If you have higher qualifications, such as a teaching license or a Master’s degree, you may be able to teach in a high school or a university. Private tutoring is also popular in Costa Rica, especially since there are so many adults and business professionals looking to improve their English.
Work Visa in advance / Tourist Visa and Tax Office registration
Cost of Living
Business Professionals, University Students
What Kind of Teaching Jobs Are There In Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is one of the most popular places in the world to teach English, not only due to a high demand for English teachers but because of relatively flexible requirements for teachers. For example, there are less strict age restrictions in the country than in many places, with candidates from 18 to their late 60s managing to successfully find teaching jobs in Costa Rica. This doesn’t mean that the requirements on qualifications are lax though, employers still expect candidates to have fluent English and a TEFL certificate – and occasionally a Bachelor’s degree too!
The most popular type of teaching work in Costa Rica is working in a private language centre. Unlike many TEFL destinations, these centres usually cater to adults rather than children, such as business professionals and university students. Another popular type of teaching work in Costa Rica is private tutoring – again, usually teaching adults rather than children.
Teaching at a private language centre in Costa Rica
Teaching English at a private language centre is by far the most popular type of TEFL work in Costa Rica. Most centres can be found in the country’s major cities, such as San José and Heredia. The majority of students are adults looking to improve their English language skills in order to progress in their industry or move abroad. Qualified TEFL teachers should find it relatively easy to find work at a private language centre year-round.
Finding a job
Most employers in Costa Rica prefer to offer jobs to candidates that they’ve met face-to-face. This means that the best way to find teaching work in Costa Rica tends to be on-the-ground. However, it is possible to secure teaching work before arriving in the country.
When to apply
Most private language centres advertise teaching jobs between October and December for a start date in January, or between January and May for a start date in June. However, you can usually find work year-round as the demand for teachers is high in Costa Rica.
Teaching hours & Class sizes
Most TEFL teachers in Costa Rica work 20-30 hours per week between a couple of private language centres. That means you’ll likely be offered a job with 10-20 hours of teaching per week and that you might need to search for another job to supplement your income.
Class sizes are quite small but teaching hours vary, especially since many of your classes will be working around other people’s work schedules.
Salary & Bonuses
The average salary for an EFL teacher in Costa Rica is $8-10 per hour or $600-1,000 per month. Salaries may vary depending on your experience and qualifications.
The amount of vacation days you receive depends on the institute you work for and the contract you are offered. However, a typical TEFL contract at a private language centre may include around 10 days of unpaid vacation.
It’s worth noting that if you work on a tourist visa, you’ll have to leave the country every 90 days for a minimum of 72 hours – this is known as a ‘border hop’. This time can be used to travel to nearby countries, and most employers make sure your teaching schedule fits around this so that you don’t have to use your vacation days.
- Relatively easy to find work with only a TEFL certificate year-round
- Potential to work legally without acquiring a work visa
- Opportunity to take on private students outside of your regular working hours
- Not easy to save money
- You may need to leave and re-enter the country every 90 days
Other types of teaching work in Costa Rica
Am I eligible to teach in Costa Rica?
The number one requirement to teach English in Costa Rica is a TEFL or CELTA certificate. And most EFL teachers find it relatively easy to find work with just one of these certificates. However, candidates with higher qualifications, such as a teaching license, Bachelor’s degree or Delta are preferred by employers.
How can I get a visa?
To teach English at many institutes in Costa Rica, you’ll need a work visa sponsored by an employer. So, your first port of call is to find a TEFL job, then your employer should help you acquire a temporary residence permit and work visa. The process to get a work visa in Costa Rica is notoriously long, taking 4-8 months for many applicants. With this in mind, most employers won’t consider sponsoring your work visa unless you plan to stay in Costa Rica long term.
