Teaching English Online as a South African TEFL teacher

Want to know all about teaching English online as a South African? Well, this is the blog for you!

South African TEFL teacher Rosland is one of our amazing i-to-i graduates! As she’s been through the whole process and is now a successful online TEFL teacher, we asked her to answer some of your burning questions! We covered everything from becoming a TEFL teacher and finding online work to how COVID, and the change to Chinese regulations, has been affecting TEFL teachers.

So, let’s dive in!

How did you become a TEFL teacher?

I was a PR manager and events coordinator for three years. However, it’s always been a passion of mine to find a job that allows me to travel. 2019 was the year I decided to follow that dream.

I did the Level 5 TEFL Diploma with i-to-i. I was working full time in Cape Town and doing the TEFL course when I came back from work, and over the weekends. At the end of my TEFL course, I signed a contract for a job in China and was supposed to go in February 2020 but, as you know, COVID happened!

I had already resigned from the PR agency, so I was left without a job. I had enough savings to get me through six months, but I realised that COVID wasn’t going to end any time soon, so I started looking for online teaching jobs. The best way to use my TEFL skills and earn money, without leaving South Africa!


How long did it take you to find an online TEFL job?

I thought it would be quick to find an online TEFL job, but it took me about two months in the end.

I was applying to the big companies but the majority of them require you to have prior teaching experience. However, at the time I was applying, the jobs market was quite saturated. COVID had just hit and lots of people had come back from the countries they were teaching in and were applying to teach online, often with a lot of experience to back them up. So, it’s all different now that things are calming down!

It was also not easy trying to find out which companies do actually take South African citizens, so that took a bit of research.

(Side note from i-to-i: Since Rosland’s experience, i-to-i have decided to do the hard work for you! Check out our Top 8 online TEFL employers for South Africans)

Just keep going and you’ll get there!


How did you find your first online TEFL job?

Landi English was the first company that got back to me. I did my interview but three days later, I got a ‘Sorry, your interview was not successful.’ Before I applied again, I went onto YouTube and found a mentor who worked for Landi English. He told me I was a good candidate but there were things that I needed to be aware of in the interview and when doing the demo class.

I had a few master classes with my mentor, nailed the demo class with him, and was ready to apply to Landi again. This time they were happy with my interview and referred me to their sister company, Dazao English, who was taking on South Africans with no prior teaching experience. I worked for Dazao English for three months.

(The lesson? Always be prepared. Do thorough research beforehand and make sure some of your research is company specific.

Check out Rosland’s webinar about how to prepare for your TEFL interview for more detailed advice. i-to-i also have another blog post about mastering the TEFL interview, for you to use along with the webinar, to really make sure you’re prepared!

Also, if you really want to take your application to the next level, we would recommend you take our 420hr Level 5 Advanced Diploma. It’s the highest qualification we offer and will really stand out to employers when you’re applying for jobs!)


What are your tips for applying for online TEFL jobs?

When you apply for online TEFL jobs, make sure you have a great, clear photo that makes you look professional but friendly. You should also include a short introduction about yourself, your experience, and your personality.

Tailor your experience towards teaching and working with kids. For example, if you have been a waiter in a restaurant that has a lot of foreign customers, you could say you work well with people from different cultures. If you have any experience of working with children, as a babysitter or a swimming coach for instance, definitely put that in and highlight it. It’s very important!

I also recommend that you tailor your skills towards teaching. For example, if you have good communication skills, good classroom management skills, if you’re patient, if you have good listening skills, if you’re really technically savvy – you can highlight any of these.

It’s also really important to include your tech set up. If you have a headset with an external microphone, mention that. If you have a quiet space to teach, mention that in your application. If you have good WiFi and 5MB upload / download speed, mention that. Also mention the make of the laptop / PC you will be using. I’ve got a MacBook Air, so I say that.

Most companies ask you for a demo or intro video. Film yourself beforehand so you have the video ready to upload for online applications. Make sure you show a bubbly personality, do lots of smiling, and use TPR (total physical response). TPR is really important for online teaching, and they look for it in interviews.

(Want to know more about TPR? Check out our FREE TPR mini TEFL course, with key videos for you to watch and advice / exercises for you to use in your demo lessons and when you’re actually teaching online).


What equipment do you use for teaching online?

I have a MacBook Air, fibre broadband, and uncapped WiFi with 5MB upload and download speed.

My headset is a gaming headset that can also be used in a laptop. It has an external microphone, that is needed for online teaching. I paid about 200 Rand [£10] for it. If you can find a cheap one like this, it does the trick. Headsets can be really expensive. Don’t spend more than 500 Rand [£25] on a headset!


Is load-shedding an issue for teaching English online as a South African?

Unfortunately, load-shedding happens. If you’re South African and you want to work online, I highly recommend that you invest in a load-shedding back up plan!

I have a portable WiFi dongle, which I always keep charged, and I also always keep my laptop charged, when I’m working on it. Load-shedding in Cape Town is generally two to two and a half hours so, if we do have load-shedding, my laptop battery and WiFi dongle can last me through that. My back-up plan is pretty simple. It gets me through my classes, and I haven’t had a problem with it yet!


Which online company are you working for now?

They actually aren’t an online company! In September 2020 the international school in China I had signed a contract for, contacted me, and asked if I could teach their classes online. I teach classes of about 10 to 15 students from grades one, four and five and I have also tutored Matric students.

The classes last 45 to 60 minutes and I have to create my own lesson plans. I have a set teaching guide, based on topics that need to be covered for that learning unit or for that month or term. I tailor the class according to that, using my own teaching materials to make the classes more fun and engaging and to get the kids to speak and interact more with me. I enjoy it because I can tailor my lessons to what I want to teach them!

Recently the classes have changed slightly, and this may be due to the change in Chinese regulations. Instead of teaching a combination of Chinese and Korean students, I now only teach the Korean students. This hasn’t affected my workload though, and I am still teaching the same number of hours I was before!


How much can you earn teaching English online?

Your pay depends on the company and your experience. The more experience you have, the better earning potential you have. The bigger companies pay you more, but tend to require a degree, teaching experience, and a TEFL certificate. The smaller companies will probably take you without a degree, or if you have no experience, but tend to pay you a bit less.

If you get offered a job with a smaller company, I would advise you take it and get experience, while you continue looking for bigger companies. That’s what I did and the pay was not high initially, but I took the first job because I knew that the experience would be valuable for me.

Teaching online guide

How do you get paid?

When you’re teaching English online, how you get paid depends on the company you are working for. Dazao English paid directly into my South African bank account. They asked for banking information, and I don’t think any deduction was made.

The Chinese school I’m working with now also pays directly into my South African bank account, but some companies will ask you for a PayPal account or another type of banking system. You just have to go with the flow and use whatever they’re using!


What do you like best about online teaching?

So many things! But the main ones are the fact that I can work from anywhere, I just need to make sure I have good WiFi connection and my equipment with me, and the fact that I find it a pretty easy way to TEFL, as the subject material is provided and I just have to focus on coming up with fun and engaging activities, which I enjoy!

