What are the Start Up Costs for Teaching English Abroad?

What are the Start Up Costs for Teaching English Abroad?

How much does it cost to TEFL? What are the start up costs for teaching English abroad? Do employers cover them?

These are questions we’re frequently asked at The TEFL Org. Starting a new career and relocating almost always involves some start up costs, and TEFL is no different!

It’s hard to say how much exactly you need to get started teaching English abroad because it can vary depending on where you’re going, but this blog post will give you a rough idea of what to budget for. Typically, the start up costs for teaching English abroad will include:

  1. The cost of your TEFL qualification
  2. Fees related to documents required by your employer
  3. Travel costs
  4. Money to cover living expenses before your first paycheque

TEFL qualification

In order to find a TEFL job you first need your TEFL qualification. There are lots of different course providers and even different qualifications for teaching English, so it can be hard at first to know which one to go with – and how much you should be paying.

Here are the most common types of TEFL courses and how much you can expect to pay for them.

Intensive courses – £1,000 to £2,000 ($1,400 - $2,800)
The CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and Trinity CertTESOL are two of the most well-known and highly-regarded intensive courses for teaching English abroad. These courses typically run full-time over a period of 4 weeks. Another cost to factor in is loss of earnings, as you won’t be able to work during the month of the course and, if you’re taking the course abroad or away from home, accommodation and other costs will add up as well.

Online courses – £150 to £300 ($200 - $400)
Studying online offers a lot of flexibility, allowing you to gain your TEFL qualification in your own time and at your own pace alongside your other commitments. Online qualifications are accepted by employers worldwide as long as they’re from a suitably accredited and reputable TEFL course provider.  See our online TEFL courses .

Combined courses – £250 to £500 ($350 - $700)
Combined courses include online and classroom study. The classroom course typically involves a two- or three-day course held over a single weekend or consecutive days during the week, which is a great way to fit in some valuable classroom experience alongside flexible online study.  See our combined TEFL courses .

Groupon/budget courses – £20 to £50 ($25 - $70)
A TEFL course for as little as £20? As the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. We’ve previously written about the dangers of signing up for a budget TEFL course so, if you’re feeling tempted, we strongly recommend giving our blog post about  Groupon TEFL courses a read.

TEFL certificates & hidden fees

If you’re teaching English abroad then it will be essential to have a hard copy of your TEFL certificate. You’ll need it in order to get all your documents in order (more on that in the next section) and it’s important to have on you when you’re abroad for employers to see.

Since it’s a necessity, we don’t charge extra for your hard copy TEFL certificate or for postage fees, regardless of where you are in the world. However, it’s important to be aware that many TEFL course providers do and it’s worth finding out just how much before you sign up for a course so you can factor this in. Don’t just assume it’ll be a small amount - we’re aware of budget providers charging £100+ for a hard copy certificate plus postage! Some may not even offer a hard copy as an option, meaning you won’t be able to get your certificate legalised, which can pose real problems when searching for work.

A woman adding a coin to a piggy bank

Fees for documents

Once you’ve been offered a teaching position you may need to get certain documents legalised, such as your degree and TEFL qualification. Many positions will also require a criminal record check, which may also need to be legalised.

Remember, you only need to pay for the below if your employer or visa process requires it. Legalisation doesn’t technically expire but it’s not unheard of for employers to request it’s been done recently (and they’ll certainly want a recent criminal background check), so we recommend waiting until you have a job offer before sending off your documents.

Many employers will also offer to reimburse the fees you’ve incurred - make sure to find out if this is offered. This likely won’t be until a later date or could even be at the end of your contract, so you’ll need the funds to cover these costs to begin with.

Criminal background check

A criminal background check can be requested from your government - in the UK  it costs £23 and in the US you can expect to pay $10-$20. We have more information about how to get a criminal background check in other countries and the costs involved  here .

Legalisation fees

First of all, you need to get your TEFL certificate and other documents certified, which officially confirms they’re genuine. You’ll need to take it to a solicitor/lawyer or notary public, so just use Google to find the nearest one to you.

