Teaching English online is a fantastic way to fund your travels abroad. We had no idea teaching English online was for us but here we sit, 15 months later, and we’ve got some awesome tips to help our fellow teachers out there make ends meet while traveling.
Who knew that our decision to teach English abroad would turn into teaching English online while we travel from country to country? It’s been an adventure!
There are a lot of online companies out there to choose from for travelers (more on the below) but we work for SayABC. For more info on how SayABC allows us to travel the world while teaching online, check out our SayABC review.
In this post, we walk you through some of the basic requirements for teaching English online plus a couple of very helpful resources to use.
However, we also touch on the more in-depth details of being a traveling teacher, like the importance of internet and technical requirements, using homestays, and other tips.
So, let’s begin with basics!
What’s Required to Teach English Online and Travel?
Well, that’s a huge question with many different answers!
Let’s start with the teach English online part of the question. The traveling and adventure comes after! More on that later.
So, do you need a bachelor’s degree? Any experience? A TEFL or other ESL certification?
The answer to all these questions?
Ugh, we hate that answer, but it’s true!
It all depends on the company you want to apply for. For example, SayABC, who we work for, now requires a bachelor’s degree but that wasn’t the case when we applied. Luckily we had those anyway or we’d be teaching elsewhere!
Teacher’s Tip: If the company is based in China, we can guarantee that they have to follow the recently updated Chinese law. All ESL teachers, that includes online teachers, are required to have a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL or relevant teaching certificate.
If you don’t know what a TEFL certification is (you definitely want one before teaching English online) then check out our post on how to get TEFL certified!
What if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree?
Don’t be discouraged! China isn’t the only country with online English companies! They’re probably the biggest player, true, but other companies like Palfish or Cambly (and many more) are available.
With so many companies out there, and we truly mean so many, how do you know the requirements that you need to meet?
Thankfully, instead of us listing a bunch of companies and you having to scroll through a ton of information that will be outdated in 6 months to a year, there are some amazing online communities where you can ask actual teachers (!) what it’s like to work there.
How much does it pay? What are the hours like? Do I actually need a degree? Do I need to prepare teaching material or is it provided? Ask away!
Trust us, there is so much misinformation out there about all these companies, even from the companies themselves, that it’s best to ask the teachers who actually work there for some real insight.
Having said that, always feel free to contact us about any questions you have about SayABC or just teaching online and traveling in general. We’ve been doing this a long time and are more than happy to answer!
Know the Technical Requirements of Teaching English Online
So, we’ve talked about the basic requirements of teaching English Online but what about the nitty gritty? The technical side of things. These requirements are vital for teachers who want to travel and work!
First and foremost, keeping your teaching job is essential if you’re going to be traveling. It’s what funds your adventure abroad. With that said, be very mindful about your company’s rules and guidelines. Our company requires that we have a minimum download speed of 20 mbps and be plugged into a router with an ethernet cable.
An ethernet cable means a hardwired connection, which means we cannot use wifi! Wait, but we teach English online!
It’s a hard hump to get over but now that we’re in a rhythm of things it’s not so bad. Simply using wifi would make our lives so much easier but we’re finding a way to see the world while teaching anyway. More on how that works below.
Granted, there are other online English companies that don’t require ethernet connection but they’re becoming fewer and fewer.
Your company’s rules and policies set the groundwork for how easy it is to travel abroad and teach English. Make it fit your travels, not the other way around!
Flexibility and Mobility Are Key to Teach English Online
As a traveling online English teacher, the digital nomad life is the new norm. Being flexible enough to weather the storms (there will be plenty) and being mobile enough to get where you need to go is key.
For instance, you just arrived at your Airbnb in Prague but it doesn’t have fast enough internet speeds and you teach the next morning. Or the internet has stopped working while you’re in Bali and you teach in four hours.
Initiate panic mode!
Kidding, don’t do that! Luckily we have search engines like Google to help us fix these problems in a flash. Flexibility and mobility are key! Be ready to pack up and relocate in an instant.
In Bali, our internet actually did go out a few hours before we needed to teach. We found a co-working space nearby that had Skype rooms and booked them asap. We commuted there for a couple of days while our Airbnb’s internet was being fixed. It was an annoyance having to travel back and forth but ultimately worth the price.
We would have otherwise lost money from missed hours or worse, lost our jobs for missing too much class.
Flexibility is important for other reasons as well. Since there are two of us, we need separate rooms. Sometimes that means one of us is teaching English in the bathroom. Sometimes it’s on the floor. The floor isn’t where we’d prefer to teach but that’s the way it goes!
Many factors dictate where we teach in our homestay like lighting, sound, and access to the router. Our company doesn’t care if we teach on the floor or at a desk. They want us to have stable connection, be punctual, and be a good teacher!
