Preparing to Travel
The information on this page touches on the the following subject matter...

employment contract agreementSigning a Contract - Take your time

Possibly the most important thing to do before you leave is to sign a work contract. And before doing this, it is important to read it very carefully. It is a good idea to research the general work standards of the country you are going and have someone else read the contract, too. This "sample contract" is available simply as a guideline to give you some ideas of what companies and schools expect from the teachers they employ. After glancing through or printing the contract you will be able to consider the employer's requirements and how their requirements will meet with yours.

Be mindful of the following...

• Who is responsible for accommodation.
• Holiday conditions (length, paid/unpaid)
• Payment of airfare
• Being asked to do split shifts
• Preparation time (unpaid)
• Role in extracurricular activities
• Travel to and from work
• Sick days
• Health facilities/insurance
• Overtime (paid/unpaid)
• Airport pick-up when you arrive

Be friendly and polite

It is important to remember that while you are travelling, you will be a guest in the country and therefore you will be expected to accept things to be different back home. If something in the contract doesn’t seem correct, ask questions about it. If you need something changed, negotiate. However, don’t be demanding, as there are a lot of teachers willing to take the job in your place.

employment contractsYour Passport and Visa

Living and working in a foreign country requires you obtain a passport and visa. If you have not already done so, begin this process as quickly as possible as it can take some time. When discussing your availability, don’t forget to factor in the length of time this process can take.


In order to travel overseas, you need a passport. This is internationally recognized documentation that verifies your identity, citizenship, and confirms your travel status.You can usually get a passport application from your local post office, but it may also be possible to download one from the internet. To lodge an application you need the application form, passport photos, and other documentation. For your exact requirements, check the application form itself. Once an application has been lodged it can take 4-6 weeks to be processed and the passport sent out.


In order to work in most countries, a teacher must have a valid visa. A visa is documentation, usually attached to your passport, which verifies your legal status in a country. In the majority of cases, a traveller will apply for a visa from the consulate or embassy of the country they wish to visit, within their own country. To obtain a work visa, travellers usually have to have signed a work contract before applying. While some teachers will travel to a country without a work visa but a tourist visa, and then attempt to find a job, this is not a recommended method of finding work. It is important to understand the definition of the type of visa you need. The process for obtaining a visa is different, depending on the country and the type of visa you want to get.

Work Visa

To apply for a work visa, contact the embassy in your country of the country you wish to visit. Generally, you will need a copy of your work contract, a letter from your potential employer confirming your employment, a copy of flight itinerary, photocopies of your qualifications (degree certificate and transcripts), your passport, birth certificate and some other documentation. There is always an application fee. Once you have lodged a visa application, it can take up to 6 weeks to process. The laws regarding each country’s visa restrictions are as unique as the country itself. Feel free to visit our Country Information pages to see information on specific countries.

Working Holiday Visa (WHV)

It is rare for an EFL teacher to receive a working holiday visa. These visas allow young people to work and travel in foreign countries, but not usually in a professional category or fulltime work. There are restrictions on age and duration, and cannot typically be renewed.

Spousal Visa

A spousal visa is sometimes issued to someone who is not themselves, but married to someone from the destination country. This visa allows such a person to live and work in the country with their family. People who apply for a spousal visa usually also have to apply for a second visa in order to work in the country. Spousal visas are often very difficult to apply for, with very strict restrictions and large amounts of documentation.

Student or Tourist Visa

Tourist visas are probably the most widely distributed visas. They are issued for the purposes of short term visits, such as holidays. Student visas are usually only issued to students who are already enrolled in a school or taking part in an exchange program.

Working while travelling on a student visa or tourist visa is illegal in most instances and Teflen does not recommend you do this. If there are strict time constraints, your school may ask you to come early on a tourist visa and promise to organise a work visa later. Some teachers do this with no problems, however, doing this leaves you open to all sorts of legal issues. Tourist visas are very short, usually only about 90 days, so you may be asked to do ‘visa runs’ which require you to travel to another country while your visa re-application is approved. The reason why teachers do this is because it is sometimes very difficult and costly to obtain a work visa.

There are two major problems with doing this. If a teacher attempts to continue travelling back and forth between countries to obtain a new tourist visa too often, immigration officers may refuse entry to the country if they feel as though you will break the terms of your visa. Also, if a teacher is caught, they will be fined heavily and most likely deported and blacklisted from the country. As mentioned, working while travelling on a tourist visa is illegal and therefore Teflen advises against it.

