experience. It’s the end of an era – one that will give you memories for a lifetime. Your return airport transfer is included in your Program Fee. One of our drivers will transfer you back to the airport in order to catch the long flight home. Who’s joining us again next year?
* This itinerary is subject to change as a result of unforeseen circumstances.
CHOOSING AN EXPERIENCE TRIP
What are the program start dates for the Real Vietnam Experience?
The program start dates for this gap year Vietnam experience trip are as follows –
12th July 2023
9th August 2023
Can people from outside of the UK or USA join PMGY?
Of course! Although PMGY was founded in the UK, with offices now extending between the UK and US, we welcome participants of all nationalities onto our programs. Within the last decade, we have hosted tens of thousands of volunteers and travel lovers from across the globe. From France to Italy, Mexico to India, Namibia to Russia and Ireland to China – these are only a handful of the countries participants have joined us from! We want everyone from across the world to have an equal opportunity at experiencing a different perspective on life, and make friends across the world.
Why are PMGY’s fees so much more affordable than other organisations?
The PMGY International Team works hard to ensure that our fees are kept as low as possible. Consequently, this makes our experiences affordable and accessible without sacrificing the safety and quality of the overall experience.
Registration Fees to join our programs are assigned to the high levels of comprehensive support that we are renowned for. This includes telephone and online support staff available 24 hours each day, as well as detailed hand-guides and interactive webinars. Therefore, the remaining Program Fees to join the program go directly to our in-country teams, covering everything for your time in Vietnam. In general, these fees are reflected in your accommodation, meals, airport pick-up, in-country support and project upkeep during your time abroad. Furthermore, we make sure our fees are transparent, which is something our participants really appreciate.
Similar organisations offer fancy brochures, run large high-street offices and are usually owned by larger travel organisations with many shareholders. As a result, participants are charged an extremely high price to cover all of these overheads. Therefore, at PMGY, we have embraced the online age by focusing everything around an online presence. We have done away with out-dated brochures, an unnecessary high street presence and we are an independent organisation without any outside financial interests.
What are the requirements to join the trip in Vietnam?
PMGY welcomes participants of this gap year Vietnam experience of all nationalities, religions and backgrounds. The minimum age to join the program is 17 and there is no upper age limit. Furthermore, all participants need to have a good level of English, although it does not need to be your first language. Of course, you do not need to speak Vietnamese. However, you will find that learning a few words in your days with us in Vietnam will go a long way.
All participants on this gap year Vietnam experience must be able to provide a clean criminal background check in advance of joining us abroad. Thus, we are unable to accept anyone who has any previous criminal convictions. In general, no formal experience or qualifications are required for the projects, just lots of energy, enthusiasm and preparation! However, medical and healthcare projects usually require additional documentation before participation begins in-country.
Travelling and volunteering overseas can be both physically and mentally challenging. Therefore, all participants must be fit in both areas. Consequently, if you have any medical/mental health conditions that may affect your participation overseas, then these must be declared to us during your online application. If you have any queries regarding your suitability to participate, we recommend that you contact us before committing to the program.
What date should I arrive and leave the Real Vietnam Experience?
For your trip to Vietnam, you should book your flights to Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi on the Wednesday start date. The airport code is HAN. You will be met at the airport by a member of the local team or an appointed driver, who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.
The program ends on the Tuesday of your final week. Therefore, you must depart the accommodation on this day.
Are there any age restrictions to be a participant in Vietnam?
In order to join this gap year Vietnam experience, you need to be at least 17 on the program start date. Generally, the average age range of participants is 17-25.
There is no upper age limit to our programs, and in the past, we have hosted participants up to the age of 70-years old. Whilst we have found that our more mature participants get a lot from the experience, at times individuals have found it more challenging to integrate with a younger crowd. Furthermore, some participants have perhaps expected a higher level of accommodation, the structure within the local community, and general overall communication at the project setup. Consequently, whilst we welcome participants of all ages, we stress that all participants should remain open-minded and flexible. Additionally, participants must appreciate that the majority of our participants are across the 17-25 age range.
When should I apply to join the Real Vietnam Experience?
For the majority of our programs, you can apply at any time. However, we advise that you apply as soon as possible to ensure we have availability on the program. This is since some of our programs only have limited capacity, meaning that spaces get filled very quickly. Therefore, it is particularly important that you apply in good time if you’re looking to travel between our peak period of June and August. This is because spaces can fill up very quickly during this period. Furthermore, please only apply if you are 100% committed to joining the program. You need to apply online by locating the “Apply Now” button on the individual project page. This will guide you through our online Application Process.
