A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

What is the cost of living?

What do things cost?
Will I be able to save any money?

This is a question that is critical to your survival as an EFL teacher overseas.  A salary means nothing until you know the context into which it is set.  You have to know what your daily expenses will be - in relation to your pay check.

Ask Existing Teachers

While I would like to say, "Ask this on the discussion boards" - it doesn't always work that way.  You can't really ask about the cost of living in Panama - you need to ask about a specific city in general and about your specific circumstances.  At one time, I worked in Chung-ju, Korea, but the cost of living there was vastly different than if I had worked in Seoul, Korea - one of the most expensive cities in the world. 

You need to ask the existing teachers at the school you are going to work for.  Sometimes that is not possible - then ask on the discussion boards.  Be as specific as possible.


Housing in particular is a big issue.  In some countries, it is provided free as it is prohibitively expensive or requires deposits equal to a year's wages.  In some countries, you will need to pay for it yourself and it can be quite expensive depending on where you choose to live. 

I paid over US$850 per month for an apartment in Taipei - more than half my base wages per month.  But I wanted to live in the financial district so I could easily teach business classes at major companies in the evening.   Also, I had lived far away from the action in my previous job in another country - I wanted to be in the middle of a major city.  It was worth it to me. 

If you must provide your own housing find out what the range of costs are.  And find out if the low end quoted is a "rat trap" or not. 


Everyone's lifestyle is different.  If you are a party kind of person and enjoy night-clubbing every weekend, most EFL pay checks won't go far.  Guaranteed!  If clubbing is on your agenda, find out what it costs.


Price everything that is important to you.  You might was well know before you go - what things are going to cost.  Not knowing these things will affect your quality of life and you might as well know now. 

People on discussion boards will happily tell you what a nice dinner out at an Indian restaurant will cost (if it exists in that town), or other unique things that are part of your enjoyment of life. 

Know before you go.


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