A fantastic way to get started in online teaching is first to gain experience teaching abroad. Mainly if your educational background is focused on something other than education. Numerous writers here for Teach and GO started in a different career fields and later became ESL teachers.
After one to three years of being an ESL teacher, they transitioned that experience into being a highly effective online teacher. See our online teaching companies guide for more.
Teaching English as an ESL teacher is rewarding and fun; it allows you to experience a new culture, place, and lifestyle. It’s a decision that will change your life. What countries should you consider teaching English abroad in?
Best countries to teach English abroad in
Teaching English can be very profitable in some countries but sometimes needs more fun aspects. You’ll have a great time living and working in other countries. Still, your salary will be comparatively low, making it difficult to save money.
We will share the pros and cons of various countries from an ESL perspective. We will be looking at things like pay, overall lifestyle as an ex-pat, career development, and opportunities for travel, fun, and exploration.
South Korea – The best mix of benefits and pay – avoid Hagwon’s, however
South Korea takes the top spot for numerous reasons. It is a beautiful country that is underrated and overlooked because of neighboring Japan. If you’re looking for a beautiful, clean, modern country with great food, rich culture, and excellent nightlife, look no further than South Korea.
As an ESL teacher in South Korea, expect a fair wage of about $2,000 or more monthly with benefits. It is standard that your school will pay your rent and also be paying for your flight to South Korea and back to your country of origin, making South Korea a country where you can save money every month and pay down debt with ease.
It is also a beautiful county with a rich culture and fantastic food. With proximity to China and Japan and numerous local attractions in the modern city of Seoul, you will love living and working in Korea.
The drawbacks of Korea are that it is pretty expensive, and you could easily overspend. In addition, Korea shares the same work ethic as Japan, and they expect their teachers to put in the hours week after week. Last, most jobs are at after-school centers called hagwons. So while a public school is a great job, a hagwon is not worth it. If that’s all you can get, don’t teach English in South Korea.
- Good salary and benefits.
- Rent is covered as a government school teacher.
- Your flight to and from South Korea are also paid for as a government school teacher.
- Most positions are at “hagwon’s” which are private tutoring centers.
- A hagwon does not provide the same benefits a government position does.
- South Korea has an excessive work ethic and no balance.
2) Thailand – Best starter country for ESL
Thailand is the best country to teach ESL for a year or two before deciding your next move. Thailand is a modern, first-world country with all the comforts of home. With a fun-loving, easy-going population, great bars and clubs, and a wonderfully developed tourism sector, Thailand is an ideal choice to begin your ESL journey.
It’s relatively straightforward to get a job in the Kingdom of Thailand. Jobs at government schools are numerous and easy to obtain. You can choose where in Thailand you want to live and work (except for Chaing Mai – it’s so popular with tourists it’s the only place you’ll have difficulty finding a job with no experience).
The country also has a wide range of teaching opportunities, from international schools with a high salary ideal for experienced teachers to low-paid government school jobs for first-time teachers to low demanding jobs at universities for anyone with an advanced degree. There is a level of ESL for everyone.
The biggest issue with Thailand is, of course, pay. Unless you work at an international school, your monthly pay will break even at best. You may even have to work additional part-time hours to make enough money to live comfortably. But overall, if you’re a new prospective teacher, take a look at Thailand.
- Easy to get a job at a government school.
- Can work in Bangkok or in any of the surrounding provinces.
- A welcoming, interesting culture.
- Various levels of teaching based on your experience.
- International schools pay well, but are difficult to secure a position.
- Low pay at government schools. It’s break even overall.
- Avoid working with any agency, only get hired directly from a school.
3) Dubai – Highest salary
Teaching in Dubai is lucrative. You’re paid a high salary and have numerous expenses taken care of. You entice teachers to work in Dubai. The catch? Dubai requires teachers to have a few years of experience as an ESL teacher and a formal education background.
Dubai is where you go for two or more years (contracts are for two years) if you have a family or want to save thousands of dollars each month for investment. Of all the countries on the list, the middle east consistently pays the most. Depending on your background, you’ll be working at a private school either as a teacher or in an administrative role.
