The 7 Best Places to Teach English in Latin America (in 2018)

Been dreaming of living somewhere in Latin America while teaching English? There’s a flavor for everyone. Choosing a country within this fascinating region is quite the task. This post lists the best places to teach English in Latin America and explores the TEFL job market within the region to help you get closer to making your decision.

Wanting to teach abroad, are you? Love all that Latin American culture has to offer, huh? If it’s the colonial buildings or tasty food, we understand. If it’s the gorgeous landscapes and thousands of picture-worthy locations, we get that, too. From the beaches in Central America to the high peaks in South America, and every forest or jungle in between, there’s no shortage of places to call home.

In this article, we’re diving head first into teaching English in Latin America, and you’re not going to want to miss it.

Pros and Cons of Teaching English in Latin America

Latin America – in broad strokes – contains some of the best teaching English gigs out there. In most cases, you’re able to live a more relaxed life while working and exploring. Speaking of, landing an amazing springboard for travel is within your reach.

Central America and South America are home to some of the biggest names in ecotourism, there for you when you want to plan an epic adventure or a relaxing day trip. If you need daily inspiration for your blog or novel, these picturesque pockets of land got you covered.

Depending on the country, one downside of teaching English in Central America or South America versus other regions of the world is that you’re going to break even. There are gems of exceptions in Latin Central that allow you to make some extra cash because the cost of living is lower than what you’re used to (see which ones we chose below), but the European-influenced countries in South America probably won’t leave opportunity for savings.

But fear not – if you teach English in Latin America you’re going to have a lot of stories to write home about, and if you can manage to learn Spanish while you’re there, your resume will thank you.

The Requirements for Visas and Work Permits

Ensuring your entry and exit to countries in Central and South America is slightly different depending on each country and how long you plan to stay. Always do additional research on how to work in your country of choice legally!

You can find more information on how to get a proper visa in each country section, but always check country consulate websites to get step-by-step processes based on your resident country. Generally, you will have a 90-day tourist visa given upon arrival throughout Latin America, and if your stay exceeds that mark, have a plan to obtain the right paperwork.

One advantage of choosing Latin America as a region to teach English in is that not every country requires a Bachelor’s degree (though they will prefer it). You will also need a TEFL certification, but prior teaching experience is not always a requirement to teach English in Latin America.

If you aren’t TEFL certified yet, you can take the 120-hour online Let’s TEFL course within 4 weeks. It’s available for an unrivaled price and comes with a lot of benefits.

If you’re worried about making enough money to support yourself in the TEFL market in Latin America, seek online opportunities to teach English (to keep your schedule full), find a side hustle like teaching English online, or seek private tutoring options once you have made connections in the TEFL market after some time spent there.

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The Seven Best Places to Teach English in Latin America

Here is our list of the seven best places to teach English in Latin America, based on the overall market, salaries versus living costs, and maybe a few biased reasons as well. The list is not organized in any special way.

Peru

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Machu Picchu, Peru

Peru is a special place, as you’ve probably heard, and is no doubt one of the reasons why you’re considering teaching English there. It’s more than its most famous legacies (Machu Picchu, roaming llamas, fresh ceviche, and more). It’s one of the best possible options to teach English in Latin America.

Not the most expensive, and not the cheapest either, you’ll find Peru to be somewhere in the middle in terms of the cost of living. Teachers make an average of $500 – $1,000 USD in the main cities of Peru. That $500 difference in pay is something to note — try to get the best work opportunity possible to ensure you’re living comfortably.

Obtaining a visa to teach English in Peru is dependent on a few factors, but getting that initial 90-day tourist visa is the first step. Before the 90-day limit hits, do what you would in many Latin American countries and cross the border into a nearby country to start another 90-day period over again.

Depending on the length of your stay, if you plan to exceed 365 days, keep in mind that 183 days is your max without another plan of action. Do additional research based on your residency and how that will affect your ability to stay for longer than 183 days.

Nicaragua

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A colorful neighborhood in Nicaragua

Keep hearing about travelers visiting Nicaragua because it was on their bucket list? You’re not alone! Nicaragua is home to a similar aesthetic as Guatemala and has a burgeoning TEFL market to back it up. Find volcanoes, beaches, ecotourism, friendly locals, and more.

Nicaragua has one of the best deals in terms of living costs throughout Latin America, but that’s only one reason why it made this list. You can expect to make between $300 – $600 USD per month there, but don’t forget to convert from cordobas, the national currency.

You called it—you need a tourist visa not to exceed 90 days. A unique feature of obtaining the proper visa in Nicaragua is that you need proof of your return ticket, however. Depending on your resident country, you will need to do additional research to determine how to obtain the proper paperwork to stay longer than 90 days by checking the consulate website.

Costa Rica

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“Ziplining” in the Costa Rican rainforest

Costa Rica has an established TEFL market built on a sense of adventure. We already mentioned that ecotourism is surely one reason why you’re drawn to Latin America, and Costa Rica is certainly at the top of that list in terms of quality.