We advise checking our Country profile page and contacting the nearest embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit. It shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find all of the information you need on the type of visa you should apply for.

Teachers ChecklistLegal Issues

If it is your first time travelling, you need to remember that every country has a different legal system. In a lot of cases, you must apply for a criminal record check, or police check before you obtain a working visa. It is important to consider the different legal status you will have living in a foreign country.

travel packing checklistAirline Tickets

In most cases, the cost of your return air ticket will be covered by your school. You will however need to purchase the ticket yourself, and the school will reimburse the cost later. In some cases, the date of your return may not be exactly correct, but this can usually be adjusted later for no fee by contacting the airline. These details depend on the country and school and should be mentioned in your work contract.


Medical Considerations

At Teflen, we are concerned with the safety of all of our students when they travel overseas. Please be aware that while travelling can be a wonderful experience, it is important to keep yourself protected with medical cover. Going to hospital in a foreign country will not be the same experience as it is in your country. Check your contract and ask your school if they provide any medical insurance.

Don’t forget to consider these factors:

• Your age
• The countries you plan to visit
• The kind of activities you plan on doing during your trip
• Any pre-existing health issues or medical problems you know of

Types of Vaccinations

• Rubella
• Polio (which still exists in parts of Africa and Asia)
• H1N1

• Cholera
Cholera is still present in countries in Central and South America, Asia and Africa. Be careful about foods that you eat and liquids you drink. Vaccines help, but common sense should be your greatest tool.

• Hepatitis A
Teflen recommends teachers travelling abroad get a Hepatitis A shot. Hepatitis is the most commonly spread disease among travellers. It is present in hot humid climates and is spread through food and liquid and on infected people’s hands. It can be prevented with a shot. One single shot can provide 6-12 months protection from Hepatitis, but a booster will probably protect you for life.

• Yellow Fever
Yellow fever can be found in Central America, Africa, South America and parts of the Caribbean islands. One vaccine can protect the recipient for up to 10 years, and you will probably be provided paperwork confirming your vaccination. The disease is spread through infection from mosquitoes.

Financial Reminders

Don’t forget to get your finances in order before you leave the country. If you have any debts (overdue bills, credit cards), be sure to clear them as they will not go away while you are. Close any bank accounts that will charge you fees and cancel any direct debit transactions. Talk to your bank and advise them you are going overseas. They may be able to provide help should you wish to send money home to your family. To avoid paying tax in two countries, speak to the tax department in your country and let them know how long you will be away.

Of course it is essential to understand the exchange rates between your country and the destination. Compare prices of necessities and figure out your general cost of living. Compare this with the pay on your contract. Also, it is a good idea to find out about tax and pension agreements in the country you will be travelling.



Get Prepared to Teach English Abroad: Travel Safety

In your own country it is easy to take safety for granted. If you know the local area well, then you know what is safe and what is not, where to go and who to talk to. This sense of safety comes with time and experience. Therefore, it is natural to be nervous and cautious when travelling to a new place to live. Things are new and may seem threatening. By following a few simple guidelines and keeping your common sense about you, you may avoid large amounts of danger. It is important that you remain aware and alert, but not paranoid. Remember that travelling is generally a positive, exciting experience that hundreds of thousands of people do each year.

Taking Responsibility for your Personal Safety

The most important piece of advice is to learn as much as you can before you go. The best defence against danger is awareness. Talk to other expatriates and locals as they will have advice and experience and are generally quite helpful to new teachers. Get yourself a guide book and read about where you will be living. Before you go out, make sure you know where you are going.

On arrival at your destination country, you should have already organised who will pick you up from the airport. Your school may send someone to help you, or you may have to organise your own transport.

Make sure you get extra copies off all of your important documents (passport, visas, work contracts and travel itinerary). It is a good idea to take one with you and to keep one copy with someone you trust in your own country. Take extra passport photos as you will probably need these once you arrive. Complete the emergency information section at the back of your passport. Make sure a loved one knows where you are going to be all the time.

One of the biggest inconveniences for a traveller is having their credit cards stolen or losing them. Make sure you have all of the information you need to cancel your cards and have them replaced in an emergency. Write down the international phone numbers for your bank.

