Teach English in Costa Rica

a world of opportunities

Join a global community of over 200,000 TEFL teachers working throughout the world! Enrol me!

Kirsten Colquhoun
August 10, 2023

Contents

Why teach English
Best places to teach
Requirements
Jobs and programs
Common benefits
Cost of living
Saving opportunities
Life and culture

Are you looking for a pura vida (a pure or simple life)? Then search no more, teaching English in Costa Rica is the answer! In this guide, we’ll look at everything you need to know to teach English in Costa Rica, from why you should choose Costa Rica, the requirements for teaching in the country, and what you can expect living there. So, pack your bags, brush up on your Spanish, and get ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime!

Why teach English in Costa Rica?

There are countless reasons teaching English in Costa Rica can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Costa Rica is a beautiful Latin American country known for its breathtaking natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and welcoming people. As an English teacher in Costa Rica, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in this vibrant culture and experience all that the country has to offer.

Teaching English in Costa Rica provides you with a unique cultural exchange experience. You’ll be able to work closely with Costa Rican students, learn about their way of life, and improve your Spanish language skills.

Teaching English in Costa Rica is a great way to gain valuable teaching experience and build your resume. You’ll develop your teaching skills while working with students of different ages and backgrounds, and you’ll be able to apply what you learn to future teaching positions.

But the cherry on top: teaching English in Costa Rica is financially rewarding. Many schools in Costa Rica offer competitive salaries and benefits packages, and the cost of living is relatively affordable compared to other countries in the region.

In a nutshell, teaching English in Costa Rica is a fantastic opportunity for those seeking a unique cultural exchange experience, valuable teaching experience, and a chance to live in a beautiful country with a welcoming culture. 

Best places to teach English in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with a range of great places to teach English. Here are some of the best destinations to consider:

San José

For the city slickers

Costa Rica’s capital city, San José, is a popular location for English teaching jobs. It’s a bustling metropolis with a vibrant cultural scene, and there are many language schools and universities in the area.

Heredia

For the more relaxed teacher

Located just outside of San José, Heredia is a university town with a relaxed atmosphere and a strong focus on education. It’s a great place to teach English and immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture.

Alajuela

For energetic teachers

Alajuela is a popular destination for English teachers due to its location near the Juan Santamaría International Airport. It’s a lively city with a welcoming community and plenty of opportunities for teaching English.

Cartago

For the penny pinchers

If you’re looking for a place to save money while immersing yourself in Latin American culture, then this is the place. Cartago offers an affordable cost of living compared to other cities in Costa Rica.

How do I become a teacher in Costa Rica?

Teaching English in Costa Rica is an excellent opportunity, but there are specific qualifications that you must meet to be eligible for a teaching position.

Here are the general steps to becoming an English teacher in Costa Rica:

  1.  Get a TEFL/TESOL certification: A must for getting a job offer. A TEFL certificate from The TEFL Academy is exactly what you need to get the teaching job you want!
  2. Find an English teaching job: There are many language schools and universities in Costa Rica that hire English teachers.
  3. Get a work visa: To legally work in Costa Rica as an English teacher, you’ll need to obtain a work visa. Your employer can help you with this process.

And ¡Vamos

Do you need a visa for a TEFL job in Costa Rica?

Strictly speaking, if you are planning to work as an English teacher in Costa Rica, you need a work visa. The visa process is lengthy and quite complicated and it requires sponsorship. If your school can organise one for you then you’re good to go!

But if they are not able to help with the visa application process, it is possible (and legal) to work on a tourist visa. However, a tourist visa for Costa Rica is only valid for 90 days and can only be renewed on a visa run i.e. leaving and re-entering the country.

If you’re an online English teacher, you can apply for a Rentista visa which allows you to work as a digital nomad while living in Costa Rica.

Can I get an English teacher job in Costa Rica with no experience?

Many language schools and employers prefer teachers with teaching experience, as it demonstrates a level of competence and skill in the classroom. However, there are some language schools and employers that are willing to hire teachers with no experience, especially if they have a TEFL/TESOL certification.

Having a TEFL/TESOL certification demonstrates knowledge and competence in teaching English, even if you don’t have much experience. Consider taking a course to obtain a certification with a classroom component to gain practical experience before applying for English teacher jobs in Costa Rica. You can also consider gaining teaching experience by applying to be a tutor while starting the process to teach in Costa Rica.

