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Top 10 Cities to Teach English in South America & Latin America

Are you interested in teaching English in South America & Latin America? Find out about the 10 best cities in South America to live as an English teacher.

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Latin and South America are attractive destinations for teaching English abroad for many reasons: rich culture and history, friendly people, beautiful landscapes, delicious cuisine, affordability, and exciting cities.

As you go through this list, you will realize that most of these places are the capital cities or the largest cities in their respective countries. That is not a coincidence. Not only does a larger population simply mean more people looking for an ESL instructor, but these cities are also the financial centers for their country or region. Many large companies put a high priority on their employees learning English in order to communicate with business partners all over the world.

For example, when I taught in Colombia, there were entire companies that had partial American or British ownership, and thus, they were providing English classes for their entire staff of 100+ people! That was enough work to keep a small English teaching company with 5-10 teachers busy. And that was just one company!

So what are the best cities to live in in Latin & South America as an English teacher? Let's find out together.

Where to Teach English in South America & Latin America?

There are many exciting and vibrant cities where you can teach English, including Buenos Aires, Bogota, Mexico City, and others, each offering a unique mix of culture, entertainment, and history.

The Best Places to Live in South America & Latin America as an English Teacher

Here are the top 10 cities where you can find international ESL jobs overseas in Latin America:

1. Bogota, Colombia

Voted the “Happiest Country on Earth” numerous times over, Colombia not only offer a huge demand for TEFL instructors, but also an incredibly warm and welcoming culture. The English market is booming in conjunction with the growth of trade and the popularity of English language media in Colombia. Past associations with drug-related crime and violence are beginning to subside making this a great country to both teach and explore.

Colombia is also a Latin American country where teachers have the opportunity to obtain a work visa as some schools will help with the process, and as mentioned above, some schools even are willing to hire in advance via Skype interviews. However, some schools are okay with their teachers working as freelancers on their tourist visas, and border-hopping every three months to renew their visas which provides a fair bit of freedom for the teacher.

Read More: Colombia TEFL Country Profile

teach english in bogota, colombia

2. Mexico City, Mexico

The country of Mexico has the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. It has an incredibly diverse and vibrant culture as well as a huge variety of landscapes not to mention its beautiful cities and historically rich villages. And, of course, some of the most delicious food on the planet! Mexico is within the top ten most visited countries in the world with over 20 million foreign tourists visiting every year.

Because Mexico is such a large country and is so close in proximity and business relations with the United States, there are many cities that offer English teaching opportunities. Unlike the majority of Latin America, Mexico offers the opportunity for ESL teachers to instruct a wide range of ages from children to university students to business professionals or adults. It is also common for employers in Mexico to help ESL teachers with the Temporary Residence Visa which enables foreigners to legally work in Mexico and it is one of only a handful of Latin American markets that will interview and hire before you arrive in the country.

Read More: Mexico TEFL Country Profile

3. Buenos Aires, Argentina

In addition to tango dancing in the street, delicious wine, and world-famous beef, Argentina also boasts one of the largest ESL markets in Latin America. This is especially true in the capital, Buenos Aires, where many international businesses, restaurants, tour guides, and hotels seek English-speaking employees to accommodate their international clients.

It is not typical for employers to hire teachers before arrival in the country or assist with work papers or a work visa. ESL teachers without Argentine citizenship can expect to work on their 90-day tourist visa and will need to renew it before the 90 days are over by visiting a neighboring country which isn’t too difficult with tons of ferries running the few-hour trip out of Buenos Aires to Uruguay daily.

Read More: Argentina TEFL Country Profile

teach english in santiago, chile

4. Santiago, Chile

Chile has one of the most unique and interesting topographies and geographical configurations in the world. 80% of Chile is covered by mountains, and it runs from deserts in the north to the glaciers of Patagonia in the south. The capital of Santiago is a very modern city in what is considered South America’s most economically stable country. Santiago has lots to offer including a huge English teaching market.

The largest market for English is with business professionals or adult students in private language schools. This is also one of the few countries that will consider hiring in advance as well as will help you in securing a work visa.

Read More: Chile TEFL Country Profile

5. Montevideo, Uruguay

The capital of what is often called the “most peaceful country in South America” is full of students looking for ESL instruction. Over half of the country's entire population lives in Montevideo where the temperature stays pleasantly warm year-round. Because of its European history and ethnic makeup, Uruguayan culture has a very European feel. Uruguay also shares some cultural aspects such as art and music with surrounding Latin American countries, especially with its neighbors Argentina and Brazil.

Because of the high demand, like many other ESL teaching markets in South America, schools are pretty lenient on requirements for teachers, and it is a pretty straightforward process to get your Residence Permit (Cedula) in order to live and work legally. That said, much like in Santiago, Chile, Montevideo is one of the more expensive places to live on the continent so most teachers opt to work at more than one language academy (still much less than 40 hours a week), to make the necessary money to live a financially comfortable life.

