Teaching English Abroad: Costs to Consider

So many of us have ambitions to travel the world but it can take years to save up enough money to set off somewhere far away. And by that point, you might be satisfied in your career or perhaps either unable or unwilling to take a career break. Few jobs let you travel and earn money at the same time but teaching English abroad does exactly that. 

In this article we’ll cover some of the most significant costs to expect if you’ve decided to TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language). After all, organisation is key to ensuring things run smoothly. So, whether you’re just weighing up your options or are ready to fully commit, costs are likely to be an important factor for you. It would be impossible to drop everything and leave home to teach English abroad without significant planning. 

How much money will I need?

We can’t give you an exact indication of how much you’ll need to start teaching English because costs are all country, employer and employee dependent. But what we can do is provide a rough idea of your most likely expenses. You’ll have some essential costs to cover before you even catch a flight and then you’ll of course have more when you arrive. What’s worth emphasising is that EFL teachers more often than not make enough money to afford a comfortable lifestyle in the country they work in.  

Guaranteed expense: A TEFL Qualification

A TEFL qualification will without a doubt be the most important investment you make towards your new career abroad. Purchasing a course from a quality provider is strongly recommended and you should be able to find out plenty about them on their website (e.g. their reviews and if they have listed accrediting partners). You can’t expect a brief and cheap course to give you the necessary confidence to begin teaching. 

Advanced courses will be at an optional additional cost. They’re worth considering if you know that you want to teach a specific type of English such as Business English or English for interviews, or are simply eager to ensure your application stands out. However, you can take these courses whenever you like once you have a TEFL certification. 

Essential documents 

There are a number of documents you’ll need to prepare. Of course, you’ll need a passport but what else? A TEFL certificate, visa, and a criminal background check are all standard requirements.

If having a degree is necessary for the job then you’ll also need a copy of your degree transcript as evidence. If you’re a non-native English speaker, you might be asked for proof of your English fluency. In addition to any of the requested documents, it’s usually required that you have them notarised for proof of authenticity, which again will be at an extra cost to you. Some employers will cover the costs of legal documents but it’s best not to pin your hopes on this, as for the most part they will be your responsibility to pay for. 


If you’re travelling far from home a flight could easily be your biggest expense. Make sure to use price comparison sites like Skyscanner and Kayak when booking. If you’re flexible about your arrival dates then you should research flight prices on different dates too – as flight prices can really vary from one day to the next.

You’ll also have to think about your work commute. Will you have to drive or take public transport? Travel passes could save you a small fortune so make sure you check out the options available to you. 

Expenses upon arrival 

Finding suitable accommodation can be easier once you’ve already arrived. Some employers provide accommodation or even offer a stipend. Alternatively, you’ll need to have enough money set aside to cover at least your first month’s rent, a deposit, and home essentials. You then have utilities to take into account, food shops and anything else you might need when first settling in.  

Although these costs are common expenses at home and away, it’s best to plan at least a month of expenses in advance as you wait on your first pay-cheque. However, in some countries it’s easier to find work once you arrive. Obviously the uncertainty involved with this can be unsettling so planning ahead is essential – in this case you’ll want to have savings to last you at least a couple months in the event that finding work takes longer than you hoped.

What about costs for online teaching? 

Online teachers will have fewer start-up costs but may find they have just as many financial responsibilities. It all depends on the duration you spend living in one place as this could affect your visa. If you’re moving around regularly you could end up paying accommodation per night rather than rent, which will add up to more in the long run. However, you won’t have the cost of a regular commute. Obviously, the more you travel the more expenses you’ll have! 

If you’re working for an online teaching company you need to meet whatever that company’s specific requirements are. On top of typical life expenses, you can expect to spend on technology if your current devices don’t allow you to conduct high-quality lessons. You don’t necessarily have to go to the expense of a new laptop though. You might want to consider purchasing an external microphone or webcam instead. 

So, there you have some of the expenses to expect as an English teacher abroad. Ensure that you’re well researched about the cost of living in your destination country as this will help you plan out your initial costs. Overall, it’s better to know in full the expenses you’ll be dealing with rather than waiting until the last minute! Hopefully, you now feel more confident in your planning.


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