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The Finances of Living and Teaching English in Bucaramanga, Colombia
Written by: Rebecca Sirull
Last Updated: July 6, 2020
One great benefit of teaching in Colombia is the low cost of living, and the strength of the dollar, euro, or pound in comparison with the local peso. If you come here with a bit of savings, it will go much further than it would back home and you’ll be able to take advantage of all the amazing travel opportunities. However, the downside of a weak currency is that local wages are fairly low. That’s why so many English teachers rely on online teaching for a large part of their income. You could easily earn all that you need to live comfortably here just working a few hours a day online, but I prefer the experience of teaching classes in person, so the combination of both works well for me. Here’s a breakdown of my monthly earnings and expenses.
- Teaching at an Institute: $1.000.000 COP ($300 USD)
- Teaching Online: $600 USD
- Private Tutoring: $200.000 COP ($70 USD)
Total Monthly Income: $3.200.000 COP ($1,000 USD)
Teaching at an Institute: $1.000.000 COP ($300 USD)
I work at a private language institute, teaching adult group classes, which are two hours long and meet three times a week. Most months I teach two classes, which means a total of 12 hours a week. However, courses at my school are very flexible and constantly changing based on students’ needs, so I can end up teaching anywhere from 8-20 hours depending on the week.
I’m on a prestacion de servicios contract, which means that I’m paid hourly, rather than a fixed monthly rate. I earn $21.000 COP/hour ($7 USD) and must pay my own social security ($100.000 COP/ $30 USD) at the end of each month. Because my schedule changes so frequently, my income can also vary quite a bit, but I usually leave with a net total between $900.000 and $1.200.000 COP ($300-400 USD).
When I began working at my school, I was on a contrato de nomina contract, which meant I earned a guaranteed monthly wage of $1.200.000 COP ($400 USD), but was obligated to accept any class that became available. Under that contract, I generally worked about 15-24 hours per week. While I earned slightly more overall, I was working far more hours, and in the end decided to switch to prestacion de servicios.
Colombian contracts can be a bit complicated, but most English teachers in Bucaramanga can expect to earn about $20.000 COP/hour ($6 USD).
Teaching Online: $600 USD
The company I work for online is called Tutoring and are based in Korea. They pay in USD through PayPal, offering $10-12.50/hour depending on the time of day and subsequent demand of students. Their platform is flexible, allowing students to call for a 20-minute lesson at any time with no need for preparation by teachers. Most students just want a chance to practice their conversation skills with native teachers, while others are looking for a grammar lesson or exam prep.
There is also an option to book lessons in advance, which pays out a small bonus for each completed class. I try to always open availability during peak times to receive the maximum hourly rate and end up teaching about two hours a day to receive $25/day (minus weekends).
Private Tutoring: $200.000 COP ($70 USD)
My rate for private students is $30.000 COP/hour ($10 USD) and the number of hours per week can vary greatly. I usually work with one or two students each month, for about two to four hours per week. However, private students can be quite unreliable, so I usually treat this as a bit of extra cash rather than a consistent income source.
- Rent: $875.000 COP ($300 USD)
- Travel: $400.000 COP ($130 USD)
- Other Expenses: $820.000 COP ($267 USD)
- Total Expenses: $2.095.000 COP ($700 USD)
Total Savings: $1.105.000 COP ($300 USD)
Rent: $875.000 COP ($300 USD)
I live with my boyfriend in a furnished one-bedroom apartment, walking distance from my school. The total rent is $1.600.000 COP/month ($530 USD) plus $150.000 COP ($50 USD) for internet, which we split evenly. All the other utilities are included, and our internet bill is a bit higher than most, since we both teach online and need a high speed.
Before moving to our current place, we lived in a studio apartment where we paid $1.300.000 COP ($430), everything included. It may be difficult to afford your own place as a solo traveler, and it’s not common for young people to live in shared apartments, as most live with their families. The best bet for someone coming to Bucaramanga alone is to rent a room from a family home, which you can get for around $400.000 COP ($130 USD).
Travel: $400.000 COP ($130 USD)
We try to go on at least one fun weekend trip per month to explore other regions of the country and the areas near Bucaramanga. It’s definitely possible to go on a trip for less than this amount, but this is a generous estimate on how much I would spend including buses, a hostel, food, and activities/tours.
Other Expenses: $820.000 COP ($267 USD)
My grocery bill and meals out usually end up around $500.000 COP ($160 USD) and pay-as-you-go phone bill is $20.000 COP ($7 USD). I don’t pay for much transportation since my apartment is located fairly centrally and I can walk almost everywhere I need to go. Other assorted expenses total up to about $300.000 COP ($100 USD). I can use my salary from my institute to pay for just about all my daily costs of living while my online income is divided between rent and savings.
A native of Boston & a graduate of Northeastern University, International TEFL Academy alumna, Rebecca Sirull, has taught English abroad in both Peru and Colombia. She also has extensive experience teaching English online. As an ITA Alumni Ambassador, Rebecca has published numerous articles to share her experiences and insights on teaching English abroad with other ITA students looking to expand their horizons.
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