The 10 Best Places to Teach English Abroad in 2020

By Bridge
January 1, 2020

Is teaching English abroad on your bucket list for the New Year? Adventure awaits in the new decade, and with so many fantastic TEFL locations around the globe, there’s no shortage of opportunities for teachers looking to work abroad. Whether you want to experience a new culture, earn a high salary while enjoying a low cost of living, or advance your career by conquering new challenges, we’ve rounded up the 10 best places to teach English abroad in 2020 based on expert insights from the TEFL industry. Make this a year to remember!

An English teacher exploring Costa Rica.

Adventure awaits when you teach abroad in beautiful Costa Rica!

#10: Costa Rica

This isn’t your ordinary 9-to-5 job! Experience Costa Rica like a local when you teach abroad at one of their language schools. Make a difference in the lives of your students during the week, then spend your time off hiking volcanos, ziplining, and having the adventure of a lifetime! While average salaries are $600 to $900 per month, the cost of living in Costa Rica is low, and you can supplement your income with private classes after school. Almost all TEFL jobs in the country involve teaching adult students who are mostly business professionals or college students.

No college degree? No problem! Not all schools in Costa Rica require their teachers to have 4-year degrees. Download our free country guide to learn more about this tropical TEFL destination, and hear from Bridge grad, Tom, who is currently living the “pura vida” life as an English teacher in Costa Rica.

Bridge grad teaching English abroad in Russia.

Bridge grad, Tariq from Ghana, teaching abroad while attending grad school in Russia.

#9: Russia

Journey off the beaten TEFL path when you teach English as a foreign language in Russia! The demand for English teachers in Russia’s larger cities, such as Moscow or St. Petersburg, has remained strong in recent years, and if you have a high level of English and the proper qualifications (usually a bachelor’s degree in any subject and a TEFL certificate of at least 100 hours), you have the chance to teach English in the largest country on the planet!

Salaries range depending on your experience and the location where you teach, but you can expect to make up to about $1,500/month as a teacher at a language center and up to about $2,000/month working at international schools, teaching the children of expats living in Russia.

Want to learn more about teaching abroad in Russia? Meet Bridge grad, Tariq, from Ghana, who is working as a part-time English teacher as he attends grad school in Siberia.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Advance your TEFL career in the UAE!

#8: The UAE

If you are an exceptionally qualified ESL teacher who’s looking to make a high salary while teaching abroad, look no further than the United Arab Emirates, or UAE. The average salary in this dynamic country is between $2,300 and $3,300 per month. Impressed? It gets better: typical benefits for English teachers in the UAE  include free housing, reimbursed airfare, and more!

However, while there is a growing demand for English teachers here, the high salaries and favorable teaching conditions allow employers to be extremely selective in hiring qualified teachers, often requiring a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a field related to English teaching, as well as TEFL certification and several year of English-teaching experience. If you are lucky enough to land a job in this competitive TEFL location, you’ll be able to visit rolling deserts, sandy beaches, and cosmopolitan cities in one of the world’s youngest countries.

Get an in-depth guide to teaching in the UAE  by reading our country overview on the Job Board

Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City

Visit all 35 world heritage sites – the most in all of the Americas! – when you teach abroad in Mexico.

#7: Mexico

Looking to practice your Spanish while teaching English in a culturally-rich and highly popular tourist destination? Consider Mexico, and particularly its bustling capital, Mexico City, when looking for the best places to teach abroad in 2020.

You’ll find practically every type of English student in this diverse country, including young learners wanting to learn the basics and adult students looking to improve their English for business or advance their conversational skills.

While salaries are lower in Mexico compared to some other countries on this list (in Mexico City, a teacher might make about $900/month), the low cost of living makes it easy to live comfortably on your TEFL salary here. You can even find extra benefits like free Spanish lessons, visa assistance, and free housing (more common in rural areas) when teaching in Mexico.

Meet BridgeTEFL grad, Lorena, who opened her own English tutoring business in Mexico, catering to the tourist sector in Playa del Carmen. Read Lorena’s TEFL story to learn more about her experience!

TEFL teacher in South Korea.

Bridge grad, Katie Murray, with her adorable young learners in South Korea.

#6: South Korea

South Korea is one of the most desired TEFL locations among Bridge grads, and it’s not hard to understand why! Modern cities, competitive salaries that range from $1,800 to $2,200 per month (plus free accommodations), stunning natural beauty, and more await EFL teachers who travel abroad to teach in this East Asian country.

With an estimated 100,000 institutes offering English lessons and a government actively promoting English teaching in public schools, TEFL jobs in South Korea can be found year-round, either through a program like EPIK or by applying for TEFL jobs directly. Requirements generally include a bachelor’s degree in any subject, TEFL certification of 120 hours or more, and sometimes teaching experience.

Korea is notoriously safe and also boasts excellent public transportation, making it easy to discover the wonders of the country, including the iconic Seoul Tower and 600-year-old Bukchon Hanok Village. If you’re looking for a modern teach-abroad experience in a dynamic country, South Korea is the TEFL location for you in 2020.

Download our free Bridge Country Guide to learn more about the culture, cost of living, and jobs in South Korea!

Waterfront in Portugal

Discover the beauty of Europe when you teach English abroad in Portugal.

#5:  Portugal

Do you dream of teaching English abroad in Europe? If so, Portugal should be at the top of your list! This not-so-hidden-gem is a great place to gain TEFL experience while funding your travels – just ask Bridge grad, Nastassia, who is currently fulfilling her dream of living and teaching abroad in Lisbon. In her TEFL interview, she says, “Since obtaining my Bridge certificate, I have taught in a Portuguese school ranging from Pre-A1-B1.1 proficiency levels. Additionally, I work as an ambassador for Education First, where I get to travel throughout Portugal’s secondary schools (high-schools), promoting the significance of learning English.”

