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Teaching English Overseas: A Checklist of What To Do Before

Teaching English Overseas

25 Things to Do Before Teaching English Overseas

One of my favorite travel quotes is: “The world is like a book. And those who don’t travel read only a page of it.”

But if you have your heart set on teaching overseas and becoming a TEFL teacher, are you all ready for the road ahead?

While you can’t prepare for it all, at least you can plan for what you can control. So let’s dive right into this guide for teaching English overseas.


  • 1. Passport – If you have a passport that’s expiring during your time overseas, renew it before you enter the country. Any time you apply for a passport for the first time, it always takes extra time. Be aware of its physical condition and if there is enough room for additional stamps.
  • 2. Work Visa – Most countries only allow you to work there if you have a work visa. They usually come in the form of a stamp on a passport with a specific duration of permitted work. Governments issue various types of visas such as for tourism, residency, and education purposes.
  • 3. University Degree – Some English language schools will ask for your official University degree and transcripts as part of the job application. Your employer may ask you to notarize your documents. Not all countries require a university to teach English. Do you need a degree to teach English abroad?
  • 4. Police Check – Employers don’t always ask for police checks. But if they do, make sure that it’s less than 6 months old. Unfortunately, getting it too early can make it invalid for employment overseas.
  • 5. TEFL Certificate – Whether it’s for the job application or visa requirements, a TEFL certificate can set you apart from the competition. Every TEFL certificate should be accredited with a unique identifier.

Travel Health

  • 6. Vaccinations – Talk to your doctor well in advance because vaccinations can take several months. Specifically, for those who need double doses, you’ll need to be well-prepared. Anti-malarial tablets are needed in areas at risk such as Sub-Saharan Africa. For more information on what you need and how and where to get it done, see your country’s travel immunizations advice (UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia)
  • 7. Travel Insurance – During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not easy to find travel coverage. But when the world returns to normal (which it will), we advise you to get travel insurance in case of any medical emergencies overseas. Do your best to read all the fine print and to know what’s covered or not.
  • 8. Medication – If you take any medication daily, get a 3-6 month dosage to sustain a look for enough time. Unfortunately, it won’t be easy if you can’t speak the language in your destination country. Be careful with medication that’s not permitted such as antidepressants, dietary supplements, and herbal and homeopathic products.
  • 9. First Aid Kit – Although not entirely necessary, a First Aid kit can come in handy for any cuts and bruises. They’re great for emergencies. But again, you’ll have to make sure everything is allowed in your destination country.
  • 10. Health Checks – Check with your doctor if you have a severe health condition or undergo regular treatment. This might prevent you from immigrating to another country. If you have a physical disability, the country may have accessibility issues to work in. Anyone with a mental disability should check their destination country if they have the necessary support before traveling and teaching overseas.


  • 11. Internet Banking – Notify your bank that you will be working and teaching English overseas to make sure they don’t block your credit card. You will also have to update any alerts that go to your phone to your new phone number or email address. Cancel any unnecessary direct banking payments that you no longer need.
  • 12. Credit Card – Depending on your destination country, get a credit card for purchases. Keep in mind that some cultures like Japan and South Korea are still largely cash-based. This means they might even pay you with a large stack of cash by envelope. Have enough money available in your bank account for at least a month of living abroad.
  • 13. Available Currency – It’s handy to have cash in hand when you travel and teach English overseas. Before you go, pick up some local currency as you won’t have access to a bank account. In case of any emergencies, try to save enough for a flight home.
  • 14. Money Transfers – When you want to transfer money back home, you will need your IBAN/SWIFT/BIC codes. Have these available in a safe place as you’ll likely get paid every month.

Residency and Ownership

  • 15. Renting – If you live in an apartment, you should set up all mail redirects to your new address or one of your trusted family members. This includes everything from financial, tax, and voting registration information. Cancel your TV subscription, internet, landline, and insurance. Make sure to inform your landlord with sufficient notice. Give a final tally of your electric, gas, and water readings. If you want to keep your furniture and appliances, find temporary storage or just sell/donate them.
  • 17. Homeowners – Most of what applies to renting, also applies to homeowners such as canceling services and redirecting mail. But it takes more responsibility to tie up the loose ends as a homeowner. For example, you will have to notify your home insurance company as you can get a discounted rate for not living in the residence. Consider hiring a company for property maintenance such as lawn cutting or snow removal. If you’re paying off your mortgage, talk to your bank if there are any available options. Or if you want to take all the hassle away, you can consider selling your home while teaching overseas.
  • 18. Vehicle – If you own a vehicle, you’ll have to find a place to safely store it for a long time. Lower the cost of your insurance because you’re no longer driving it. But you can also get coverage for theft or vandalism when you’re teaching away. If you plan on driving in your destination country, consider getting an International Driver’s License.
  • 19. Phone – We suggest buying a pay-as-you-go plan until you get a local SIM in your country. Roaming charges can add up so try to settle this with your mobile phone provider beforehand. But if you don’t want the hassle, you should cancel any mobile phone plans before teaching abroad.

Things To Bring

  • 20. Clothes – We suggest packing light on clothes because it’s almost always much cheaper to buy them there. The only exception is for oversized clothes, bras, underwear, or shoes which can always be hard to find in countries like Japan.
  • 21. Electronic Adapters – When you travel to another country, the outlets are a different size or have a different voltage. You’ll need to find an adapter so you can get all your electronics working wherever you decide to settle.
  • 22. Food – We always recommend filling your suitcase with comfort food because it’s harder to find Western food abroad. If there’s one food you know you can’t find abroad, then it’s your only chance to stock up on it.
  • 23. Sanitary Products – If you have a preferred brand that you are accustomed to, then you should pack as much as you need. It can be difficult finding items like toiletries, deodorants, and condoms when teaching overseas.
  • 24. Phrasebook and Guidebook – If you want to learn the language, a phrasebook can be your saving grace. In addition, guidebooks are great to help you get around and learn more about your destination.
  • 25. Pets – Pet owners have a difficult choice if they want to bring them along on the journey overseas or to find them a new home. If you plan to take your pet with you, find out if it is a pet-friendly country. Besides that, you have to check immunization records and whether or not pets are allowed to enter with you. A pet relocator is the easiest option as it takes out a lot of the trouble in bringing a pet. But if the option is available for you, try finding a temporary home where you can reacquaint with your pet on the return home.

Get a Referral From the English Teacher

You always want a referral before you accept a job. Talk to someone who has been in the position that you are applying for. Talk directly to them. No agencies, or middlemen.

Isn’t this trusting a complete stranger? Absolutely. But their advice is invaluable. And any advice is better than no advice. Speak to multiple teachers before accepting any offer to help you sleep better before your journey to China.

You can save yourself from a world of misery with a simple search online. Find tell-tale signs the school is reputable. One hour of research can save you from a year of headaches. Honestly, extreme shadiness is everywhere in teaching English abroad.

China has the worst reputation for it, but I personally witnessed it worst for teaching English in Korea. Large corporate schools and public schools are the safest, and schools with low entry requirements are the least safe.

Teaching English Overseas: What To Do Before

For any travel advisories regarding travel bans and restrictions, find the most up-to-date information on your government travel advisory website.

We’ve listed some of the countries from the Big 7 with some of the largest participants in teaching English overseas. Click below to find your government’s latest travel information.

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