A check-list and packing list of what to bring when you teach English abroad
You always need a passport to travel abroad. If you do not have one, apply for one right now. If you have one, make sure that it will be valid for at least six months on the day you plan to leave to teach English abroad. If your passport does not have enough life left on it, there is a good chance that you will not be allowed to travel. If your passport expires while you are away from teaching English abroad, you will need to renew it in your home country’s nearest consulate in the country where you are teaching English abroad. It is always a good idea to find out where your home country’s consulate is before you travel. Here is a good source of the consulate and embassy information.
When you know the country where you will teach English abroad or attend a TEFL course abroad, contact the nearest consulate for your chosen country to find out what visas are required for entry; if you have a passport from one of these countries, it is not likely that you will need to get a visa. However, you should always check first.
- United Kingdom: allows access to 174 countries without having to get an entry visa
- USA: allows access to 174 countries without having to get an entry visa
- Canada: provides access to 173 countries without having to get an entry visa
- Ireland: provides access to 171 countries without having to get an entry visa
- New Zealand: provides access to 170 countries without having to get an entry visa
- Australia: provides access to 168 countries without having to get an entry visa
It is always advisable to buy either a round trip ticket or a one-way ticket with a forwarding ticket out of the country. The reason is that if you try to enter a country as a tourist and the border control desk asks to see your return or forwarding ticket; you will be forced to buy one on the spot if you do not have one. This will be very expensive because you will need to pay the total airline desk price. The chances of this happening are small but not impossible. If you decide to take a chance with a one-way ticket, that is your choice.
You may need to present a copy of your university or college qualifications. If you have one (or more), bring photocopies. If you already have a TEFL certificate, bring it with you.
Laptops and cell phone
These days, life revolves around internet mobility and communication. It is an excellent idea to bring your laptop or tablet. If you have a cell phone that uses a SIM, get it. You will find that it is cheaper to buy a pay-as-you-go card for your phone than it is to buy a new one. You will have to pay, and prices vary based on the type of phone you have. Unless your phone is ancient (pre-triband), it will work in most countries. If your phone is still tied to a telecom company, most countries have places that will unlock or jailbreak your phone. Make sure you LoJack (register with a GPS tracking company) your laptop, tablet and cell phone before travelling. This is essential if you try to locate one of these items if they are stolen. A piece of standard security advice is to password protect these items.
Health and travel insurance
It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you take out personal accident and health insurance. Refer to our Teach English abroad health insurance advice article for more details about this. You must check out the country where you want to teach English abroad and make sure that you get any vaccinations that may be required.
You will be bringing chargers, possibly a hair-dryer, an electric toothbrush and other electrical gadgets you want to get. Different countries operate on different voltages and have different types of electrical sockets. Ensure that you bring an electrical converter/adapter to provide the correct voltage to your gadgets and plug it into the wall socket.
Pre-digital bits and pieces
You may also find that running your life by our relatively new digital model will not work in the country where you will teach English abroad. Even in the digital world, we still do things manually. Bring scissors, a notebook, glue, pens and pencils, paper clips and a wall adhesive like Blu-tack. Do not forget to put your scissors and other sharp objects in your check-in baggage. It would help if you also considered bringing printed material like a dictionary, thesaurus, flashcards, photos that could illustrate points or provoke discussions, and any other material you think is relevant to teaching English.
Bring presentable clothes for teaching and job interviews. Business suits are required at some client sites. For your wardrobe, check the climate of the country where you will teach English abroad and pack accordingly.
If you are on prescription drugs, try to bring as ample a supply as possible. Also, check that you can get the prescription drug in the country where you will teach English abroad. If it is an underdeveloped or emerging country, do not assume that you will get the drug. Check with your doctor before you travel and find out how much it will cost. Please do not assume that it will be the same price as back home. Other medications and protection you may need are things like antacid, headache medication, Band-Aid, antiseptic, sun-block, insect repellent, water purification tablets, cotton swabs and anything else you think you may need.
Other useful items
An English to local language phrasebook and dictionary. A travel alarm clock. This is probably no longer a necessity as most cell phones have watched. Do not forget to bring towels and toiletries. We recommend you get a money belt.
Looking after your passport after you arrive
- NEVER give away your passport to anyone.
- ALWAYS give a copy if you are asked to show your passport.
- ALWAYS keep a copy of your passport ID page in your wallet or purse.
- ALWAYS keep your original passport hidden away, preferably in a safe.
We may sound paranoid, but if you lose your passport and do not have the other required documentation to prove who you are when you go to the embassy and ask for a replacement, you are in deep trouble.