When you think of Latin America, the first places that spring to mind are big, vibrant locations such as Brazil and Argentina, but underdogs like Uruguay are well worth consideration. South American’s second smallest country is finally emerging as a popular destination for both tourists and expats. Uruguay is a sophisticated country with a heady mix of metropolitan chic and rural wilderness. The stable economic growth and progressive cultural attitudes make it a great place for English teachers to find work in Latin America. Uruguay is also a popular choice compared to other Latin American countries as it is one of the most stable countries in the region and it has a low crime rate.
The capital, Montevideo, balances the country’s colonial past with a progressive present, and schools in the region are keen to find new TEFL teachers. Wages aren’t high, but neither is the cost of living, and there are plenty of voluntary opportunities, too. It’s sometimes hard to believe that this beautiful city is located in sunny South America, as many people say that it has a decidedly European feel, due to the open-air cafes, small markets, and beautiful architecture.
- Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Montevideo
- Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of 6,230 – 10,435 UYU (£100 – £172 / $140 – $235) per month. Full-time roles in bilingual or international schools will have much higher wages, around 33,000 UYU (£545 / $745) per month
- TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most paid positions, and helpful for volunteering roles
- Prerequisite university degree: Usually required for paid positions, not always for volunteering roles
- Term times: March to December
- Currency: Uruguayan peso (UYU)
- Language: Spanish
- Teaching programmes: Volunteering, Private tutoring, Universities, Bilingual Kindergartens, Private Language Schools
- Age restrictions: None
- Previous teaching experience: Useful for paid positions
Uruguay has a high quality education system, with compulsory education up to the age of 18 and free university, with increasing numbers in higher education studies. It has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America, and is part of a project called One Laptop per Child, where every primary school student in the country is provided with a laptop for educational purposes. The teacher/student ratio in Uruguay classrooms is one of the lowest in the world, which is another contributing factor in their great literacy rate and success in getting students to attend their compulsory schooling.
On the EF English Proficiency Index in 2020, Uruguay ranked as 51 out of 100 countries. It doesn’t sound like a great score, but it’s close to transitioning into the ‘moderate’ skill list rather than the ‘low’ list, and actually scored better in both 2019 and 2018. Uruguay ranks around the middle of the list compared to other Latin American countries.
TEFL teachers in Uruguay say that their students are friendly and welcoming. Locals in Uruguay are keen to improve their English, so if your regular job doesn’t cover your living costs, it shouldn’t be too hard to find some private students to tutor in your free time. Many TEFL teachers in Uruguay choose to earn a little extra by teaching online, which can earn you better wages than teaching locally and is also a great choice because Uruguay has some of the fastest internet speeds (for the lowest cost) in South America.
Requirements for teaching English in Uruguay
|Country||Avg. monthly salary||Degree required||Start of term||Teaching experience||Housing & flights included||Suitable for non-native English speakers||Age restrictions|
|Argentina||£500 - £950
($600 - $1,200)
|Bolivia||£400 - £550
($500 - $700)
|Brazil||£650 - £900
($800 - $1,100)
|Chile||£550 - £800
($700 - $1,000)
|Colombia||£400 - £800
($500 - $1,000)
|Ecuador||£400 - £650
($500 - $800)
|Guatemala||£400 - £550
($500 - $700)
|Mexico||£400 - £800
($500 - $1,000)
|Peru||£325 - £650
($400 - $800)
|Uruguay||£325 - £800
($400 - $1000)
As the fourth most expensive country in Latin America, Uruguay isn’t the cheapest place to live in South America, but you’ll enjoy a premium standard of living, and the income for TEFL teachers in the city will be more than adequate to live comfortably. If you like cycling, head to the rambla in Montevideo – a 14-mile long waterfront stretch of cycle paths and walking routes, dotted with restaurants. If you want other ideas of how to enjoy yourself for cheap in Uruguay, look out for open air music performances and dance squares where people gather on a regular basis. The weather in Uruguay is mild, though it can get quite windy along the coast. Traditional dishes you’ll want to try in Uruguay include asado barbeque, rice pudding served with dulce de leche, fried bread, capeletis a la caruso (stuffed pasta/dumplings), and the best sharing option of Revuelto Gramajo, which is a plate of French fries combined with sautéed onions, eggs, ham, and green peas.
Uruguay has a public healthcare system, but most expats choose to become members of the mutualista, which is like health insurance but is attached to a specific clinic or hospital.
- Accommodation: £389 – £604 / $537 – $836
- Utilities: £87 / $120
- Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £31 / $42
- Monthly transport pass: £33 / $45
- Basic dinner out for two: £16 / $22
- Cappuccino in expat area: £3.02 / $4.18
- A beer in a pub: £2.88 / $3.99
- 1 litre of milk: £0.58 / $.80
- 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.78 / $2.46
(living costs sourced from Expatistan)