Indeed, once you have applied and confirmed your place on the program, it may be possible to change your start dates and this will not incur a fee. However, please note that this will be subject to availability and any changes should be made at least 45 days prior to your start date.
Can I join the program abroad with my friend/parent/boyfriend/girlfriend?
You’re more than welcome to travel with friends, family members or with a boyfriend/girlfriend. If required, we can make sure that you stay in the same accommodation and if relevant, volunteer at the same project. However, please note the majority of our accommodation is on a single-sex basis. Consequently, we cannot guarantee that you would be able to be placed in the same room.
Please outline in the ‘Special Requirements’ box of your online application if you’d like to make sure you’re placed alongside another applicant/s.
Is it safe to travel to PMGY destinations?
Although our participants work in the developing world, we work hard to ensure that our host locations are safe. Firstly, participant safety in each of our destinations is monitored regularly. Each of our programs has been inspected by a member of the PMGY International Team. Additionally, PMGY closely follows advice published by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Alongside the frequent contact we have with our local teams, we are able to ensure that our participants are never placed in unstable or unsafe regions.
The PMGY International Team have visited and participated in every program we offer. Thus, we have carefully inspected every little detail of our set-up, from the living conditions to local neighbourhoods and even the food you’ll be eating. Through these checks, we are able to ensure that all of our projects are up to scratch. Furthermore, all of our local teams are experienced development professionals, with years of experience hosting international travellers. They are PMGY’s representatives on the ground and assist participants 24/7 throughout their stay. Our teams are therefore always on-hand to assist in any emergencies that may occur. Additionally, our 24 hour international emergency telephone line is always accessible. PMGY’s in-country staff also have access to local medical professionals should these be required during a participant’s time with us.
When you join the Real Vietnam Experience, we will send you a Volunteer Handbook. This document addresses a range of issues such as health, safety, visas and dress codes. For any unanswered or specific questions, PMGY offers a comprehensive support network, with online and telephone support staff available 24 hours each day. Our advisers welcome participants to ask as many questions as needed for them to effectively prepare for their trip overseas. On a monthly basis, our International Team also hosts both an Introductory Webinar and Safety Webinar. These are interactive opportunities for international participants to learn more about our projects and managing their safety overseas.
When you arrive in-country, you’ll be given a comprehensive introduction to the general program and your specific project. During this session, our team will also cover important safety advice specific to your country. You’ll also be given the opportunity to purchase a local SIM-card. This is something we strongly suggest, so you’re contactable at all times. In like manner, we will provide you with a full list of the important contact numbers that you’ll need to know.
Although we cannot guarantee your experience to be 100% trouble-free we have taken all the necessary precautions to make sure each program is as safe as possible.
When do I pay for my experience program? Can I pay in instalments?
In order to confirm your place on this gap year Vietnam experience, you need to pay a deposit of 249 USD. The remaining fee is then due no less than 45 days prior to your program start date. During this period if you need to make a change to your trip (destination, program or date) then this can be facilitated free of charge. If you’re applying within 45 days of your program start date then you’ll need to pay the full amount to confirm your place. Likewise, in the unlikely event that we are unable to offer you a place on the program then your payment will be refunded in full within 48 hours of applying.
Payments made in advance of the 45 day window can be made in one lump sum or in several instalments. Payments can be made directly through our website using all major debit and credit cards. We will outline instructions to make payment in our email communication with you. Please note credit card payments are subject to a 5% additional fee to cover the bank charges that PMGY incur. Bank transfers can be accepted by UK participants only.
Can I use the Experience as part of a university or college placement?
It is certainly possible to use this gap year Vietnam experience as part of your university or college placement. However, PMGY is unable to guarantee that this gap year Vietnam experience will fulfil the requirements of your establishment. Therefore, participants are encouraged to speak to a member of the International Team to establish whether the required parameters can be met. This should be done in advance of applying to the program. When appropriate, school/college/university representatives are welcome to contact PMGY to discuss further the suitability of the program in meeting the participant’s requirements.
First of all, the PMGY International Team are able to complete paperwork after participants of this gap year Vietnam experience have confirmed their place on the program. Additionally, project staff in Vietnam can also sign-off any paperwork that is required by your course tutors. However, while our team will do their best to complete any paperwork, we are unable to guarantee that we will be able to comply with every learning objective and requirement or your university/college. PMGY regularly receives medical, nursing, childcare and psychology placement students on our projects globally, with ties with some leading universities.