The TEFL Academy’s combined Level 5 168-hour TEFL course is the perfect choice for equipping you with the right amount of skills, knowledge and classroom experience for a teaching job in Costa Rica. 

Which TEFL certificate do I need to teach in Costa Rica?

While there is no specific type of TEFL certification required to teach in Costa Rica, most language schools and employers prefer teachers with at least a 120-hour TEFL/TESOL certificate that includes in-class teaching practice.

To spice up your CV even more, The TEFL Academy offers a Level 5 168-hour TEFL certificate. Plus, when you sign up for a Level 3 or a Level 5 course you’re given access to three Top-Up Courses absolutely free of charge!

Can I teach English in Costa Rica with no degree?

Good news! Yes, you usually don’t need a Bachelor’s degree to teach English in Costa Rica. But a TEFL certificate from a reputable, internationally recognised TEFL provider is what will really help your CV stand out from the crowd.

Can non-native speakers teach English in Costa Rica?

Yes, non-native speakers can teach English in Costa Rica. Language schools and employers require English teachers to have a high level of English proficiency, as well as a neutral accent, clear pronunciation, and good grammar skills.

How much start-up capital do I need?

Packing your bags and moving abroad is a big step into the unknown. The least you can do for yourself is make sure you have enough capital to make your transition as smooth as possible.

  • Accommodation: First month’s rent and security deposit.
  • TEFL certification: A TEFL course can cost between $100 – $500, depending on the length and level of the course and the course provider. 
  • Document fees: Any costs related to renewing or apostilling your paperwork.
  • Flight ticket: Variable. 
  • Visa application: Visa applications typically cost $130 – $300 USD. 
  • Living expenses: One month’s start-up capital is recommended. For a single person living in Costa Rica, the average cost of living is 415,000 ($780), without rent.

Types of English teaching jobs in Costa Rica

Here are some common TEFL jobs in Costa Rica:

Private language institutes

These institutes offer classes to students of all ages and levels, from children to adults. You can expect to earn between 320,000 – 635,000 ($600$1,200 USD) a month, depending on the number of hours worked and the level of experience.

Public schools

These positions are competitive and typically require a university degree and teaching experience. Entry-level teacher salaries range from around 320,000 – 425,000 ($600$800) a month.

Private schools

These schools offer better pay and benefits than public schools, but may require more experience and teaching qualifications. You can expect to earn 425,000 – 795,000 ($800$1,500) a month depending on the school and the teacher’s experience and qualifications.

Online English teaching

With the rise of online learning, there are also opportunities to teach English online to students in Costa Rica or around the world. This typically requires  TEFL certification. Teacher salaries can vary widely depending on the company or platform, but typically range from 5,300 – 15,900 ($10$30) an hour

Other types of English tutor programs

There are other types of English tutor programs in Costa Rica that are designed to provide more specialised or individualised English instruction. Here are some examples:

Freelance teaching

Freelance tutors offer private lessons to individuals or small groups. This can be a flexible option but may require more effort to find clients and build a steady income. The average rate for a one-hour lesson is 13,000 ($25).

Volunteer tutoring

These volunteer programs typically provide free or low-cost tutoring to students of all ages and levels, and are a great way for you to give back to the community while gaining teaching experience.

Exam preparation tutoring

This requires you to help students prepare for exams such as the TOEFL, IELTS, or Cambridge English exams. The average rate for a 1-hour lesson is 18,500 ($35).

Summer camps

Summer camps in Costa Rica offer a variety of activities for children and teenagers, including language classes, outdoor activities, and cultural excursions.

Benefits of teaching English in Costa Rica

The benefits that English teachers receive in Costa Rican schools varies depending on the type of school and the specific employment agreement. Here are some common benefits that may be offered:

  • Paid vacation: This can range from one to four weeks a year depending on the school.
  • Housing assistance: This can be in the form of subsidised housing or by helping teachers find affordable housing in the local area.

What’s the cost of living in Costa Rica?

Now that we’ve wowed you with all the types of jobs on offer in Costa Rica, let’s break down the cost of living and exactly how much you can make teaching English in the country.


