The 5 best places to save money teaching abroad

Okay, so you’ve made up your mind to teach abroad, but now comes the hard part...where should you go?

Some people make the decision based on a lifelong obsession with Japanese culture, a childhood curiosity or just the incredible pictures they see posted online. But for others, choosing where to teach might not be so simple. In fact, it might involve late nights and going so deep down a YouTube hole that there’s no way back.

I’ve been there. Choosing where to teach abroad is a headache and almost the hardest part of the puzzle. You know you want to travel, save, see the world, upskill and gain some solid experience teaching in exciting new countries, but...eh…the world is massive and the options are endless.

The top countries to teach abroad if you want to save

best places to teach abroad

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to devote a lot of time to scouring the internet for answers to all your pressing questions. If you’re interested in making bank, saving tons, and figuring out how countries stack up against each other, then look no further.

Everyone will earn and save differently, so we’ve put together a table for each country to help you get a clearer picture of how much you can make in each of our chosen countries, whether you’re cheap as chips or a complete spendthrift.

1. Make more money than you can spend teaching in the United Arab Emirates

teach abroad salary by country

It won’t take long to figure out that the United Arab Emirates offers some of the most attractive financial packages for teachers looking to work abroad. The salaries in places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai usually comes with benefits like rent, flights and health insurance. Some teachers even have their utilities covered… so you can blast the air con without worrying about bank-balance crippling bills.

Although the UAE is one of the flashier teach abroad destinations, it’s certainly not impossible to save. The excellent compensation means you can live a relatively lavish lifestyle and still pocket a good bit of your wages. Teachers considering this part of the world will be well positioned for flights to other countries in the Middle East, as well as parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. It’s also home to a large expat community, so teachers will have access to a ready-made community. Get a feel for exactly what living, spending and saving in the UAE is like with this teacher’s account of budgeting while living and working in the UAE.

 

Typical amount in USD/month (based on 1 person)

Salary for teachers in the UAE

Anywhere from $2,000 - 4,000 (tax free), plus housing/housing allowance, flights, bonus, healthcare

Saving potential for teachers in the UAE

Big savers: $2,000

Moderate Savers: $1,500

Light savers: $1,000

Cost of living for teachers in the UAE

(including utilities, transport, phone, groceries, etc.)

Big spenders: $2,000

Moderate spenders: $1,500

Light spenders: $1,000

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in the UAE

$1,500 - 2,000

2. Save more in the Middle East by choosing the lesser-known Kuwait

best places to teach abroad

When people talk about teaching in the Middle East it often seems like the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia are the only countries that come to mind. But there are lots of countries investing in foreign teachers and ignoring them would be a mistake. Kuwait offers pay and benefits that are on par with its famous neighbours, but the cost-of-living is lower, making it an attractive option for families looking to teach in the Middle East.

Teachers that make the trip to Kuwait will probably be a little surprised by how different it is to home. Men outnumber women and alcohol is banned (so it’s not exactly a party destination). It’s good news for people that enjoy socializing over food or family-friendly activities, as this is how people spend their free time in this small country. Kuwait is small enough to miss on a map, but world travelers won’t be disappointed as it offers easy access to the rest of the Middle East as well as parts of Asia.

 

Typical amount in USD/month (based on 1 person)

Salary for teachers in Kuwait

$2,600 - 4,000 (tax free), plus housing/housing allowance, flights, bonus, healthcare

Saving potential for teachers in Kuwait

Big savers: $2,000

Moderate savers: $1,500

Light savers: $1,000

Cost of living for teachers in Kuwait

(including utilities, transport, phone, groceries, etc.)

Big spenders: $1,600

Moderate apenders: $1,100

Light Spenders: $650

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in Kuwait

$1,000 - 1,500

3. Kazakhstan is a hidden gem for those looking to make bank teaching abroad

how much do english teachers make abroad

If you fancy going off the beaten track in the Middle East, then this might be a welcome option. Offering snow leopards and a doorstep to Europe, Kazakhstan is worth considering for the saving-savvy teacher.

If you want a reasonable cost of living, great wages and immersion in a brand new culture, look no further. Stunning scenery and modern cities abound and there is no shortage of things to do and places to see. It’s the most diverse of the Middle Eastern countries due to its unique history and ties to Russia. Tea addicts, bread lovers and shish kebab worshippers will all find what they’re looking for.

As with most Middle Eastern teaching positions, it will be easy to maintain a high standard of living here. Cost of living can be expensive, but it’s balanced by the impressive wages. Teachers looking to move here will most likely need to be certified teachers at home.

 

Typical amount in USD/month (based on 1 person)

Salary for teachers in Kazakhstan

$4,000 - 5,000, plus housing allowance, flights, bonus, healthcare

Saving potential for teachers in Kazakhstan

Big savers: $2,000

Moderate savers: $1,500

Light savers: $1,000

Cost of living for teachers in Kazakhstan

(including utilities, transport, phone, groceries, etc.)

