Published 30th January 2019

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It might sound counterintuitive that you need money to get a job, but unfortunately it’s the reality of teaching English as a Foreign Language. This is because teaching English as a Foreign Language often involves moving to another city or country. This costs money and your new employer is not going to pay you before you’ve even stepped into the classroom! In fact, this is not the case only with TEFL jobs but with any job that involves relocating. Even if you have a job before you step on a plane, there are certain expenses that need to be paid before you get your first paycheck at the end of the month.

Flight costs

The first cost would be the cost of your flight to whichever country you are jetting off to. Some schools will offer you flights or compensation for a portion of your flights but usually this means they will pay you back for the flight or they will contribute 50% when you arrive and 50% when you complete your contract. This is to prevent people accepting money for flights and then disappearing on arrival.

Visa costs

This is something which needs to be organised before you’ve even left home. It’s not advisable to enter a country without a working visa. Your school should help you organise your work visa application – because it usually involves a lot of paperwork – but they only sometimes offer to pay for it.

Accommodation costs

Even if you have a job lined up, you will need to find somewhere to live when you arrive. Bear in mind this will mean paying a deposit as well as the first month’s rent. Calculate two months’ rent to be on the safe side. Also, if you can’t find accommodation immediately, you will need to pay for a hotel while you are house-hunting.

Of course, you don’t need to worry about rent if you are going to live in the accommodation offered by the school. However, you should still find out if you are liable for electricity, heating or Wi-Fi bills.

Living costs

You may be lucky enough to be able to eat from a school canteen (and not many people are) but even so, you will need to eat when you’re not working. Groceries, cleaning supplies and other household goods that need to be bought for the house will be for your own account. You might also need to do a bit of shopping for a work wardrobe.

Mobile phone

Organising a mobile phone and a local number is probably one of the first things you’ll do. You will need to buy a SIM card and some airtime so you can let your Mum know you’re doing ok!


Wherever you live it is likely that you will need to pay for transport to and from your job. This might be in the form of public transport or your own car, motorbike or bicycle. Whichever, it will be a cost. Plus you will need to pay to get around town when you are not working.


You might be working hard as a teacher but you probably also want to play hard. Having a good work-life balance is important so you will need some cash to pay for entertainment during your downtime. This could be eating out, shopping, going to movies and, of course, sightseeing.

All of this sounds like a lot of money but if you do your sums you should figure out approximately how much money you need for your TEFL adventure. Then you can focus on saving your money so that when you finally do get started, you won’t have to worry about your finances and you can focus on your new life.