Photo: Ajan Alen/Shutterstock

18 Scenic Places to Teach ESL

Honduras South Korea Mauritius Crete Bali Oaxaca Istanbul Bangkok Shanghai Stockholm Prague Galleries
by Michelle Schusterman Dec 7, 2014
1. Bangkok, Thailand
5 Aug 2019, Bangkok, Thailand, Chedi, Wat Arun Wararam Beautiful pagoda by the river Bangkok's landmarks created during the early Rattanakosin period., bangkok neighborhoods

Photo: Camera_Bravo/Shutterstock

Bangkok used to be called the “Venice of the East” thanks to its system of canals, or khlongs. Many have been filled in to create paved roads, but the Khlong Saen Saeb still twists through the city today, along with the Chao Phraya river.

2. Salvador, Brazil

Photo: hbpro/Shutterstock

Rio and São Paolo are the two most popular Brazilian cities when it comes to teaching ESL, but I wouldn’t trade my year in Salvador for anything. According to my co-workers and students, this is the city where Cariocas (Rio natives) come to vacation — that’s how gorgeous the beaches are.

3. Copán Ruinas, Honduras

Photo: Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

Copán Ruinas is on the border of Guatemala close to the archaeological site of Copán. The area includes an acropolis with plazas, buildings, pyramids, staircases, and a ballcourt, along with a system of tunnels underneath.

4. Prague, Czech Republic
Two women look over wall in Prague

Photo: Ajan Alen/Shutterstock

The Prague Castle, the Dancing House, the Astronomical Clock, and the Prague Metronome at Letná Park are some of my favorite monuments in this city. There are several language schools in Prague, but many ESL teachers choose to go the private-lesson route to avoid the high taxes that come with a school gig.

5. Zanzibar, Tanzania

Photo: In Green/Shutterstock

Hang out in Stone Town, go low-tide fishing, check out the wildlife, maybe hit up the “five-day music, culture, seafood, and booze-fueled party” known as Sauti Za Busara…oh, and teach a little, too.

6. Jeju Island, Korea
Sunrise at Seongsan Ilchulbong, Jeju island, South Korea

Photo: Natthawut Utsawachaichot/Shutterstock

While most hagwon-bound ESL teachers go for Seoul or Busan, Jeju Island has a much more laid-back vibe. Added bonus: sex theme park.

7. Lagos, Portugal
The beautiful Camilo Beach in Lagos, Portugal, with its magnificent cliffs and the blue ocean colorfully lit at sunrise

Photo: Smileus/Shutterstock

I’ve been told that many ESL teachers who head to the Algarve start out teaching part-time as a freelancer to gain experience before going for a full-time contract with a school. You might have an easier time finding a job in Lisbon or one of Portugal’s bigger cities, but the beaches in the south could convince you to give towns like Lagos a shot.

8. Shanghai, China

Photo: lightrain/Shutterstock

Shanghai is the largest city proper in the world (by population), so ESL teaching positions are easy to find. The better-paying jobs usually require some sort of certification like the TESOL, but work is available for native English speakers with a bachelor’s degree in any subject.

9. Bali, Indonesia

Photo: Pav-Pro Photography Ltd/Shutterstock

Most of Indonesia’s Hindus live in this province, and it’s fairly popular with tourists and ESL teachers. Scenery in Bali includes several pilgrimage temples, including the one on Tanah Lot, a rock formation pictured below.

10. Casablanca, Morocco

Photo: santa mariye/Shutterstock

Morocco’s largest and most famous city isn’t short on scenery, with miles of coastline, little islands, cathedrals, and mosques. Of course, you’ll have to endure tedious Bogart quotes when you tell your family and friends where you’re heading off to.

11. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm Sweden cityscape panorama destinations

Photo: Andrey Shcherbukhin/Shutterstock

ESL teaching jobs in Stockholm are competitive. While Stockholm is beautiful, the high cost of living makes it a challenge for most teachers to stay for long.

12. Istanbul, Turkey

Photo: Olena Z/Shutterstock

“For those seeking ESL teaching work in Istanbul, numerous jobs abound, and can be found simply by walking into the language schools themselves, or by applying with a resume, cover letter, photo, and scanned copy of qualifications and passport over the Internet,” says Matador contributor Emily Hansen. “For aspiring and seasoned travelers, there is no other city that quite captures the glamor of a martini glass, the pizzazz of a belly dancer, and the wild imagination of two continents.”

13. Uglich, Russia

Photo: Alexey Kotikov/Shutterstock

Never mind that the name of the town doesn’t exactly sound beautiful in English. Located in western Russia on the Volga River, Uglich is known for its examples of traditional Russian architecture.

14. Valparaiso, Chile
Valparaiso Chile cityscape destination
Photo: Shutterstock/F11photo

Photo: f11photo/Shutterstock

Valpo was named a world heritage site because of its public transportation system. The 16 funicular elevators will probably be a more convenient option for getting to class than the hilly cobblestone streets — and they add a colorful touch to the cityscape.

15. Grand Port, Mauritius

Photo: Benny Marti/Shutterstock

Located over 500 miles east of Madagascar, Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands and was created by oceanic volcano eruptions, resulting in mountains, beaches, coral reefs, lagoons, and rivers.

16. Crete, Greece
Crete lighthouse

Photo: leoks/Shutterstock

Personally, my reason for teaching ESL in Greece would be the food, but the Byzantine ruins and beaches are probably good reasons, too.

17. Oaxaca, Mexico
nude beaches

Photo: In2dodo /Shutterstock

Several Matadorians have based out of Oaxaca over the last few years. There are language schools in Oaxaca City, and if you’re willing to dig in and be resourceful, you might be able to put together a gig in one of the smaller towns, several of which have world-class surf.

18. Reykjavik, Iceland
View of the Tjornin Lake in Reykjavik at sunset in winter, What to do in Reykjavik

Photo: Javen/Shutterstock

With Mount Esja dominating the view to the north and incredible examples of architecture like the Hallgrimskirkja church, Reykjavik is a beautiful (if chilly) place to teach phrasal verbs and idioms.

This article was originally published on September 3rd, 2012 as an updated version of a 2008 article by Matador contributor Athena Lamberis.

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