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Teach English in Southeast Asia: Requirements, Salary, Best Places

Southeast Asia, a region brimming with rich history, diverse cultures, and mouthwatering cuisines, is a tapestry of traditions and modernity woven together. From the bustling streets of Bangkok, where modern skyscrapers stand side by side with centuries-old temples, to the serene beaches of Bali and the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the region offers a myriad of experiences. It’s not just a destination for backpackers and tourists, Southeast Asia has, over the past few decades, emerged as a hotspot for English teachers from all over the world.

The rising demand for English language skills, coupled with the welcoming nature of its people and the relatively low cost of living, has made Southeast Asia an attractive destination for those looking to embark on an ESL (English as a Second Language) teaching journey.

Reasons to Teach English in Southeast Asia

  1. High Demand for English Teachers: With globalization on the rise and an increasing number of international businesses setting foot in the region, the demand for English language skills is soaring. Schools, language centers, and universities are constantly on the lookout for qualified English teachers.

  2. Cultural Exchange: Teaching in Southeast Asia allows you to immerse yourself in diverse cultures. You'll learn about local customs, traditions, and festivals while sharing your own background and experiences with your students.

  3. Affordable Cost of Living: Compared to many Western countries, the cost of living in most Southeast Asian countries is relatively low. This means that teachers can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, often with extra money to save or spend on travels.

  4. Natural Beauty and Adventure: From the pristine beaches of the Philippines to the dense jungles of Borneo and the stunning limestone karsts of Vietnam, Southeast Asia is a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

  5. Warm and Welcoming Locals: The people of Southeast Asia are known for their hospitality and warmth. As an English teacher, you'll often find yourself invited to local events, celebrations, or even family gatherings, offering a unique insight into the local way of life.

  6. Opportunities for Professional Development: Many schools and institutions offer ongoing training and professional development for their teachers, ensuring that you continue to grow and improve in your teaching career.

  7. Delicious Cuisine: This might not be the primary reason to teach in the region, but it's undoubtedly a perk! Whether it's the spicy curries of Thailand, the flavorful pho of Vietnam, or the rich rendang of Indonesia, your taste buds are in for a treat.

The Best Places To Teach English in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is vast and diverse, with each country offering a unique experience for English teachers. Here are some of the best places to consider if you're thinking about teaching English in the region:

Thailand: The Land of Smiles

Thailand, affectionately known as the "Land of Smiles," is a favourite among travellers and expatriates alike. With its picturesque beaches, majestic temples, and world-famous street food, the country offers an appealing blend of the ancient and modern. Thailand's tourism-driven economy has fostered a strong demand for English, making it a popular destination for English teachers.

Teaching Opportunities

Teaching opportunities in Thailand are diverse and spread across its vast landscapes. language schools, which are predominantly found in major cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket, cater to Thais of all ages. These schools typically have positions available year-round. Most of them require potential teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree, while some might also ask for a TEFL/TESOL certificate. For those who prefer a more routine schedule, public schools are an ideal choice. They operate on a traditional Monday-Friday schedule and give teachers an authentic opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture. This comes with the added advantage of longer holidays.

Benefits And Compensation

The benefits and compensation for teaching English in Thailand is quite competitive. Monthly salaries for English teachers typically range from $700 - $1,500. Many institutions, understanding the complexities of international transitions, offer visa assistance and help with work permits. Furthermore, some contracts are lucrative, coming with added perks like end-of-term bonuses and health insurance.

Living in Thailand

Living in Thailand is an experience in itself. The cost of living is relatively low, which means teachers can enjoy a comfortable life where they can dine out regularly and indulge in travel. Thailand's rich cultural tapestry is evident in its vibrant festivals, majestic temples, and deep-rooted traditions. While Buddhism and respect for elders play a pivotal role in daily life, there's much more to explore. Although Thai is the official language, English is widely understood, especially in tourist areas and major cities. That said, a basic grasp of Thai can prove invaluable, especially in rural areas, ensuring a more profound cultural immersion. The Thai lifestyle offers something for everyone - be it the bustling streets of Bangkok, the tranquil beaches of its islands, or the scenic beauty of the northern mountains. The night markets, pristine beaches, and ancient temples ensure that residents always have something intriguing at their doorstep.


