For many looking to earn TEFL certification in South America, Bolivia is often little more than an afterthought. But, this culturally complex and visually stunning country does merit your attention. Despite being one of the poorest countries in South America, Bolivia still boasts an unrivalled blend of rugged yet striking landscapes and energetic, cosmopolitan cities, intermingled with proudly maintained indigenous customs. With over 50 percent of the population only fluent in their native language, English language skills are low, so taking TEFL courses in Bolivia will certainly be a challenge, but a very fulfilling career opportunity post-certification too.
Landlocked in the middle of South America, Bolivia makes up for its lack of ocean with its incredible variety of terrain. The northern lowlands offer some of the most diverse parts of Amazon Rainforest, while high altitude cities such as La Paz, Potosi, and Uyuni lie within the dizzying heights of the Andes. You’ll also find beautiful colonial architecture surviving in the capital city of Sucre and more modern buildings and increased wealth in the cosmopolitan hubs of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Bolivia is a country that will never fail to astonish you, yet it remains one of South America’s least visited gems.
If you’re looking to gain a TEFL certification in Bolivia, La Paz is likely where your courses will take place. While taking TEFL courses in La Paz, you’ll be struck by the city’s energy, and the juxtaposition between Andean traditions (in the traditional and exceptionally colorful clothing worn by the locals) and modern conveniences, such as the fashionable restaurants in trendy Sopacachia and Zona Sur. If that isn’t enough to seduce your appetite, La Paz is a thrill-seeker’s dream. Its proximity to the infamous Death Road biking experience, and profusion of tour operators offering treks up the nearby 19,000 ft. mountains, mean that your weekends needn’t only be focused on studying. Take note: at 11,975 ft. above sea level, La Paz is the highest administrative capital in the world, so acclimatization and even just getting up steps will take some getting used to.
Looking into the future, once you’ve earned your TEFL certification, a popular city for teaching English in Bolvia is Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Thanks to its low altitude, it’s a perfect place to teach in Bolivia if you prefer the heat and endless summer evenings of a more tropical climate. Not only this, but if you need your home comforts, Santa Cruz’s chic restaurants and shopping malls will do the trick. And although it may not be known for its tourist attractions, it’s well-connected bus routes and the plethora of airports in Bolivia put interesting travel opportunities right at your fingertips. A trip to the bohemian town of Samaipata will take four hours, while the fascinating colonial cities of Sucre and Potosi are an overnight bus journey, or 30 minute flight away.
Cochabamba also makes for a great place to live and teach after earning your TEFL certificate in Bolivia. Its “Eternal Spring” climate is the envy of all other Bolivian cities, and makes for a very pleasant base for teaching in Bolivia. Not only this, Cochabamba has nightlife and bars to suit any taste, plus easy access to stunning national parks. Over a weekend, you can easily visit nearby Parque ToroToro, which is home to an incredible array of dinosaur footprints and cave complexes to explore.
TEFL Programs in Bolivia
TEFL courses in Bolivia generally fall into two groups: online programs or courses based in a Bolivian language or TEFL school.
Online TEFL courses in Bolivia are an excellent option for individuals with busy schedules, or for those who want to travel and explore Bolivia, rather than sitting in a classroom. Online TEFL courses can typically be completed part-time, over a 10 to 12 week window, for 10 to 12 hours per week. Overall, online TEFL programs generally include 150 hours of online study, plus 20 hours of teaching practice, which will be essential preparation for the realities of the classroom and can be arranged to be completed at a Bolivian school.
On the other hand, classroom-based TEFL programs in Bolivia are typically one month courses based at a Bolivian language or TEFL specific school. In person TEFL courses will give you the chance to learn from professional teachers face to face, creating more opportunities for discussion and Q and A. While completing over 150 hours of TEFL coursework, you’ll also be required to complete varying amounts of class observations and teaching practice during most TEFL programs in Bolivia.
Both of the latter TEFL program options will support you in finding a TEFL job post-graduation, and both are also accredited and globally recognized qualifications equivalent to the well-known CELTA or Trinity courses. Best news of all? Once you’ve gained your TEFL certification in Bolivia, the world is your oyster!
Costs & Affordability
TEFL programs in Bolivia definitely rank among the cheapest in South America, and even some of the most affordable globally. In addition to this, the cost of living in Bolivia is wildly inexpensive, leaving you with extra pocket money to spend on unforgettable trips to Bolivia’s finest landmarks or sampling Paceña, the local beer.
Be prepared to pay around $1500 for an accredited TEFL program in Bolivia, but don’t expect to have to shell out much more during your stay. For example, lunch in a local market will cost around $1.50, whereas more pricey restaurants will set you back around $7 for a meal and drink. The costs of living in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba are marginally more expensive, but certainly still amongst some of the most affordable in South America.
For anyone thinking of staying and teaching English in Bolivia, you’re unlikely to earn enough to pad your savings account, but with wages in the region of $400 to $600 per month, you’ll still be able to cover living costs and fun weekend activities.
Accommodation & Visas
Accommodation is not included in the majority of TEFL program fees, but can be organized through your TEFL school for around $200 to $300 usually. Prices depend on whether you choose a homestay (living with a local family and consequently learning Spanish more easily) or a shared apartment with other TEFL students. Given that TEFL courses and teaching jobs in Bolivia tend to be based in urban locations, it’s unlikely that you won’t be able to find comfortable, yet affordable, accommodation.
For individuals from most of Europe and North America, the visa process is straightforward and without major costs; in fact, 90 days will be awarded upon arrival for most Europeans. The downside for U.S. citizens specifically is luckily only a required visa fee of around $170 for a 90 day visa. All TEFL students will also need to provide a variety of supplemental documents, such as a travel itinerary, letter of invitation or hotel reservation, and certificate of vaccination against yellow fever. For any nationality, stays over 90 days require a working visa. Check with your TEFL program provider in Bolivia to see what necessary documentation will be required of you before you depart your home country and you should be set.
Check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more information on the Bolivian visa policy for your home country.
Benefits & Challenges
Earning TEFL certification in Bolivia, a country still relatively untouched by tourism, won’t always be easy, whether attempting to navigate around your host city or just adjusting to daily life. However, English teachers are currently in high demand in Bolivia, so expect to find yourself standing before your first class before you can say, “Can I have a job, please?”
Living and taking TEFL courses in Bolivia will be a lesson in cultural awareness and understanding. For example, South Americans are notoriously bad at the whole punctuality thing, and adapting to “Bolivian Time” will be a lesson in patience. Soon you’ll come to love and understand a country that takes pride in its indigenous roots, enjoys celebrating any occasion, and welcomes those who take the time to learn some of the local lingo.
While it’s true to say that English hasn’t yet taken off on a large scale in Bolivia, this is exactly the reason why you should be going now, while the demand for ESL teachers is high and unsatisfied. TEFL courses in Bolivia are cheap, and although your potential earnings as an ESL teacher won’t be much to write home about, the interesting customs and incredible locations that you will encounter will be something you’ll be raving about for years to come.