5 Of The Best Countries For Teaching English Abroad & Why

Over one billion people are learning English as a second language across the world, which makes teaching overseas not only one of the most fulfilling but also one of the most accessible career paths for travel enthusiasts. Travelista’s Editor Jessica Ruth Gibson shares everything you need to know.

For nomads seeking slow travel, immersion into different cultures and giving back to communities, teaching English abroad is a great way to enhance their experience and earn money at the same time. Options to teach English overseas are available regardless of your education level and previous experience. Every country offers something different, so we’re providing a round up of the best countries for teaching English abroad, putting everything from the weather, culture, cost of living and average salaries in the spotlight.

This article has been written in partnership with TEFL.

Requirements to Teach English Abroad

Before we dive into the best countries to teach English abroad, it’s worth knowing the requirements and qualifications involved. When it comes to teaching opportunities abroad, most employers look for the following: 

  • Native or fluent English speaker
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Valid passport
  • TEFL/TESOL certification
  • Clean criminal record

Some regions of the world have stricter requirements than others so it’s worth remembering that the list above isn’t definitive. It is possible to find teaching positions without a degree, and other flexible opportunities when it comes to teaching English online or tutoring voluntarily. 

Nevertheless, a 120-hour TEFL certification from an accredited provider such as The TEFL Academy is generally considered a must-have, especially as competition in the marketplace continues to expand. 

5 Of The Best Countries For Teaching English Abroad

Thailand

Perfect for the full backpacker experience

In many ways, Thailand is the original or ‘OG’ TEFL destination. With a stunning tropical climate, welcoming locals, and an assortment of night-time festivities, the Land of Smiles has been a backpacker hotspot for many years now. Still, the country is now far more than just a destination for backpackers to spend their gap year. In Thailand, there are opportunities to teach in preschools, language schools, universities and summer camps. 

The growing nomad and expat community also helps make Thailand a stellar destination for those looking to teach English online with a wealth of options when it comes to coworking spaces that come with high-quality internet speeds. Newly qualified teachers can expect to earn from ฿30,000 ($870) per month, with more experience and qualified teachers earning up to ฿100,000 ($3,000) by tutoring in private schools where salaries tend to be higher. 

Thailand is considered one of the most affordable destinations, with the average cost of living coming in at roughly ฿20,000 – ฿ 30,000 per month (£440 – £660) in urban areas such as Phuket or Bangkok. This gives TEFL teachers ample opportunities to save money all whilst soaking in the Sanuk lifestyle experience.

China

Explore bustling metropolises filled with job opportunities

When it comes to TEFL teaching opportunities overseas, few markets come close to matching the abundance China boasts. Thanks to China’s growing connections with the wider world, English proficiency has become increasingly sought after across all levels of society. 

When it comes to teaching in China, it’s best to split the country into three categories: first, second and third cities. First cities are the bustling concrete jungles many of us imagine when we think of when it comes to the world’s newest superpower includes the likes of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Second cities such as Chengdu, Nanjing and Hangzhou offer a slower way of living, whilst third cities are for those who want to go off the beaten path and save money. 

A native English speaker requires a TEFL certification and a Bachelor’s degree to teach in China. Typically, salaries for these job opportunities range between ¥9,000 – 35,000 per month (£980 – £3,800), with positions including those in preschools, public schools and English training centres. 

Time spent in China can be one of the most fulfilling experiences for any slow travel enthusiast, with teaching in the country allowing visitors to sample the wide range of culinary delights, learn Mandarin and adapt to a new type of culture. 

Spain

An easy and convenient base for any sun-chaser

Fancy enjoying some sun, sangria and tapas whilst also making money? Teaching English in Spain might just be the passport you need. From Barcelona to the Basque Country and Tenerife to Toledo, 71 million tourists, nomads and workers touched down on its shores in 2022, making it the second-most visited destination in Europe behind France. 

One afternoon lounging on Cala Saladaor or strolling down Gran Via should serve as a good reminder of why it remains such an enticing destination. But, aside from the sun-soaked beaches and laid-back lifestyle, there are so plenty of reasons why Spain is such a sought-after spot for teaching English as a foreign language. 

The country’s Start-Up visa is the perfect tool for digital nomads teaching online, whilst the Spanish government has invested huge amounts of resources into Language Assistant Programs such as NALCAP, BEDA and Meddeas for TEFL teachers. 

Salaries can range from €700 – €3,000 per month (£600 – £2,500) depending on the position and an applicant’s prior teaching experience. It’s still possible to be on the lower end of this bracket, still experience an authentic Spanish lifestyle and save money. 1-bedroom apartments outside city centres are roughly per month €500 ($550) and Spain is still regarded as being one of the most affordable destinations in Europe. 

South Korea

Culture-rich and full of benefits – sure to provide a once in a lifetime experience

Another country that has become intertwined with teaching English overseas, South Korea boasts plenty of high-paying jobs, ample opportunities for professional development and a rich, energetic and exciting classroom culture to be immersed in. 

A land where 13,000 ancient Buddhist temples blend with neon-lit norebangs, South Korea is one of the best countries to teach English abroad not only for its characteristics but also for its ease in picking up a teaching position. The country’s E-2 visa is specifically designed for native English speakers looking to teach there. A bachelor’s degree, a clean criminal, health exam and drug test are all requirements for obtaining an E-2 visa, which should only be applied for once you have proof of employment within the country. 

The government EPIK program is the most popular means of finding work teaching English in South Korea, with average salaries ranging from  ₩2300,000 – ₩4100,000 per month (£1,045 – £1,880). The benefits of these types of teaching programs are especially handy, with your flights being reimbursed, furnished accommodation being provided, completion bonuses being commonplace and 50% of your health insurance being covered by your employer. 

Costa Rica

A trending destination for 2024 with saving opportunities aplenty

We’re rounding off our list of the best countries to teach English abroad with a slightly rogue shout, albeit one that has been fast-growing in the world of TEFL over the last few years. Costa Rica offers nomads the chance to trek through lush tropical forests, scale volcanoes and explore some of the most incredible biodiversity on the planet, and has emerged as one of the best destinations for those looking to save money as well as further their resume. 

Popular places for English teachers in Costa Rica naturally include the capital of San Jose, the lively city of Alajuela and Heredia, a vibrant university town. Teaching in Costa Rica requires TEFL certification from a course provider such as The TEFL Academy and a work visa, which requires sponsorship and can be a rather lengthy process.

Nevertheless, Costa Rica also has a Rentista visa option which allows digital nomads to work inside the country for an extended period. Teaching salaries in Costa Rican language schools can range from ₡320,000 – ₡795,000 per month (£480 – £1,210) depending on the experience of the applicant. Again, private tutoring and institutes are the way to go for the more lucrative wages, however, these come with more stringent requirements and, oftentimes, longer working hours. If you’re thinking of teaching English in Costa Rica for the pura vida, a public position should still be enough to see you save some money thanks to the country’s remarkably low cost of living. 

Kickstart Your Teaching Career or Fund Your Travels

Teaching English abroad has proven to be the ticket thousands of travellers have been looking for to tick off their most sought-after bucket list experiences. Not only are the salaries on offer competitive, providing plenty of saving opportunities for when it is time to return home, but the experience of fully immersing yourself in an all-new culture, meeting new people and enriching the lives of students through education is one of the most fulfilling and enduring appeals of teaching overseas. With a TEFL/TESOL certificate and the right attitude for enhancing others, all 5 of the countries we’ve listed within this article are great options to explore further.

Read more articles from our career section.

Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.

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