Dubai is also the city of the future, a fantastic place to visit but not live long term. It’s a country filled with malls and modernity. You may get quickly bored with the area and this weird dichotomy between the locals and foreign expats. If you like to drink, you may also have an issue in Dubai. Alcohol is not illegal in Dubai; it is just strictly regulated. As an expat, you may only purchase such drinks from licensed vendors.
- High salary and benefits.
- Dubai is an incredible city that’s safe and modern.
- Ideal for a professional with a family.
- Alcoholic drinks are strictly regulated.
- Dubai is located in a desert (hot and unbearable during the day, cold at night).
- You may get bored quickly as it’s small. Similar to Singapore.
3) Japan – The famous Jet program
To some degree, Japan was and still is one of the most famous destinations to teach English abroad. This is due in large part to the renowned Jet Program. The Jet program is very competitive and will give you a high salary and place you in a rural part of Japan as an English teacher, not a major city.
If you’ve never been to Japan, you have to go. Words do not do that country justice in explaining how weird, colorful, modern, and unique it is. Way ahead of the United States in numerous ways. The biggest positive of Japan is simply the country is impressive and unique. You’re also in luck if you can land the jet program. With the Jet Program, you’re paid a high salary and located somewhere affordable.
You may want to be based in Tokyo, but remember, cities are costly in Japan, and you’ll have a better time being located in a local town or city. If you want to work in a city, you must source your job outside the Jet program. Most expats work in local language centers, but proper positions at universities and more do exist.
- Live and work in Japan.
- A culturally interesting place to live.
- The Jet program allows you to have a good salary and benefits
- The Jet program places you in rural Japan so if you’re wanting to live in Tokyo you’ll have to find a job on your own.
- Private tutoring centers don’t pay well and the hours are nights and weekends.
- Japan is expensive which is why the Jet program is so popular and expensive.
4) Taiwan – Under rated, beautiful country
Teaching in Taiwan is often overlooked by its more famous neighbors, Japan and China. However, Taiwan is still an excellent choice if you want to live and work abroad. However, most teachers here work in private “cram” schools and not public ones.
Working in Taiwan, you’ll be paid an excellent monthly salary that will allow you to save money monthly or have sufficient funds to travel and explore Taiwan and the surrounding countries. You’ll also be able to begin learning Chinese, which will pay dividends in the coming years.
As with most Asian cultures, you’re always an outsider, and integrating yourself into Taiwan is next to impossible. Teachers also need help with Taiwanese teaching standards focusing on memorization instead of functional knowledge. But if you’re looking for a country with a low cost of living, like Thailand but a higher salary, consider Taiwan.
- You’ll be surprised by how beautiful Taiwan is.
- Learn Chinese and aspects of Chinese culture.
- Decent salary and low cost of living.
- Taiwan does not have nightlife like Thailand. Expect bars and low key clubs.
- The teaching style and standards can be restrictive to those who like having flexibility.
- Cram schools are private business and some try to take advantage of inexperienced foreigners.
5) Vietnam – Qualified teachers only
Vietnam is one of the most underrated countries on the list. If you want a country where the cost of living is low, like Thailand, but where you’ll be paid a reasonable hourly rate, look no further than Vietnam. In Vietnam, teaching positions are located in the country’s two major cities – Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam is one of the least expensive countries in the world. Depending on your spending habits, you can live comfortably in Vietnam for roughly $800-1200 USD a month. The food is good, the people are friendly, and you’ll have an opportunity to travel and socialize with locals and expats. Also, most teaching jobs are located in the two major cities instead of the countryside, like many teaching jobs in Japan or Korea are.
Teachers in Vietnam are paid by the hour instead of a salary. Getting enough hours per week at first teaching English can be challenging. Typically, it takes a teacher around a month to find 20+ hours of teaching working at two or more schools. Finally, Vietnam updated its laws, so you’ll need a background in education, a degree, or previous verifiable classroom experience.
- Work in Saigon or Hanoi.
