15 of the World's Best Destinations for Teaching Abroad

by James Soller Nov 17, 2014

YOU MEET THE REQUIREMENTS to teach English abroad, but where are the best places to teach? This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on how you define ‘the best place’ and who you ask. Based on my several years of teaching experience and traveling, here are my suggestions.

Although my choices are subjective, I have used four qualitative measures to come up with this list. The four variables that I use are SALARY + ADVENTURE + SECURITY + AVAILABILITY.

Let’s clarify. By availability, I mean the amount of jobs available to teach English in a particular country. I am sure a lot of people would love to teach in places, such as France. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to find a job teaching ESL in Western Europe. So if your idea of traveling and adventure is limited to the security of Western Europe, you probably aren’t the right candidate to teach English abroad. By adventure, I mean how fun it would be to teach in a particular country.


Woman riding a high speed bullet train in Japan

Photo: Natee Meepian/Shutterstock

This is probably a biased pick on my part since I lived in Japan for four years. However, this place is awesome in so many ways. In fact, I cannot recall meeting one person who either lived or visited Japan that had anything bad to say about it. Unfortunately, jobs are not as abundant as they once were, but there still are jobs, opportunities, and endless adventure in this majestic land that remains somewhat sheltered from the rest of the world. I taught in both Sapporo in the far north and in Okinawa in the far south.

South Korea

Photo: Elizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock

South Korea is where Japan was 15 years ago, which means there are plenty of well-paying jobs teaching English in a strong economy. South Korea is booming in all ways at the moment, and there are a great number of English teaching jobs to be had. Most offer free housing, paid airfare, and the chance to save between $10,000 to $25,000 in one year. There have been reports of the top teachers in South Korea making $5,000 or $6,000 a month. Like Japan, South Korea is also an exotic land where one can sing karaoke into the wee hours of the night and walk home with little threat of danger.


Photo: AJR_photo/Shutterstock

Unfortunately, stereotypes of Colombia still persist. However, the reality is that Colombia has a burgeoning economy and the days of Pablo Escobar are long over. While it isn’t as safe as Japan or South Korea, a little common sense should keep the foreigner out of harm’s way. I’ve spent four months in South America and everyone I met from Colombia was warm, friendly, and eager to invite me to their country. If you’re looking for adventure and nightlife, this is sure to be a great place to live. There are plenty of teaching jobs throughout the country and some that pay well for South American standards.


Photo: vichie81/Shutterstock

China could easily be number one for several reasons. Most importantly, this is not only a land with an endless amount of English teaching jobs, but one of economic opportunity. Anyone that is interested in using teaching English as a second language as a springboard to invest in foreign countries should consider China. The downsides to China may be the fact that is too big, there’s lots of pollution, and it’s not a democracy. However, I have talked to several teachers and all of them reported that teaching English in China was a great experience.


Photo: PR Image Factory/Shutterstock

This is a small country that is often overlooked for teaching English. Like Japan, Taiwan has been a great place to teach for many years. I have spoken with several instructors who taught there and they all said great things about teaching English in Taiwan. The people are super friendly, food is inexpensive, rent is cheap, and English teaching salaries are just below Japan and South Korea. Because this is a small island, one can easily escape the chaos of Taipei and relax on the tropical beaches in the south.


Photo: JunPhoto/Shutterstock

Vietnam could arguably be in the top three. This place has all the factors to make it a great destination for teaching English. Geographically speaking, Thailand and Cambodia are just a stone’s throw away, but the real draw for Vietnam is the cost of living. A dollar can still get you a beer or a cheap plate of food. Teachers are reportedly making $1200 to $2800 a month. You are not going to save money in Vietnam like you could in South Korea, but you can definitely save money, live super cheap, and have all the adventures that Southeast Asia can offer. I’ve talked to several teachers who were in Vietnam, and each report indicates that plenty of English teaching jobs and other opportunities exist there.


horseback riding in torres del paine, one of the best chile national parks

Photo: Amalia S./Shutterstock

I once spent two weeks traveling through this geographically elongated and beautiful country. I decided at the time that if I ever need to hide out for the rest of my life, I am going straight to Chile. From talking to English teachers while I was there, I got the impression that Chile is a great place for teaching English. There are a fair amount of jobs, a stable economy, and the pay is good for South American standards. As an added plus, the people are wonderful and the Andes are nothing less than the work of God. Chile is also the safest country in South America after Uruguay.