However, like any other destination, teaching in Thailand comes with its set of challenges. The country's hot and humid climate can be a bit of a shock to newcomers. In the classroom, understanding and navigating the nuances of Thai culture is essential. Concepts like "saving face" hold paramount importance and demand sensitivity. Lastly, while Thailand is famous for its scenic beauty, urban areas like Bangkok can test one's patience with their notorious traffic.

Vietnam: A Mosaic of History and Modernity

From its sweeping coastlines to its bustling cities, Vietnam offers a juxtaposition of old-world charm and rapid modernization. A country with a deep history, resilient spirit, and a burgeoning economy, Vietnam has, in recent years, seen a surge in the demand for English, particularly with its younger population eager to connect globally.

Teaching Opportunities

In Vietnam, the landscape of teaching English is as diverse as its topography. Cities like Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, and Hanoi are hubs for English language centres. Catering primarily to children and teenagers, these centres usually operate in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate school-going students. Public schools also offer an avenue for teaching, providing opportunities across various age groups from primary to high school, and they operate during regular school hours. For those with specialised qualifications, international schools present an elite teaching environment, primarily serving the expatriate populations. Further supplementing the teaching ecosystem is the flourishing market for private tutoring. As the demand for English skyrockets, especially in urban locales, private lessons have become a sought-after option.

Benefits And Compensation

The benefits and compensation for teaching English in Vietnam are quite enticing. English teachers can expect their monthly salaries to range anywhere between $1,200 to $2,500. Additional perks such as health insurance, and contract completion bonuses are not uncommon. Moreover, to make the bureaucratic aspect smoother, many institutions provide assistance with the work permit and visa processes.

Living in Vietnam

Living in Vietnam is an experience that combines affordability with cultural richness. The cost of living is notably on the lower side, making daily luxuries accessible. The country's culinary scene, particularly the street food, is a testament to taste and affordability. Local markets further present opportunities to dive into a world of bargains and traditional artefacts. Delving into the culture, Vietnam stands as a testament to time, reflecting tales from ancient dynasties and more recent historical events. This rich past translates into a plethora of festivals, folk arts, and customs that are deeply embedded in daily Vietnamese life. While Vietnamese remains the primary spoken language, the increasing influence of English, especially in urban settings, is palpable. However, a foray into learning basic Vietnamese can be a delightful experience, making everyday interactions more meaningful. Speaking of experiences, the lifestyle in Vietnam is varied. The ancient allure of places like Hoi An, with its lantern-lit streets, contrasts vividly with the bustling modernity of Ho Chi Minh City. Natural wonders like Halong Bay offer serenity, while places like Da Lat are inviting with their cool climate.


However, every rose comes with its thorns. Challenges in Vietnam can be unique and sometimes unexpected. The very first might be navigating through the seemingly chaotic traffic, dominated by a sea of motorbikes, which often leaves newcomers in awe. The teaching arena too, with its local style and expectations, can demand a higher degree of patience and adaptability from educators. Additionally, the Weather might pose adjustments, as Vietnam experiences a diverse climatic range - from distinct seasons in the north to a more tropical vibe in the south.

Cambodia: Echoes of Ancient Empires in a Modern Age

Cambodia, a land marked by its ancient temples, tragic history, and resilient spirit, is undergoing a period of renewal and growth. As the country rebuilds and looks to the future, the value of English education has come into sharp focus. Cambodia, with its captivating heritage and budding opportunities, offers a unique setting for English educators.