- Low cost of living and the ability to earn a decent salary.
- Beautiful, interesting country and culture.
- Like most countries, dealing with private business for pay and visas can be a headache.
- Private tutoring centers are easy to find work, jobs outside of this are possible but harder.
- You must now have a background in education. No exceptions.
6) Singapore – Modern but expensive
Singapore is a less popular option than other South East Asian countries, primarily due to the popularity of countries like Thailand and Japan for teaching English abroad. But Singapore can provide excellent long-term opportunities if you can land a job here. Contracts in Singapore are for two years, and you can expect to be paid $2800-$3500 a month. However, living costs match the salary, so it’s break-even in the best country for a new teacher.
Singapore is radically different from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Cambodia. It’s clean, modern, and like entering an American city (except it’s humid). Singapore is a first-world country with excellent food and a mix of Chinese and Indian locals. The requirements for ESL teachers in Singapore are standard for the industry: a 4-year degree, a TEFL certificate, and a native speaker.
This country is an island city-state and is relatively small, and has a limited amount of things to do. Traveling anywhere requires you to fly out of the country, which could be annoying long-term. Some teachers complain about being bored living in Singapore after the first year.
Also, Singapore is very strict with cleanliness, and the law imposes severe fines for even benign things like not flushing the toilet.
Lastly, if you break your contract, fines will be imposed on you, and the competition for jobs is competitive as you’ve paid an excellent salary and live in a first-world country.
- All the qualities and standards of an American city.
- Excellent jobs at international schools are possible.
- Singapore is expensive and the current salaries barely keep up if you’re a new teacher.
- You’ll need to have save at least $4000 in startup costs when moving here.
- It is a city state that is quite small.
7) Spain – Low cost country with relaxed work environment
Want to live in an affordable European country where you can get paid a decent salary and not work crazy hours like in other countries? Teaching English in Spain through the auxiliaries de conversation may be for you.
The Auxiliaries de Conversacion program in Spain is a great way to live an enjoyable life and make money while also gaining experience teaching English. It pays better than most other countries, and the requirements are relatively straightforward. To become an auxiliary, you must be a native speaker of English with either a university degree or TEFL certification. You’ll also need to pass an interview and complete essential paperwork like medical check-ups.
Once accepted into the program, you will work 12-20 hours a week in Spanish public schools. This gives you plenty of time to explore your new country and its culture! Teaching hours vary depending on the school schedule but can include classes in both primary and secondary levels.
If you teach through the auxiliaries de conversacion program, your salary will be anywhere from 700 Euros to 1000 Euros, depending on where you prepare for 12 hours a week. It’s not a lot of money, but you have time to pick up extra hours each week teaching English part-time as a tutor, or you could supplement your income with online teaching.
You also get a work visa allowing you to travel Europe freely, which is tricky if you’re North American.
Visas for Spain are difficult to obtain. Spain is also notorious for it’s bureaucracy, needing various forms and just things moving slowly. Because of this, teachers often work on visas other than a work visa.
#9 China – Difficult now, but still possible
The rapid growth of China is slowing down, and it’s a different country than it was even five years ago, but there are still numerous options to teach English in China.
To obtain a work permit, you must have a bachelor’s degree in any field, two years of teaching experience (or a TEFL certification), and be a native English speaker from a country that China approves of.
Additionally, you must be in good health and have a clean criminal background check. While the process may seem daunting, following these guidelines is essential to ensure a successful and legal teaching experience in China.
By meeting these requirements, you’ll be able to provide valuable education to students while also exploring the rich cultural history of this incredible country.
Chinese jobs pay well. This combined with a low cost of living (if you’re not based in a tier 1 city) make China a country where you can work and save money. You’ll also not be overwhelmed with classes like you are in Thailand. In China, you can expect to teach 3 class a day and you have the support and resources to focus on your job.
China is difficult for a foreigner to acclimate to. Outside of tier 1 cities, English is not spoken, signs are not in English and the internet is blocked. Making it extremely difficult for you as a non Chinese speaker to navigate China on your own. China is a country where teachers either love it or hate it.
