Teach Abroad

The 10 Best Places to Teach Abroad in 2021

Caitlin McCollum-Martinez

Caitlin is a travel writer and polyglot from sunny Southern California. She has traveled to over 15 countries and lived in Spain, the Czech Republic, South Korea, and Scotland. She currently resides in Vietnam.

Teaching English abroad is an amazing opportunity to explore the world and to have a life-changing experience overseas. However, the most difficult part about ESL teaching is deciding where in the world to go! There are so many unique countries out there, making the decision about where to go extremely difficult.

By looking at each country’s popularity on Go Overseas, Google search volume, and how many teaching opportunities they offer, Go Overseas has put together a list of the 10 best places to teach abroad in 2021. We hope to help you make your choice a bit easier or maybe to inspire you to consider teaching abroad in the first place!

Country Rank (2021) Rank (2020) Change
China 1 2 +1
South Korea 2 5 +3
Japan 3 3 0
Vietnam 4 8 +4
Thailand 5 4 -1
Taiwan 6 7 +1
Spain 7 1 -6
France 8 9 +1
United Arab Emirates 9 10 +1
Czech Republic 10 - New

Read on to learn what each of these wonderful countries has to offer to the aspiring English teacher.

1. China

China is by far the most popular destination for ESL teachers. With over a billion citizens, it is clear to see why China has the largest demand for English language education. Teaching English in China likely won’t provide you with a salary equivalent to what you could make at home, however teaching English is a fool-proof way to earn a great wage and still be able to save some money. The cost of living in most cities is quite low compared to countries in the West.

Many teaching jobs in China also offer benefits, such as free accommodation, or paid flights. It's possible to live quite comfortably and still have money left over to travel (when that’s allowed again).

Despite recent events, China is still an amazing place to live and work as an expat. There are endless facets of Chinese culture to explore and experience as well as a multitude of different regions and cities to travel to. China is truly one of the best places to teach abroad!

2. South Korea

South Korea tends to rank high on these sorts of lists and for good reason. Not only is there an incredible demand for foreign English teachers, but the ESL market continues to grow each year in Korea. There are plenty of jobs available - especially now - so it is easier than ever for you to find the ideal teach abroad job.

Having lived in Korea as an English teacher myself I can assure you it deserves its place high on the list. The typical benefits offered by both public and private school placements make Korea one of the most attractive places to be an English teacher abroad. The benefits in Korea are more comprehensive than most other Asian countries, with accommodation and flights paid for and a severance bonus! It is entirely possible to save the majority of your salary while teaching abroad in Korea.

However, many expats can find Korea a difficult place to live due to the working culture. Be prepared to work longer hours than you are probably used to in your home country – Korea has the longest working hours of any developed nation!

Despite a less than ideal work-life balance, Korea has a lot to offer. Exploring the metropolis of Seoul or hiking through the stunning mountainous regions, or relaxing on the famous beaches in Busan, there is something for every type of English teacher to enjoy.

3. Japan

Japan has long been one of the most popular countries to teach English abroad but has lost its top spot over the years due to a slowing in the ESL market. Despite this, Japan remains one of the best places for people to teach English abroad!

Japan is a country full of natural beauty, dramatic landscapes, and most notably, its bustling cities. It also has one of the most unique traditional cultures in Asia which attracts many expats and English teachers alike. You’ll never get bored living in Japan, whether you live in the heart of Tokyo or in a rural village in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. The working culture is similar to China and Korea, but with large expat communities in most major cities it would be easy to adjust to life in Japan.

4. Vietnam

Vietnam is well-known for its lush and dramatic landscapes and its generally relaxed culture. In a normal year, Vietnam attracts millions of tourists and expats alike. Vietnam is one of the best places to work as an ESL teacher in the world’s current climate; there is a great work-life balance and you’ll likely be working much less than the typical nine-to-five!

Recently, it has been difficult for any foreigners to enter the country because of Vietnam's aggressive response to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, ESL teachers are now being allowed to enter the country as "expert" workers - myself included! The government has been inconsistent about policies regarding ESL teachers, but people are finding their way into the country regardless.

Because of the response to the pandemic, life is normal in Vietnam--well as close to normal as it can be! Though many teachers are put off by the lower salaries in Vietnam, and Southeast Asia in general, it is not difficult to live comfortably, save money, and enjoy yourself while teaching abroad.

Teaching English abroad in Vietnam was definitely the best decision I made this year!

5. Thailand

Thailand is one of the most popular destinations to teach English overseas for many reasons. Normally, millions of tourists would flock to Thailand each year to experience the diverse culture, dramatic landscapes, and a rich culture of food. Recently the Thai government has announced it will open its borders to visitors, which means it is one of the more open countries in Asia at the moment.