Read More: Uruguay TEFL Country Profile


6. Guadalajara, Mexico

The second largest city in Mexico, Guadalajara lies near the West Coast in the state of Jalisco which touts its title as the Tequila capital of the world. There is even a town called Tequila here! Not to mention the gorgeous coastline just a few hours outside of the city which is where Puerto Vallarta and tons of lovely beach towns are nestled.

And as with other locations on this list, Guadalajara’s ESL market is robust thanks to its large population as well as its reputation as one of the business centers in Mexico. And as mentioned for Mexico City, the visa process is straightforward giving teachers the chance to work legally with no need to worry about border hopping or running out of time on a tourist visa.

Read More: Mexico TEFL Country Profile

teach english in san jose, costa rica

7. San Jose, Costa Rica

Costa Ricans were declared to be the happiest people in the world according to the New Economics Foundation in 2012. Ticos (as Costa Ricans call themselves) are the most content people overall, have the longest life expectancies, and leave a very small ecological footprint compared to many other countries. This makes complete sense for a country, a people, and a culture whose motto and way of life are described as a “Pura Vida” or Pure Life. They also are famous for producing delicious coffee and a spicy Caribbean-infused cuisine full of fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, and a variety of meats.

Because of Costa Rica’s booming tourism industry, the demand for English teachers is huge as the local tour operators need to be able to communicate with their clients. Thus, most of the students are business professionals and the schedules can be quite flexible. Also, this is one of the easier spots to teach on a tourist visa because you can get a “Tribuacion” making you legal to work, though you still need to make a border run to re-up your tourist visa every 90 days. They also will consider hiring in advance.

Read More: Costa Rica TEFL Country Profile


8. Medellin, Colombia

Quite possibly the most beautiful and well-developed big city in Latin America, Medellin touts a fully developed public transit system that includes trains and even a cable car that climbs up into the neighborhoods that are sprawled along the picturesque mountainside. It is known as the place of eternal spring, and while all Colombians are known for being friendly, these “Paisas” are famous for their kindness. Also, the state that Medellin sits in is the largest producer of coffee in the country and hosts tons of fun festivals including the famous “Festival of Flowers”!

And while Bogota has way more people than Medellin, this city is still has a very strong market for English teachers. It has a robust expat community as well as a strong market for private tutoring.

Read More: Colombia TEFL Country Profile

teach english in quito, ecuador

9. Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador has an incredibly vibrant indigenous and colonial culture creating a unique and dynamic country. Add in the stunning Andes mountains and the exciting beach towns, and you have quite an amazing place to live and work. Quito lies in the heart of the Andes mountains, but since Ecuador is the second smallest country in South America, one can easily use it as a home base and explore the country’s other wonders, including the famous Galapagos Islands, without too much trouble.

Quito is the capital city and thus the business hub of Ecuador. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, these are the places where the demand for English teachers is highest. There are plenty of language academies as well as a very strong market for private lessons. Plus, this is one of only a few countries in Latin America that will consider hiring in advance as well as providing work visas for teachers.

Read More: Ecuador TEFL Country Profile

10. Sao Paolo, Brazil

Sao Paolo is one of the largest cities in the world and one of 13 cities in Brazil with a population of over 1 million. Brazil is famous for its size, rainforests, and tropical beaches. The warmth of Brazilians certainly parallels these other natural wonders of the country. Always ready with a BBQ or hang out, Brazilians are simply wonderful!

And with the urbanization and globalization of Sao Paolo, as well as the big tourist draw, the demand for English teachers is always growing. ESL teachers seeking employment should arrive in Brazil sometime either in February or March after the grandiose celebration of Carnival (unless you want to partake in the festival) as many schools are closed during this time. A second hiring period in Brazil occurs in late summer during July and August. It is not typical for employers to hire teachers before arrival in the country or assist with work papers or a work visa. Though the visa situation is a bit trickier as work visas are very hard to come by, and thus many teachers simply have to work under the table on a 90-day tourist visa with the possibility to extend the visa 90 more days.

Read More: Brazil TEFL Country Profile


Teach English in South America & Latin America: Going Further

This market is unique because most jobs do not require a four-year degree or native English-speaking teachers. This is typically considered a breakeven market, meaning you will earn enough to live a good life and explore around the country, but you will not be saving much money. The work week is usually 20-25 hours which gives the teachers plenty of time to enjoy the culture and explore. If you do need to make some extra coin to put in the savings account or pay some student loans, supplementing your income by teaching a few online classes online is a great option.

Finally, this is mostly a market that will only interview face-to-face, meaning you will have to go to the country and visit schools in person in order to get hired. I know this is super daunting! Not to worry though. Hundreds, even thousands of teachers do this every year and find work. That is how I found my job in Colombia. So if you are brave enough to hop a one-way flight to Latin America without a job and can convince your family that you know what you are doing, this market has so much to offer! Know that We wouldn’t suggest it as an option if we weren’t sure you would be able to get a job. There even are a few countries that you can consider in order to avoid the face-to-face hiring situation. Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and a few other countries will sometimes consider interviewing/hiring you before you leave home.

The peak hiring seasons are important so when planning your adventure to go teach in Latin America, so you will want to plan to be down there either in February/March or July/August. 

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