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 TEFL Org. Starting a new career and relocating almost always involves some initial 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 hugely depending on the country, but this blog post will give you a rough idea of what to expect. 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

A woman using a calculator to budget

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
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 4 weeks, and can be taken at locations across the UK and abroad. 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
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
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
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.

A person stamping a document

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 requires it, so we wouldn’t recommend ordering anything until you’ve been offered a job! Some employers will also offer to reimburse the fees you’ve incurred, but this likely won’t be until a later date.

Criminal background check

A criminal background check can be requested from your government and in the UK costs £25. 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 the documents authenticated/certified or notarised, which officially confirms they’re genuine. A solicitor can authenticate documents but only a registered Notary Public can notarise them. Usually, authentication is all that’s needed so if you’re being asked to get your documents notarised instead make sure this is definitely required instead of authentication as it’s a much more expensive process.

Next you need to get the documents legalised. If you’re based in the UK this involves sending them to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which charges £30 per document plus postage. If you’re based elsewhere just look up how to legalise documents on your government’s website.

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 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 for the legalisation process and The Travel Visa Company for visas.

A passport and money on a table

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.


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!

Two people budgeting

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 where you’re going to teach – 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 could involve your first month’s rent plus a deposit, so you may need 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 what date you will be paid so you know how long you’ll need to budget for.

A person stacking coins

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.

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

For more details, take a look at our guide to teaching English abroad.

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