If you’re a course tutor and would like further information about how one of PMGY’s programs could meet the placement requirements for your course, please contact us directly to schedule a meeting.
BEFORE YOU DEPART
Do you offer an online TEFL course?
For PMGY volunteers teaching English in Vietnam, the only real ‘qualifications’ you need are bags of energy, commitment and enthusiasm. However, if you’d like a chance to do some preparation work before you hit the classroom, we’ve got the perfect introductory online TEFL course for English language teaching abroad.
At only 60 hours and completed online, this course is obviously hugely convenient. The course can be done in your own time, at your own pace and you don’t even need to leave the house! You have got a whopping 75 days to complete the course, so there is no rush and you can fit it in when you can. Obviously, an hour here and there certainly adds up. Therefore there really is no pressure.
Once completed, you’ll not only have acquired key skills for teaching English abroad but also an internationally accredited certificate. If you find that teaching really is your calling, this course can be built upon with more modules in the future. There are 5 modules to this 60 hour course, covering aspects including ‘The Roles of the Teacher’ and ‘Lesson Planning’.
The cost of the course is 120 USD. If you’ve already signed up for one of our programs and would like to enrol on the online TEFL course then please contact us.
Can I fundraise for my Real Vietnam Experience trip?
With PMGY, the money our participants pay goes towards the structure you receive on the Vietnam program. The fundamentals of this cover aspects such as accommodation, airport pick-ups, around the clock support from our international and in-country teams, pre-departure training as well as the implementation and monitoring of the projects.
We do our best to keep our program costs as low and affordable as possible, without sacrificing quality and safety. However, with flights, travel insurance and spending money to factor into your overall budget, you may find you need a little bit of help with the finances. Consequently, a large number of PMGY participants decide to fundraise for their trip. In these instances, we recommend that participants on the Real Vietnam Experience set up an online fundraising page to notify friends and family of your trip.
PMGY have partnered with the online crowdfunding website GoGetFunding for participants to create a personalised fundraising page for their trip. This professional online fundraising service allows you to set financial goals and get the message across about what you’re doing. You can also share your PMGY fundraising page across various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.
Can I raise money for the projects?
The PMGY Foundation is a UK registered charity (1169415). This charity has been created to help provide financial aid and assistance to projects we work with on an ongoing basis. Importantly, the objective of the PMGY Foundation is the prevention or relief of poverty for people living in the communities we support. This is achieved by providing or assisting the provision of education, training, healthcare and general living support. Therefore, we hope that the support offered by the PMGY Foundation helps to enable individuals to generate a sustainable income and be self-sufficient. Consequently, donations made to the PMGY Foundation will be directed to the projects most in need. This is determined by the trustees of the charity during our International Team overseas visits.
If you are looking to help raise money directly for the PMGY Foundation, you can do so via our Virgin Money Giving fundraising page. 100% of all money raised will be donated directly to the projects we support around the world. However, please note that participants are unable to raise money through the PMGY Foundation to help finance the cost of their trip overseas. For participants of this gap year Vietnam experience who are looking for further information on how to raise money for their trip abroad, please visit our fundraising page.
How do I register for your online webinars?
Every Tuesday at 4pm (London time), the PMGY International Team hosts one of four pre-departure webinars. These last approximately 45 minutes each and importantly provide participants in Vietnam with invaluable advice on their upcoming trip. The webinars are hosted by a member of our International Team, who all have extensive knowledge of our projects around the globe. You can attend (and even ask questions) from anywhere in the world, simply by logging in through your own computer. All you need is a computer, a good internet connection and a pair of headphones. In addition to this, if any family or friends would like to attend the session as well, they are more than welcome to do so.
For individuals who have not yet signed up to one of our programs, but would like to learn more about us, we encourage you to join our Introductory Webinar. Across 45 minutes, a member of the International team will introduce you to the concept of volunteering abroad, our destinations and both social and safety aspects of our programs.
For individuals on this gap year Vietnam experience who have already confirmed their place on the program, there are three for you to choose from. Please note that you need to sign up for the webinar a few days in advance.
Travel Essentials Pre-Departure Webinar – covers all the basics.
Program Preparation Webinar – covers specifically childcare and teaching community work programs.
Safety & Wellbeing Overseas Webinar – covers the risks associated with overseas travel and how you can keep as safe as possible.
Will I require vaccinations and malaria tablets for my trip?