Accommodation

  • One-bedroom apartment in city centre: 300,000 ($580) 
  • One-bedroom apartment outside city centre: 220,000 ($375)

Utilities

  • Gas, electricity, water, garbage disposal: 38,000 ($70) 

Food and groceries

  • Monthly shop: 240,000 ($450) 
  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: 5,000 ($9.5)

Internet

  • Unlimited: 20,000 ($40) 

Transport: 

  • Monthly pass: 20,400 ($38) 
  • Single bus or subway trip: 500 ($1) 

Entertainment:

  • Gym, cinema, clubbing: 135,000 ($250) 

Is it possible to save as an English teacher in Costa Rica?

You might be wondering: “Is it possible to save as a TEFL teacher in Costa Rica?” 

Yes, it’s definitely possible, but it depends on your lifestyle and spending habits. The cost of living in Costa Rica is generally lower than in many other countries, but it can still be relatively high compared to the average salary of an English teacher.

The key to saving money as a TEFL teacher in Costa Rica is to live frugally and budget carefully. You may be able to save more money if you live outside of major cities like San Jose, where the cost of living is generally higher. Additionally, you can save money by cooking your own meals, using public transport and avoiding expensive tourist activities. 

You can supplement your income by offering private tutoring, teaching online or writing articles for English blogs.

Overall, while it may be challenging to save a large amount of money as a TEFL teacher in Costa Rica, it’s possible to live comfortably and enjoy the many attractions and experiences that Costa Rica has to offer.

What is it like living and working in Costa Rica?

For many TEFL teachers considering teaching English in Costa Rica, images of  kicking back on pristine beaches every weekend usually spring to mind. In reality, teaching abroad in Costa Rica is quite a bit different

The capital city of San Jose, where you’ll find most paying jobs, is two hours away from the nearest beach by bus. What’s more, work visas and residency permits are notoriously difficult to acquire, with most employers happy to encourage their teachers to renew their travel visas every 90 days. 

With that being said, there is still an undeniable charm surrounding Costa Rica that the majority of travellers still find themselves falling in love with. Its history as a melting pot of cultures and customs has helped make it one of the most welcoming destinations in Latin America. 

The work-life balance is also an appeal. With most employers offering 20-25 hours of work per week, there are ample opportunities for TEFL teachers to explore the array of beaches, lush rainforests, active volcanoes and other striking bits of natural scenery the country has to offer. 

Ticos take great pride in their appearance, so expect business casual as a means of dressing in the classroom! 

Contents

Are you looking for a pura vida (a pure or simple life)? Then search no more, teaching English in Costa Rica is the answer! In this guide, we’ll look at everything you need to know to teach English in Costa Rica, from why you should choose Costa Rica, the requirements for teaching in the country, and what you can expect living there. So, pack your bags, brush up on your Spanish, and get ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime!

Why teach English in Costa Rica?

There are countless reasons teaching English in Costa Rica can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Costa Rica is a beautiful Latin American country known for its breathtaking natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and welcoming people. As an English teacher in Costa Rica, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in this vibrant culture and experience all that the country has to offer.

Teaching English in Costa Rica provides you with a unique cultural exchange experience. You’ll be able to work closely with Costa Rican students, learn about their way of life, and improve your Spanish language skills.

Teaching English in Costa Rica is a great way to gain valuable teaching experience and build your resume. You’ll develop your teaching skills while working with students of different ages and backgrounds, and you’ll be able to apply what you learn to future teaching positions.

But the cherry on top: teaching English in Costa Rica is financially rewarding. Many schools in Costa Rica offer competitive salaries and benefits packages, and the cost of living is relatively affordable compared to other countries in the region.

In a nutshell, teaching English in Costa Rica is a fantastic opportunity for those seeking a unique cultural exchange experience, valuable teaching experience, and a chance to live in a beautiful country with a welcoming culture. 

Best places to teach English in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with a range of great places to teach English. Here are some of the best destinations to consider:

San José

For the city slickers

Costa Rica’s capital city, San José, is a popular location for English teaching jobs. It’s a bustling metropolis with a vibrant cultural scene, and there are many language schools and universities in the area.

Heredia

For the more relaxed teacher

Located just outside of San José, Heredia is a university town with a relaxed atmosphere and a strong focus on education. It’s a great place to teach English and immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture.

Alajuela

For energetic teachers

Alajuela is a popular destination for English teachers due to its location near the Juan Santamaría International Airport. It’s a lively city with a welcoming community and plenty of opportunities for teaching English.