Whatever your nationality, you must obey the local laws of the country you are in, whether you agree with them or not. By choosing to be in a country, you are choosing to accept its legal system. Research the country where you are going and find out about local customs and accepted behaviour. Don’t be afraid to ask someone. Do not assume that laws in your country are exactly the same in the country you are living.

After landing, it is important to orientate yourself with the local area as quickly as possible. By being comfortable with your surroundings, you are presenting yourself as a less vulnerable target for criminals. Usually victims of petty crime are unaware of their surroundings, visibly nervous and easily identified as a new comer. Stay calm and alert to the area around you.

Before travelling, research the country’s current political situation. If you come across any demonstrations, protests, or political rallies, stay away. If you happen to find yourself in one of these situations, leave immediately. These situations are often unpredictable and the atmosphere can change very quickly. They are most likely none of your concern anyway.

While it may seem strange, it pays to keep careful watch around and behind you. Make sure you know how to exit the building you are in. Keep watch for suspicious people following you and watch where you are going. Avoid wearing flashy jewellery and clothes which make you stand out as a foreigner.

An excellent strategy for avoiding danger is staying in large groups. In most instances, the larger the group, the safer you will be. At night, stay in groups of four or five. Local friends and people who can speak the local language are very beneficial to travel with, as they can provide more help in circumstances where you may need to negotiate. They can also advise you which places are safe, and which ones to avoid.

Unfortunately, women are often the targets of petty theft, such as bag or jewellery snatchings. Make sure your purse or handbag is always closed and close. Try to avoid carrying large amounts of money and pulling it out in public. Make sure bags straps are not too flimsy and keep gold necklaces hidden from view.

It is important to only carry what you need when you go out. Take some emergency money or an emergency credit card, but leave anything that you can’t afford to lose at home.

Avoid the following situations if possible:

• Hitchhiking
• Being alone at night
• Being in an isolated area
• Sleeping in an unlocked room or public place
• Being heavily intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
• Riding bikes in the city, on crowded streets, or at night
• Taking taxis ( in some countries ) without some local knowledge
• Being alone on trains ( if possible, move to a carriage with other passengers )
• Leaving your bags or belongings unattended ( similarly, never agree to carry or look after packages or suitcases for any stranger )

Serious Emergencies

Overall, serious emergencies are really very rare. A traveller may misplace their passport or flight ticket, or perhaps their bags or wallet is stolen. None of these situations can be counted as a serious emergency. Rather, these are annoyances. Serious emergencies are situations which threaten the immediate safety or heath of a person.

The first thing you should do when you arrive at your destination is to set up a direct line of contact with your friends and family back home. If you can, purchase a sim card or a new mobile phone, or an international calling card if you need one. In the case of an emergency it is important that you can contact people in your home country. It is also important for your mental health that you have regular contact with familiar people. Make sure they can contact you easily as well. This is important in the even that there is a family emergency. Usually people just need to hear a friendly voice to be assured that everything is ok.

Time zone differences can make it hard to keep in regular contact with people back home. Try to develop a regular pattern of contact. It’s important that at least one person can easily know where you are, and how you at any given time.

Arriving In Your Destination Country

Once you have prepared, packed and flown to your destination country, you are stepping into a whole new way of life. This can be totally exhilarating and a potentially overwhelming experience. You must be prepared for new customs, a new physical environment and a new culture. In the first few weeks in this environment you are most vulnerable and there are things you can do to protect yourself.

The first thing is leaving the airport. Make sure you have organised transport from the airport to your city. Sometimes you will get picked up by a school representative, sometimes you will have to organise your own transport. Sometimes you may go to your new accommodation, but in other cases you will go directly to the school.

You should be equipped with a reliable phrasebook. Remember that once you are outside the airport, most people won’t speak English. Having a rudimentary understanding of some key expressions will go a long way.

Your new residence

Below are outlined a few tips to help you get settled into your new residence. These are important as they allow a certain peace of mind and add to your personal security.

Learn the quickest way to and from work. Familiarize yourself with the public transport system and/or taxi system. And applying for a local driver’s license can also be a good idea in some cases.

Ask someone to point out the local landmarks, such as different shops, restaurants and doctor’s offices. Find the easiest way to get everyday necessities.

Identify local financial services, such as banks and ATMs. Be aware that in some countries, ATMs do not operate 24 hours a day.