This process requires you to have a hard copy of your TEFL certificate - a PDF will not be accepted. As we’ve mentioned above, the cost of this (plus shipping to anywhere in the world) is included in the course fee for all TEFL Org courses, but many providers will charge an additional fee for this. It’s important to check this out before signing up for a course as some providers can charge a substantial amount to issue a hard copy certificate.

Next, you need to get the documents legalised in the country they were issued. For example, we’re based in the UK so you would need to send your TEFL Org certificate to the UK government's Legalisation Office . The process costs £30 per document plus postage if you’re based in the UK, but if you’re based outside of the UK we recommend using a service like Hague Apostille  or Vital Consular  to make the process easier and cheaper.

Visa fees

The cost of applying for a work visa and the process to get one can vary hugely depending on the country you’re aiming to teach in. Visa fees can range from around £20 to £150 ($25 - $200) and it’s very important that you acquire the correct one for working abroad.

If this all sounds like a bit of a headache then there are services you can use that will do it all for you, so you don’t have to worry about making any mistakes during the process. We recommend  Hague Apostille or Vital Consular for the legalisation process and The Travel Visa Company  for visas.

A document getting stamped

Travel costs


The cost of flights obviously depends on where you’re going and can be the most considerable start up cost. Some employers will offer flight reimbursement, but you usually won’t get the money back until the end of your contract – this means if you break your contract by leaving early you won’t be reimbursed.

Skyscanner  and  Kayak  are handy sites where you can compare flight costs and find the best deal.


Luggage costs can be expensive and it can be difficult when you’re travelling by yourself to transport a lot of it! There are services such as  Send My Bag , that will deliver your luggage to you, which can help make relocation a lot easier if you’re bringing a lot of belongings with you. But it may be wise to travel light and take only what you can carry yourself, especially if you’re trying to keep costs to a minimum.


Whether or not medical insurance is covered by your employer will usually depend on the country you’re teaching in or the specific employer. If it isn’t included with the job then it’s very important that you take out a  medical plan suitable for expats . For teachers working part-time or digital nomads you will more than likely be responsible for making sure you have cover, so make sure it’s sorted before you get on the plane!

Money for your first month

It’s important to make sure you have money to see you through until your first paycheque. Again, the amount you need depends on the living costs in the country you’re heading to – you won’t need as much money saved if you’re going to be working in rural China than if you were in Shanghai, for example.

You can use sites such as  Numbeo  and  Expatistan  to calculate living costs in specific places to get an idea of how much you need to save.


Accommodation expenses when you arrive will likely at least involve your first month’s rent plus a deposit, so make sure to budget for that. If your employer provides accommodation then you will only need to cover the cost of utilities.

Living expenses

You’ll need to budget for food, leisure, and public transport costs during your first month. It’s a good idea to check with your employer when exactly you will be paid so you know how long you’ll need to budget for.

Optional: Emergency fund

An emergency fund is a bit like a financial safety net. You don’t have to have one, but it’s definitely a good idea. Putting money aside in case of emergency can help protect you against any unexpected costs that might come up during your move abroad or within your first couple of months. Think about your essentials, such as phone, passport, laptop - in the event of loss or damage would you be able to replace them?

Will employers help with costs?

As we’ve already mentioned, some employers will offer flight reimbursement and assist with accommodation, whether that’s providing a place to live or a stipend. These benefits are common in some parts of the world but virtually unheard of in others, so we’ve listed below the countries where it’s common to find contracts that offer to cover all or some of the costs of starting a TEFL job. Keep in mind that not  all  employers in these countries will offer these benefits.

Asia : China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia

Europe : Russia, Poland

Middle East : UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman (note: jobs in these countries are rarely entry-level and require teachers to have a couple of years’ experience)

In Europe and South & Central America it is very rare to come across employers who will cover the cost of flights and offer accommodation. Summer camps in Europe, however, will almost always include accommodation and volunteering roles may also include room and board.

Over on our  TEFL Jobs Centre  you can easily search for jobs that include accommodation or offer assistance.

For more details and tips about teaching English abroad, take a look at our guide

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

(0/1500 characters)

Quick Maths Test