It is possible that as a participant of this gap year Vietnam experience, you may require a course of vaccinations in preparation for your trip to Vietnam. However, unfortunately, PMGY is unable to legally advise on these matters, since we are not medical experts. Therefore, it is vital that you contact your local doctor or travel clinic a few months in advance of your intended travel. Your local doctor/nurse will be able to advise you on vaccinations and malaria prevention you may need for entry into your program destination. Additional information can be found on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights to Vietnam?
When you apply to join a trip with PMGY, we cannot guarantee your place on the program immediately. Indeed, on receiving an application, we have to liaise with our local team to ensure there is space available on the program and to assess your suitability for the specific project. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you do not make any flight and/or travel arrangements until your program has been confirmed by us in writing. Of course, once your place on this gap year Vietnam experience has been confirmed, you are then free to book your flights either with PMGY or through a third-party travel agent.
After confirming your place on a PMGY volunteer program, we strongly advise that you book your flights as early as possible. This is since it will help ensure that you get the lowest airfare. You can choose to book your flights independently or we can help you with arranging them. PMGY has a wealth of experience in travelling to and from our host countries. Therefore, we know the most affordable ways to travel and the best airlines to use. Therefore, if you would like any assistance booking your flight, you can request an optional flight quote during your online application. Alternatively, feel free to contact us on the phone or by email.
Do you offer travel insurance?
Importantly, having an appropriate travel insurance policy during your time abroad is essential. Therefore, it is mandatory for all of our international volunteers to be appropriately covered across all of their trip dates. This includes your travel to and from the host country, as well as any onward travel. Although PMGY does everything to ensure your trip is safe, inevitably things can go wrong. Therefore, having a travel insurance policy in place helps you effectively deal with any problems you may encounter during your time away.
We have partnered up with the insurance company Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive optional policy. This has been designed with our international volunteers in mind, to cover our participants for all of their travel essentials. The policy is available to anyone across the globe, up to the age of 65 years. The document will cover you for your time on any PMGY destination and any onward travel (excluding the US and Canada). You can purchase PMGY Travel Insurance during your online application or you can contact us directly to arrange it.
How do I obtain a background check?
To join this gap year Vietnam experience, you’ll need to provide us with a clean DBS or Police Check before you travel. This is a check that must be issued by an official Governmental or Police Body. PMGY have a commitment to the projects we support to ensure the participants we send are trustworthy and of sound moral character. Consequently, we are unable to accept participants who have had any previous criminal convictions.
If you hold a current DBS or Police Check, then we can accept this, providing it is clear and issued no more than 18 months prior to your program start date. You will need to upload a copy of this to your online portal after confirming your place on the program. Furthermore, the DBS or Police Check must be submitted to us no less than 21 days prior to your program start date.
If you don’t have a valid DBS check, then you will need to apply for one. UK participants need to apply for a “Basic Disclosure” through Gov.uk (which serves all people in the UK). This costs 23 GBP and takes around 15 working days to process. Full information on how to obtain a DBS check through Gov.uk is outlined in the Volunteer Handbook, received once you have confirmed your place on this gap year Vietnam experience.
Participants of this gap year Vietnam experience from the US, you can apply for a background check through Sentry Link. It costs 19.95 USD and is usually processed immediately. Alternatively, you are welcome to arrange your own background check through your local Sheriff’s Office or governmental body.
For all other international participants, we recommend you obtain a Police/Criminal Background Check through your local police station or official governmental body.
When will I receive my Volunteer Handbook?
All participants in Vietnam will receive a PMGY Volunteer Handbook once they have paid their deposit and confirmed their place on the program. We will send you an email entitled ‘Welcome to PMGY’ which will include a link where you can download the Volunteer Handbook. Please note that we do not send a hard copy of the PMGY Volunteer Handbook.
This Handbook contains everything you need to know to prepare for your Real Vietnam Experience trip. Ranging from what to pack to how to obtain a visa, we do our best to ensure you are ready to hit the ground running. Therefore, it is really important that you read through the Volunteer Handbook carefully once you’ve downloaded it. If you find any of your questions unanswered after reading through this, then our team are always on hand to assist you. You can contact us via email, telephone, Zoom, Facebook, online chat…whatever works best for you!
ON YOUR TRIP
Can I arrange a private room?
All of our accommodation options on the Vietnam program involve sharing a room with other participants (usually same-sex). Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange private room options for our participants on this gap year Vietnam experience.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
Our teams will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements. However, this cannot be guaranteed on this gap year Vietnam experience. Consequently, there may be instances where you need to purchase alternative ingredients at your own expense. Any dietary requirements should be noted within your application and re-iterated to the local team on arrival into the country. Importantly, any concerns for major requirements should be raised with the PMGY International Team before confirming your place on the program.
