Costa Rica is an incredibly desirable place to live, boasting both incredible natural beauty and a peaceful, relaxing lifestyle. There are also lots of opportunities for outdoor activities, especially hiking and surfing.
The country has a stunning coastline and is often referred to as ‘the rich coast’. It’s one of the most biodiverse places in the world, accounting for 6% of the world’s biodiversity and with over a quarter of the country’s land under protected status. The country is also developing a reputation for sustainable tourism and its use of green energy sources, such as hydro and wind. In fact, the whole country used only renewable energy for 300 days in 2017!
Costa Rica’s top attractions include hiking trails through lava fields and on active volcanoes, such as Arenal Volcano, Irazú Volcano and Poás Volcano. You can also try windsurfing and kitesurfing on Costa Rica’s largest lake, Lake Arenal. Or spot rare wildlife, like adorable Capuchin monkeys and three-toed sloths, at Manuel Antonio National Park and Tortuguero National Park.
There is also a particularly high demand for English teachers in Costa Rica as lots of locals move abroad for work or study – and unsurprisingly, speaking English is a key skill needed.
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£475-£800 per month
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Cost of living
TEFL certificate needed
120 hours +
Main job types
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Potentially one of the most appealing parts of life in Costa Rica is being able to explore the outdoors. From beaches to rainforests and mountains to volcanoes, the country has a diverse landscape with a ton of equally diverse activities to enjoy. You can spend your free time spotting wildlife in one of the many protected national parks, surfing on azure waters at beaches along two coasts, or hiking up imposing volcanoes and through lush rainforests.
You can also expect a high quality of life and pleasant weather, averaging between 12°C and 27°C. The country also has a high ranking for happiness (according to Happy Planet) and global peace (according to the Institute for Economics & Peace). Lots of TEFL teachers move to Costa Rica to escape the rat race and stress of their home country, and it’s rather telling that pura vida (pure life) is a phrase commonly heard.
When it comes to teaching English in Costa Rica, there’s a high demand for teachers and you can generally expect a relatively good working environment. The government has put a considerable amount of time and money into improving its education system. The country now boasts free, compulsory education and a literacy rate of over 95%.
TEFL teaching in Costa Rica will earn you a fair wage in comparison to the local cost of living. You should be able to afford rent and food easily along with occasional luxuries. With some more experience and higher qualifications, many TEFL teachers earn enough to work part-time and spend their spare time enjoying the laid-back Costa Rican lifestyle.
The most popular place to find work in Costa Rica is in the Central Valley, particularly Cartago, Heredia and San José. You can find most English teaching jobs in the country’s capital San José, especially in San Pedro where there are lots of university students looking for English tutoring. Unfortunately, there aren’t many jobs by the coast – so if you’re looking for a place by the beach, you may be disappointed. But you can always take day or weekend trips to coastal resorts in your free time, so it’s not all bad!
In most cases, you’ll need search for work on the ground in Costa Rica. Employers tend to interview candidates in person as sponsoring a work visa can be expensive and time-consuming – so employers want to be sure that they have the right candidate.
Institutes generally hire year-round, with peak hiring time in January and June. You can find most jobs between October and December or January and May.
TEFL salaries in Costa Rica usually range from 350,000-600,000 CRC / £475-800 / $600-1,000 per month. Though, those with higher qualifications, especially licensed teachers, could earn considerably more.
Accommodation usually won’t be provided by your employer, so you’ll need to cover the cost of renting an apartment yourself. A one-bedroom apartment in San José will usually set you back around $300 per month – which is just about affordable on an average English teacher salary – though many teachers choose to live in house shares to cut down on costs.
Costa Rica is the most developed country in South America as well as the most expensive, with a higher cost of living than Argentina, Brazil, Colombia or Peru. However, it is still considerably cheaper than most western countries, especially when it comes to the cost of rent.
The cost of living for TEFL teacher in Costa Rica is about 400,000-550,000 CRC / £550-700 / $700-900 per month, depending on your lifestyle and where you live. The average cost of living for a single person living in San José comes to about 400,000 CRC / £550 / $700 per month, not including rent. If you opt for cheaper shared accommodation, you should have plenty of expendable income to explore Costa Rica and see the sights. It’s unlikely you will come away with any savings though – Costa Rica offers an incredible lifestyle but it’s not necessarily the place to make lots of money.
Learning English in order to move abroad or study abroad is becoming increasingly popular. As such, teaching university students, business professionals and other adults is the most popular type of English teaching work in Costa Rica. Therefore, you’ll find most jobs in and around San José where the majority of universities are. There are some jobs teaching children at English language centres, but there are considerably more jobs teaching adults.
You’ll usually need a work visa to teach English in Costa Rica. To acquire this, you must have a job offer from a school or institute that’s willing to sponsor your visa. It can be a long and expensive process for schools, so be aware that employers may be reluctant to hire anyone who plans to stay in the country for less than a year.
Once you have a job offer in hand, you can apply for a TRP (Temporary Residence Permit) and then the work visa itself. This is a long process can take a total of 4-8 months, but your employer should help you through each step. Some TEFL teachers opt to teach illegally on a tourist visa to avoid the long wait for a work visa – but be warned that this is a risk that could end in deportation.
The most important part of applying for a work visa in Costa Rica is having the correct documents – especially if you plan to search for work when you arrive. You’ll need your passport with photocopies, passport photos, a copy of your birth certificate and marriage certificate (if you’re married), copies of your qualifications – including your TEFL certificate, a police check from your home country, and proof of stable finances. On top of this, you’ll need to have a background check by the Costa Rican Ministry of Security.
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