Cusco, Peru truly is a city where the past and present merge. Take several indigenous populations (including the remnants of the Inca empire), add in gorgeous European architecture, plenty of festivals, a spectacular natural setting, and you have plenty of reasons to explore Cusco.
Because Cusco has such a booming tourism industry, there are plenty of people who really want to learn English. Also, Cusco, and Peru in general, is an excellent place to explore volunteer teaching opportunities, especially in orphanages. Cusco may not be a place to make a lot of money teaching, but it is a place to gain rich cultural experiences and maybe make a real difference in someone’s life.Photo credit: sergejf.
One of the most popular ways to teach English in Cusco is to participate in a volunteer program. You can either look for volunteer opportunities in-country, or through a program that will provide you with food, housing, and support and other services while you’re staying in Cusco.
Depending on the program, volunteers can stay for as little as one week, or as long as several months to over one year. Volunteers can live with host families or in a shared apartment or dormitory with other volunteers. The volunteer program may provide opportunities for volunteers to get out and explore the culture, through optional Spanish classes to outdoor excursions.
Volunteer programs sometimes charge a modest fee. If they do, it often covers airport pickup, arrangements with apartments or host families, food, and excursions, so as you do your research, decide if the cost is worth the experience to you. Some popular volunteer programs include International Volunteer HQ, Globalteer, a UK program, and Global Volunteer Network.
Private Language Academies/Schools:
Cusco has several private language institutes, which mostly cater to adults, businesspeople, and professionals in the tourism and hospitality industry. Your schedule may have you teaching in the morning or in the evening to accommodate a businessperson’s schedule. Split shifts can be challenging, but you can get used to them, and some teachers even like having a few hours in the afternoon free to run errands, attend Spanish classes, and explore Cusco and the surrounding area. These schools tend to hire year-round.
TEFL Course and Teaching Placement:
Some teachers come to Cusco to participate in TEFL-certification programs, such as Language Corps, and take a position at institutes that are affiliated with the program.
Teachers can easily find extra work with private tutoring. Tutors can make as much as US$5-US$10 an hour. However, it can take time to build your client base, and usually it’s through word of mouth. Be prepared for clients to cancel lessons at last minute, or not show up at all.
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
Various resources make the case for either coming to Cusco and searching for jobs in-country, or for securing employment while you’re still in your home country. If you’re looking for a job in a university or international school, they are most likely to hire their teachers overseas.
If you are doing a TEFL-certification program, check to see if they offer job assistance and placement services. Language institutes hire year-round, and universities usually hire in January. International schools if they’re available usually hire in September or October. If you choose to search for jobs in Cusco while still living in your home country, there are several online resources, such as Expat Peru and Living in Peru.
If you are looking for university or international school positions, they want their teachers to have Bachelor’s degrees and teaching credentials from their home countries. You will make more money and maybe have more opportunities with a TEFL certification, and you can choose to do those online through programs such as BridgeTEFL or in Peru with LanguageCorps, for example.
In terms of visas, you can go to Peru on a 90-day tourist visa and find work that way. Some institutes do hire teachers on tourist visas. Universities and international schools assist with acquiring work visas. If you’re volunteering, your program provider should assist with visas for their volunteers.
Working without any kind of visa is illegal, but some teachers get away with it. The bureaucracy in Peru is very complicated, so that’s something to keep in mind. Do your research and ask plenty of questions. Check out reputable visa websites, such as VisaHQ to get the most current information.
Salary & Cost of Living:
Teachers in Cusco make about US$5 to US$10 an hour, sometimes more with appropriate certification and other additional credentials -- such as experience teaching business English, for example. The average salary is about US$500. Considering the cost of living in Cusco is low, compared to the teacher’s home country, a teacher can make a comfortable living, depending on lifestyle.
If you’re volunteering, most likely the program has arranged accommodations for the participants, usually a homestay with a host family. You may be expected to contribute towards meals and basic household expenses, but you will not have to pay rent. If you are working in a language institute, you may be paying anywhere from US$200 to US$600 on an apartment, depending on location in Cusco and the size of the apartment.
Cusco is a dynamic, vibrant culinary spot, with influences from the native indigenous cultures, the Spanish, and other cultural influences, including Chinese! This is a great opportunity for teachers to be adventurous and dive into the local cuisine. Depending on what you want to eat, you can spend anywhere from US$1.80 on casual, local food (according to Wherever Writer) to US$25 on a nice night out.
Classroom & Work Culture
- Student-Teacher Relations: Students will most likely be adult learners who need to learn English for their jobs or for personal enrichment. If they are involved in the tourism industry, they are desirous to learn. However, be prepared for students and your Peruvian co-workers to be tardy quite frequently. Be prepared also, if you have private students for them to cancel lessons or sometimes not show up.
- Dress Code: Dress in Peru tends to be more conservative than you may expect. While it’s best to take your cues from your co-workers, most schools prefer their teachers to wear business casual. Some schools may not even allow you to wear sandals, so pay attention to your co-workers!
- Greetings: A warm and friendly greeting is always best. Most of the time, a simple Buenos Dias is all you need. Other times, a handshake is appropriate. Women do kiss each other on the cheek, but remember to lean to your left when offering your cheek for a kiss. Expat Peru has a great article on etiquette and manners.