10) Costa Rica – Close to America
Those interested in teaching English in Costa Rica must be aware of the legal requirements that must be met. Costa Rica has strict regulations regarding hiring foreigners, intending to protect local workers. To teach English legally, one must obtain a work visa and have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
In addition, certification to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) is typically required by hiring schools. Although navigating the legal requirements may seem daunting, ensuring that you are teaching English legitimately and ethically is worth it.
By meeting these requirements, you will foster mutual respect for the country and obtain valuable teaching experience in a vibrant and diverse cultural environment.
With the proper preparation and dedication, teaching English in Costa Rica can be both a rewarding and unforgettable experience. Once all legal requirements have been met, it’s time to search for open opportunities. Fortunately, numerous options are available: from language schools to private tutoring positions.
Depending on your qualifications and preferences, you will need to research different places of employment.
English is in high demand with the majority of the jobs located in the major metropolitan areas, including the capitol city of San José and the central valley. You’ll be able to live and work where all the action is instead of in some far flung country town.
Low pay and the work visa is time consuming and difficult to obtain. The average salary depends on how many hours you teach with most ESL teachers reporting a monthly salary of $500-1000 USD equivalent.
11) Italy – Perfect for EU citizens
Italy is an often dreamed about, but over looked country to find work as an English teacher in. It is possible to live and work in Italy as an English teacher. Amazing food, people and culture, it’s no surprise that Italy is the #1 country most Americans want to visit.
High demand for qualified teachers. Italy is a country that needs English teachers as Italians are not known for their English language abilities. Expect a monthly salary of around 2000 euros.
It’s an expensive and difficult process for non-EU citizens to obtain a work visa. So much so it’s usually just easier for most employers to hire a teacher from England or a qualified teacher from an EU country. Italy is also quite expensive if you end up living and working in a city.
12) Columbia – Exciting, developing country
Columbia has shed its infamous history and is now emerging as a South American tourist hotspot. In Columbia, you’ll be able to learn Spanish and live and work in a dynamic, beautiful country.
To teach English in Colombia, specific legal requirements must be met. Prospective English teachers must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. Additionally, they must obtain a work visa and register with the Colombian Ministry of Education. These legal requirements ensure that English teachers are qualified and competent and protect Colombia’s education system. With its rich history and culture, teaching English in Colombia can be an unforgettable experience for those who meet legal standards.
In addition to its natural beauty, Colombia offers a range of educational and professional opportunities for English teachers. You’ll find that the cost of living is low compared to many other countries, making it an attractive option for those looking to teach abroad. Teaching English in Colombia can be rewarding and profitable with good wages and flexible hours.
Columbia is developing rapidly and overcoming it’s past. It’s a country that has a high demand for English teachers, provides an excellent social life and is easy for a native English speaker who has a TEFL certificate to find work.
The main con is the low salary. Like Thailand, you’ll want to also have online teaching or do private classes to make enough money to where you won’t worry about money.
13) Chile – A clear, streamlined process
Chile is the Vietnam of South America. Overlooked and under rated, Chile actually is one of the safest most diverse countries to teach English in. Chile has a government program (English Opens Doors) where most ESL teachers work at private schools with 1 paid month off.
The government program makes finding work in Chile an easy, streamlined process. You get a full month vacation every year and can apply for residency status after just 2 years of living and working in Chile.
The cost of living is higher in Chile than other south American countries, but so is the quality of life.
14) Jordan – Work as a private tutor
Most work in Jordan consist of finding work as a private tutor for a well off family or working at one of the numerous international schools in the capital city. For international schools you’ll need a background in education.
You will live and work in Jordan as a private tutor where you’ll live with a family. Being totally immersed in Jordanian culture. No degree or TEFL certificate required!
Jordan is not in the best of neighborhoods. Also as a Muslim county don’t expect beer and wine to be easy to get.
15) Lebanon – Work in schools and as a private tutor
Lebanon is multi-cultural and multi lingual, though not a money maker and like Jordan, not in the best neighborhood either. Teachers work as live in tutors or at private schools.
