Sure, everyone may be jetting off to Thailand, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic to get TEFL certified, but you’re not everyone, are you? You’re looking for *the one*, the Hannah Montana of TEFL program locales. You want the best of all worlds: a little off the beaten path, affordable, with accredited programs and easy breezy beautiful visa processes followed by practically guaranteed job placements.
None of that is too good to be true. And each of these countries will tick majority of those boxes. There’s no such thing as too picky when it comes to getting TEFL certified. You want to pick the best program and the best location for your career goals. We happen to think these five under-the-radar TEFL countries are just the ticket. Soon you’ll get to say, “I was teaching in [country] before it was cool,” as you sip the next big fresh-pressed juice chia seed mate coffee latte craze bevvie.
This handy dandy infographic is here to help. So, check it out!
Off the beaten path TEFL countries (that are totally worth checking out)
From Europe to Southeast Asia and all the way to Latin America, these countries are sure to be just the ticket to get your TEFL certification and start teaching abroad.
Any hop-on free walking tour guide will tell you: until 1989 there wasn’t really a Poland. With a deep history of occupation and struggle, this central European country has always had a big draw for travelers—I mean, the pierogis alone are enough to have me packing my bags.
For would-be English teachers, this is a great locale to get certified akin to the Czech Republic in affordability, good beer (but more well-known for their vodka), and plenty of students to teach!
- Accredited Programs. Whether you’re looking to inhabit the previous capital city (Krakow), the current capital city (Warsaw), or anywhere in between (Wroclaw, Gdansk, Poznan), you’ll find accredited TEFL programs that are the real deal. This will assure you success in your teaching career in Poland!
- Most programs will be one month, intensive 100-120 hour courses. Remember to always look for programs with teaching practice! (That’s what almost guarantees they’re accredited, and you’ll really benefit from the trial run.)
- Cost of Living. Gotta get that zloty! There are always costs when it comes to living and working in Europe, but cost of living is relatively manageable in Poland (just watch that exchange rate). Eating out—though it shouldn’t become a habit if you’re here long term—is very affordable and the pierogi z kapustą i z grzybami is as good as Grandma’s.
- Work Visas & Opportunity. Whether you stay in Poland on a temporary residence and work visa or a work permit, the good news is: it’s pretty easy to get one and get right to work! In fact, in Poland, your future employer will do most of the legwork in helping to secure your visa, so you don’t have to stress about that. Focus on acing your TEFL course instead!
- Ease of Travel. Central Europe offers makes it so easy to head west to countries like Germany, France, Belgium, heck! Even Ryanair flights to Spain probably won’t put you out too much. Before or after your TEFL program, the whole Schengen zone is your oyster. But, don’t forget all the up-and-coming places to the East of you! You’re in a prime lo-caysh to explore Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Recommended TEFL courses in Poland:
Yeah, okay, Spain is cool, but have you ever thought about Portugal? It’s got just as many beautiful beaches (they might even be a little better—shhh, don’t tell), rocky coastlines and mountains to explore, and eat all. The. Pastel. Nata.
This small, but mighty Western European country is a great alternative to TEFL and teaching in Spain. There’s just as much opportunity, but a little less competition in the teaching market, plus it’s a little more affordable overall! If the beaches and bacalou aren’t enough to have you packing your bags...well, there’s nothing more I can do for you. Get your priorities straight and get on a plane to Portugal, you bing bong!
- Accredited Programs. Lisbon, right smack dab in the center along the coast, is by far the most bumping city for finding accredited TEFL programs, with Porto, to the North, and Lagos, to the South, falling just behind in the running. Most programs in Portugal will be one month, intensive 100-120 hour courses. Remember to always look for programs with teaching practice! (That’s what almost guarantees they’re accredited, and you’ll really benefit from the trial run.)
- Cost of Living. Again, living in Europe—Western Europe especially—comes with costs. But, Portugal is going to be your most affordable option and most comparable to your cost of living at home. You’ll find it possible to live comfortably on a teaching salary, but you’ll mostly be breaking even every month. There won’t be a ton of extra cash for constant travel or paying off student loans, but enough to let you #treatYoself every once and awhile.