The cost of living in Costa Rica likely won’t allow you to save while you teach English there, but you won’t be in the hole either. There are plenty of hacks to spend less where you can (shared accommodations and transportation, etc.). Compared to the rest of Latin America, it’s somewhere in the middle in terms of costs. You can expect to make between $700- $900 USD per month.

Getting a visa to teach English in Costa Rica is just as easy as the living: get a tourist visa stamp on your way in. The only catch is that you have to renew it every 90 days by leaving the country and then returning to get another stamp. Looking for an excuse to visit somewhere else in Central America? That’s your chance! There are exceptions to which citizens can obtain a tourist visa upon arrival, so always be sure to check with the Costa Rican consulate to be sure you qualify.

Also, read our comprehensive guide on teaching English in Costa Rica.

Guatemala

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Market day in Guatemala

Guatemala is quickly growing in popularity for travelers, and now the market for teaching English is following. There is a ton of beauty in every corner of the country, from stunning volcano views to high altitude lakes to beautiful coastlines. Friendly and welcoming, the locals should surely be on your list of reasons for teaching English in Guatemala, too.

The cost of living in Guatemala is super affordable, and one of the best deals in Latin America when you consider all that you’re getting by choosing to teach there: ecotourism, easy access to the rest of Central America, an expanding TEFL market, and one of the easiest places to learn Spanish (and cheapest!). You can expect to make between $500 – $600 USD there. Sound like too little? Remember to do the conversion from Quetzales, the local currency.

Visa access in Guatemala is a little different than for Costa Rica, in that you need a passport valid for at least six months. If you’re planning to stay for longer than a 90-day period, you will need to make a visit to the General Directorate of Migration in Guatemala office for an extension.

Colombia

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Peñol artificial lake in Guatapé, Colombia

Colombia is a fascinating country with a proud and vibrant culture. If that isn’t what draws you to it, it must be green rolling hills, stunning mountain views, gorgeous beaches, or perhaps the Amazon? There’s no shortage of anything that draws you to the Latin American region in Colombia, and it makes for an excellent choice inside the TEFL market.

While the cost of living will depend on the city you have chosen, Colombia won’t strain your wallet in terms of cost of living. Between $500 – $1,000 USD is the average monthly pay for teachers, and you are in high demand!

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Colombia is an exception to the 90-day tourist visa common throughout the region. You will need to obtain an “M” visa, which is valid for three years. If you happen to secure your job before entering the country, go through the necessary steps to get the visa according to the Colombian consulate in your country. If you’re already in-country, you can enter the country on a tourist visa and then obtain the M-5 visa in Bogota.

Read our guide on how to teach English in Colombia.

Bolivia

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Uyuni salt flat, Bolivia

Bolivia is kind of wild card in the TEFL market. Don’t know much about the country as a whole? It has that South American charm you’re searching for but is still considered off the beaten path, enriched with culture, and containing stunning Amazonian views. For an adventurer, Bolivia could just be your gem in Latin America if you keep an open mind.

The cost of living in Bolivia is certainly low due to its generally impoverished situation. You still won’t save a ton of money while teaching there, but expect to make between $500 – $900 USD. Tourism is slowly increasing in this country, and with that comes an increase in demand for English teachers.

In order to enter Bolivia legally for teaching purposes, you must get a Specific Purpose Visa upon entry. Once you’re in, you will need to complete the process for a residency application as well as a work visa.

Ecuador

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The Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador

Ecuador is home to some of the most sought-after bucket list items on traveler’s lists such as the Galapagos Islands and pretty rainforests, but also to deep colonial history and a developing TEFL market.

Another middle of the road option for the cost of living in Latin America, English teachers can really thrive here. Average monthly pay is between $500 – $800 USD. By having easy access to the rest of South America, we think you’re getting a good deal on location in this case.

A work visa is required to legally work in Ecuador and can either be secured in advance with the help of your employer or obtained in-country after entry on a tourist visa. The typical 90-day rule also applies here, but be sure not to exceed that mark, and to check the consulate website for requirements based on your resident country.

Want to know the 5 reasons for teaching English in Ecuador? Read this post.

Where to Teach English in Latin America?

You may have noticed that there are many amazing opportunities for teaching English in Latin America. From Colombia with one of the biggest populations in South America to smaller countries like Bolivia, the TEFL market throughout Latin America is booming and in need of English teachers.

Each of these countries in Latin America has their own flavor and slightly varying costs of living, but all are sound options to get your shoes amongst rich history, tasty food, and Spanish-speaking cultures with friendly environments. Of course, each of these countries comes with benefits and disadvantages, but we considered them among the best options.

This is ultimately your choice! Find which country speaks to you, and figure out how to get work, obtain the correct visa, and begin a life abroad. Making this decision feels potentially life-changing, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you have a country to Teach English in Latin America that didn’t make this list? Tell us why you think it should be included in the comments.

Jessica Hill founded globalU, an online TEFL agency specializing in short-term teach abroad programs with TEFL certification courses in Costa Rica, Guatemala and beyond. She has personal experience teaching English in Thailand and China and has helped hundreds of others get started on their adventures abroad.

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