A great way to add some flare to your teaching area are teaching signs. Since we don’t have a permanent background that we can style and decorate, we take our signs with us wherever we go. Even though the walls behind us change, our signs are always there. As is our whiteboard, markers, flash cards, etc…you get the idea. Even the smallest teaching props go a long way in providing continuity in the online classroom.
Take Advantage of Airbnb
We’ve mentioned homestays and Airbnbs already. In our opinion, Airbnb is the best accommodation option for traveling online English teachers. They’re almost always cheaper than hotels, especially outside the touristy areas. Plus, you have the privacy of a home so you can teach and not bother anyone.
We’ve thought of teaching in hostels but we doubt anyone would like hearing, “Hello! How are you?!” several times a day, several times a week. Booking an Airbnb also gives you access to a private home and its wifi. More importantly for us, it allows us to plug directly to a router with ethernet (like our company requires).
TIP: We heard through the the online teacher grapevine that if you receive confirmation from the host that they have certain internet speeds and it turns out they misled you, Airbnb will help you find appropriate accommodation (and maybe even pay the difference in price) as long as it’s within 24 hours of checking in. Another reason to not travel on a day you teach.
When inquiring with an Airbnb about a potential stay, be sure to explain your situation to them upfront. It’ll save you some headaches down the road. For example, we reach out to Airbnb hosts with the following:
Destinations and Internet Speed – Where’s Best to Teach English Online?
Obviously, going to countries where internet isn’t widespread may not be the best idea. That said, don’t let anything get in the way of you and your travels. That’s why you teach English online while traveling abroad, after all!
We know a fellow teacher who taught in Laos and barely got by with 1 mbps download speed. That’s terribly slow. However, he crossed the border to Thailand and was perfectly fine. That said, Thailand can be a little shaky because of storms.
Nowhere is perfect but some places are more reliable than others. There are things to take into consideration at every destination. The weather, internet speed, transportation (if you lose internet you need a way to get to a place that has it).
A good place to check internet speeds on a broad level is Ookla’s speed index. This shouldn’t dictate everything, of course, but it serves as a great guide to your possible destinations!
Below is a snapshot of Jordan’s average internet speeds, mobile and broadband. So in this case, on average, we would meet our company’s speed requirements.
Travel On Days You Don’t Teach!
One thing we’ve noticed is how annoying it is to travel on a day you teach. Asking Airbnb hosts for a late check out on top of asking about their internet speeds and access to an internet router is an unnecessary hassle. Save yourself the headache and travel on days you don’t teach.
We teach four days a week, leaving three for travel. Traveling on teaching days is sometimes unavoidable. If the cheapest flight from Budapest to Berlin is on a day you teach then it makes sense to travel on a working day.
Honestly, most Airbnb hosts abroad have been fine with us checking in early/late if we have to teach English. But there are times when they can’t do anything about it. If their next guest is arriving that afternoon then you won’t be getting that late check out.
Teaching English online while traveling abroad can seem like a pain, at time. But we’re seeing the world! Worth it!
Packing for Teaching
If you’re seeking the digital nomad life as an online English teacher then prepare to pack light! You don’t want to feel weighed down by heavy luggage that you don’t even need and the more you have, the more miserable traveling is.
Before we did this whole travel and teach thing, we actually moved to Taipei with four suitcases and a friggin’ piano. Let’s just say it was a really dumb idea.
But what about teaching props? You need them for class but you need room too!
Many companies prefer you to have at least a few teaching props of your own for class. Some teachers go all out and have a super colorful background, puppets, toys, you name it. That’s awesome and the students will love it. But those teachers are probably teaching from home and can have however they want.
That kind of setup is not really possible when traveling and teaching! This is especially true if you’re always going from country to country like us.
For example, we just stick to a white board, some colored markers, and some signs to put up during class, like our name and the SayABC logo. We don’t have room for much else in our backpacks!
Even though we’re minimal when it comes to teaching props, our kids love what we have, especially the white board. Drawing, games, spelling, there are so many activities it can be used for.
In addition to props, you’re going to need some teaching equipment too.
Ethernet cables, a wifi extender or a travel router, and a reliable teaching headset will need to be part of your packing list as well.
So, our tip for packing teaching props and gear while traveling? Keep it light!
Summary of Tips to Teach English Online While Abroad
There are many pros and cons to being an online English teacher and traveling. However, the pros much outweigh the cons. No amount of internet issues can hinder the joy you get from traveling. Doing so much online, we’ve realized the beauty of using our time off to get away from the web and explore where we are. That’s why we left home in the first place: to see the world!
Maybe you’re traveling and teaching English right now or maybe you’re thinking about it. Either way, we wish you luck! If you have any questions about teaching English online or want to share your experience then let us know in the comments below!
Happy teaching and traveling!
If teaching English online sounds like your cup of tea then do diligent research on all of the companies out there. If you end up favoring SayABC like we did, use our referral link when you apply. No obligation required 🙂