Want to learn French along with teaching English? Want to live in a diverse and different country than you’re used to? Want to find a country where you’ll get decent pay and teach just 15 hours a week? Lebanon may be for you.
It’s dangerous. Not too dangerous, but again it’s location is what scares off prospective teachers.
15) Brazil – Difficult to find full time work and low pay
Brazil is very welcoming to foreigners but life in Rio can be quite dangerous if you find yourself in the wrong part of the city. It’s also difficult to enough hours to make a full time go at it, it’s equally difficult to obtain the proper working visa due to corruption. Lastly, work is found only at private schools. Public schools currently do not employ ESL teachers.
Brazil is a large country that is as diverse as it’s people. Living in Brazil is a unique experience. One most foreigners never experience.
If you’re relying solely on your income from your ESL job, you’re going to find Brazil a tough country to make ends meet. It would best to work here as a teacher while also doing some side gig if possible. Getting the proper visa is also challenging. What a lot of teachers do is that they end up working illegally on tourist visas.
16) Russia – A unique experience
Russia is in need of ESL teachers and there are quite a few opportunities to be had in Russia’s major cities.
If you’ve been wanting to experience Russian culture or perhaps even learn Russian, becoming a teacher for a year or two is a great way to do this. Jobs are plentiful and they pay is high enough to where you can have a good standard of living.
Some ESL teachers simply did not enjoy the lifestyle in Russia as well as how expensive some items are and some cities are.
17) Turkey – Decent pay and a welcoming culture
Turkey is a unique choice for teaching English abroad. Most jobs are near the capital, where you get a mix of cultures. Turkey has excellent food, and Turkish people are welcoming.
To start teaching in Turkey, there are a few legal requirements to remember:
- A work permit is required. This can be obtained by getting a job offer and reviewing the paperwork with the employer.
- A teaching certificate or degree in English language teaching is necessary. This ensures teachers have the skills and knowledge to teach English to Turkish students effectively.
- A criminal record check from the teacher’s home country is also required.
Reviewing these legal requirements thoroughly before embarking on a career teaching English in Turkey is essential. With all the paperwork taken care of, teachers can focus on the exciting and rewarding experience that training in Turkey offers.
Turkey offers an incredible variety of unique places and experiences to explore. There is something for everyone, from the beautiful beaches in Izmir to the historical ruins at Ephesus. Istanbul is also an excellent destination for teachers looking to experience the city’s vibrant culture. Plenty of cafes, restaurants, and cultural activities make teaching English in Turkey an exciting journey.
Turkey is an interesting country to live and work in. The pay is also quite good compared to the cost of living and it’s a country where you can save money with ease.
It’s a Muslim country. As such, you’re going to have to adapt your behavior as appropriate. They are also on the front lines with ISIS and are dealing with political turmoil.
18) Indonesia – A great alternative to other SE Asian countries
Teach in Bali? Unfortunetly no. Most Jobs are in Java, located near Jakarta, far from Bali.
Indonesia is a mesmerizing country filled with diverse cultures and fascinating traditions. It is also a great place to teach English, but before you can start packing your bags, there are some legal requirements you need to fulfill.
The Indonesian government is stringent when issuing work permits, especially for foreigners looking to teach or work there. As a result, you must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a valid teaching certificate, and a minimum of two years of teaching experience.
You’ll also need sponsorship from an Indonesian company or school to obtain a working visa. While the process may seem daunting, don’t let it discourage you! Once you’ve crossed these boxes, you can begin your journey to becoming a successful English teacher in one of the most mesmerizing countries in the world.
The best part about teaching English in Indonesia is that wages are typically quite good. You can earn between $22-24 per hour, depending on the school. Additionally, many schools will provide accommodations such as housing and transportation for their teachers. While salaries may be lower than what you would make teaching in other countries, living costs in Indonesia tend to be affordable (imported goods, however, are expensive).
Jakarta is an international city. Great clubs, food and activities. You can experience a new, interesting, less traveled place while making a good income. The cost of living is also quite low.
