Teach English Abroad in Costa Rica

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A Guide to Teaching Abroad in Costa Rica

Pura Vida! Teach English abroad in one of the oldest democracies in the world, and the most developed, politically stable, and peaceful nation in Central America. With the tourism industry at almost $2 billion a year, Costa Ricans are looking to speak English with a higher degree of proficiency than ever before. Finding English teaching jobs in Costa Rica is not a problem! From ziplining deep in the rainforest to hiking to the summit of active volcanoes, you’ll have no problem finding an adventure on your weekends away from teaching English in Costa Rica.


The nation’s capital, San José, plays host to the majority of opportunities to teach English in Costa Rica. Nearby cities, like Alajuela, Cartago, San Pedro, and Heredia, are also popular places to teach English in Costa Rica. If you’re located in the Central Valley, where most placements are, don’t expect easy access to the beach as the coast is a few hours away both east and west.

If you’re set on a teach English in Costa Rica near the seaside, you will find some opportunities if you dig, like those in the Nicoya Peninsula. For those looking to get out of the city, there are English teaching jobs available in smaller, rural communities, like La Fortuna. However, in some cases these can be several hours from the nearest metropolis.

Teaching English in Costa Rica

Many individuals aspiring ESL teachers looking to gain experience and boost their resume choose to teach English in Costa Rica to jumpstart their careers.

In order to stick out in the hunt for jobs and obtain a higher salary, Costa Ricans seek to improve their fluency in English. As a result, you’ll find that the majority of teaching jobs in Costa Rica are TEFL positions and focused on adults rather than children. The most common English teaching jobs in Costa Rica are found in private language schools or institutes. If you’re more qualified and have lots of teaching experience, you may also be able to teach at a university in Costa Rica.

The Costa Rican school year goes from January to December. Teachers can either select a full-time position or contract themselves for several part-time ESL teaching positions. If you don’t want the commitment of signing a contract, teaching English lessons privately is a great market; these opportunities to teach English in Costa Rica allow teachers to live in rural or coastal areas, which is less common when seeking other types of teaching jobs, such as those at elementary schools. Those who decide to teach English in Costa Rica can expect to work anywhere from 10 to 25 hours a week, as classes generally start in the early morning and run until noon, and then pick up again in the evening from around 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Many Ticos (native Costa Ricans) take a midday break from work and school due to the heat.

Being a native speaker of English with a TEFL/TESOL certificate and a university degree is typically required for most English teaching jobs in Costa Rica. However, teachers looking to complete student teaching hours, build their experience, or begin teaching English abroad may have luck in small communities with less structured requirements. Beginners can also find success focusing their efforts on private English lessons in Costa Rica. If you’re not TEFL/TESOL certified, you could also consider completing a TEFL certification program in Costa Rica.

Salaries & Costs

Formal teaching jobs in Costa Rica can pay anywhere from $8 to $10 an hour. The cost of living in Costa Rica is higher than other Central American countries since they have a more solid economy. However, depending on the teaching position, you can expect anywhere from $500 to $1,000 a month, which is plenty to live off while teaching English in Costa Rica.

Rent costs for a typical two bedroom apartment in a big city sit around $500 per month and meals will set you back about $5 to $10 each. If living in rural areas or more touristy destinations, like the coast, expect the cost of living to jump quite a bit. If you budget well by shopping and eating local, and taking public transport, you won’t find cost of living to be an issue on a teacher’s pay.

Accommodation & Visas

Some teach abroad placement organizations help teachers arrange homestays, while others put the teacher in charge of finding lodging. Working and living conditions typically vary based on the part of the country you’re living in and the school in which you are placed.

Most schools in Costa Rica will not sponsor your visa until you have worked there for a year, so obtaining a work visa to teach English in Costa Rica can be a challenge. Working with American institutions is one way to get assistance in getting the work visa you need. For teachers on a tourist visa, prepare to renew every 90 days, and expect to have to exit the country in order to do so. Luckily, a bus ride to Costa Rica’s neighbor to the north, Nicaragua, is not too far. Other teachers in Costa Rica choose this time to go back home for a bit or visit other Central American destinations of interest.

GoAbroad Insider Tips

Overall, there are far more benefits of teaching English in Costa Rica than challenges, but surely, you should be aware of both. Here are a handful of benefits and challenges to get you thinking:

Insurance. Teaching contracts in Costa Rica don’t typically include health care, so you'll need to make sure you have coverage through travel insurance or a plan back at home for emergencies.

Machismo. If you’re a lady who’s not used to piropos (compliments in the form of cat-calls), expect them while walking alone on nearly any street.

Punctuality? Don’t be offended if somebody is late; Costa Ricans run on “Tico time.”

PDAs Expected. Costa Ricans are very affectionate, so don’t be alarmed if your students greet you with a hug or kiss.

Sound like you can deal? Start searching for the perfect way for you to teach English in Costa Rica and you'll be on your way to living the Tico way of life in no time.

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