Another benefit is the time zone difference. I’m often finished with teaching by 11AM my time so I have the rest of the day to myself, which gave me the opportunity to earn even more money with an additional job. At the minute I’m doing some PR work again in the afternoons, on a freelance basis.


What are some of the challenges?

Although time zone differences are a positive for me, they can also be a challenge. I start work at 3AM my time which is sometimes a struggle, especially in the winter months! WiFi connection can also be a challenge, but this is often completely outside of your control so you just have to go with the flow and reconnect as soon as possible.

Another challenge can be the fact that online schools are often prone to changing their platforms on very short notice. The ones I have been using are also all in Chinese, so it takes some quick Google translating to work out how to start a class! You get used to them quickly though, so it isn’t a big problem.


Any top tips for teaching online?

If you’re creating your own materials, be organised. I have everything saved and categorised in folders on my computer so I can find anything I need quickly. It also means you can reuse the material for the next year of students! Put in the hard work initially and it will pay off over time, as you build up your stock of lesson plans and activities.

Another tip is to try and go with the flow as much as you can. Lessons can be added last minute, or random holidays can crop up at a moment’s notice, but it’s important to take it in your stride and not let it stress you out! It’s just the way things are. Try to be prepared for anything and don’t worry if things change. With my current job, I only had a few days notice from being told I was hired to taking my first class but I love thinking on my feet and it keeps life interesting!


Have you found any good resources for online teaching?

For the younger kids, Cocomelon videos are usually very popular and engaging, and they are great for practicing vocabulary, speaking, and listening skills. You can find loads of videos on YouTube and the students are always asking me to put it on!

For the older kids, the website ISL collective is great. It basically makes lesson planning really easy, as you can type in what you’re aiming to teach and it will give you advice on how to teach that topic, and provide you with an appropriate PowerPoint and worksheet!

123listening.com is also a great resource for listening and writing exercises, as the audio provided links to a worksheet that you can send ahead of the class. The students/teaching assistant can then print out the worksheet and it can be filled in during the class, while listening to the audio.


How has COVID and the changes to Chinese regulations affected your online work?

Well COVID was the reason I started teaching online in the first place! And, as I said before, I think the change in Chinese regulations may have affected who I have in my classes, as I now teach only the Korean students rather than a mix of Chinese and Korean students, but other than that I haven’t noticed any changes.

I think this might be because I am teaching online with an actual school that students attend in person, rather than a purely online platform, but I’m not really sure.


Can I find a TEFL job online without having teaching experience?

Yes of course! I had zero experience when I applied for jobs. I was still in my PR job in Cape Town. In those interviews, I knew I had no experience but I didn’t make that a big thing. I told them I gained a lot of knowledge from the TEFL courses that I did and that I know a teaching method that I’m comfortable with, which is the PPP method.

If you don’t have experience, fake it until you make it! Discuss what you learned in your TEFL course and any experience you have working with kids. I said I don’t have traditional experience working with kids, or teaching in general, but I come from a big family. I am trusted around my little nieces and nephews and I enjoy being around kids. I am also a good leader and a good communicator. That is what convinced them!


Can I find a TEFL job if I’m South African?

Lots of people talk about the struggles of being South African and wanting to teach. I’m not going to say that it’s easy but if you are dedicated to finding a job and doing all the steps to become a successful candidate, you definitely can teach online or abroad. It just requires a bit more work. I’m living proof that it is possible for South Africans to do TEFL!


Want to learn more about TEFL?

Download i-to-i’s free TEFL for South Africans Guide to find out more about teaching English online and abroad as a South African

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So, now you know all about teaching English online as a South African TEFL teacher, we bet you can’t wait to get started! We can help you there! Still need to get TEFL qualified? Easy! All you need to do is visit our TEFL Courses page and decide which Level 5 Diploma is right for you.

Ready to job hunt? Great! Head over to the LoveTEFL jobs board to get started!

Need a bit more advice on your next steps? No problem! Arrange a free call back with one of our TEFL Experts, and they will be happy to advise you.

How to Apply For (and Land) Amazing TEFL Jobs!

Hi everyone,

It’s Audrey, but you probably know me as @travelrichmoneypoor! I completed my certificate with i-to-i TEFL in 2018 and have had no problems finding a job (or jobs I should say!) since then. In the past four years, I have taught at a Bilingual Kindergarten in Milan as well as with multiple companies online, and I’m now mainly freelancing. During the past three years, I’ve been accepted to three different online teaching platforms, so I know a LOT about the application process. Today I’m going to take you through how you can apply and land some amazing TEFL jobs.

Step One: Pick the right TEFL course

Step number one is extremely important and before you can pick the right TEFL course for you, you need to have an idea of who/what you want to teach. For example, it’s a bad idea to complete a 120-hour TEFL qualification if you want to teach Business English and IELTS, as the 120-hour doesn’t contain any specialist training in these. You’d be better off going for a 420-hour qualification that does!

So, before you select your course, make sure it will get you where you want to go. Want more information on the different types of TEFL courses out there and what they include? Check out i-to-i’s courses page! Eager to find out which course is your perfect match, and want to know right now? Fill in this quick 2-minute quiz and it will tell you!

Step Two: Find the right school/company for you

This is a SUPER important step as well. Please do not be one of those people that will apply to every job possible without researching each school or company… Why? Each school or company has it’s own rules and regulations, a different way that they teach, and different students that they teach. I personally love teaching children so I wouldn’t waste my time, or a potential employer’s, applying to schools or companies that solely teach adults.

This is also when you need to decide whether you’re looking to teach online or in-person overseas, as this will affect which schools/companies you look at and apply to.

woman smiling at phone

Step Three: Set up the perfect profile and/or CV

Whether you need a profile and a CV, or just a CV, will depend on whether you’re looking to teach online or overseas.

When it comes to online teaching, you’ll usually need both. I like to break it down like this: A profile is for your potential students to read about you while a CV is strictly for the company’s eyes! Your profile is like a public version of your CV that you build on the company’s platform, so your potential students can check out what you have to offer.  Your profile will be a little bit more relaxed, friendly, and engaging (compared to a traditional CV) and not excessively formal. Think of it as chatting with a friend. But don’t forget to mention, in this chat, all your transferrable skills, your experience within the field, and what you learned during your TEFL certificate. If you are applying to a children’s platform you can make your profile more inviting with emojis!

For your TEFL CV for both online and overseas positions, make sure you don’t include any emojis! It should be professional, in a logical format, free of mistakes (proofread a few times before you send it!), and detail all your relevant experience and why you’re the best candidate for the job. Want some more top tips on creating the perfect CV? Head to this useful blog.

Step Four: Put in a great application and ace your interview!

The application process will differ slightly, depending on whether you’re applying for online or overseas roles, so I’ve laid out the different structures below:

In-Person Teaching Jobs


Once you have received your TEFL certificate, researched a few schools to apply to, and created your CV… it’s time to write a Cover Letter for each individual school. What is a Cover Letter? A Cover Letter is where you write a brief summary to a specific school (in letter format) telling them why you are the best candidate for the job. In the summary you can share more of your experiences, why you think you are the perfect match for this specific school, and how their schools values align with your own. With this Cover Letter you really want to show the school you have done your research and are motivated to work for them!! Once your CV and Cover Letters have been completed it’s time to send in your application!