Teaching Opportunities

Teaching English in Cambodia presents a unique blend of professional opportunities set against a backdrop of rich cultural heritage. In the urban centres of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, private language schools are prevalent, serving a diverse set of learners ranging from young children to adults. For those looking to merge teaching with social service, the country offers numerous avenues through NGOs and volunteer positions. Owing to Cambodia's recent tumultuous history and ongoing development efforts, these organisations often operate in rural or underserved regions, providing education where it's most needed. Public schools, while available, might not be as lucrative as their private counterparts in terms of compensation. However, they provide a genuine immersion into the Cambodian educational system. Additionally, the rising emphasis on English proficiency in urban locales has given rise to a burgeoning market for private tutoring, as families are increasingly keen on equipping their children with a robust command of the English language.

Benefits And Compensation

The benefits and compensation for teaching English in Cambodia are quite appealing, particularly when compared with the cost of living. English educators can anticipate salaries that range between $800 to $1,500 monthly, with the final figure often contingent on one's qualifications and the chosen place of work. Teachers affiliated with well-established schools might also find themselves privy to perks like contract completion bonuses and holiday pay. And, to navigate the bureaucratic aspects, many employers step in to assist with the work visa procedures.

Living in Cambodia

Life in Cambodia is an eclectic mix of history, culture, and modernity. The country, in terms of cost of living, stands as one of the most budget-friendly nations in Southeast Asia. This affordability ensures that educators can lead a comfortable lifestyle, frequently in areas that are a stone's throw away from significant cultural and historical landmarks. Speaking of culture, Cambodia is a treasure trove. With monumental sites like Angkor Wat, the country offers a deep dive into a millennia-old civilization. The local festivals, traditional dances, and customs are a living testament to this legacy. While Khmer reigns supreme as the official language, the growth of tourism has pushed English to the forefront, especially in popular destinations. Nevertheless, a smattering of Khmer can go a long way in building rapport with the locals. The Cambodian lifestyle caters to a wide spectrum of preferences. Be it the architectural splendours of Siem Reap, the bustling streets of Phnom Penh, or the tranquil shores of Sihanoukville, there's something for everyone.


However, living and teaching in Cambodia come with its own set of challenges. The nation's turbulent past, especially the dark days of the Khmer Rouge, casts a long shadow. As such, educators need to tread with empathy and sensitivity, especially when broaching certain subjects. Furthermore, while Cambodia has made significant strides, its infrastructure, especially outside the main cities, may lag behind some of its Southeast Asian neighbours. Lastly, newcomers might find the tropical climate, characterised by its heat and humidity, a tad challenging, at least initially.

Indonesia: A Kaleidoscope of Islands with Bali at its Heart

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is a medley of over 17,000 islands, each boasting its unique character, culture, and landscape. From the bustling streets of Jakarta to the terraced rice paddies of Bali, Indonesia offers a vast and varied canvas for English educators. As the country strides forward in the global arena, the significance of English proficiency grows, making Indonesia a hotspot for teaching opportunities.

Teaching Opportunities

Indonesia, an archipelago of over 17,000 islands, offers a vibrant landscape for English educators. Urban centres such as Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bandung are home to numerous language centres that cater to students spanning various age brackets. These centres typically operate during evenings and weekends, making them popular among students of all ages. On the more formal side of education, both public and private schools in urban regions have ushered English into their curriculum, providing ample opportunities for native English speakers. International Schools, which predominantly pepper Jakarta and the tourist haven of Bali, promise competitive compensation packages. However, they often come with a higher bar for entry in terms of qualifications. Additionally, the rising affluence in urban pockets has given birth to a burgeoning demand for private tutoring, as families vie to bolster their children's English prowess.

Benefits And Compensation

The benefits and compensation for teaching English in Indonesia can be quite good compared to the cost of living. English teachers can anticipate salaries hovering between $800 and $1,500 monthly. Factors such as qualifications, experience, and the specific location play a decisive role in determining the exact figure. Contracts might also come replete with perks like health insurance and bonuses upon completion. To streamline the transition, assistance with work visas and permits is a staple among established and reputable teaching institutions.

