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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many volunteers make up a team?

Ideally, 16 volunteers:-

·       1 trip Leader

·       4 dental clinicians

·       2 final year dental students

·       5 - 6 dental assistants/helpers

·       1 handyman

·       2 - 4 interpreters and

·       1 medical doctor.

Q: Where does CHAT work?

Our base is in Ho Chi Minh City, but most often CHAT travels to work in country provinces in South or Central Vietnam. We treat children and their carers at their schools, institutions, orphanages or community centres.  As such, our equipment is portable and all our dental requirements are taken with us on location. We determine a suitable room or out on a veranda to set up our dental clinic.

Q: How many patients will I be seeing?

Our aim is to triage up to 120 patients a day with an unpredictable proportion needing dental treatment. Some areas have better dental health than others. How many patients you as a dentist will treat will depend on experience, adaptability and how well you are coping with the tropical weather. If you consider yourself to be a slow worker, let your Leader know.

Q: What hours will I be working?

Clinical days can start from as early as 7 am when the bus will leave for your site for the day. You will work a few hours, have a takeaway lunch (rice, meat, soup, some vegetables) on site, work in the afternoon, then leave in the bus late afternoon for your hotel. Some volunteers catch up on sleep on the way home as they recover from the day, some teams of volunteers are more lively. After freshening up at your hotel, the team leaves for a local restaurant after sunset.

Q: How long is a CHAT trip?

A trip totals 8 days duration – Saturday to Saturday inclusive.

  • 1st Saturday, we check equipment and supplies in readiness for the working week.

  • Sunday is travel time to a designated country work location.

  • Monday to Friday are clinical days; usually Friday finishes in the early afternoon.

  • Friday night you will be back in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • 2nd Saturday, we check equipment, repack and re-order materials in preparation for the next     CHAT trip.


Q: How much does a CHAT trip cost?

All volunteers are self funded. The major cost is for air travel, which varies according to the chosen airline (i.e. budget or standard), time of year and/or if a special deal is available.


Other costs are

  • CHAT membership and ground costs ($20 + $280)

  • accommodation (allow $70 - $80 per day – you can share rooms to reduce cost)

  • meals (allow $30 - $40 per day)

  • internal air travel if site is more than 12 hours by bus (not usual)

  • visa

  • travel insurance including cover for Covid-19

  • immunization – check with your family doctor

  • clinical items (e.g. gloves, masks) and

  • spending money

  • $50 levy if unable to carry supplies for CHAT into Vietnam

Q: What do ground costs cover?

Your $280 ground costs go towards the payment for CHAT bus hire, food and bottled drinks while working, 3 CHAT polo shirts, donations to poorly funded institutions we visit, some dental supplies for the trip, analgesics, and antibiotics, etc.

Q: Does CHAT organize my travel and accommodation?

It’s your responsibility to arrange travel to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and the required visa and travel insurance.

 CHAT will arrange travel within Vietnam – usually this is in a hired bus. If our work site is more than 12 hours from Ho Chi Minh City, internal air fares will be paid by you, unless you wish to accompany the bus to the site for free (very uncomfortable).

Accommodation on arrival in HCMC is to be booked by you at Tuong Vi Hotel, 111 Trần Thiện Chánh, P.12, District 10 (close by CHAT HQ). You may book accommodation elsewhere, and if so, you must be at Tuong Vi Hotel or CHAT HQ at the time advised by your Leader to meet with other trip volunteers.


During the clinical week (Sunday night to Thursday night), CHAT usually organizes hotel accommodation for all volunteers. You will pay your own hotel costs. The team MUST stay together at one hotel. On return to HCMC on Friday night, volunteers must arrange their own accommodation – either at Tuong Vi Hotel or elsewhere.

Q: Can I bring my children?
With the agreement of their parent/guardian, mature children 15 years and older are able to join a CHAT trip in the role as a dental assistant/helper. Children must have a good level of independence and confidence but be able to work under orders. Each volunteer must have an active role – and as such, prior to departure, be prepared to arrange to gain basic dental assisting experience. CHAT does not provide childcare/babysitting.

Q: What happens if I pay to join a CHAT trip and then can’t go?

In this event, the membership fee you’ve paid ($20) is not refundable.


For paid ground costs a volunteer has the options to either

  1. Join a trip within the next 12 months

  2. Request a refund from the Treasurer, please also cc the Secretary.

  3. Elect to donate their ground costs fee to the work of CHAT.

  4. Any other associated costs incurred will not be refunded – such as visa, flight changes, hotel cancellation etc.

Q: Is there vegetarian or vegan food available?

Yes there is, in the form of soy bean curd or tofu, also gluten which is often made up in the shape of meat (mock meat).  You need to check your vegan/vegetarian pho or noodles are not in beef soup though. To supplement your protein, you can buy nuts, lotus seeds, pumpkin seeds etc in supermarkets to eat.  Look for the word chay in the restaurant sign or on the menu. There is a vegetarian restaurant round the corner from HQ.

Q: What about COVID?

CHAT cannot be responsible if you contract COVID during your trip. If you test positive to COVID, you are expected to quarantine and rest. Tell your trip Leader. Travel insurance covering Covid-19 infection is highly recommended to cover extra costs.

If you are fully recovered, and test negative to the virus, you may choose to continue working. Keep in mind that the workdays can be long, the food unfamiliar and the weather humid and hot – you may need to rest more than usual to offset these stresses.

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