While the cost of living is higher in this European country than some other TEFL locations on this list, you can supplement your income with side jobs, like Nastassia, such as teaching English online. Portugal is also the perfect place to launch your TEFL career, as you will most likely be paired with a Portuguese teacher and work as an English teaching assistant, giving you the ability to learn from an expert while you gain confidence in the classroom.

Learn more about the fantastic cultural experiences Portugal has to offer in this article by BridgeTEFL Program Advisor, Kevin Mermel, who volunteered as an English teaching assistant in Valongo, Portugal before coming to work at Bridge.

A Bridge student posing with her English learners while teaching abroad in Japan.

Japan continues to reign as a top TEFL location in 2020!

#4: Japan

Our #1 location from Top Places to Teach Abroad in 2019 remains in the top five heading into 2020, due to its unique culture, high salaries, and wide range of TEFL opportunities. Teachers who are qualified (typically with a bachelor’s degree in any subject and TEFL certification of at least 100 hours) can secure jobs in Japan through all-inclusive teach abroad programs, like the popular JET Program, or seek out other positions on their own.

The average pay for teaching in Japan is high, with monthly salaries averaging from $2,000 to $2,500 per month. Depending on where you teach (such as outside the major cities), the cost of living can make it possible to save money while you teach here, if you budget.

Most EFL teachers will find work in Japan as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs). As an ALT, you’ll teach alongside local instructors at public schools, often in smaller cities or rural areas. Working with a local teacher is a great way to grow as an educator and is also helpful if you run into a language barrier with your students. There’s no doubt that Japan is a top-tier TEFL location for 2020!

Get more answers to frequently asked questions about teaching in Japan.

A Bridge grad teaching English to young learners in Turkey

An English teacher working with a group of young students in Turkey.

#3: Turkey

You may not immediately think of Turkey when considering TEFL destinations, but this transcontinental country has plenty to offer English teachers from all over the world! Government officials estimate that in public schools, the demand for English teachers exceeds 30,000, so job availability is high throughout the country. Average salaries range from $800 to $1,400 and typically include reimbursed airfare and even free housing.

Unlike many other countries, Turkey’s requirements for English teachers are much more flexible, making it a great place for those with fewer qualifications and less teaching experience. Turkey’s proximity to both Europe and Asia allows you to travel easily to hotspots like Greece and more exotic locations like nearby Georgia. Visit the historic city of Istanbul, take in the natural wonder of the travertine terraces of Pamukkale, and enjoy a truly unique teach-abroad adventure in Turkey!

Pro tip: Learn more about English teaching positions in Turkey by checking out the Country Overview on our job board!

A Bridge grad pets an elephant in Thailand.

Make new friends when you teach abroad in Thailand!

#2: Thailand

There’s a lot to love about this budget-friendly country nicknamed the “Land of Smiles,” including its world-class street food, friendly people, and beautiful coastline. Whether you teach abroad here for six months or six years, you’ll have plenty to explore. Travel throughout Thailand or visit the neighboring countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia during your time off.

Thailand is another excellent TEFL location for those just getting started in their teaching career as well as teachers looking to work with young learners. Most jobs require TEFL certification and a bachelor’s degree, but experience is not always required. And, due to the high demand for qualified English teachers, TEFL positions are available year-round, meaning you can jumpstart your teach-abroad adventure in Thailand as soon as you’re certified!

For the complete rundown on teaching in Thailand, download our handy Country Guide!

A bridge grad teaches young learners in Vietnam.

Vietnam is our #1 teach abroad destination in 2020.

#1: Vietnam

Vietnam has shot the top of our Best Places to Teach English Abroad in 2020 list, and if you’re seeking a truly enchanting TEFL experience in a culturally rich and diverse country, then this is the location for you!

Teaching salaries in Vietnam typically range from $900 to $1,300 per month, and while this may seem low compared to other Asian countries, so is the cost of the living here. English teachers can live comfortably for just $350-$500 (depending on lifestyle), which means you have plenty of money left over to save or spend on exploring the wonders of Vietnam. As an added bonus, you may also find that English schools provide free housing for their teachers.

TEFL positions are readily available in Vietnam’s largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, as well as the cultural capital, Hanoi. Looking to travel during your time teaching abroad? Vietnam has a plethora of historical sites and natural wonders to discover, including the famous Ha Long Bay, Phu Quoc, Sa Pa Terraces, Cu Chi Tunnels, and many, many more. Earn a comfortable living while you have the teach-abroad adventure of a lifetime in Vietnam!

Pro Tip: APAX English in Vietnam is one of our carefully vetted Preferred Employment Partners and is currently hiring ESL teachers to work in their 130+ language centers across the country. Learn more about this exciting job opportunity to teach in Vietnam!

Bridge grad with guitar teaching English online.

Launch your online teaching career in the New Year!

Bonus: Teach English Online

Have you heard? The online teaching industry is booming — and if you’re looking to make money on your own terms, from anywhere in the world, you need to check out the online teaching jobs we currently feature on our BridgeTEFL Job Board. There are online job opportunities for both native and non-native English-speaking teachers, with and without teaching experience and college degrees. If you’d like to supplement your income while working from the comfort of your home, consider joining the online teaching revolution! Get started with teaching English online.

No matter what your TEFL resolution is for 2020, we’re here to assist you with internationally recognized TEFL/TESOL courses, the latest job openings on our BridgeTEFL Job Board, digital badges to help your resume stand out, and more! Please contact one of our program advisors at any time. We would be happy to assist you on your TEFL journey!