Want some top tips for writing cover letters? Check out this blog.


Great work! You have made it to the next stage of the job application, the interview! Dress professionally, make sure you research key TEFL interview questions, practice some answers, and think of key questions to ask your interviewer. This is make or break time and you want to make a good first impression.  So, make sure you have prepped and are ready to go! The school might ask you to perform a quick demo class as well. They will either send you a structure ahead of your interview to follow, or they will just ask you on the spot! I recommend checking out other demo lessons from the same school on YouTube and then practice doing your own versions (don’t just copy and paste!), until you’re comfortable planning and delivering them.

Want more tips on mastering your TEFL interview? Check out this blog.

Online Teaching Jobs:

Now that you have found a few companies to apply to online, it’s time you create your profile for each company.

Fill in Basic Information and Profile
This step shouldn’t be too difficult! You are going to write a profile that shares your experience as a teacher, what Certificate you hold, and your teaching style! Once you have done this it’s time for your intro video.

Create An Introduction Video
I like to have two introduction videos: one for adults and one for kids! Make sure to keep them generic (no company logos and or saying the company’s name so you can use them for multiple platforms). Make sure to dress professionally, have your camera at eye level, good natural lighting, and have an idea of what you are going to say. Note that I said have an “idea of what to say” – it’s important that you’re not reading from a script. A script will force you to become uncomfortable if you miss anything, will encourage you to be more monotonous in your voice (think boring teacher voice), and will make your eyes move oddly as you read from your script! Instead have a few talking points that prompt you and aim for around 2 minutes (as people will struggle to concentrate for much longer if English isn’t their first language). Top tip? DO NOT EVER put music over the top of your video. It will imply that you’re not confident enough in what you have to say and it could be really distracting/make it difficult for non-English speakers to understand what you’re saying. Speak slowly and make sure your pronunciation is perfect, your employers and students are watching!

Want some more top tips for intro videos? Check out this blog.

Prep Your Demo Classes
This is the fun but nerve-wracking part! The demo class or lesson is where you are going to showcase your skills to your future company and give them an demonstration of how you will be as a teacher. Make sure to give yourself enough time to practice beforehand. Do NOT schedule your demo class for the day after you find out you need to do it. You’ll need to create a background, make props, and practice, practice, practice!! So, you’ll need time to do this. I recommend that you practice at least two hours a day until your interview, so you have memorized what you’re teaching and the information will flow more naturally. If you’re nervous you can always check out examples from this specific company on YouTube to use as a reference point.

Want some more pointers about demo classes? Check out this blog.

Well, that’s all I have for you and I hope it helps! Best of luck with all your job interviews, and if you ever need any pointers just head to my Instagram @travelrichmoneypoor!

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Already qualified and ready to start applying for roles? Head to the LoveTEFL Jobs Board to start your search!

How to Work from Anywhere – Digital Nomad Tips

It’s been two months since I left my belongings in storage and travelled to South-East Asia with nothing but a 40L backpack and my laptop! My name is Tab (@whereistab on Instagram) and I’m a full-time backpacker and digital nomad, which means that I spend my time travelling the world and working remotely. How do I fund my travels? By Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)! Working from your laptop on a Thai island or Vietnamese mountaintop sounds heavenly, but what’s the real story? Here’s everything I’ve learned about how to work from – almost – anywhere.

tabitha travelling 1

How to get started as a digital nomad

Don’t skip the fundamentals! Being a digital nomad offers freedom, flexibility, and endless travel opportunities – but it also requires lots of organisation. As a self-employed TEFL teacher, you are responsible for paying tax in your home country and filing any necessary paperwork. Make sure to do your research and get your freelancer career off to a flying start.

After you’ve qualified as a TEFL teacher, it’s time to put the hours in. Full-time travel is full of new experiences and plenty of challenges, so it’s a good idea to test your digital nomad set-up whilst you’re settled in your home country and get comfortable teaching online. I spent six months teaching English online in the UK before I booked my flights to Asia. That gave me plenty of time to get familiar with lesson planning, student support and time management before jumping into the nomadic lifestyle.

If you’re looking for advice on how to find your first remote teaching role, check out this article about teaching English online.

What equipment does a digital nomad need?

My number one digital nomad tip for solo travellers and full-time backpackers? Pack LIGHT! A 40L backpack might seem tiny but after lugging my bag around Asia for two months, I can honestly say I’m grateful it’s not even one pound heavier!

In my experience, here’s all you need to succeed as a travelling TEFL teacher:

  • A laptop with a decent webcam
  • Headphones with mic (preferably in-ear, as they take up less space)

Yes… that’s it! Although I used a ring light, laptop stand and keyboard/mouse as an online teacher in the UK, this equipment simply takes up unnecessary space when travelling. Whilst on the road, I typically raise my laptop’s webcam to eye-level with whatever I can find in my hotel room and try to teach in front of a window to ensure good lighting.

tabitha packing light

Where can a digital nomad work?

The simple answer: almost anywhere! All you need is some privacy and a good internet connection. Here is a top tip for finding cheap hotels to teach from: filter your search on Booking.com to show “laptop-friendly workspace”, and tick “I am travelling for work”. You will be shown properties that were popular with other digital nomads! In addition, make sure you check the reviews for mentions of WiFi – nothing is more frustrating than poor WiFi whilst you’re trying to deliver a class.

What happens when the WiFi fails? Even though broadband speed is typically very reliable in South-East Asia, anything can happen. Blackouts and internet lag are not unheard of! It’s a good idea to choose a SIM card with unlimited data and the option to hotspot when you arrive in a new country. These packages are surprisingly cheap (around £10, or $13 USD) and will allow you to have a back-up in case of emergency. The show must go on…

digital nomad workplace

How does a digital nomad balance work and fun?

This was a huge learning curve for me! When I started my digital nomad journey two months ago, I struggled to keep on top of my professional life whilst enjoying the backpacker experience to the fullest. I remember sadly waving off my friends as they went to a waterfall whilst I sat in my empty room, preparing to teach. The FOMO (fear of missing out…) was real, but I quickly realised that my lifestyle was a privilege, not a curse! Whilst other backpackers had worked for months to afford this trip, I was funding my travels in real time. Their trip would end, but mine could continue for as long as I wanted! What’s more, I felt connected to my life back home as I have a wonderful relationship with my students – seeing them was like seeing old friends.

I recommend staying in different accommodation depending on your schedule. On teaching days, I enjoy the privacy and comfort of an Airbnb or hotel room. On my days off, I stay in hostels and connect with likeminded travellers. This allows me to balance work and play and focus my attention on whatever I’m doing. When I stay in hostels, I make the most of the backpacker experience (sightseeing, nights out and cheap dorm rooms!) When I stay in hotels, I can teach in privacy, catch up on emails, and get some rest.

digital nomad in asia

Can anyone be a digital nomad?