- Work Visas & Opportunity. Portugal is still slowly in recovery from financial crisis, but that shouldn’t deter you (and hasn’t deterred a lot of expats who now live and work in Portugal). There is still a lot of opportunity for English teachers because this small country is ready to compete economically on the world stage—and knowing English is a huge business asset.
- There are temporary stay visas (up to three months), short-term residence permits, and work visas available. If you end up working through an actual school, they will be able to help you apply for a longer-term work permit.
- Ease of Travel. HELLO WESTERN EUROPE! Planes, trains, automobiles, hop across the (smaller) pond to the U.K., take a quick bus across the border to spain, and Morocco is just within your reach. You can set Portugal as your home base and the doors are open to all of Western Europe and beyond! It’s a blessing, and might be a curse on your bank account—budget wisely.
Recommended TEFL courses in Portugal:
Travel the world without actually leaving this Southeast Asian island. You can wander the markets in Chinatown and make your way through the busy streets of Little India, then ogle the chic, modern architecture and (freakishly) clean streets. An entire nation in just one city? What a deal! And, since it’s such a huge business hub, teaching business English is where the $$$ is. Get your TEFL certificate and stroll into business around the city to find paid work quickly.
- Accredited Programs. With such a high demand of business English teachers, finding an accredited TEFL course is easy peasy lemon squeezy. Courses in Singapore will range from 20 to 250 hours, but remember to always look for programs with teaching practice! (That’s what almost guarantees they’re accredited, and you’ll really benefit from the trial run.) The more hours of instruction and hours spent in the classroom, the better!
- Cost of Living. Cost of living in Singapore is probably closest to your cost of living at home—maybe more comparable to life in a bigger city (not cheap, but not unmanageable). However, a higher cost of living means a slightly bigger paycheck. You can really do a lot with that if you’re smart about budgeting! The most important thing is that you will be able to live comfortably on your teaching salary. Plus, some schools and work placements might even provide you and other teachers housing. Now THAT is a deal!
- Work Visas & Opportunity. Singapore is a business hub, remember? That means TONS of opportunities to teach business English. Ca-CHING! THat’s where the money is. Depending on your level of experience and salary, different types of visas will be applied for through your employer. If you’re under 30, getting a working holiday visa is a breeze and gives you up to 6 months to find a steady, stable job that can sponsor your full work permit (if you’re wanting to call Singapore home base).
- Ease of Travel. Singapore is a great hub to kick off your adventures in Southeast Asia. Hop a flight to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam in a cinch. This island country/city also has top notch public transport, so getting around town is a breeze, too!
Recommended TEFL courses in Singapore:
- i-To-i TEFL | Read reviews | Visit their site
- International TEFL Academy | Read reviews | Visit their site
If your heart is set on Southeast Asia, but your pocketbook is looking warily at the cost of living in cosmopolitan hubs like Singapore, Cambodia is your answer. It doesn’t have the tourist appeal of Vietnam or Thailand (yet), but it’ll be giving them a run for their money soon!
There’s a lot of demand for teachers in Cambodia, and unlike it’s more popular neighbors, there isn’t as much competition. Take the plunge and step outside the standard tourist-packed beaches. Teach in Cambodia instead.
- Accredited Programs. With demand for teachers comes demand for accredited TEFL programs, so you’re in luck! Most TEFL courses (to meet said demand) will be one month 120+ hour intensive courses with teaching practice. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but you’ll learn as a TEFL teacher that along with eliciting information from your students, repetition is important: Remember to always look for programs with teaching practice! (That’s what almost guarantees they’re accredited, and you’ll really benefit from the trial run.)
- Cost of Living. This is what you’ve been waiting for. This is the spot where you get to live the life because cost of living is so affordable—like… SO affordable. Plus, most ESL teaching job placements will provide housing or help place you with a host family. You’ll be able to live it up, travel all around the region, and likely still put a little bit into savings/help pay off any student loans. That’s the beauty of teaching English in Asia.