Living in Indonesia

Living in Indonesia is akin to stepping into a living mosaic of cultures, traditions, and natural wonders. From a financial perspective, the cost of living in Indonesia is generally leaning towards the affordable side. However, certain regions like the heart of Jakarta or the tourist magnets in Bali can command higher living costs. Delving into the cultural aspect, Indonesia, with its medley of ethnic groups, presents a vibrant tapestry woven with traditions, dances, and festivals. Central to Indonesian ethos is the concept of "gotong royong" or communal cooperation. While Bahasa Indonesia serves as the lingua franca, English finds its voice, especially in commercial hubs and tourist meccas like Bali. Still, dipping one's toes into conversational Bahasa can significantly elevate the overall experience in the country. In terms of Lifestyle, Indonesia is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be unlocked. Be it the frenetic pace of urban centres, the surfing allure of Bali's beaches, the underwater marvels of Raja Ampat, or the thrill of scaling Javanese volcanoes, Indonesia is an adventurer's paradise.


Yet, challenges are inherent to any overseas endeavour. The sheer size and diversity of Indonesia might be a tad overwhelming for newcomers, especially given its myriad regional nuances. Urban regions, in their relentless bustle, are often plagued by traffic congestion. Furthermore, geographically, Indonesia's placement on the Pacific Ring of Fire makes it susceptible to natural phenomena like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, demanding a degree of preparedness.

Myanmar: A Land of Untapped Potential

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a nation of rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and a growing thirst for English language proficiency. With a history that dates back thousands of years, Myanmar is in the midst of transformation, making it an intriguing destination for English teachers looking to make a meaningful impact.

Teaching Opportunities

Teaching English in Myanmar offers a range of opportunities. The demand for English is rising, driven by factors such as globalisation, tourism, and the desire for better economic prospects. English language centres are a common avenue for teachers, providing classes for students of all ages. International schools, especially in major cities like Yangon and Mandalay, offer positions for experienced educators looking for a more structured teaching environment. Additionally, private tutoring is on the rise, providing teachers with flexibility and the chance to cater to specific student needs.

Benefits And Compensation

While the compensation for teaching English in Myanmar may not be as high as in some other Asian countries, the experience and cultural immersion make it rewarding. Salaries typically range from $700 to $1,200 per month. Additionally, some schools may assist with work permits and visa processes. It's essential to negotiate the terms of your contract to ensure it aligns with your expectations.

Living in Myanmar

Living in Myanmar provides access to a pristine landscape that remains less developed compared to its neighbouring countries. The cost of living is notably budget-friendly, ensuring affordability for expatriates. Myanmar's culinary scene offers a delightful adventure for food enthusiasts, featuring a medley of flavours influenced by its neighbouring nations. Whether you explore the bustling streets of Yangon or find serenity amid the temples of Bagan, Myanmar's cultural tapestry is both diverse and captivating. While Burmese serves as the official language, English is increasingly prevalent in urban areas, facilitating communication for foreigners.


Teaching in Myanmar can come with its set of challenges. The education system is evolving, and resources can be limited in some areas. Infrastructure and technology may not be as advanced as in other countries. Adapting to the local teaching style and cultural norms may require patience and flexibility. Additionally, the political situation in Myanmar can be unpredictable, so it's essential to stay informed and follow safety guidelines.

Moving Towards Teaching English In Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia, with its mosaic of cultures, landscapes, and histories, offers unparalleled opportunities for English teachers. Whether you're drawn to the modernity of bustling cities, the serenity of remote villages, or the allure of sandy beaches, there's a place for you here. Not only does teaching in this region offer a chance to earn a decent living, but it also provides a ticket to immerse oneself in a world of new experiences, flavors, and friendships. As the world becomes more interconnected, the role of English as a bridge to foster communication and understanding becomes even more crucial.

By choosing to teach English in Southeast Asia, you're not just selecting a job or a destination; you're embarking on a journey of growth, discovery, and profound impact.