Being a travelling teacher is a unique lifestyle! The digital nomad experience is not for everyone. In my opinion, here are some of the key qualities for a freelance TEFL teacher looking to travel:

  • Organisation. You should be highly organised and able to multi-task between travel and teaching. After all, they both require a lot of planning! You can use tools like Google Calendar to manage your time.
  • Flexibility. Things change! WiFi drops out, a hotel is overbooked, your new destination has no workspace – be prepared to turn on a dime, and try to see the funny side when things go wrong.
  • Independence. Digital nomads spend plenty of time alone in hotel rooms. If you enjoy your own company and are able to motivate yourself to work hard, you’ll find it easier to adjust to the freelancer lifestyle.
  • Responsibility. Even though you are island hopping and jumping on a plane or boat every few days, your students need to be able to rely on you! Try to respond to messages quickly and show up to classes prepared and on time.

The past few months has been full of useful lessons, and I’m learning more about being a successful digital nomad every single day. Teaching whilst travelling has allowed me to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I feel so lucky to make a living from my laptop. Here’s the secret… you can do it too! Get in touch with the i-to-i team to start your digital nomad journey today.


Want to find out more about Tab’s teaching and travel experiences? You can follow her on Instagram and YouTube, and check out her blog here!


Travelling TEFL Teacher – A Week in the Life – Vietnam!

Hi everyone! Last month I shared a week in my life as a travelling TEFL teacher and I’m back to update you on my journey! My name is Tab (@whereistab on Instagram) and I qualified as a TEFL teacher in 2019. I have taught English as a foreign language in China, France and online. Now, I’m backpacking full time and teaching adult learners online whilst I travel. Read on to learn what a week in Vietnam looks like for a digital nomad. Maybe you’ll even get some travel inspiration to help you start your own TEFL journey… Let me show you why being a travelling TEFL teacher is so brilliant!


It’s time to leave Malaysia! I’ve spent over a month in this beautiful country – check out my previous blog post if you want to hear about my experience of TEFLing online in Malaysia. I’m feeling apprehensive (and just a tad emotional) as I head to the airport to start the next chapter of my trip. The time difference is slightly less in Vietnam than in Malaysia, meaning that my students from Europe will be only 6 hours behind – big win! I spend the first few days settling into my new surroundings and exploring Ho Chi Minh City.



I’ve been in Ho Chi Minh City for a few days and I’ve loved exploring the city streets and eating plenty of Vietnamese food. This city feels a million miles from Langkawi, the sleepy tropical island where I spent the last few weeks! My favourite thing about Vietnam so far is the coffee and my awesome new Airbnb, where I plan to teach for the next week. I checked the internet speed on speedtest.me when I arrived and was relieved to see that the connection was strong. I’m looking forward to seeing my students later in the week! For now – time to enjoy the privacy of an apartment and relax with some Netflix (something I don’t do as often in shared dorms!)


Ok, Vietnam is starting to win me over! I miss island life but this city is buzzing with things to see and do. My highlights so far have been the War Remnants Museum and a brilliant street food tour. I spent this morning exploring the Café Apartments – a 1950s apartment complex which has been transformed into a series of little cafes, nail shops and restaurants. It was such a cool concept and I had a lovely veggie meal there. Back at my Airbnb, I set up for an evening of classes. I meet with students from France, Russia, Hong Kong and the Czech Republic and discuss everything from breakfast around the world to superstitions about pregnancy.



Next week, I’m on vacation as my dad is joining me out here in South-East Asia for a fortnight of motorbike-riding and trekking! One of my favourite things about being a freelance TEFL teacher is the fact that I can take as much time off as I need. I have been working with my current students for quite a few months and have developed a great relationship with them, so they were happy to hear I was taking a break! I simply messaged them in advance of my vacation so that we could book in a “final” lesson before the break, and let them know when I would be online again. After communicating with my learners and updating my availability on Italki (the platform I teach on), it’s time to power down and unplug for two weeks!


I arrived in Hanoi late last night, ready for new adventures. After collecting my dad from the airport this morning, we made our way to Hà Giang in Northern Vietnam. I spent our 7-hour bus journey responding to emails, checking in on some projects, and getting ready to “switch off” for the week. Tomorrow will be an early start as we need to get kitted out with motorbikes and helmets for a 3-day tour of the famous Hà Giang loop. I’m so excited for breathtaking views, fresh mountain air and a totally different environment. There are many ethnic minorities in northern Vietnam and we’ll be spending time learning about their way of life (and eating everything this country has to offer!)


I still can’t believe I’ve found a career which I’m truly passionate about, which allows me to travel as much as I want, which I can feel really good about, and which is super flexible. I am so grateful that I’m a TEFL teacher and I’m loving this experience of being a digital nomad in South-East Asia! If you want to hear more about the pros and cons of this travelling TEFL teacher’s lifestyle, you can check out my previous article or get in touch with me. I’ll speak to you all soon, but from where…? Who knows! Stay tuned for the next update!

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Want to find out more about Tab’s teaching and travel experiences? You can follow her on Instagram and YouTube, or check out her blog here!

Ready to get TEFL qualified and start your own adventure? Head to our courses webpage to get started!

How to get your TEFL certification online

Let’s start with the why. Why should you want to complete your TEFL certification online instead of in person? Lots of reasons really but to name a few…

  • You can work around your existing schedule – no need to take blocks of time off work to attend in-person classes or run yourself ragged trying to drive, bike, or walk to a class after work. With online courses, you can just log on whenever you’re free, at whatever time of day, and carry on where you left off.
  • You can study from wherever you are in the world – as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can complete your course! So, you don’t need to worry about missing classes if you decide to travel for a while or move house.
  • More for your money – online courses tend to be cheaper than in-classroom courses as providers don’t need to hike up their prices to cover additional expenses, such as classroom rental costs.
  • Excellent signposting – because the information is already online, it’s easier to include really useful links to lots of different online teaching resources. You can save these on your computer/laptop and use them for your own classes, once you’re working as a TEFL teacher.
  • Complete your course more quickly – you’ll be setting the pace, so this means you could complete your course as quickly as you’d like. This means you could be earning good money as a TEFL teacher before you know it!

Now we’ve got that sorted, let’s find out HOW you get your TEFL certification online!


Top 10 benefits of teaching English in South Korea

Hello! Annyeonghaseyo! My name is Caleb and I’m from South Africa, and for the past year I have been teaching English in South Korea. I currently teach in a “Hagwon”, which is the private sector of the South Korean Schooling system. I am in my first year of being a teacher and absolutely loving the experience, and I know there are many of you out there that are also wanting to teach and travel around the world, but for one reason or the other you are hesitant to make the move. Whether it’s because of fear, or because of the uncertainty of moving to a new country, or lack of knowledge of the process.

I chose to teach in South Korea as I love to immerse myself in different cultures and push myself out of my comfort zone.

So today I will be telling you 10 of the benefits of teaching English in South Korea (and why I love it so much!), and hopefully this helps you decide if teaching English in South Korea is right for you too!


1. Salary & Benefits

Teaching English in South Korea pays pretty well and demand for teachers in South Korea is high. As a teacher in a “Hagwon”, your basic starting salary will vary between 2.1 – 2.3 million won, which is around 1800 US dollars, but this starting salary will increase if you have more teaching experience.