Cartago

For the penny pinchers

If you’re looking for a place to save money while immersing yourself in Latin American culture, then this is the place. Cartago offers an affordable cost of living compared to other cities in Costa Rica.

How do I become a teacher in Costa Rica?

Teaching English in Costa Rica is an excellent opportunity, but there are specific qualifications that you must meet to be eligible for a teaching position.

Here are the general steps to becoming an English teacher in Costa Rica:

  1.  Get a TEFL/TESOL certification: A must for getting a job offer. A TEFL certificate from The TEFL Academy is exactly what you need to get the teaching job you want!
  2. Find an English teaching job: There are many language schools and universities in Costa Rica that hire English teachers.
  3. Get a work visa: To legally work in Costa Rica as an English teacher, you’ll need to obtain a work visa. Your employer can help you with this process.

And ¡Vamos

Do you need a visa for a TEFL job in Costa Rica?

Strictly speaking, if you are planning to work as an English teacher in Costa Rica, you need a work visa. The visa process is lengthy and quite complicated and it requires sponsorship. If your school can organise one for you then you’re good to go!

But if they are not able to help with the visa application process, it is possible (and legal) to work on a tourist visa. However, a tourist visa for Costa Rica is only valid for 90 days and can only be renewed on a visa run i.e. leaving and re-entering the country.

If you’re an online English teacher, you can apply for a Rentista visa which allows you to work as a digital nomad while living in Costa Rica.

Can I get an English teacher job in Costa Rica with no experience?

Many language schools and employers prefer teachers with teaching experience, as it demonstrates a level of competence and skill in the classroom. However, there are some language schools and employers that are willing to hire teachers with no experience, especially if they have a TEFL/TESOL certification.

Having a TEFL/TESOL certification demonstrates knowledge and competence in teaching English, even if you don’t have much experience. Consider taking a course to obtain a certification with a classroom component to gain practical experience before applying for English teacher jobs in Costa Rica. You can also consider gaining teaching experience by applying to be a tutor while starting the process to teach in Costa Rica.

The TEFL Academy’s combined Level 5 168-hour TEFL course is the perfect choice for equipping you with the right amount of skills, knowledge and classroom experience for a teaching job in Costa Rica. 

Which TEFL certificate do I need to teach in Costa Rica?

While there is no specific type of TEFL certification required to teach in Costa Rica, most language schools and employers prefer teachers with at least a 120-hour TEFL/TESOL certificate that includes in-class teaching practice.

To spice up your CV even more, The TEFL Academy offers a Level 5 168-hour TEFL certificate. Plus, when you sign up for a Level 3 or a Level 5 course you’re given access to three Top-Up Courses absolutely free of charge!

Can I teach English in Costa Rica with no degree?

Good news! Yes, you usually don’t need a Bachelor’s degree to teach English in Costa Rica. But a TEFL certificate from a reputable, internationally recognised TEFL provider is what will really help your CV stand out from the crowd.

Can non-native speakers teach English in Costa Rica?

Yes, non-native speakers can teach English in Costa Rica. Language schools and employers require English teachers to have a high level of English proficiency, as well as a neutral accent, clear pronunciation, and good grammar skills.

How much start-up capital do I need?

Packing your bags and moving abroad is a big step into the unknown. The least you can do for yourself is make sure you have enough capital to make your transition as smooth as possible.

  • Accommodation: First month’s rent and security deposit.
  • TEFL certification: A TEFL course can cost between $100 – $500, depending on the length and level of the course and the course provider. 
  • Document fees: Any costs related to renewing or apostilling your paperwork.
  • Flight ticket: Variable. 
  • Visa application: Visa applications typically cost $130 – $300 USD. 
  • Living expenses: One month’s start-up capital is recommended. For a single person living in Costa Rica, the average cost of living is 415,000 ($780), without rent.

Types of English teaching jobs in Costa Rica

Here are some common TEFL jobs in Costa Rica:

Private language institutes

These institutes offer classes to students of all ages and levels, from children to adults. You can expect to earn between 320,000 – 635,000 ($600$1,200 USD) a month, depending on the number of hours worked and the level of experience.

Public schools

These positions are competitive and typically require a university degree and teaching experience. Entry-level teacher salaries range from around 320,000 – 425,000 ($600$800) a month.

