How South Africans can travel abroad visa-free by teaching English – and how much they get paid

South African passport holders can travel to 104 countries globally visa-free, says Rhyan O’Sullivan, managing director at the TEFL Academy.

“Teaching English overseas provides an opportunity to see the world, without the cost and hassle of long embassy queues and visa paperwork,” said O’Sullivan.

Some of the most popular destinations looking for people to teach English as a foreign language include Thailand, Brazil, Ireland, and Hong Kong, with the latter requiring a work visa.

O’Sullivan said that foreign English teachers typically make enough to save between 30% and 40% of their salaries after expenses, thus allowing them to cover bills while enjoying the lifestyle of their chosen country.

When teaching online the typical TEFL salary can vary between $12 -$25 per hour. The cost of living as well as the country one chooses to work in affects the possible salary of a prospective TEFL English teacher.

Here is what you can expect to earn teaching English abroad:

Country Degree requirement Average teaching hours per week Average monthly cost of living Average monthly salary
Thailand BA/BS 22 R10 000 – R15 100 R10 900 – R15 900
Hong Kong BA/BS 20 – 30 R37 100 – R61 900 R37 100 – R99 000
Brazil Not required 25 – 30 R7 900 – R15 800 R7 900 – R12 600
Ireland BA/BS 20 – 30 R19 900 – R24 900 ~R26 640 – R39 900

As South Africa’s unemployment rate reaches historic highs, tapping into the international job market exposes people to wider pools of available positions in countries with greater economic stability, said O’Sullivan.

He noted that teaching English abroad is a great way to fund an extended overseas stay since it provides an opportunity to earn an income while travelling and living outside of South Africa.

The TEFL Academy offers the following courses to enable various levels of English teaching proficiency (Until 26/04/22, all mentioned courses are on sale, the below pricing is reflective of the standard price):

  • Online level 3 TEFL certificate course (120 hours)R5,995, provides knowledge and skills needed for casual work teaching English aboard when volunteering, backpacking or finding work “in-country”. Access to the course is open for six months; however, students can complete their qualifications within 3 -5 weeks.
  • Online level 5 TEFL diploma course (168 hours)R9,360, provides an in-depth overview of TEFL and is aimed at people who want formal employment teaching English.
  • Combined level 5 TEFL diploma course (168 hours)R13,038
  • Teaching practice course (10-hour webinar)R160, offers real-life teaching experience from anywhere in South Africa. This is designed for the online-only version of the level 5 courses.

“While most visa-free countries do not require more than a passport to clear customs, certain countries may request other documents such as proof of onward travel before allowing you to enter.”

He noted that Covid-19 restrictions may still apply in some destinations; however, if a person has been fully vaccinated and can provide the necessary proof, they generally do not have to quarantine on arrival – although a Covid test may be required.

“Suppose a country does not offer visa-free travel for South Africans. In that case, TEFL certificate holders will need to secure employment at a school in the land of choice and then work with the institution and a relevant embassy to confirm a working visa to go abroad,” said O’Sullivan.

Read: These jobs offer the most work-from-home options in South Africa

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How South Africans can travel abroad visa-free by teaching English – and how much they get paid