But wait? You’re saying ‘this is a good amount of money?!’ and I hear you, but it’s true. This may not be considered a lot of money in more western parts of the world, but in South Korea your costs as an English teacher will typically be a lot lower. One of the reasons for that is…. Free Housing!

Accommodation is often the biggest outgoing from a salary but teachers here get to live in brand new modern apartment buildings, rent free. This means you will have more money to spend or to save. You’ll find you can save as much as 50% of your salary every month, while living an action-packed and exciting life!

Further benefits from teaching contracts in South Korea can include cost effective healthcare and airfare reimbursements, reducing your outgoings even more!


2. Seoul

This truly is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is an amazing mix of the old and new Korea. It boasts attractions such as the N Seoul Tower, Han River, and Gyeongbokgung Palace, as well as hip areas like Hongdae and Gangnam, which show off Korean fashion, music talent, and amazing markets!

It is also the center of K-pop culture, beauty products, and, conversely, some amazing natural sites. It even has one of the most impressive mountains I’ve ever seen, Bukhansan mountain.

Definitely not one to be missed, so you need to TEFL in South Korea to see it all!



3. Food Culture

You cannot walk down a street in South Korea without inhaling the amazing smells of sizzling meat or delicious street food. A popular South Korean dish is “Korean BBQ”, which includes the grilling of meat, typically pork, and comes with loads of tasty side dishes. It’s often cooked on gas grills built into the table itself so it’s an amazing site to behold!

Eating is also a really social event in South Korea, where most meals are shared by large groups of friends, so it’s a great way to catch up and meet new people after you’re done teaching.

korean bbq


4. Rich History

South Korea is a country rich in history and culture. And we mustn’t forget it has seen the extreme devastation of war in the past century and in a very short amount of time has built its way up to becoming one of the leading economic powerhouses in the world. Seriously impressive stuff!

It boasts modern bustling cities, but also has many historical sites and beautiful temples, as well as traditional palaces and villages. There is so much to do here you will never have a boring weekend, as there is always something new and fresh to experience. I’m always travelling on my weekends off, to make sure I experience everything this amazing country has to offer.


5. Travel

Teaching English in South Korea will allow you to travel easily, on your days or evenings off, as public transport is convenient, widely available, and very affordable. It’s also a very small country, so you can get to any part of it within a day! Another benefit is that South Korea also has one of the most efficient subway systems in the world, so travelling is an absolute breeze.

Added bonus? Not only will you be able to explore and travel around South Korea easily and affordably, but you can also visit nearby countries really cheaply as well, as there are lots of inexpensive flights from Seoul. Some popular countries you can plan weekends away to are Japan, the Philippines, and China.


6. Social Life

You will be able to make new friends and develop new relationships! You will have the opportunity to meet people from around the world that you would never have met in your own country, and you learn so many amazing things from people.

As foreigners working abroad you already have common ground, which makes it easier to connect with other expats and means you’ll form solid bonds very quickly. Instant travel buddies anyone?! You’ll also have great opportunities to make Korean friends, with fellow teachers at the school, which will help you to really immerse yourself in Korean culture and experience the country more authentically than you would if you were just passing through on holiday.

social life


7. Impacting Lives

One of my top reasons for teaching English in South Korea is the fact that you get to make a lasting positive impact on the lives of all the students you teach. You will be helping your students to have better employment opportunities in the future and be exposing them to a completely different culture than their own, to help them expand their horizons and develop their empathy and understanding of those different to themselves (the same way being around a culture different to your own will help to grow and develop you as a person!)

English really is a top priority here, so for this reason you’ll usually find your students hardworking and respectful, which makes your job a whole lot easier and more rewarding! My students are always bringing me random little gifts, sweets, and giving me compliments every day, which is such a mood booster. I have found teaching in South Korea to be a pain-free job!


8. Safety

Coming from South Africa, where this can sometimes be a concern, I was shocked when I realized you are able to walk around alone on the street at night and not have to worry about your safety at all!

South Korea is one of the safest countries in the world and the crime rates here are much lower than the US and most European countries! And, if you ever did find yourself in a concerning situation, help is never far away as there are police around almost every corner and they have on-call interpreters available, so you can feel safe in the knowledge that you’ll be looked after and understood.


9. Outdoor Activities

If you are wanting to explore more of the natural world and spend time in the great outdoors, rather than the concrete paradise of the cities, South Korea has a lot to offer.

If you’re looking for green spaces on work days, every morning you can see people on their way to the nearest nature park or hiking spot and every city has plenty of open green spaces and river paths to roam to get away from the urban atmosphere. So, there’s lots of options for you to choose from when you don’t have a lot of time.

When you have more time, you can get out and explore one (or more!) of the 22 beautiful national parks that South Korea has to offer, many of them an easily commutable distance from the big cities. Fun Fact: Mountains cover up to 70% of Korea, which means mountain-based activities like hiking and paragliding are extremely popular, especially during the Spring/Summer seasons.

south korea mountain


10. Coffee Culture

If you are a coffee addict like me…. you are in for a huge treat! There is a coffee shop on basically every corner of every street. Not only is the coffee top notch, so many of the cafes are Instagram-picture worthy, ranging from quirky to very aesthetically pleasing, so you’ll have a great way to document your time teaching in South Korea!

And that’s my top 10 reasons, but I really have so many more. Teaching English in South Korea has been one of the best decisions of my life and I’m so glad I didn’t wait until I was “ready” and just took the leap of faith. The adventures you have and the people you will meet will change your life forever in the best way possible. I cannot recommend it enough!

If you want some tips or further information on living in South Korea, you can follow me on:

Instagram: @Caleblingwood OR TikTok: @caleblingwood?lang=en

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Want to get out to South Korea but need a TEFL course first? No problem! Just arrange for a free call back from one of our friendly TEFL experts, who are happy to help get you enrolled ASAP so you can get teaching and travelling! 

Already qualified and ready to start job hunting? Head to the LoveTEFL Jobs Board, where you can apply for all the latest online and overseas TEFL roles!

How do I become an ESL teacher?

First off, for those that don’t know, an ESL teacher teaches English as a Second Language (ESL). This is basically the exact same thing as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), just worded slightly differently! Thinking of becoming an ESL teacher? That’s a great idea! And we can help you get started.

Keep reading for our easy 5-step guide to getting qualified and finding your first job as an ESL teacher…

1. Find the right course provider

This is such an important one, as the provider you pick will be preparing you to become a well-rounded ESL teacher! They should be very experienced, fully accredited by a government-affiliated body (like Ofqual in the UK), and dedicated to you as a student – providing tutor support throughout the course and assisting with job applications once you qualify (handy hint: i-to-i offers all this and more!).

As tempting as it might be to go for a super cheap provider (we know times are tough!), it often turns out to be false economy. The qualifications you get from cheap providers are rarely accredited and, therefore, highly likely to be rejected by reputable ESL employers around the world. This means, after all that time and effort, you won’t even be able to use the qualification to earn money. So, you’ll be back to where you started! Better to do your research initially and make sure your course provider is the right one before you invest.

