The 5 best places to save money teaching abroad

Okay, so you’ve made up your mind to teach English abroad and now comes the exciting part: choosing where to go.

Some people make this decision based on a lifelong obsession with a certain culture, or just a few breathtaking photos they see 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 can be a headache and almost the hardest part of the puzzle. It can be overwhelming since the world is massive and the options seem endless. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. If you want to save money while teaching abroad, we’ve rounded up a few countries you may want to consider.

1. United Arab Emirates

teach abroad salary by country

 

You can make more money than you can spend teaching in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), since the country offers some of the most attractive financial packages for teachers looking to work abroad. The salaries in Abu Dhabi and Dubai usually come with benefits like housing, flights, health insurance and an end-of-contract bonus. 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, which can help new teachers settle in faster. 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.

 

Amount in USD/month (approx. for 1 person)

Salary for teachers in the UAE

$2,400–$5,700 (tax-free) plus housing, flights, health insurance & end-of-contract bonus

Saving potential for teachers in the UAE

Big savers: $2,500

Moderate savers: $1,500

Light savers: $900

Cost of living for teachers in the UAE

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

Big spenders: $2,250

Moderate spenders: $2,000

Light spenders: $1,500

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in the UAE

$1,500–$2,000 (not including flights)

 

2. China

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 teaching positions in China to suit every type of person––from rugged rural villages to sprawling cities.

As China’s demand for teachers grows, so do teachers’ salaries. The average teacher manages to save a decent amount of money in China. Although 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 and accommodations covered can go a long way towards fattening your wallet. Whether you’re an experienced educator or fresh grad interested in teaching in China, it’s worth checking out the Explore Program for some of the best opportunities.

 

Amount in USD/month (approx. 1 person)

Salary for teachers in China

$1,500–$4,500 (tax-free) plus housing, flights, health insurance & end-of-contract bonus

Saving potential for teachers in China

Big savers: $3,000

Moderate Savers: $2,000

Light savers: $900

Cost of living for teachers in China

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

Big spenders: $1,200

Moderate spenders: $800

Light spenders: $600

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in China

$1,000–$1,500 (not including flights)

 

3. 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.

 

Amount in USD/month (approx. for 1 person)

Salary for teachers in Kuwait

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

Saving potential for teachers in Kuwait

Big savers: $3,000

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 spenders: $1,100

Light spenders: $650

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in Kuwait

$1,000–$1,500 (not including flights)

 

4. South Korea

teaching abroad salary by country

If the Middle East or China seem a bit daunting, then perhaps teaching in South Korea is the answer. A modern country that boasts big cities and idyllic rural landscapes, English teachers have been traveling here in droves to pay off loans and even save for down payments. It’s not uncommon for teachers to go for a year and leave five years later! The quality of life is one of the best in the world and it’s not hard to put aside some serious cash. Budgeting while teaching in South Korea really doesn’t have to be hard.

One of the main attractions of teaching in South Korea is that you really don’t have to skimp on experiences to save big. You can hop on a plane and quickly find yourself in Japan, China or Southeast Asia.

 

Amount in USD/month (approx. for 1 person)

Salary for teachers in South Korea

$1,800–$2,700 plus housing, flights, healthcare and end-of-contract bonus

Saving potential for teachers in South Korea

Big savers: $1,500

Moderate savers: $1,000

Light savers: $600

Cost of living for teachers in South Korea

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

Big spenders: $1,200

Moderate spenders: $1,000

Light spenders: $800

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in South Korea

$1,000–$1,500 (not including flights)

 

5. Kazakhstan

how much do english teachers make abroad

If you fancy going off the beaten track in central Asia, 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 central Asian 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.

It's 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.

 

Amount in USD/month (approx. for 1 person)

Salary for teachers in Kazakhstan

$3,000–$5,000, plus housing allowance, flights & health insurance

Saving potential for teachers in Kazakhstan

Big savers: $3,000

Moderate savers: $2,000

Light savers: $1,000

Cost of living for teachers in Kazakhstan

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

Big spenders: $1,500

Moderate spenders: $1,000

Light spenders: $800

(all excluding rent)

Start-up costs for teachers in Kazakhstan

$800–$1,000

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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.

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 that 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. Some are cheaper than others, so it’s worth seeing how much flights out of your chosen country would cost you.

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, download our TEFL Country Comparison Chart. Or why not try our salary calculator and see how your qualifications and experience will add up to?

teach abroad salary calculator