How to prepare for your first overseas teaching job

Check the immigration rules
Research the immigration rules when applying to work in a different country as they vary. In Qatar, for example, dependents and spouses cannot accompany the person who has been hired until they obtain a resident’s permit which can take up to six months. Some countries do not allow you to leave the country without an exit permit.

Calculate the cost of living
Check the wage on offer is sufficient for you to afford the lifestyle you’ll need to be comfortable and happy before accepting a job. There are a number of cost of living calculators, such as Xpatulator, which are handy tools for getting an approximation. However you do your research drill down to the specific region and even town, if possible, as costs can vary dramatically between the big cities and more rural areas of a country.

Factor in other costs
On top of the cost of day-to-day living there are other costs to factor in, the most significant of which is likely to be travel. If you’re a long-haul flight away from home, this is a big expense and you need to know you can afford at least a trip home a year; it’s a good idea to have a return fare banked – just in case homesickness strikes.  Remember, if a partner and children are involved then these costs will rise incrementally.

Check medical provision 
Good health is vital to your happiness so research and understand what medical provision is available in the country you’re looking to relocate to. Some countries are better than others and take out private health if provision isn’t good, and if it is, ensure you’re making adequate contributions to the systems in order to be eligible. Most good international schools offer their staff private health insurance as part of their package.

Carry $100 dollar bill in your passport
If you’re travelling to places where it’s well known officials expect a cut, a $100 bill can help you through customs and red tape. If asked what the note is for, never admit it’s a bribe – you may end up in the clink. Instead say it’s there in case you had to pay extra to get your documentation sorted out or needed cash in the airport to sort out transport.

Use social networks
The TES Teaching Overseas forum is a great place to meet other teachers already in your destination city and other networks will connect you with locals ahead of your arrival. Colleagues or other business professionals in the area will be able to give you objective advice about good areas to live, local safety.

You may be able to organise other help - if you’re arriving on a night flight or early morning flight, it’s a good idea to be met at the airport when you’re feeling disorientated, but use an authenticated source, not someone you met on a social network.

Case the neighbourhood
If you’re arriving at short notice, book into a hotel for the first few days where you’ll feel safe and looked after. You’ll want to find your own accommodation soon - it’s safer to drive than walk around an unknown city, and ask work colleagues for recommendations, too. Look for somewhere on the border of student and middle-class land where it’s decent and where there are likely to be shorter term lets. If you know you are staying long, you may be able to negotiate a deal on a longer let.

Use a local SIM card
You’ll want to stay in touch with home and may need to use your mobile to do this. Taking your UK phone may seem the easy option but could prove incredibly expensive for each megabyte of data plus it may take a while to get data roaming sorted out. If you buy a local SIM card instead, it will work out much cheaper. But remember to unlock your phone in advance.

Get hold of a good map
Start learning where everything is. The Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet guidebooks are good places to start, but you will need to do a lot more homework than that. You certainly do not want to leave all of this until after you have arrived. Sites such as are incredibly helpful and you will find masses of information.

Have a health MOT
Visit the doctor and the dentist, and do your research about which jabs may be needed, well in advance.  Stock up on ‘western’ medications such as Immodium and Vicks Vapour Rub, which may be available but they will probably cost a lot more. Take sufficient supplies of painkillers as prescriptions may be different or weaker in other countries.

Where to go for more information

Read the NUT advice on teaching overseas pay and conditions of service

Check out what it’s really like to work in these countries on the TES Teaching Overseas forum.