Are there any public holidays that affect project availability?
We aim to communicate as clearly and accurately as possible all holidays that impact project availability. This information can be found via our Holiday Dates page and in the Volunteer Handbook. However, due to the nature of developing countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change. In turn, these can unexpectedly affect project availability. Therefore in such instances, we ask our participants to be flexible and appreciative of this. These periods often provide participants in Vietnam with a unique experience to enjoy the festivities and holidays themselves. However, our local teams will always do their best to find alternative project work if applicable/possible.
What is the dress code on the Real Vietnam Experience?
Dress code varies from country-to-country and sometimes from project-to-project. Importantly, we ask that our participants adopt a smart and responsible image during their time in the communities. Of course, we will outline the specific dress code requirements in your Volunteer Handbook so you know exactly what to pack. In addition to this, our local team will also brief you during your in-country orientation on arrival in Vietnam.
The general rule of thumb for girls is to cover shoulders, chest, stomach and thighs. In a like matter, for men, shorts should not lie above the knee and shirts should cover shoulders. Whilst we do not wish to impose strict regulations on our participants, we do ask that you respect the local culture during your travels. Moreover, dressing appropriately will earn you the respect of the people you’ll be working with. Therefore, our Volunteer Handbooks, outline preferred dress-codes in detail.
Additionally, it’s also a good idea to take some nicer clothes for the weekends and special occasions. However, please avoid tight and very short clothing. You should also avoid clothing that may have potentially offensive slogans on it. Tattoos and piercings should be covered where possible if your program includes a volunteer placement, particularly if you’re working with children.
How much spending money will I need?
The amount of extra spending money you should take with you as a gap year Vietnam experience participant can depend on a multitude of factors. Considerations include what you undertake during your free time and how many souvenirs you purchase! Therefore, if you plan to go for a safari in Tanzania or perhaps go trekking in South Africa, you will need to budget accordingly. However, for general expenses and some independent travel, you should find 100-150 USD per week a suitable amount.
Will I be able to travel whilst on the program?
Your gap year Vietnam experience trip involves travelling across Vietnam with your group. You will follow a set itinerary across your time on the trip. This means that there is no opportunity to take part in any independent travel across the trip dates.
Before booking your flights, we recommend that you look into travel opportunities across dates either side of your trip. It is always great to spend some time travelling and seeing more of the country you wish to explore.
Accommodation on this gap year Vietnam experience will vary depending on where we are at any one time. In most cases, rooms will conform to a single-sex set-up. The accommodation types are as follows:
Hotels – Basic but comfortable, fanned rooms, with usually 2-6 people per room and western bathroom facilities. The Wi-Fi here is usually provided, however, can be intermittent. Volunteers in Vietnam are therefore recommended to bring an unlocked smartphone. SIM cards and data packages can be purchased in-country.
School - During your time engaging in volunteer work in Vietnam, you will stay on-site of the project location. During your time at the school, rooms will be shared with up to 10 people per room. Rooms will be single-sex and western bathroom facilities will be provided.
Homestays – In Ninh Binh and Xom Ke, you will still at a homestay with fellow volunteers. Accommodation will be basic but comfortable. Host families will have western bathrooms and hot water showers. Wi-Fi will not be available but there will be Internet Cafes where you can get online. You’ll also stay with a host family during your trek to the ethnic minority villages in Sapa. Specifically, you will be based within a stilt house here. Accommodation in the ethnic village will be basic, but it’s only for the night and will offer you a fantastic cultural experience.
Ha Long Bay Cruise - Basic but comfortable, fanned rooms, with usually 2-6 people per room and western bathroom facilities. Bathrooms are usually shared. Rooms are on board the cruise. Wi-Fi is not always available.
Volunteer House – You will spend several nights in one of our Volunteer Houses in Hanoi. An in-depth description of this accommodation can be found below:
Our volunteer accommodation in Hanoi is based within a quiet and friendly neighbourhood, approximately a 45 minute bus journey from the Old Quarter of Hanoi (the main tourist area). There are a number of restaurants, convenience stores and ATMs only a walk from our Volunteer Houses.
During your time in Hanoi, your Volunteer House will be basic but comfortable. Bedrooms conform to a single-sex dorm-style setup, with up to 8 people per room. Air-conditioning is available in each room and individuals will be provided with the bed linen. Each bedroom in the Volunteer House has its own shared bathroom, with a western-style toilet and shower. Hot water at the accommodation is provided in the winter months only. There is some, but limited hanging space in each room.
