Rough around the edges, but beautiful to its core, Bolivia is for anyone craving something a little different. With more than half of the population made up of indigenous people, you’ll see locals wearing traditional clothes even in big cities. Llama fetuses are sold in local markets, and Bolivians bury them under the foundations of their homes believing it will bring them luck. Babies are carried in colorful blankets slung over their mother's back, while locals avoid cameras, afraid they can steal their souls. Bolivia can be baffling at times, but once you have set off into this wild, wonderful world, you won’t look back.
The main cities in Bolivia are where most teaching jobs are found. You can start your hunt for the perfect placement in one of the following places.
Sucre is the capital city of Bolivia. With its picturesque array of whitewashed buildings and lovely patios, it is also the country’s most beautiful city. In the efforts to preserve its colonial architecture, strict controls on development are carried out. Sucre was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991. Although renowned for its historic buildings, prehistoric sites and indigenous culture, Sucre’s top attraction remains its relaxed atmosphere. With a wealth of museums and churches, excellent accommodation options, numerous activities and sites to explore, and a mild climate, Sucre is a sweet place for teachers to work.
Set in a fertile green bowl in a landscape of low hills and fields, Cochabamba has a gentle spring climate all year round. With a population of more than 600,000, Cochabamba is the fourth largest Bolivian city. Although most of the population is poor, parts of the city have a noticeably prosperous vibe. A thriving student population, along with avenues packed with restaurants and bars, give the city a lively air. With prices way below those in La Paz and Sucre, travellers to Cochabamba often find themselves staying much longer than they had planned.
At approximately 12,000 feet above sea level, La Paz is a high-altitude metropolis. Surrounded by high mountains, the city crawled up the steep hills as it grew, resulting in elevations that vary from 10,000 to 13,500 feet. The city’s geography reflects its society. The lower the location, the more affluent the people are, mostly because the areas at the lower altitude enjoy a milder climate. Looking up from the center dotted with opulent houses, one will find the surrounding hills overlaid with makeshift brick houses. The snowy Mt. Illimani offers a backdrop that is nothing short of majestic, and the city experience is completed by charming alleys, lively markets, interesting museums, and the opportunities to interact with locals in a comedor or at a trendy café.
Teaching Jobs in Bolivia
Teach English in Bolivia to follow the common route teachers in Bolivia take (and it’s a much safer bet than Death Road). A Spanish-speaking country, Bolivia provides plenty of opportunities for native English speakers to share their own language. Teachers usually handle tailor-made courses and classes with individual students, teaching students of all ages and levels.
After taking a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course, teachers can explore opportunities offered in major Bolivian cities. English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers get the chance to discover their full potential, experience a new way of life, immerse in a unique culture, and build meaningful friendships.
Teachers can work in international schools in Bolivia. Teaching opportunities are available in schools that were built to cater to families that want their children to be part of an English-speaking, world-class institution. The international schools offer complete instruction and a curriculum aligned with the standards in the United States. These schools also follow the American calendar. Because these schools offer the standard range of subjects taught in English, these positions are suitable for teachers in a broader range of disciplines than just ESL.
Other ways to teach English in Bolivia include smaller, private schools, language focused academies, or one-on-one as a private tutor.
Salaries & Costs
You really can’t go wrong when you teach English in Bolivia because of the cultural and ecological diversity of the country; however, a place to get rich it is not. Regardless, as a teacher, you will easily be able to make enough to live off. Monthly salaries for teachers in Bolivia range from $400 to $600, and can go higher, depending on the position and the teacher’s qualifications.
With the country’s low cost of living, teachers from abroad can manage to live comfortably and still have enough money left to set aside for taking trips to the Salar de Uyuni and the Amazon. Bolivia is one of the most affordable South American countries to live in. You can buy a burger at a comfortable café for less than $2, or go to a restaurant and have a full meal for under $5. Apartment rentals start at around $75 a month, so it’s easy to make even the most modest salary stretch for miles.
Accommodation & Visas
Your accommodation options as you teach English in Bolivia can range from basic apartments to two-bedroom houses, depending on your budget and preference. Your program provider will provide assistance with finding a place to stay, which is extra handy if your Spanish is still in its beginner phase.
Citizens from most countries can travel to Bolivia without a visa and stay for up to 30 days as a tourist, with the option of extending to 90 days free of charge. US citizens are required to obtain a visa upon arrival, and must secure a letter of invitation, hotel reservation, and funds for the visa fees. To officially work in Bolivia, you will need to obtain a Specific Purpose Visa: it is not recommended to enter the country as a tourist and try to switch to this visa later, as this will create problems.
It’s easier to arrive on the Specific Purpose Visa, which will grant you the right to temporary residence. To obtain this visa you will need a work contract, or signed letter from the company employing you, a return trip itinerary, and a Yellow Fever Vaccination. For more specific information, and the full visa application procedure, contact your nearest Bolivian embassy.
Benefits & Challenges
Teaching in Bolivia can be a wonderful experience, but it is not without challenges. Bolivian transport will definitely test your patience (and the strength of your grip on the armrest). Buses, among the more common modes of transportation in Bolivia, are known for their speeding drivers, erratic temperatures, and capricious departure and arrival times. Bolivian transport is not without its positives though. For one, fares are cheap, allowing for more constant taxi trips. The bus routes offer plenty of beautiful scenery. Passengers in public transport are friendly, with people greeting you with a buenas tardes or buen dia as they board. Taxi trips can also be engaging with the driver's’ wife or girlfriend, son or daughter, sometimes even a baby, joining you on trips, paving the way for lively conversations.
Bolivians generally have a starch and sugar-heavy diet. In addition to eating a wide variety of potatoes, they like to eat sweet foods and drink a lot of sodas. You might also find yourself in a restaurant where your ham and pepperoni pizza will be served without the ham or your spaghetti served with the pasta still crispy – and that is after 45 minutes of waiting. Luckily, you will still find spots that will prove that Bolivia is as much as culinary treasure than any other South American country, with an amazing menu del dia that includes marvelous helpings of soup, rice, banana, and meat.
You’ll especially love the Bolivians’ communitarian spirit. Don’t be surprised to hear people passing by your table greeting you with buen provecho, or complete strangers sharing a table with you. Ready to adopt a new family and know English grammar rules like the back of your hand?!