Organise your utilities, such as gas, power and phone/internet as quickly as possible. These will connect you with loved ones and help you feel comfortable in your new home.

You will double the reward of your experience if you go there with the attitude of learning as well as teaching. Put in an effort to learn the local language and take part in local festivals. This will change the journey from a job to a life experience.


teacher employment contractTeaching Your First Class

While you will no doubt teach hundreds of classes over your career as an English teacher, it is always a surreal experience when you walk into your first. Even the most confident person feels anxious before meeting their very first group of students. Completing a Teflen course is the first step to readying yourself for this experience.

By completing all 8 modules of the Master Course, you study everything essential to teach EFL. You will be aware of current teaching methods and their applications, classroom management techniques and have a wide scope of grammar. There are countless ways to apply the course to the class.

In some cases, schools hire teachers with a slight overlap in their contracts. This allows for the new teacher to meet the old teacher and see how they worked and get a feel for workplace dynamics. This is an ideal situation, and unfortunately not often the case. It is a good idea to ask to observe some classes before teaching anyway.

Be prepared for your first few days of classes. Don’t worry too much about delivering a lot of language heavy lessons straight away. Get to know your students, your fellow teachers, and people about the school. Be polite, friendly and let the people get to know you.

Go with the flow. If you are unaware of what to do, ask a colleague. Follow school procedures, and curriculum. Ask the school to be specific about what your responsibilities are. Find out as much as you can about the students and how the school interacts with younger students and their parents. Ask if you have any more responsibilities outside of work hours.

Be interested and mindful. Put in an effort to learn the names of the school, your workmates and your students quickly. Also learn some useful classroom expressions in the students’ native languages.

Plan everything. Plan your lessons and plan your overall day. Set your alarm with plenty of time. Think about travelling distance and time. Being punctual is important. Be professional.


Dealing with Culture Shock

Everyone experiences culture shock when they travel to another country. How badly it affects people and for how long varies greatly. It occurs when one is exposed to a part of a foreign culture that they cannot understand and therefore have a negative emotional reaction to it. It can cause huge problems for some teachers who find it overwhelming. There are several stages to culture shock that an individual may experience. These are:

Stages of Culture Shock

The Honeymoon Stage

During the initial exposure to the culture, the traveller does not find too many problems with their new surroundings. They find it amusing, interesting and exciting. The feeling is similar to a holiday.

The Hostility Stage

After the initial phase, a teacher starts to find negative aspects to the culture. Differences aren’t seen as simply differences, but as flaws in the new culture. They start to miss their way of life back home. It is a natural feeling, and can cause someone to seem more cynical or sarcastic than usual.

The Depression Stage

During this stage, negative emotions reach a peak and it is possible to get depressed. Teachers also usually experience boredom, loneliness or isolation. You may not feel like going to work or going out with your friends. Luckily, this stage shouldn’t last too long.

The Acceptance Stage

After a little while, you will get past the depression stage and start to see both sides of the culture. Day to day life will become easier and you will find it easier to interact and express yourself. Teachers become more comfortable with their surroundings and have a level of wisdom about the environment.

Overcoming Culture Shock

In conclusion, all teachers will experience culture shock, but this experience varies widely among them. The extent to which a teacher experiences the negative effects of culture shock is usually dictated by their attitude.

Tips for fighting the negative aspects of culture shock

Stay grounded by keeping in regular contact with loved ones at home.
Express your emotions clearly and show your feelings. When differences in language hold back communication, people won’t be able to help you deal with culture shock. Try not to be repulsed by new experiences. Instead, question why you feel this way and look for a reasonable explanation.
Continually remind yourself that you are experiencing something special. Never pass up an opportunity to try something new. Learning isn’t easy, but will happen quickly.
Observe other teachers’ classes if possible.
Establish a day to day routine and a week to week routine. Meet friends and call your family. This will make the transition smoother.
Be open to the new culture. Learn as much as you can about the people, their language and customs.
Decorate your home the way you want it to be. Make it a comfortable and safe place to relax.
Take up a sport or hobby. It will keep your mind active and will help you stay fit.


TEFL travel tips, packing checklist and employment contracts.Preparing to travel to teach English abroad? Before packing your suitcase, review Teflen advice on Tefl employment contracts and travel checklist.

Just Go...