Best Countries to Teach English & Save Money as a US Expat

Teaching English abroad

Exploring the best countries to teach English and save money? You’ve come to the right place to learn about the top locations around the world for those looking to travel, make money, and pursue a rewarding career.

With quite a few countries offering high salaries, low taxes, a low cost of living, and sometimes even free furnished housing, you can quickly stack up savings while teaching English abroad.

With fairly relaxed job requirements, many Americans are already qualified for foreign English teaching positions. Typically, you only need a Bachelor’s degree, a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate, and a clean criminal record.

But which countries offer the highest savings potential? Below, we’ve rounded up five high-paying nations with low taxes. Read on to learn about salaries, requirements, tax obligations in the US and abroad, and more.

Teaching abroad 101

Before we discuss the details, let’s review some of the basics of teaching English abroad, like how to find a job.

Finding a job teaching English abroad

People usually find jobs teaching English abroad in one of several main ways:

  • Local TEFL course: In some countries, the easiest way to get a job is to get your TEFL certification locally and then apply to open positions nearby. TEFL academies often have relationships with local schools and academies. They may have job fairs, share job listings, or even directly find a job for you.
  • Online applications: The most popular site for TEFL jobs is Dave’s ESL Café, although most countries have dedicated sites for job opportunities within the country.
  • Government programs: While some schools post jobs directly, there are also government programs in several countries that place native English teachers in public schools to help students learn English.
  • Recruiters: Many recruitment agencies connect candidates with available job opportunities. Some are global agencies, while others operate only within the country. Depending on the agency, it may charge the candidate or the employer a fee.

Earning potential

Look online, and you’ll find a wide range of salaries for TEFL teachers (also called ESL teachers).

As you might expect, your earning potential increases with your experience. Entry-level teachers with lower salaries often supplement income from their main job with private tutoring or online classes.

Certain certifications can also greatly improve your job and salary prospects. Those who are fully licensed teachers in their home country tend to earn the most. Certificates like CELTA and CertTESOL — which usually include not only in-person classes but also teaching experience — are also in high demand.

The kind of school you teach at can greatly impact your salary as well. Public schools tend to pay the least, while private international schools and institutions of higher education tend to pay the best. Language academies often pay somewhere in between.

Best countries to teach English in 2024

Now, without further ado, let’s jump into the best countries for teachers to emigrate to:


  • Average salary for teachers: $1,400 – $4,300 USD per month
  • Average cost of living: About $650 – $1,100 USD per month, not including housing
  • Typical qualifications needed: Bachelor’s degree + TEFL certificate
  • Visa type: Z visa
  • Popular job sites/programs: eChinacities, Teach in China, Instajob Asia
  • Tax obligations: 3% – 45% on income from Chinese entities/individuals for 5 years; worldwide income taxed after 6+ years

With high salaries and a low cost of living, China is one of the most popular destinations for English teachers looking to save money. Employers will often provide free housing or a rent stipend, allowing teachers to save even more. The incredible cuisine, rich history and culture, and abundance of beautiful places to explore don’t hurt, either.

China classifies foreigners who live in the country as non-residents for up to five years. As such, they pay taxes only on income sourced from Chinese entities/individuals at a rate of 3% to 45%, depending on overall income. After six years, they classify them as tax residents. From then on, they must pay taxes on worldwide income. 

Foreigners can deduct a number of different expenses like rent; care for infants, children, and parent dependents; continuing education; and more.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

  • Average salary for teachers: $1,800 – $5,000 USD per month
  • Average cost of living: About $1,000 – $1,500 USD per month, not including housing
  • Typical qualifications needed: Education degree or Master’s degree in any field
  • Visa type: Standard work visa (employees); Green visa (independent contractors)
  • Popular job sites/programs: Amideast, Bayt, Edarabia
  • Tax obligations: 0% personal income tax; 9% corporate tax only on business profits of ~$272,264 USD

While the requirements to teach in the UAE tend to be higher, those who qualify tend to earn generous, tax-free salaries. On top of that, employers typically provide housing for teachers. 

Employers usually sponsor standard work visas for teachers they hire. However, independent contractors who teach English may qualify for the Green visa (aka the freelance visa)

While the UAE has no personal income taxes, they did recently introduce a corporate income tax. Freelancers who meet the UAE tax residency definition and earn over 1,000,000 AED (~$272,264 USD) will generally have to pay a 9% tax on anything exceeding that limit.

Most teachers choose to work in Dubai, which has become an expat hub renowned for its entrepreneurial spirit, beaches, and activities like skydiving, water sports, and even indoor skiing.

South Korea

  • Average salary for teachers: $1,600 – $2,650 USD per month
  • Average cost of living: About $650 – $900 USD per month, not including housing
  • Typical qualifications needed: Bachelor’s degree + TEFL certificate
  • Visa type: E-2 teaching visa, digital nomad visa
  • Popular job sites/programs: EPIK, Waygook, ESL RoK, WorkNPlay Korea
  • Tax obligations: Typically 9% – 12% for employees and 3.3% for independent contractors, with the first 2 years generally exempt

Korea’s generous salaries and low cost of living make it a great place to save money. What’s more, employers typically provide housing, pay for your flight to Korea, and give you a contract completion bonus. While employers usually sponsor a teaching visa, the recent launch of the digital nomad visa opens up opportunities for those who teach English online.

English teachers pay taxes at special rates distinct from Korea’s normal progressive income tax rates. This comes out to about 3.3% for independent contractors and 9% to 12% for full-time employees (including national health insurance and pension plan contributions). If you apply for a residency certificate, you’re often exempt from taxes for up to two years.