It’s an island nation. Like Singapore, if you want to travel it will cost a bit more due to the price of boats and planes.
19) Saudi Arabia – A less traveled country
Living and working in Saudi Arabia as an ESL teacher is a true adventure. This country has begun to open up to tourism, so now it’s easier than ever to visit. Go check it out to see if it is right for you.
Teaching English in Saudi Arabia can be a unique and challenging experience, but it’s essential to understand the legal requirements before embarking on this adventure. Saudi Arabia has recently become more strict in issuing work visas, and teachers must meet specific needs to obtain the necessary permits. First and foremost, a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution is required, preferably in English or Education.
Additionally, teaching certification and experience are preferred but only sometimes necessary. Depending on the age group of students being taught, a criminal background check may also be required. Finally, teachers must be aware of and respectful of the customs and laws of Saudi Arabia, particularly around dress codes and gender segregation. By following these legal requirements, teachers can have a successful and fulfilling experience teaching English in Saudi Arabia.
When it comes to finding a job, there are several options available. The most common type of employment involves teaching at an international school or language institute. The school or institute will provide the necessary documentation and visa application assistance, so it is essential to research their requirements in advance. Additionally, companies and universities hire English language teachers contractually, allowing for more flexibility regarding hours and location. Finally, private tutoring is also an option for experienced teachers.
You get to live in Saudi Arabia and experience a culture completely foreign to your own. Most people will never even get to visit Saudi Arabia due to their strict immigration policy. Your earnings are also 100% tax free. You keep everything you make.
Foreigners have to live together, women will be shocked by how oppressive it is for their personal freedoms, curfews and no bars or clubs (obviously). It’s not a country where you’re going to be partying and living it up.
20 – Teach English in Malaysia
Just south of Thailand and north of Indonesia lies Malaysia. Malaysia is a Muslim country that has a few exclusive and unique job opportunities.
Malaysia pays very well, particularly when compared to Thailand. This, combined with a similar cost of living enables a teacher to save a lot of money while working in Malaysia. It’s also not uncommon to receive a bonus upon completion of a contract.
Malaysia is boring and has numerous religious laws that make a social life difficult. Most teachers who work in Malaysia grew bored with living there. The high pay however made it easy to justify spending a year as a teacher there.
21) – Teach English in India
India is last on the list due to it’s low pay, but India is still a country where you could work as an ESL teacher if you’re feeling adventurous enough.
You get to live and work in India. Allowing you to experience Indian culture on a long term basis.
The cons of working in India are the low salary, a Queens English British accent being preferred and most work being found at various call centers as your average Indian can speak some English.
22) Cambodia – No degree required
Cambodia located between Thailand and Vietnam. It’s a poorer country compared to it’s neighbors, but the requirements for teachers are a bit more lax. Legally, no bachelors degree is required to it is possible to secure a teaching position at a language center.
The international schools located in Phnom Pen and Siam Rep however will require professional qualifications from abroad in order to be even considered.
One of the few countries left where it is possible to teach without having a bachelors degree. Cambodia is also offers a low cost of living.
Cambodia is a beautiful, rural country and is well worth visiting for a few weeks. However it is a difficult country to get adjusted to on a long term basis.
So those are the top 21 countries to consider teaching English. If you’ve not already done so, checkout our section on the best countries to teach abroad. Each country has it’s own dedicated guide explaining visas, salaries and how to go about finding work.
When you’re ready, here is how we can help you (totally free).
TEFL Courses – A standard course you need to complete in order to teach abroad. No too expensive and only takes 1-3 months depending on intensity.
Must know ESL interview questions – In addition to doing a mock lesson, you’ll be asked questions on your professional development. Come prepared.
The impact of teaching abroad on your resume – If you don’t have a degree in teaching and decide to go abroad for a few years, learn what positive and negative impacts that could have on your resume.
From teaching abroad, online or in the classroom, we have the tools and resources you need. Master your craft with these exceptional online courses for teacher development:LEARN MORE
David UnwinHi, I'm David Unwin. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more about me.
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