There is free Wi-Fi within certain areas of the house, including the main communal area. This can be intermittent, therefore volunteers in Vietnam are also recommended to purchase a local SIM card in-country to use with an unlocked mobile phone. There is a large designated communal area within the Volunteer House where volunteers can relax and socialise. Within the main accommodation, there are two washing machines that can be used free of charge, and participants can purchase detergent cheaply from shops nearby. Alternatively, there are laundry services around the neighbourhood, available for a reasonable price. Each volunteer will be provided with a locker to keep valuable items. Volunteers are asked to pay a deposit of 50,000 VND or 5 USD for the locker key which can be reclaimed at the end of your program. However, volunteers are encouraged to only bring essential items during their trip to Vietnam. There is fridge space within the accommodation for volunteers to cool items they need to keep chilled. Please note that power cuts are fairly commonplace in India although they tend not to last more than a couple of hours.
In our main Volunteer House, our local team have an office on the ground floor. This makes for a great atmosphere and ensures that volunteers are well supported throughout their stay. Each volunteer is provided with a house key (subject to a deposit of 5 USD) so the house is accessible at all time and to ensure general volunteer safety. We also have a member of staff (usually a nanny or an intern from the local team) present in the house overnight. Please note if you arrive late in the evening on the arrival day at our Volunteer House, it is likely our local team will not be present and you will meet them the following day.
Especially during our busiest months (June to September), you may be placed at alternative accommodation in one of our other Volunteer Houses. The set-up of this will be similar to the main house.
Vietnamese cuisine is famous throughout the world – and for good reason. The meals provided are typical Vietnamese dishes – although the occasional western meal will be included to add a bit of variety and a taste of home! You will be provided with three meals per day throughout the duration of your time on the PMGY Real Vietnam Experience. The food in Vietnam consists of a lot of rice, so be prepared!
You’ll eat your meals together as a group - whether it’s a buffet dinner sailing through Ha Long Bay, a home-cooked meal with a host family, or a meal out at a local restaurant in Sapa.
* Our team will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements. However, this cannot be guaranteed. This means that there may be instances where you need to purchase alternative ingredients at your own expense. Any dietary requirements should be noted within your application and re-iterated to the local team on arrival into the country. Any concerns for major requirements should be raised with the PMGY International Team before confirming your place on the program.
* These fees apply to each individual application.
In order to apply to join PMGY you are required to make your Registration Fee payment of 249 USD. In the unlikely event we are unable to offer you a place on the program then your Registration Fee will be refunded in full within 48 hours of applying. The remaining fee is then due no less than 45 days prior to your program start date. During this period if you need to make a change to your trip (destination, program or date) then this can be facilitated free of charge.
If you’re applying within 45 days of your program start date then you’ll need to pay the full amount to confirm your place. Likewise, in the unlikely event that we are unable to offer you a place on the program then your payment will be refunded in full within 48 hours of applying.
Any remaining payments must be made no less than 45 days prior to your start date. This payment can be made in one lump sum or in several instalments. If you chose to take our insurance or book a flight with PMGY then these must be paid for (in full) at the time of booking.
Payments can be made directly through our website using all major debit and credit cards. We will outline instructions to make payment in our email communication with you. Please note credit card payments are subject to a 5% additional fee to cover the bank charges that PMGY incur.
OPTIONAL TRIPLE CARBON OFFSET SCHEME - 45 USD
PMGY provide participants with the opportunity to contribute towards our Triple Carbon Offset Scheme. This not only helps eliminate your carbon footprint but helps the planet with a positive contribution every time you fly. The Triple Offset Idea for volunteers in Vietnam works as follows -
🇰🇪 Kenya - 55 mango trees are planted in Kenya. These are capable of absorbing the total carbon emissions for a volunteer trip to Vietnam and also help provide a sustainable income for local farmers.
🇮🇳 India - 80 days of access to a solar cooker are provided to a family in India. This means the family don't have to spend on firewood and thus reduce their dependence on trees.
🇺🇸 USA - 1.25kg of rescued meals are provided to the homeless in the USA. This recycles wasted food reduces methane emission from food waste which is equivalent to 1lb of CO2 emissions.
This optional add-on can be added during the online application process or can even be added on at a later date. The offset platform is provided by our charity, the PMGY Foundation and ensures that 100% of contributions are put towards high impact projects around the world.