Big spenders: $1,400

Moderate spenders: $1,000

Light spenders: $800

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in Kazakhstan

$800 - 1,000

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4. China’s demand for teachers is growing and so are their salaries

teach abroad salary

China has always been subject to global curiosity, but it’s only in recent years that the opportunity to teach there has become truly attractive. As the economy continues to grow, the Chinese government is pushing education and investing in the English language. There are positions in China to suit every type of person… from rugged rural villages to sprawling cities.

The average teacher manages to save a decent amount of money here and though wages are low compared to Middle Eastern countries, the cost-of-living is much lower. It’s worth shopping around for the right position as benefits can vary and getting your flights/accomodation covered can go a long way towards fattening your wallet. If you’re an experienced educator or fresh grad interested in teaching in China, it’s worth checking out the Explore Program.

Typical amount in USD/month (based on 1 person) Salary for teachers in China $1,500 - 2,850 (benefits vary to reflect cost of living but can include accommodation, flights, training and health insurance) Saving potential for teachers in China Big savers: $1,000 Moderate savers: $800 Light savers: $600 Cost of living for teachers in China (including utilities, transport, phone, groceries, etc.) Big spenders: $1,400 Moderate spenders: $1,000 Light spenders: $800 (all excluding rent) Start-up costs for teachers in China $1,000 - 1,500 USD

5. Save at least $1,000 USD a month while exploring South Korea

teaching abroad salary by country

If the Middle East and China seem a bit daunting, then perhaps teaching in South Korea is the answer. A modern country that boasts big cities and idyllic rural positions, English teachers have been traveling here in droves to pay off loans and even save deposits. It’s not uncommon for teachers to go for a year, and come back five years later! The quality of life is one of the best and it’s not hard to put aside at least $1,000 a month.

One of the main attractions for teaching in South Korea is that you really don’t have to skimp on savings. Japan is a mere ferry ride away (seriously!) and you can hop on a plane and find yourself in Thailand, Cambodia or China in a matter of hours. Consider it a window to Southeast Asia. Here’s a comprehensive dive on how much you can earn teaching English in South Korea.

 

Typical amount in USD/month (based on 1 person)

Salary for teachers in South Korea

$1,600 - 3,000, plus housing/housing allowance, flights, bonus, healthcare

Saving potential for teachers in South Korea

Big savers: $1,300

Moderate savers: $1,000

Light savers: $600

Cost of living for teachers in South Korea

(including utilities, transport, phone, groceries, etc.)

Big spenders: $900

Moderate spenders: $750

Light spenders: $600

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in South Korea

$1,000 - 1,500

What you should consider if you’re looking to teach abroad as a way to save

When I was picking a country there were a ton of questions on the tip of my tongue, but a few factors were non-negotiable. So, I stubbornly scoured the internet looking for specific answers in a sea of annoyingly generic information and let’s be frank, some pretty weird YouTube videos about what to expect in different countries. I’m going to save you that hassle by sharing my findings with you.

Read this: Top countries to make the most money teaching abroad in 2018

First off, you should probably scribble down what you want from a position and try to focus on a couple of things to narrow down your search. For me, these were the non-negotiables (although I wanted to save, money wasn’t my only priority):

a. Proximity to other countries - cheap travel options when teaching abroad

I wanted to be close enough to other countries to make the odd country-hop budget friendly. There was no way I was going to pack my suitcase for a year without getting to tick a couple of places off the bucket list. There are plenty of countries that are close to other places and have a high demand for English teachers.

Look no further than Southeast Asia, the Middle East or Europe for a bunch of budget-friendly travel options, but places like Mexico also have travel-friendly positions. Some are cheaper than others, so it’s worth seeing what flights out of your target country cost and mock-plan some trips to make sure travel will be budgetable (yes, I was that spreadsheet nerd).

b. Skimp on costs but not on experiences - choose a place that’s so fascinating you won’t get bored

For me, the country needed to be rich in culture and have the option of teaching in rural areas. I had a hankering for an off-the-grid, immersive experience. I definitely did not want to end up in an expat community where there was an expensive city for me to blow my wages in. I wanted mountains, the total absence of temptation and an outdoorsy year away. Spending my weekends hiking stunning mountain ranges and exploring hidden temples was definitely a shortcut to saving money.

As you search, try to think about what you will actually do on a day-to-day basis. Is having other foreigners nearby a priority? How immersed in the local life do you want to be? What kind of little luxuries do you need in your life?

c. Look out for low cost of living, small set-up costs and good wages

I spent hours online researching cost of living, anticipated savings, set-up costs and salary… because sometimes the highest wages, don’t always result in the highest savings.

If you’re still not sure where you want to go, why not try our salary calculator and see what your qualifications and experience will add up to?

teach abroad salary calculator