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Saudi Arabia is a country with a lot to offer qualified TEFL teachers.
Competition is fierce, so you’ll need previous TEFL experience, but the salaries are high (and tax-free if you commit to more than a year!) and the cost of living is low. So it’s a great opportunity to further your TEFL experience and save money at the same time!
The culture can be a difficult adjustment, especially for women, but you’ll likely find the Saudi Arabians incredibly welcoming and most of the cities have great links to the rest of the world if you want to explore elsewhere on your time off.
Famous landmarks in Saudi Arabia include historic Mada’in Saleh – Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site (like Petra in Jordon without the hordes of tourists), and Souq Al Alawi – the biggest souq in Saudi Arabia, found in Jeddah. You may also find Riyadh’s camel market interesting – it’s one of the largest of its kind in the world, selling over 100 camels per day!
Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country, and traditions are deeply entrenched in Islamic values, but it’s also a country that is constantly adapting and, with the influence of a youthful population, it will modernise and change before your eyes if you choose to teach there.
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£1,900-£3,600 per month
Bachelor’s degree required
Master's degree preferred
Cost of living
TEFL certificate needed
120 hours +
Main job types
Private language schools
Business classes for companies
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High salaries and a low cost of living make Middle Eastern TEFL positions an attractive prospect for most TEFL teachers. There is, however, more to Saudi Arabia than flashing dollar signs and there is a lot to be aware of before you make the move.
Saudi Arabia is a conservative and traditional country with strict rules to follow, especially for women, but it is also moving surprisingly quickly into the modern era and the people are welcoming and hospitable. With an average 20% of the total population made up of expats, the locals are very used to foreigners, so you shouldn’t feel out of place. Compounds, which are the most common accommodation for teachers, are also primarily made up of other Westerners and go by Western rules and culture with regards to clothing and interaction between members of the opposite sex – so most people find they are easily able to cope with the cultural differences.
Although Saudi Arabia isn’t awash with entertainment facilities, there are lots of other options to enjoy on your days off. High levels of sunshine throughout the year can make for pleasant weekends by the pool and if you want to travel a bit further away from base, there are a wealth of sand dunes (Riyadh), beaches (Jeddah) and markets to explore.
The highest concentration of TEFL jobs are in the cities of Riyadh (central), Dammam (on the east coast), Jeddah (on the west coast) and Tabuk (in the North). The holy cities of Mecca and Medinah are also available to those of Muslim faith.
The peak recruitment period is February to March, as the school year usually runs from August/September to May/June. Be aware that the hiring process, including the paperwork, can take quite a while, especially with Ramadan usually occurring somewhere in the middle, so it’s best to start looking in January/February time to ensure you don’t miss out!
Unless you know anyone already teaching in Saudi Arabia that can recommend you to their employer, starting your search on an online TEFL jobs boards is usually the best option.
TEFL salaries vary widely in Saudi Arabia and can range from 9,000 SAR -17,000 SAR / £1,900 – £3,600 / $2,400 – $4,500 per month. Salary is usually dependent on employer, location and qualifications/experience.
Accommodation should usually be provided by the employer, with allowances usually being offered for those that want to find their own. With that in mind, most of your salary will end up as disposable income or can be put away as savings.
The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is quite low (around 40% cheaper than living in London according to Numbeo), especially when you don’t have rent to factor in. Though, things can get a bit more expensive if you only choose to eat imported Western foods. To give you an idea of how expensive things can get, items like iceberg lettuces can cost £4 each! Suncream is also very hard to come by and can cost double the price it does at home, so remember to bring lots with you.
To be able to save as much of your salary as possible, it’s best to buy local produce and Saudi Arabian dishes at restaurants, instead of the overpriced Western fare – and make sure you bring any essential toiletries with you initially!
Although you should have no issues with affording everything once you start to receive your salary (even if you choose to opt for imported goods) it’s a good idea to take some savings with you initially to cover your first few months. Between 3,700SAR and 5,600SAR (£780 – £1,200) should be enough to see you through.
There’s more than just a great salary to living in Saudi Arabia. Additional benefits include:
The majority of TEFL teachers in Saudi Arabia work in public or private high schools and universities. Classes are segregated, so you will be teaching single sex classes (male teachers teaching male students and female teachers teaching female students).
There may also be some opportunities to teach Business English at companies and language schools, but these are less common.
Most employers will conduct an interview over Skype, so you won’t meet them in person until you arrive in country. To get started with the application process, search for jobs on an online TEFL jobs board and send applications by email.
The visa for teaching in Saudi Arabia is called an iqama. Your employer will sponsor you for the visa and will take you through the entire process, as it’s not something you can obtain alone. Your sponsor (employer) is responsible for you while you’re in Saudi Arabia and for you adhering to the requirements of the visa, so they will usually be meticulous about the application. It can take a while to obtain the iqama – the average application time is about three months, so just try to be patient and keep in contact with your employer for updates!
Be aware that if you are a single female you may need to ‘prove’ your single status as part of the visa process by obtaining a signed letter from a solicitor. It may be the case that your local solicitor is unfamiliar with this process so be sure to seek advice from your employer before requesting this. If you are a single female you’ll also need to be met by your sponsor (employer) at the airport on arrival to meet the visa requirements, which your employer should arrange.
Once you have your visa, you’ll need to ask permission from your employer before leaving the country to ensure you don’t invalidate your visa. Information on how to do this should be provided to you by your employer.
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