Thailand is an attractive location for teaching for a simple reason -- the inexpensive cost of living. Just like in Vietnam, English teachers in Thailand take home a lower salary compared to other countries in Asia, and elsewhere, but the money goes a lot farther!

Thailand is also well-known for its more relaxed working culture, compared to East Asian countries, which allows you more time to explore your interests outside of English teaching.

6. Taiwan

With all Taiwan has been becoming more popular among English teachers over the years. With a similar working culture to that in China, Korea, and Japan - Taiwan can be a bit more difficult to adapt to from a Western mindset, but it can be incredibly rewarding to work as an English teacher in Taiwan.

The country has a relatively low cost of living, so an ESL teacher’s salary can go a long way. Most teaching options will include severance pay, housing, and flights which increases your savings potential - or spending potential.

When you’re not working you can spend all that extra cash you’ll have saved experiencing the beauty of Taiwan. You can trek through the jungles, relax by the pristine beaches, and summit the mountains of Taiwan all while eating delicious tropical fruits and enjoying local specialties like pineapple cakes.

Taiwan is also popular among expats for being one of the most progressive countries in Asia. The country became the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage just a few years ago!

7. Spain

Spain is by far one of the most popular destinations to teach English in Europe. Compared to the rest of Europe, Spain is notoriously relaxed and boasts a better work-life balance than many other countries in the West, making it ideal for English teachers abroad.

When you’re not teaching you can experience the charm of Spain, with its rich culture, history, and of course, cuisine. An English teacher's salary isn't much in Spain, but I can tell you from experience the cost of living is much lower than in other European countries, which allows your euros to go further! If you’re low on cash you can always get by with free tapas, like those served in Granada!

The Spanish government also encourages North American ESL teachers to live and work in Spain, making it one of the few European countries that doesn’t give preferential treatment to British or Irish native English speakers. This makes Spain ideal for those from America or Canada looking to find a teaching job abroad in Europe.

8. France

I think most people would struggle to find someone who does not have some romantic ideal of France. If you’re a lover of cafes, cheese, wine, or art - or all of the above - France could be right for you! France is an enchanting place to live in its own right but it is also a great place to find a teaching job abroad.

Though it is easier to get an ESL job if you are a British or Irish citizen, it is still possible for citizens of other English speaking countries to find work in France. There are many programs that not only assist you in finding a job, but also help you with the often arduous process of obtaining an EU visa.

Many teaching programs offer atypical teaching jobs, such as au pair work, which allows people to teach English abroad in some less traditional ways, making it more flexible than other countries and a better fit for those not sold on classroom-based methods of ESL teaching.

9. United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates has become one of the more desirable ESL teaching destinations in the world and is increasing in popularity every year. The requirements to teach in the UAE are a bit more difficult to meet than other destinations, but the rewards are undeniably worth it. It may be easier to find jobs with formal qualifications in teaching, but it is not impossible to find jobs if you only have a TEFL certification!

With some of the highest ESL salaries in the world and a plethora of benefits, it's no wonder so many expats flock to the UAE to teach English abroad. The cultural differences in the UAE may require an adjustment for many ESL teachers, but it is a truly unique destination to teach English abroad. If you crave an experience off the beaten path the UAE may be the destination for you.

10. Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is another strong contender from Europe. Though not as popular as the other countries on the list, the Czech Republic is undeniably a great place to live and work as an English teacher abroad. The country has a mesmerizing beauty, an easy-going way of life, and most importantly - tons of delicious beer.

ESL teachers will usually find work at foreign language schools or international schools in Prague. The salaries in the Czech Republic are lower than most other countries in Europe, but to compensate for a lower salary, many schools offer more benefits than other destinations in the region.

I may be a bit biased having lived and worked in Prague myself, but I can guarantee the Czech Republic will steal your heart!

Bonus: Online

With the way the world is right now, it may be difficult to find the ideal teaching job abroad, however, there are plenty of opportunities to teach English online! Most online ESL companies focus on providing lessons for children in China but it is possible to find opportunities in different countries and with a variety of age groups. Until the world is a bit more stable, teaching online may be the best way to dip your toe in the water and see if teaching English abroad is right for you!

Where Will You Teach Abroad in 2021?

Teaching English abroad is an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone. It may seem daunting to try and plan to teach abroad right now, with the way the world is, but it is not impossible. I recently moved halfway across the world to start a new teaching job in Vietnam, despite it all!

All you need to do now is decide where do you want to go to start your teaching abroad journey in 2021!

This post is updated annually, and it was most recently revised in December 2020.

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