If you’re fortunate enough to find a sponsor for your visa, you’ll need your original qualifications and identification to hand for the visa application. In most cases, you’ll need your passport, your birth certificate, TEFL certificate, and proof of your finances. You may also be required to have a health check and criminal record check. And you might need a couple more documents, depending on your circumstances. So, make sure to check the latest requirements on the Costa Rican government website before hopping on that plane!
It’s also common practice for TEFL teachers to work on 90-day tourist visa instead of a work visa. This requires you to leave the country every 90 days, usually popping over the border by bus to Panama or Nicaragua, and then entering Costa Rica again, no earlier than 72 hours later, with a new tourist visa. In theory, this is legal as long as you register with the Tributación (tax office) because teachers can legally ‘sell their professional services’ without a work visa. However, we strongly recommend getting advice on working on a tourist visa. As Costa Rican visa laws have changed in recent years, there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to working in the country legally. So, the best thing to do is check for the most recent updates on the government website or ask advice from teachers currently working in the country.
Keep in mind, some passport holders may also be able to apply for a working holiday visa.
Where can I teach in Costa Rica?
Most TEFL teachers in Costa Rica work in the Central Valley, a plateau in the centre of the country that is home to almost three quarters of the population. Unfortunately for beach lovers, there aren’t many TEFL jobs in Costa Rica on the coast. Popular cities to teach English include Cartago, Heredia and San José, which are all major cities with lots of private language centres and universities.
Cartago is 15 miles east of the country’s capital, San José. It’s known for the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels (a partly-destroyed 17th century church) and the Lankester Botanical Gardens, boasting almost 1,000 orchid species. It is also home to Costa Rica’s Institute of Technology, which has lots of students looking for extra English tutoring.
Heredia is an old, quaint city founded in 1705 and just six miles north of San José. It has more of a village atmosphere than Cartago or San José, and although it doesn’t have any particularly famous landmarks, it is known for great coffee and cafes as well as beautiful flowers. There are lots of students in need of English lessons too, as the National University of Costa Rica is based here.
Costa Rica’s capital San José may seem like a bit of a concrete jungle at first, but it also has some fantastic neighbourhoods full of personality, galleries and museums full of history, and great restaurants full of flavour! In fact, it is known at the country’s cultural capital. It also has the greatest need for teachers with plenty university students looking for private English tutoring. San Pedro is a particularly popular place to find work.
If you’re desperate to live by the water, you might be able to find teaching jobs in Manuel Antonio, a seaside village with a small but tremendous national park and tons of activities for nature lovers as well as adventurers. However, be warned, there are considerably more TEFL jobs in Costa Rica in the Central Valley.
What are the challenges of teaching English in Costa Rica?
Education is taken seriously in Costa Rica, with the government putting a considerable amount of funding into the sector every year. As such, you can expect the classroom culture to be relatively formal. If you have worked as a TEFL teacher before in a slightly more relaxed environment, this can be a bit of a shock to the system – especially since every other part of Costa Rican culture is so laid-back! The teaching facilities can also be more basic in Costa Rica than elsewhere. For example, you may often find yourself in a stifling hot room without air conditioning.
Another difficulty of teaching English in Costa Rica is securing a work visa. The process is notoriously long and expensive, and many employers can be reluctant to sponsor teachers. At the time of writing, there is a legal way to teach English in the country on a tourist visa, but it requires teachers to register with the local tax office and leave the country every 90 days.
Finally, although the cost of living is relatively low, the salary for a TEFL teacher is often lower. So, making enough money to live comfortably can often involve picking up a few hours of private tutoring in your spare time.
Cost of living in Costa Rica
The cost of living in Costa Rica is lower than most Western countries, coming in at around $700-900 per month not including accommodation. Although this sounds like a very low number, it’s in line with the local wage for TEFL teachers. So, you’ll find that you can splash out on luxuries and travel occasionally, but most of the time you’ll need to live somewhat frugally.
If you’re careful, you may be able to make some savings while teaching in Costa Rica. However, it’s best to use these savings while in the country as these savings likely won’t go far in your home country and it’s hard to find a good exchange rate for the Costa Rican colón.