Private schools

These schools offer better pay and benefits than public schools, but may require more experience and teaching qualifications. You can expect to earn 425,000 – 795,000 ($800$1,500) a month depending on the school and the teacher’s experience and qualifications.

Online English teaching

With the rise of online learning, there are also opportunities to teach English online to students in Costa Rica or around the world. This typically requires  TEFL certification. Teacher salaries can vary widely depending on the company or platform, but typically range from 5,300 – 15,900 ($10$30) an hour

Other types of English tutor programs

There are other types of English tutor programs in Costa Rica that are designed to provide more specialised or individualised English instruction. Here are some examples:

Freelance teaching

Freelance tutors offer private lessons to individuals or small groups. This can be a flexible option but may require more effort to find clients and build a steady income. The average rate for a one-hour lesson is 13,000 ($25).

Volunteer tutoring

These volunteer programs typically provide free or low-cost tutoring to students of all ages and levels, and are a great way for you to give back to the community while gaining teaching experience.

Exam preparation tutoring

This requires you to help students prepare for exams such as the TOEFL, IELTS, or Cambridge English exams. The average rate for a 1-hour lesson is 18,500 ($35).

Summer camps

Summer camps in Costa Rica offer a variety of activities for children and teenagers, including language classes, outdoor activities, and cultural excursions.

Benefits of teaching English in Costa Rica

The benefits that English teachers receive in Costa Rican schools varies depending on the type of school and the specific employment agreement. Here are some common benefits that may be offered:

  • Paid vacation: This can range from one to four weeks a year depending on the school.
  • Housing assistance: This can be in the form of subsidised housing or by helping teachers find affordable housing in the local area.

What’s the cost of living in Costa Rica?

Now that we’ve wowed you with all the types of jobs on offer in Costa Rica, let’s break down the cost of living and exactly how much you can make teaching English in the country.


Accommodation

  • One-bedroom apartment in city centre: 300,000 ($580) 
  • One-bedroom apartment outside city centre: 220,000 ($375)

Utilities

  • Gas, electricity, water, garbage disposal: 38,000 ($70) 

Food and groceries

  • Monthly shop: 240,000 ($450) 
  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: 5,000 ($9.5)

Internet

  • Unlimited: 20,000 ($40) 

Transport: 

  • Monthly pass: 20,400 ($38) 
  • Single bus or subway trip: 500 ($1) 

Entertainment:

  • Gym, cinema, clubbing: 135,000 ($250) 

Is it possible to save as an English teacher in Costa Rica?

You might be wondering: “Is it possible to save as a TEFL teacher in Costa Rica?” 

Yes, it’s definitely possible, but it depends on your lifestyle and spending habits. The cost of living in Costa Rica is generally lower than in many other countries, but it can still be relatively high compared to the average salary of an English teacher.

The key to saving money as a TEFL teacher in Costa Rica is to live frugally and budget carefully. You may be able to save more money if you live outside of major cities like San Jose, where the cost of living is generally higher. Additionally, you can save money by cooking your own meals, using public transport and avoiding expensive tourist activities. 

You can supplement your income by offering private tutoring, teaching online or writing articles for English blogs.

Overall, while it may be challenging to save a large amount of money as a TEFL teacher in Costa Rica, it’s possible to live comfortably and enjoy the many attractions and experiences that Costa Rica has to offer.

What is it like living and working in Costa Rica?

For many TEFL teachers considering teaching English in Costa Rica, images of  kicking back on pristine beaches every weekend usually spring to mind. In reality, teaching abroad in Costa Rica is quite a bit different

The capital city of San Jose, where you’ll find most paying jobs, is two hours away from the nearest beach by bus. What’s more, work visas and residency permits are notoriously difficult to acquire, with most employers happy to encourage their teachers to renew their travel visas every 90 days. 

With that being said, there is still an undeniable charm surrounding Costa Rica that the majority of travellers still find themselves falling in love with. Its history as a melting pot of cultures and customs has helped make it one of the most welcoming destinations in Latin America. 

The work-life balance is also an appeal. With most employers offering 20-25 hours of work per week, there are ample opportunities for TEFL teachers to explore the array of beaches, lush rainforests, active volcanoes and other striking bits of natural scenery the country has to offer. 

Ticos take great pride in their appearance, so expect business casual as a means of dressing in the classroom! 

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