- Work Visas & Opportunity. Guess what? Of all the countries on this list, Cambodia is THE EASIEST to move to for work. In fact, you can basically apply for, and then renew/extend your visa indefinitely without sponsorship from an employer. You don’t even need to show that you’re qualified (but you will still be qualified, because you’re a responsible, ethical traveler and dedicated ESL teacher).That no muss, no fuss visa coupled with all the opportunities to work as an ESL teacher? Goals! You’ll be teaching in Cambodia in no time! Phnom-enal!
- Ease of Travel. You can still visit all your Southeast Asian faves—Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, etc. You’ll have a few more options traveling by bus or train, too. There’s also so much to see and explore in-country. You’ll find life in Cambodia, while not as modern as Singapore, is sweet and simple.
Recommended TEFL courses in Cambodia
You know exactly what I am taco-in’ about here. It’s not some all-inclusive beach resort vay-cay in Cancun. Forget that. Mexico has always been a favorite for travelers and taco lovers alike, but did you know it’s a great place to get TEFL certified and teach English abroad? No? Well, mi hija(o), let me tell you. It’s much more than amazing tacos al pastor with the perfect squeeze of lime *chefs kiss*. And it’s much, much more than sipping on quality distilled tequila (also with the perfect squeeze of lime).
With the U.S. just north of the border, it’s becoming increasingly important to know English for business and educational purposes. More and more people are interested in learning English so demand for qualified teachers is high.
- Accredited Programs. Whether you’re in the capital (DF) Mexico City, Monterrey, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, or even (I mean if you’re really wanting the beach) Cancun, there are plenty of accredited programs to help meet the demand for ESL teachers in Mexico. Programs are 120-240 hours and can take anywhere from one to three months (depending on the intensity of the program.
- Alright class, what am I going to ask you to do…? Remember to always look for programs with teaching practice! (That’s what almost guarantees they’re accredited, and you’ll really benefit from the trial run.)
- Cost of Living. The local cost of living will vary from town to town and region to region. Bigger cities are a little more expensive, but overall you’ll find living in Mexico very affordable. You’ll definitely be able to live comfortably during your TEFL course and on your teaching salary post-TEFL. And, we always recommend trying to find a host family. That way you and abuelita can make tamales together!
- Work Visas & Opportunity. You will need a work permit before applying for any kind of residency, and in Mexico you’ll need to line up your job and have your employer (registered in Mexico) apply with you for your work permit. Then, it’s pretty much the same old song and dance to get your visa approved and start working. Your school or company will be more than happy to assist with all of this.
- Ease of Travel. Hop on a bus and ride your way throughout Central America. It might not be the *easiest* ride, but it won’t take a ton of logistical planning. At the very least you will be able to treat your tum to the best tacos, tamales, and papusas along the way. You can even make your way down to South America—if you don’t mind days and days on buses.
Recommended TEFL courses in Mexico
A note on the importance of accreditation
How do you know your TEFL certificate course is up to snuff? How do you know it’s the REAL DEAL? It has to be accredited. There should be someone up there somewhere (not like, God, but, maybe?) checking in on your instructors, curriculum, and your overall grading and performance in the course and making sure it fits current standards in the industry.
We know it’s tempting to use those Groupon TEFL courses, but trust us, the extra $$$ spent on an accredited program will all come out in the wash (along with those dolla dolla bills from your teaching salary). Your TEFL course should include 100-120 hours of coursework and training, 6-8 hours of teaching practice with observation—we’re talking with actual ESL students, no roleplay here! And, it should be externally validated by a reputable examination body, and/or accredited by a national accrediting.
[Compare accredited TEFL programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]
A few internationally recognized bodies for TEFL certification include TQUK, ACCET, IATQuO and universities (as part of their formal curriculum) such as Cambridge University (UCLES) for their CELTA course and Trinity College for their Trinity Certification.
Remember: no accreditation is NO GOOD. Skip the headache of having a sub-par TEFL training course and go with an accredited program.
Don’t count these countries out
Are they at the top of every travel wishlist? Maybe not, but we think they should be. Each of these locations has something fresh to offer newbie teachers, and you should strike while the iron is hot? Maybe a little before? We might be mixing metaphors here, but the truth still remains: if you’re looking to get TEFL certified and start working around the world, you should go to one of these five countries and enroll in your course.