Published 16th May 2021
Teaching English as a Foreign Language online is the new job that everyone’s talking about. When you think about it, it’s more of a lifestyle than a job. Teaching English online is a way to earn money while also living the life you’ve always wanted to live. It allows you to live wherever you want to live and keep your job, no matter where you are.
This is an amazing deal, for sure, but you need to be very careful not to fall into a trap.
Because yes, you can 100% choose where you want to live and you’ll be able to live and work there (provided you have the equipment and a reliable, stable internet connection at all times) but some of the options open to you might not be the best decision for you.
If you’re not sure what we mean, let’s have a look at the numbers.
Teaching English online: a breakdown
Teaching English online can earn you between $10 and $30 an hour, even more. Some lessons you might even earn more and others less, but let’s take $15 an hour as your average. Now let’s say that you are working 25 hours a week.
$15 x 25 = $375
That means that you’ll earn $375 a week, or, roughly, $1 500 a month. Not bad, right? But now let’s imagine that you are living in Tokyo, Japan. In Tokyo, you can expect to pay $800 a month on a one-room or studio apartment. On top of that, your utility bills will come to around $150. Food then comes in at about $300. In total, it costs around $1 250 for a single person to live in Tokyo – but we haven’t even included any entertainment, insurance, or luxuries, not to mention savings!
Clearly, Japan (especially Tokyo) is not an ideal spot to live if you are teaching English online (unless you are earning way above average) simply because the cost of living is pretty high.
Thankfully, there are other destinations that are a bit friendlier to your bank balance. We’ve put together a list of the most cost-effective destinations to live in if you are teaching English online (or if you are a digital nomad, for that matter). Based on a single person earning an average of $1 500 a month, this is where you should go to get the most bang for your buck.
There are so many reasons to choose to live in Vietnam, but the low cost of living is definitely a big one. Of course, as with many countries, there are certain cities in Vietnam that are more expensive to live in than others. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are the most expensive, but if you’re teaching English online there’s the added bonus of being able to teach English privately to supplement your income, if necessary. A small apartment will cost you about $250 a month, and eating and transportation is dirt cheap, meaning your monthly cost of living is really low. Plus you have a beautiful country on your doorstep to explore when you have some time off.
Read more: This is What You Should Be Doing in Vietnam
Not far from Vietnam is the ever-popular TEFL destination of Thailand. As in Vietnam, eating and transportation is very affordable in Thailand, no matter where you live. Bangkok is obviously a popular destination within Thailand for tourists and travellers, but the digital nomads tend to flock to Chiang Mai in the north, which is the cheaper city. Here there are tons of work-friendly coffee shops and co-working spaces, so you don’t have to work from home if you don’t want to. An apartment costs about $300 a month, and food can cost as little as $5 for a full meal.
Argentina is a massive country, but most digital nomads choose to stay in Buenos Aires. A huge cosmopolitan city, Buenos Aires is truly a city that never sleeps. Argentinians enjoy socialising at all hours of the day, so it is a very safe city for solo digital nomads. Plus, if you prefer working at night, there are many cafes where you will find others burning midnight oil. In general, costs vary quite dramatically around the country, but a one-bedroomed apartment in Buenos Aires will cost you about $250 a month. In total, you’ll probably be spending about $1 000 a month.
A surprising choice, maybe, but Ecuador is one of the cheapest countries in the world. Still relatively untouched by tourism, Ecuador is not the most developed country, but this is what makes it affordable. If you choose to live a luxurious life (we’re talking luxury apartment with a cleaner once a week, as well as eating out at fancy restaurants) you can spend $1 500 a month, so as a money-savvy digital nomad you can live on much, much less.
Turkey has the interesting honour of having the only city in the world which straddles two continents: Istanbul is in both Europe and Asia. With interesting culture, great nightlife, incredible food and friendly locals, Turkey is another great option for digital nomads. You can expect to pay about $1 000 a month to live here, including rent, food, transport and entertainment. What’s also great is that because of its location it is easy to travel in either Europe or Asia.
Read more: Teach English in Turkey
Hungary is smack bang in the middle of Europe. The cost of living is very low for a European country, but you will still get a very good quality of life. Budapest is where most digital nomads prefer to put down roots, as it is a nice-sized city with affordable housing, great culture and loads of things to do in your free time. Besides, transportation is cheap because everyone walks everywhere! An apartment will cost you about $500 a month, with a total monthly spend of just over $1 000.
Another European country, Portugal is both safe and affordable – perfect for a digital nomad. Oozing history and culture, Portugal has great weather, awesome food and fast internet. You can choose to live by the beach or in a city like Lisbon, with rooftop bars and co-working spaces aplenty. An apartment will cost you about $600 a month, but shared housing is becoming more and more popular. In total, you can expect to pay about $1 200 – $1 500 a month to live in Portugal.
Bali is a popular choice for digital nomads, probably because of the beautiful scenery and relaxed lifestyle. There are many quiet spots for you to work with other remote workers but if you’re looking for vibrant nightlife, that can be found too. A two-bedroomed house will set you back about $400 a month, which is very affordable if you are sharing. Your total expenditure in a month will be about $750.
Taiwan is already a hub for TEFL teachers, so you’re sure to find some like-minded friends while you’re here. Taipei and Kaohsiung are the most attractive options for digital nomads, with the latter being the more relaxed and affordable option. An apartment will be your biggest expense at about $600 a month, but it is possible to share an apartment with a friend or fellow remote worker. Food and public transportation are also relatively cheap.
Read more: Top Six Asian Cities for TEFL Teachers
While these are our 9 top picks for cost-effective destinations for digital nomads, it is worth pointing out that your cost of living depends on your lifestyle. If you are intent on saving money, you can live frugally and save nicely in any of these destinations. On the other hand, if you don’t have any loans to pay off you can then afford to pay a little more and live a great life.