United Arab Emirates

Photo: kudla/Shutterstock

The UAE makes the top ten simply because the pay is so good. I have heard reports of people making upwards of $60,000 a year teaching English in Dubai. Of course, this is in the right situation. It is also an ultra-modern place and there are plenty of interesting places to travel to nearby. Most of the teachers I’ve spoken with have said good things about the UAE, particularly the money aspect.

Saudi Arabia

Two women in hijab feeling excited taking photo with the elephant mountain as background

Photo: Hafizzuddin/Shutterstock

Like Dubai, the money factor is the main reason for teaching English in Saudi Arabia. Teachers in the Kingdom can expect to make between $40,000 to $100,000 dollars per year. Of course, there is the whole prohibition of alcohol factor. This can also be a tough place to live if you are a Western woman. Sorry, feminism hasn’t hit the Saudi mainstream yet. However, most people teaching in Saudi Arabia just hop across the border on the weekend to a magical land called Bahrain, which is kind of the Las Vegas + Thailand of the Middle East. Despite the image of Saudi Arabia in the minds of most, Saudis are extremely friendly people, kind, and hospitable.


Photo: manux mundo/Shutterstock

I recently spent a month in Ecuador and I cannot say enough good things about this country. The people are wonderful, the food is cheap and delicious, and the abundant nature is breathtaking. I had tears in my eyes when I departed from the airport. Oh, and there are quite a few teaching jobs throughout the country. The pay is not great, but it’s enough to save a few hundred dollars a month since the cost of living is cheap.


woman in thailand

Photo: Day2505/Shutterstock

I spent a month in Thailand a few years ago and this place is f@#king awesome. Pardon my vulgar language, but I don’t know how else to describe it. In fact, Thailand is such a cool place that it actually ranks lower in my book since I would be dead within three years of constant partying and life threatening trips through the jungles of the north. With that being said, there remains plenty of jobs for teaching English in Thailand, and one can land a great apartment for about $200 a month. Don’t forget about the mouth watering yet dirt-cheap food and wonderful people that populate the happiest place on Earth. 


Photo: Donatas Dabravolskas/Shutterstock

In an ideal world, Brazil would be in the top three. There are plenty of opportunities for teaching English in Brazil, and let’s not forget about its booming economy which is the largest in South America. However, all the reports I’ve heard is that it can be quite difficult to obtain a working visa. For some reason, the Brazilian government is fixated on the idea that actual Brazilians should be teaching other Brazilians English. When this changes, expect Brazil to become a hotspot for teaching English. And then it’s hello to ultra-friendly people, great food, and wonderful beaches.


Photo: frantic00/Shutterstock

Turkey has become somewhat of a hotspot for teaching English in recent years. A growing economy and commitment to befriend the West has resulted in plenty of jobs for teaching English. From reports I’ve heard, the pay for teaching English in Turkey is decent and the cost of living is relatively inexpensive. This also has to be a great place for culture and history. Please note that due to recent changes in immigration policy, teachers now have to secure a teaching contract while in their home country. It used to be much easier to fly in on a tourist visa and change the status to a work visa.

Costa Rica

Hiker in Costa Rica

Photo: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock

Who wouldn’t want to teach in a tropical paradise? If you love the beach, surfing, and breathtaking nature, then Costa Rica is a worthy destination. Since the economy was opened up some years ago, Costa Ricans have been eager to learn English in the the hopes of securing a well-paying job. While many dream of flying into Costa Rica and finding a job in a town near the beach, this unfortunately is not the reality of teaching there. Most jobs teaching English in Costa Rica are located in San Jose. Fortunately, it is a small enough country that one could easily escape the hustle and bustle of San Jose for a weekend of chilling out on the beach.


Photo: Antonio Salaverry/Shutterstock

This is a bit of a biased pick on my part since I will always love Argentina after spending three months there. Although there are a good amount of English teaching jobs in Argentina, the pay and hours kind of suck. However, teaching English in Argentina is about the adventure. This place might have a sluggish and dysfunctional economy, but the people are never short on passion and creativity, and will protest anything at the drop of a hat. I am sure that I left some deserving destinations off of my list. Please do not hesitate to comment and add any great places for teaching English abroad.

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