Once you think you’ve found the right one, make sure you check out their reviews on independent review sites, such as reviews.io and trustpilot, to get confirmation from current and past students that it’s a good one to pick! And if you can get in touch with the course provider before you buy, even better! Speaking to ESL teaching experts, like ours at i-to-i, can really help you make the decision. They will also be able to answer any questions you might have about becoming an ESL teacher.

finding out how to be an esl teacher

2. Pick your perfect course

There are lots of different TEFL courses out there per provider, so which one do you pick?

Some employers will advertise that they only require a minimum of 120hours at Level 3. So, do you really need to go for more hours and a more comprehensive qualification (e.g. a Level 5 Advanced Diploma)? This depends on what you want to do with your TEFL course! We’ve included a quick breakdown of two courses below, to give you an idea of which one might be best for you:

  • Level 5 420hour Advanced Diploma
    • Perfect if you want to be an ESL teacher in more competitive locations, as it’s a Level 5 qualification (Foundation degree-equivalent according to Ofqual)!
    • Ideal if you want to access the higher ESL teacher salaries – it contains specialist modules in coaching IELTS and teaching Business English (the more lucrative areas of ESL teaching)
    • Great if you want to teach online – it contains a specialist module in teaching online and one-to-one
  • Level 3 120hour Certificate
    • Perfect if you want to get qualified quickly (can be completed in as little as 4 weeks)
    • Great if you’re looking for entry-level or volunteer ESL teacher positions
    • Ideal if you want to cover all the essentials of teaching ESL

You don’t have to decide on your own though! Good course providers will have TEFL experts for you to speak to, who will be able to go through your options and advise which course might be the best fit for your needs. Not a fan of phone calls? No worries! Check out our quick 2-minute course matching quiz to see which one is your perfect fit.

happy woman looking at phone

3. Work through the course (and pass!)

Now for the main event… You’ve done your research and enrolled on your course, so it’s time to get stuck in and work your way through all the modules, testing your knowledge with quizzes and assignments as you go. And, if you picked the right course provider, you won’t be completely on your own! You should have great support available from qualified tutors as well as academic and customer support teams. They will be able to assist you with any technical difficulties you might experience, any queries you may have about your course content, and be able to provide you with comprehensive feedback on your assignments.

With this level of support, you’ll be able to pass your course in no time and you’ll feel properly prepared for life as an ESL teacher!

happy woman with esl certificate

4. Decide where/how you want to teach

You’re qualified – wahoo! Now you just need to decide where you’d like to be an ESL teacher and how you’d prefer to teach. Do you want to teach ESL online from home, around your current job and/or schedule? Would you prefer to be a digital nomad, teaching online and travelling the world? Or do you think you’d prefer a more traditional ESL learning environment, such as teaching in a classroom abroad?

There are lots of ESL teacher job options open to you, so it’s time for a bit more research to see which one would suit you best. Need help deciding? Check out our other blog posts about teaching abroad, being a digital nomad, and teaching online to help you figure it out! You can also take one of our quick quizzes:

online esl teacher

5. Apply for ESL teacher roles

Then, the final step before you can get paid for teaching English is finding the right ESL teacher job!

And, although it might seem daunting, it’s really no different from applying for any other role. You’ll need to have a stellar CV/resume (check out our other blog post for top tips on how to create the perfect ESL CV/resume) and you’ll need to adapt this and your cover letter for each position you apply for. Then, if you’re successful, you’ll go through an interview process before being offered an ESL role. Pretty standard, right?

So, where do you start your job search? There are a number of ways to do it:

  • Online ESL Jobs Boards – there are plenty of ESL-focused jobs boards out there where you’ll find all the latest ESL teacher jobs. The best place to start is LoveTEFL Jobs.com. It’s really easy to use and you’ll be able to find both abroad and online vacancies on there!
  • Contacting Schools directly – this is great if you’re looking to teach abroad as, even if they don’t have any immediate vacancies, they’ll have you in mind for when positions open up. It can be quite time consuming though, and you’ll have to be organised!
  • Recruitment agencies – one of the most straightforward ways of finding a job, as they will do all the leg work for you and can help chase for responses. It’s worth noting, however, that they do take a fee for placement (usually from the employer) and this might affect your employment package. In other words, you might not be getting as many benefits as you would if you went direct.
  • Internships – Not ready to go it alone yet? Would you prefer a bit more support and to have everything organised for you? Then an ESL Internship could be perfect for you! With internships, you’re fully supported the whole way through. From starting your application until you finish your placement – the process is stress-free!

Just remember, if you picked a good course provider (like i-to-i!), you shouldn’t be alone at this stage either! There should be full support available from an in-house Jobs Team. They will be able to check over your CV and make sure everything is in tip-top TESL shape before you apply.

After you land your dream role, you’ll officially be an ESL teacher! Congrats!

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How long does it take to get TEFL certified?

“So, how long does it take to get TEFL certified?” This is a question we hear a lot and it’s a fair one! We know you’re eager to get started with your plans, whether than involves teaching online from the comfort of your own home, teaching online as a digital nomad while you travel the world, or teaching in classrooms abroad, so it makes sense that you want to know how long it will take you to get there.

Online vs Classroom

First off, online courses vs classroom courses. The learning method you choose will make the biggest difference to how long it takes you to get your TEFL certification. Online courses are much faster, as the material is available to you 24/7 and you can study at your own pace. You’re also less likely to miss study sessions with online courses than you might be with physical classes – for example, if the teacher is unwell, or your car breaks down, or you’re running late from work etc. (it happens more often than you might think!). This is important because the fewer sessions you miss, the sooner you can qualify.

In-person courses are also more expensive, so you might have to save up for a while before you can get started, delaying your teaching career further.

woman smiling at laptop

Additional factors

There are also a number of additional factors that will affect the time it takes to get your TEFL certification, once you’ve decided to take an online course. These include:

  • How much training you want to do – the longer the course, the longer it will take to complete (seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning!)
  • How much time you can dedicate to studying per week – the more time you can dedicate, the faster you’ll progress through the course material
  • Your willingness to reach out and ask for help if you get stuck – if you don’t like to ask for help, you’re more likely to halt or delay your progress if you find something you don’t understand or can’t work through on your own
  • How quickly you work through the material – if you’re the type of person that reads extremely quickly and powers through study material, then you’ll probably work through the course more quickly than the average person. And the reverse also applies – if you like to take your time and absorb everything at a slower pace, you’ll progress more slowly (but that’s OK! Better to make sure you understand everything first!)

woman working on her online course

Average timescales

Despite all these additional factors, we can give you an average of how long it’s taken other people to complete each of our online courses. This will give you some idea of how long it might take to get TEFL certified before you get started:

500-hour Level 5 Advanced TEFL Diploma

This course has an average completion time of 15-24 weeks, but you could be earning in as little as 6 weeks into the course, as you’ll get an initial certificate after you complete the first 180 hours. With this certificate you can apply for online teaching roles, so you can earn while you continue to work through your course and increase your hourly teaching rate as you increase your qualification level.

420-hour Level 5 Advanced TEFL Diploma

The average time taken to complete this course is 12-20 weeks but, as with the 500-hour course, you’ll receive a certificate after you complete the first 180 hours (usually around 6 weeks in) so you can earn while you study!

300-hour Level 5 TEFL Diploma

This course usually takes around 8-16 weeks to complete.

