It is a common misconception that teaching English abroad requires a large amount of money up front before you even start earning. While you will need to cover the cost of your TEFL certification and get yourself to the destination you have chosen to work in, you should soon start earning enough to get those outlays back quickly. However, in some destinations the cost of living is so high that it can seem like you are constantly hemorrhaging money. So where can you teach English and live well on just a small budget? Here we look at some of the cheapest destinations for teaching English abroad.
Thailand makes an appearance on many lists of the best places to teach English abroad for various reasons and one is its relatively low cost of living. Although the average salary for English teachers is not particularly high, everyday expenses are very affordable, especially away from the most popular tourist areas. Clean and comfortable accommodation can be found for as little as $6 a night in a hostel dorm room, while a private room can be as low as $15. If you want to splash out and have a shared pool and other higher-end amenities you can find options starting at $30. Internal travel is also very affordable as long distance buses and trains criss-cross the country. However, it is always worth checking internal flights as well as you can often fly from A to B for around the same amount in a fraction of the time.
Food can be another big expense in some countries, however, Thailand is famous for its amazing cuisine and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Delicious street food can be found on every corner, with a single plate often costing no more than a dollar. Most locals tuck into street food on a daily basis, so why would you need to do any different! Local restaurants also provide exceptional value for money and if you prefer to eat in, groceries are very affordable at markets and small family shops. The big advice here is to avoid imported goods and areas aimed at the tourist market as prices for most things will be considerably higher. Also remember that alcohol is generally more expensive than food in Thailand, so you might want to limit your big nights out.
Southeast Asia is the best place to look for cheap destinations in Asia as jobs are plentiful in most countries and the cost of living is usually well below what you are used to back home. As well as Thailand, we recommend Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Like Thailand, Mexico is a very popular tourist destination that also attracts TEFL teachers in large numbers. And like many of its neighbors in Latin America it is a relatively cheap place to live, work, and travel. Dorm room beds start at around $10 a night, while a private double room can be secured for around $30. However, many people are increasingly looking at Airbnb as an option as apartments can be as low as $20 a night, including fast internet and many of the home comforts you don’t always get with hostel accommodation. Other options that can provide free housing such as housesitting and couchsurfing are also increasingly popular in Mexico. If you plan to explore the country in your free time then you will be glad to know that local buses are generally comfortable and inexpensive. Super-cheap shared minivans are ideal for short distances, while long distance journeys are covered by luxury coaches offering reclining seats, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi.
Mexico is another country that is famous the world over for its excellent cuisine and it is also very cheap. Just one or two dollars will get you a plate of street food that will blow your mind with amazing flavors. If you prefer to sit indoors while eating or you want to enjoy a slower meal with friends, local restaurants offer an extraordinary array of dishes. Away from the main tourist areas you can enjoy a meal out for $5 to $10 per person. No visit to Mexico would be complete without exploring some of the country’s many ancient ruins, beautiful national parks, and informative museums, all of which are very affordable. All in all, Mexico offers a wide variety of experiences that everyone can enjoy without breaking the bank.
Most countries in this region are easy on your wallet and the demand for TEFL qualified teachers is high in many areas. In Central America countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras are increasingly popular and cheap to live in. In South America, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Paraguay are all well worth investigating.
Czech Republic (Czechia)
If you are set on Europe as a destination for teaching English it can be difficult to find a destination where the cost of living is not through the roof. Most of the top countries on many people's list, such as France, Italy, and Spain are very expensive places to live, particularly in hotspots such as Paris, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, and Madrid. However, the good news is that the Czech Republic is much more affordable and jobs are also widespread and easy to find. Many teachers take advantage of cheap hostel accommodation initially and then once settled it is common for teachers to rent a room in an apartment shared with other teachers or a private apartment which should cost in the region of $800 per month.
Prague, the capital city, is the most popular location for teaching in the country and probably the most expensive. However, the overall cost of living is very reasonable for a big European capital with so much to offer. The Czechs are world famous for their love of beer and you will certainly be able to find out what all the fuss is about as a pint of excellent local beer costs as little as $1.60. Local food is also very reasonable and getting around is a breeze as a monthly travel pass for Prague comes in at only $22.
Most of the more affordable countries in Europe are in Central Europe such as Hungary, Poland, and Romania, although Portugal in the far west of the region is also worth checking out.