On average, a meal at a local restaurant costs about $7, a beer or a coffee cost $2.50, membership at a gym costs around $60 per month, and a cinema ticket costs $5.
About Costa Rica
Costa Rica is particularly known for its incredibly lush landscape, made up of over 100 volcanic formations, numerous mountains, hiking trails, waterfalls, wildlife preserves and cloud forests. In fact, a quarter of the country’s land has protected status. And in recent years, the country has been a hotspot for eco-friendly travel and sustainable tourism.
The country is one of the world’s oldest democracies, has no army and boasts a stable political environment. Better education and environmental sustainability are key goals of the government. In fact, the country now has an adult literacy rate of 97% and has managed to use renewable energy for 299 days per year for two years running.
It is also one of the most developed country in Central America and offers a relatively comfortable lifestyle. Not only can you expect clean air and abundant nature, Costa Rica also has affordable, good-quality health care.
Costa Rican culture
Costa Ricans are very proud of their country, calling themselves ticos (male locals) and ticas (female locals). And as a foreigner, you may be called a gringo (male foreigner) or gringa (female foreigner). As we’ve mentioned before, the lifestyle is laidback, and locals tend to be friendly and open.
Pura vida, or ‘pure life’, is a way of life in Costa Rica. In practise, this means that locals are rarely stressed and don’t focus on the negative things. People like to live their lives slowly and simply – and it’s obviously doing wonders, with Costa Rica being voted as the happiest country in the world by Happy Planet Index in 2009, 2012 and 2016.
Costa Rican cuisine
Comprised of lots of rice, beans and chicken, Costa Rican cuisine is fairly plain but filling. If you’re a picky eater, you’ll be pleased to find simple food with mild flavours.
Popular dishes include arroz con pollo – chicken, sweet potato and chayote (a cucumber-like vegetable) and gallo pinto – a breakfast dish made up of rice, beans, vegetables and fried eggs. A tasty Costa Rican snack is chifrijo – beans and fried pork rinds usually served with tortilla chips, and a typical dessert is arroz con leche – a milky rice pudding with cinnamon sticks and lemon zest. The beverages served in Costa Rica are usually cool and refreshing, such as agua dulce (sugar cane water), refrescos (fruit smoothies), and for the more adventurous drinkers, guaro (sugar cane liquor).
Accommodation in Costa Rica
Accommodation generally isn’t covered in Costa Rica, but your employer will usually help you find an apartment and arrange renting. Some apartments may be more old-fashioned than what you’re used to, but generally the standard of living is good, and you’ll have all the amenities you need.
Accommodation is likely to be your biggest cost in Costa Rica, with most teachers spending about 60% of their salary on rent. A one-bedroom apartment in Heredia costs $250-450 per month and $400-600 per month in San Jose. Alternatively, you can rent a room in a shared house or live with a Costa Rican family for a lower price.
Weather in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is generally known to have a tropical climate. However, the country actually has quite a variety of weather due to a range of terrains and elevation. In areas with high elevation and lots of rainforest, you can expect rain, mist and relatively cool weather. Whereas, in coastal areas, you’ll usually find hot, dry weather. In general, the temperature varies between 21°C and 27°C throughout the year with no clearly defined seasons due to the country’s proximity to the equator.
San Jose keeps a steady temperature year-round, with the average temperature only varying between 22°C and 25°C. Between May and November, the city sees heavy rainfall, peaking in September with 240mm of rain throughout the month. There is also six or seven hours of daily sunshine year-round. Cartago and Heredia and both just a few miles away from San Jose and share a similar climate.
In Manuel Antonio, the average temperature only varies between 22°C and 24°C with sunny, windy days from December to March and darker, wet days between April and November.
Please note: The information in this guide is accurate as of the time of writing. However, the laws and requirements to teach abroad can often change. Make sure to check the latest advice from the local authority of the country you plan to work in.