180-hour Level 5 TEFL Certificate

Our 180-hour course takes an average of 4-8 weeks to complete.

120-hour Level 3 TEFL Certificate

With our shortest course, you could get your TEFL certification in just 2-6 weeks (!!), as this is the average time it has taken past students to complete.

man getting his TEFL certification

Things to remember

Don’t forget to take into account that if you can study your course full-time, you could complete it in less time than the average person. And, conversely, if you find you don’t have much time in the week to dedicate to learning, or something unexpected happens to interrupt your studies for a period of time, it might take you a bit longer than the average person. The timings given above are just rough guides to give you an idea of what is possible, if you’re able to study part-time and continuously.

Remember, you have a whole host of support teams behind you if you take a course with i-to-i, who will help you to get TEFL certified more quickly. From our TEFL Course Experts, who will help you select the right course for your needs, to our Customer Support team, who can help you with any technical issues you might have with the course, and our Academic Support team and Tutors, who are available to answer any questions you might have about the course material and provide comprehensive feedback on your assignments. The more support you have, the less likely you are to get stuck and the more motivated you’ll feel – so you’ll be more likely to complete your course in record time!

woman with her TEFL certificate

Want some top tips for completing your course? Check out South African TEFL teacher Samukelisiwe’s blog post.

Now you know how long it takes to get TEFL certified, are you ready to get started? Head to our courses webpage to select your course or arrange for a free call back from one of our TEFL experts, if you have questions or would like some advice on which is the right one for you.


Everything you need to know about Freelancing as a TEFL teacher

You received your TEFL certificate, want to travel the world, and don’t want to have any restrictions imposed on you… It sounds like you want to be a freelance teacher my friend! Let me help you!

Hi everyone, my name is Audrey but you probably know me as @travelrichmoneypoor. Last month I gave you some insight on everything you needed to know before starting your TEFL journey. Well today I am going to give you some information about how to become a FREELANCE TEFL TEACHER! Usually you hear about people receiving their certificate and moving abroad to teach or working online for a company, but today we are going to focus on another aspect of TEFL teaching. 

So, what is Freelance TEFL Teaching?

Freelance TEFL teaching means that you DO NOT work for an established company, like Cambly or Palfish. Freelancing simply means that you work for yourself: you find your own clients, make your own rules, and decide your own schedule and rates. Sounds good, right?

Why should I become a Freelance Teacher?

I have helped over 130 people become online TEFL teachers working with platforms. I, myself, have worked on online platforms and made great money doing so. However, I always recommend freelancing to people. Why? 

1. You can make more money

Online platforms pay anywhere from US$10 to US$24 an hour. My current cost per hour is US$40 (which is usually what the platform charges the parents 😉 and then takes their cut off the top of your wage)!

2. You don’t have to worry about fines

Some companies, not all, will fine you if you cancel last minute or have technology problems. If you’re a freelancer you don’t have to pay fines to anyone so, if you have a problem, you can always give a few extra minutes for free! For example, if I have a problem with WiFi (it happens no matter who you are) I can offer my students that amount of time they lost in their next class. If I have to cancel last minute, I could offer a free class. Either way, NO money is taken away from your wallet. And, trust me, your students will be happier when they get their full teaching time or a free session. 

3. You can be more flexible with your schedule

You do not have a minimum hour requirement as a freelance teacher, and some employers do. For example, I went to America for 3 months and I work with lots of students in China, which is 16 hours ahead! When I had to drop some students to once a week instead of twice a week OR I was in a place with no WiFi and had to take a week off, I never had to worry that I was going to lose my job for not meeting the minimum hour requirements. 

4. You can teach ANYTHING and ANYWHERE

That is right! You can teach group lessons, 1:1 lessons, adults, kids, teens, businesses, or any subject in English. The sky is the limit! And you get to decide the curriculum, so you can really tailor it to your students and make sure they find the lessons interesting. It’s a great opportunity to be creative and really build on your existing skillset.  

You can also teach from anywhere! As a freelancer, you’ll be setting your own schedule and deciding when and where you get to work, so you can travel while you teach and explore amazing new places in your time off.


This all sounds amazing, how do I get started?

It’s super simple, as everything you need to become a freelance TEFL teacher, you would need to become a regular (with an employer) online TEFL teacher anyway. To get started, you will need:   

  1. A Laptop, Desktop, or Tablet
  2. Strong Internet Connection 
  3. A background with props, if you are teaching kids
  4. A professional or “plain” background, if you are teaching adults
  5. A quiet space to teach
  6. Premade lesson plans to make your life easier!!! You DO NOT become a freelance teacher charging €40 an hour to work 3 hours outside of class prepping. That would drop your hourly wage right back down to €10 an hour. Do not do it, trust me. Buy the premade lesson plans


Okay, I have everything I need… except students, help!

Don’t you worry! This is actually a lot easier than you think, if you are willing to put in the work. Here are my top tips for stress-free ways of finding students to teach:

  • Reach out to friends and family: Did you know that you can still tutor English while living in a native English country… how? 
    1. Tutor Children and Teenagers that could be struggling in school
    2. Put on a homework club, not all parents have the time to help their children
    3. Teach foreigners! That’s right in every single country there are people from abroad! Teach them


  • Know someone that lives in a foreign country? Send them your flyer and ask them if they wouldn’t mind spreading the word! 


  • Create an Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook where you make short educational English videos. Make sure in these profiles you link your schedule.


  • Live in a town or city? Post on the cities Facebook group! I did this and in one week had 13 private students! 


  • Post flyers around the city you are living in! This is old fashioned but it works


  • Promote yourself with Instagram, TikTok or Facebook ads. I recommend that, before you do this, you have a legitimate website set up that looks professional. If not, people might think it’s a scam


  • The last and most important… WORD OF MOUTH! Have a student? Ask them to spread the words to their friends! And make sure you have a referral program!

Teach Online without a degree

A referral what?!

Just what I said, a referral program. Now bear with me here… I know you aren’t a coffee shop or your favorite sandwich shop… but what do you have in common with them!? YOU ARE BOTH SMALL BUSINESSES! Their referral program might look a bit different, usually these places will have punch cards and then eventually when you hit 10 purchases you get something for free, but the concept should be the same. Why? Because it works!

If my friend asks me to go for a coffee, I am more likely to recommend the place I have a punch card to. Why? Because eventually I will get something for free AND, if I decide to be nice and pay for my friend, I will get not one but TWO punches on my punch card. So I get a reward for doing something I want to do (get coffee) and I get to save money. I feel valued and I like the rewards, so I’m more likely to keep going there and recommend it to others.

Do you see where I am going with this? If not, keep reading… Give your students an incentive to bring their friends to you. Eric brought me a student, BOOM, Eric gets 25% off 1 package of classes. Wow, Eric saves money and he likes that. BOOM Eric brought in another student, because he likes me as a teacher, loves that I value his input, and still enjoys saving money! Then the students Eric brought in recommend me too, as they feel valued and like saving money. And this happens again and again. Eventually your schedule will be full and you won’t need the referral program any longer. Remember that this incentive is off 1 package of classes, not every class from now until forever. This means you’re still earning good money and it’s a much cheaper way of advertising your services. People also tend to trust word of mouth a lot more than other sources, so they are more likely to take the recommendation in the first place! 