South Korea is also an excellent travel gateway to the rest of Asia, like Thailand, Bali, and Japan. That said, there are plenty of great places to explore in South Korea as well. Popular destinations include Seoul, the bustling capital city; Busan, a port city with both beaches and mountains; and Jeju Island, a relaxed subtropical getaway.


  • Average salary for teachers: $1,200 – $2,000 USD per month
  • Average cost of living: About $470 USD per month, not including housing 
  • Typical qualifications needed: Bachelor’s degree + TEFL certificate
  • Visa type: Work visa
  • Popular job sites/programs: Vietnam Teaching Jobs, Career Jet, Vietnam Works
  • Tax obligations: 5% to 35% on worldwide income (residents); 20% (non-residents)

While Vietnam doesn’t offer the highest salaries, it’s hard to beat the cost of living — which comes out to an average of just $470 USD per month. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not as common for employers in Vietnam to offer housing. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about $354 USD on average.

The taxes in Vietnam depend on whether you meet the local tax residency definition. Vietnam classifies those who stay in the country for more than 183 days in a calendar year and permanent residents as tax residents. Non-residents pay taxes at a flat rate of 20% on Vietnamese-sourced income only.

Tax rates vary depending on overall income, with residents paying between 5% and 35% on worldwide income. Full-time employees may need to pay an additional 10.5% to account for social insurance, health insurance, and unemployment insurance.

Other benefits of living in Vietnam include cheap, healthy, and delicious food, stunning national parks, and gorgeous monuments and temples. 


  • Average salary for teachers: $1,600 – $3,000 USD per month
  • Average cost of living: About $800 – $1,550 USD, not including housing
  • Typical qualifications needed: Education degree or extensive experience
  • Visa type: Employment contracting visa
  • Popular job sites/programs: Amideast, Bayt, Edarabia
  • Tax obligations: Tax free!

This underrated gem in the Middle East offers competitive, tax-free salaries. Add to that the fact that employers offer teachers free or heavily subsidized housing, and you can see serious savings quickly.

Oman also offers a high quality of life and boasts beautiful nature, friendly locals, and a low crime rate. English teachers tend to live and work in Muscat, Oman’s capital. In their free time, many enjoy traveling to Oman’s beaches, mountains, and historic villages.

Given the high salaries and excellent quality of life, the job market for English teachers in Oman is somewhat competitive. Employers often favor licensed teachers or those with several years of experience teaching TEFL.

US tax obligations

As you may know, moving abroad doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for US taxes.

The US’s unique taxation system makes all citizens and permanent residents subject to US taxes. Anyone who meets the minimum income reporting threshold must file a federal tax return, regardless of where they live. 

Fortunately, if you’re living abroad, you can often avoid paying taxes to both the US and their country of residence. This is largely thanks to a couple of tax breaks specifically for Americans earning income or paying taxes outside the US:

The Foreign Tax Credit (FTC)

This provision gives Americans who have paid foreign income taxes dollar-for-dollar credits toward their US taxes. Those who claim this credit can essentially subtract what they’ve paid in foreign income taxes from their US tax bill.

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE)

The FEIE allows Americans abroad to exclude a certain portion of their income from income taxes. For tax year 2023 (the taxes you file in 2024), you can exclude up to $120,000. This limit increases to $126,500 for tax year 2024. To qualify for the FEIE, you must pass either the Physical Presence Test or the Bona Fide Residence Test.

Keep in mind that living abroad may change your reporting obligations. If you have more than $10,000 USD across foreign financial accounts, for example, you must file a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR).

Holding foreign assets worth more than $200,000 USD on the last day of the tax year, or more than $300,000 USD at any point in the year, requires you to file Form 8938.

Depending on your circumstances — such as if you’re a freelancer with an LLC — you may need to file additional forms and reports. To ensure full compliance, always double-check with a tax professional.

US expat taxes made easy

Living in a low-tax foreign country as a US expat won’t reduce your tax liability much unless you also optimize your US taxes. That’s what we’re here for.

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  1. What Salary Will You Earn Teaching English Abroad in China?
  2. What is the Salary for an English Teacher in China?
  3. China, People’s Republic of – Individual – Residence
  4. How Much Do English Teachers Make in the UAE?
  5. United Arab Emirates – Overview
  6. Navigating the new year: Freelancers, small businesses and the corporate tax law
  7. How Much Do English Teachers Make in Korea?
  8. How Much Money You Can Save in Korea (and still have fun!)
  9. Teaching English in Vietnam salary
  10. Cost of Living in Vietnam
  11. How Much Do English Teachers Make in Oman?
  12. 7 Best Places To Teach English In Europe & How To Get Started In 2024
  13. TEFL Salary Explained: How Much Can You Make Teaching English Abroad?

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Teaching English abroad: FAQs

  • Which European country pays teachers the most?

    European countries typically offer lower salaries for English teachers than Asia and the Middle East. They also have higher tax burdens.

    That said, with the right qualifications and enough experience, it’s certainly possible to earn a comfortable living. Among the highest-paying European countries for English teachers are France and Germany.

  • What is the highest salary for English teachers?

    Top-paying positions in top-paying countries may offer experienced, licensed English teachers as much as $5,000 USD per month. However, that’s not a strict cap — certain employers in certain countries may pay even more.

  • What are some other good countries for teaching English if you want to save money?

    Other countries with high savings potential for TEFL-certified teachers, besides the ones listed above,  include Thailand, Japan, and many Middle Eastern countries (e.g. Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.).