And that’s everything you need to know about Freelancing as a TEFL Teacher!

That’s it. 

It is that simple. 

Do NOT overcomplicate things for yourself and get ready to enjoy your job! 


I wish you the best on your journey to becoming a Freelance TEFL Teacher and make sure you keep me posted on your progress via my account @travelrichmoneypoor.

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Want to find out more about freelancing? Check out our free guide to freelancing as a TEFL teacher. 

Need a course that includes some specialist freelance training? Check out our 500-hour Advanced TEFL Diploma!

Travelling TEFL Teacher – A Week in the Life – Malaysia!

Travelling the world whilst earning money from your laptop might sound like a dream come true, but is it as easy as it sounds? My name is Tab (@whereistab on socials) and I have been teaching English as a foreign language since 2019. At the start of this month, I put my possessions into storage, packed a backpack, and bought a one-way ticket to Malaysia. My plan? To teach English online whilst backpacking South-East Asia for the next four months. I’m now a couple of weeks into this journey, so read on to find out what I’ve learned so far and what a week might look like for you if you choose to do the same!

STOP ONE: Kuala Lumpur

kuala lumpur

I arrived in KL bleary-eyed and excited to explore a new city. I decided to take a week off teaching whilst I adjusted to the time difference (+8 hours) and found my feet, and I’m glad I did. That’s one of my top tips for anyone taking this type of trip – make sure to give yourself a buffer, especially if you experience anxiety when you travel. Having said that, I ended up teaching three classes one afternoon in KL as I missed my students so much…!

Teaching in KL

I spent the first three nights staying in a basic hotel called YWCA for £10 per night and then moved into an Airbnb in the Masjid Jamek area for £33 per night. To cut down on costs, I typically stay in shared accommodation (such as a hostel dorm) on days when I’m not teaching. I then move into an Airbnb or hotel to get some work done. Much of my time in KL was spent sightseeing and easing into my new surroundings, but the Airbnb was a great place to work from. To book in extra classes, I simply messaged my regular students with my new availability and thankfully, the slots were booked. I went to bed with a big smile that night, having just completed my first three lessons from the other side of the world!

Sightseeing in KL

My KL highlights were… exploring the neighbourhood around Petaling Street, visiting the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, seeing the water/light show in KLCC park (every evening at 8pm), and visiting the Batu Caves. My absolute favourite part of Kuala Lumpur was the Perdana Botanical Gardens – a huge green oasis in the middle of the city. Even better? The park is totally FREE!


STOP TWO: The Cameron Highlands

cameron highlands

Time to say goodbye to the capital of Malaysia! After a week in KL, I took a 5-hour bus up to a mountainous area called The Cameron Highlands, famous for its tea and beautiful landscapes. The bus was booked through 12Go.asia and cost £8.20. It was a comfortable but winding trip up to the mountains, so I recommend taking a motion sickness pill! I decided not to teach in the Cameron Highlands, as I suspected the internet might not be strong enough, and I was right – I had practically no signal there. I only spent two days here and I think that’s plenty of time to explore the local area. It means your students don’t have to wait too long to see you again as well!

Highlights of the Cameron Highlands

Unfortunately, this place can be a tourist trap and a lot of the “attractions” aren’t as interesting as they sound (e.g. the strawberry farm). One of the best things to do in the Cameron Highlands is to visit Boh Tea Plantation for its spectacular views – make sure you book a tasting in advance, as the factory tours are temporarily closed! Then head onto the Mossy Forest, famous for its creepy and fascinating flora and fauna. Leave plenty of time to get here and check what transport you will need, as some taxi drivers won’t drive up that part of the mountain. It’s also a good idea to hire a local guide to take you on a hike in the Cameron Highlands, as online hiking routes are often out-of-date due to development in the area.

Bear in mind…

There is limited data/WiFi in this area, so don’t plan to work much here! I recommend staying in a guesthouse such as De Native Guest House to get the full countryside experience – basic amenities, simple living, and lots of campfires.



STOP THREE: Georgetown, Penang

georgetown malaysia

Georgetown might be my favourite stop so far! I spent a week here with my new friends before going to the tropical island of Langkawi and got a lot of work done – it’s great for digital nomads. There are plenty of artisan cafes and funky Airbnbs (and hotels) to choose from, although it’s pricier than KL – I spent £40 per night on this Airbnb.

Teaching in Penang

I spent a few hours catching up on freelance projects and booked in two full afternoons of teaching whilst in Penang. Working from 4pm until 11pm allows me to catch more students from Europe and Asia, so I have adjusted my availability accordingly. But the truth is – taking a trip like this requires a lot of communication and flexibility from both teacher and student. Make sure you keep chatting to your students and letting them know when and where they can expect their next class to take place.

Sightseeing in Georgetown

The centre of Georgetown has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008. My favourite thing to do here is walk through the historic streets – every corner has a new surprise and you often feel like you’re walking through a movie set! There is a thriving arts scene in Georgetown and you will find murals and street art all over the town. Be sure to check out the jetties along the waterfront. This maze of wooden homes on stilts was constructed over 100 years ago, and is still home to communities of Chinese migrants who live on the water today. Eat delicious (and super cheap) food on Chulia Street – I had a tasty mix of veggies and tofu skewers in sauce for just £1.30!

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My Takeaways

The biggest challenge when teaching English online whilst backpacking is trying to plan when/where you will be able to teach. Backpackers are typically very spontaneous, but as a digital nomad, you’ll need to have visibility of your schedule at least one week in advance to allow students enough time to book a class with you. You don’t want to get stuck without WiFi or accommodation, so prior planning is essential!

Another possible pitfall is WiFi – this varies across South-East Asia. But it doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks! Google and speedtest.net are your best friends! Take some time to research typical download/upload speeds in the countries or regions you plan to visit. A good internet speed is anywhere between 25 and 100 Mbps, but Zoom states that 2 Mbps (upload) and 4 Mbps (download) is sufficient for two video screens during a Zoom call – i.e. for 1-1 classes. Before booking a new apartment or hotel room, I always check the reviews for mentions of WiFi and if I’m unsure, I contact the host. When I arrive, I always run a speed test using speedtest.net and contact my students if needed.

Finally, let’s answer that question I asked back at the start. Is teaching while backpacking as easy as it sounds? Well… yes and no! I’m at the start of this 4-month journey and I anticipate that plenty of things will, inevitably, go wrong. WiFi drops out, student availability doesn’t match up with your new time zone, and you can’t change locations on a whim like the friends you’ll meet. However, teaching while travelling is an amazing way to earn money and connect with people back home (and around the world!). Unlike many backpackers, you won’t be spending all your savings to travel and you’ll be able to stay in some lovely apartments rather than a series of cramped bunk beds! The most important thing is to stay organised, communicate effectively with your students, and to be as flexible as possible. The world is your oyster! Let’s go!

Teach Online without a degree

Want to find out more about Tab’s teaching and travel experiences? You can follow her on Instagram and YouTube, and check out her blog here!

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