Teaching English in Costa Rica FAQ: Where, When, How

This is the first post in a new series in which I publicly answer some of the frequently asked questions I get about teaching English in Costa Rica. The purpose of this is to try and help out as many people as I can at one time and to create a nice database full of info on living and teaching English in Costa Rica. :)

teaching english in costa rica - example of student work

A lot of Costa Rican students turn in very detailed, illustrated, and color-coded work. hmm graphic designers in training?

I would love to set up a job teaching English in Costa Rica before I move there – do you think it’s a possibility?

There are a ton of English teaching jobs in Costa Rica, but it’s best to already be in Costa Rica when you start looking for a job. A lot of businesses won’t even consider you if you are not in the country already. This is a smart move on their part because there are a lot of people who think they are going to love working in Costa Rica, they come down here, and then run at the first inconvenience. Some people run because it’s too “third world,” and others run because it’s too “developed.” Yeah, that’s called developing – you get a mix of working and non-working parts!

Remember: living and working in Costa Rica are very different from being on vacation in Costa Rica.

There are businesses that do hire out-of-country and they will often ask you to commit to a one-year contract. During that year you will most likely be working your butt off without much time for R&R.

If you want to teach English in Costa Rica and you are a native speaker with an undergraduate college degree, and a TEFL or TESOL certificate, you are 99% guaranteed a job somewhere in Costa Rica. You just need to be in the country in order to get a good job.

living in costa rica - costa rica map

Where the heck do I go?!

Where should I look for an English teaching job in Costa Rica?

Before choosing a place to live (or work), you need to come to Costa Rica and do a little exploring.

I do not recommend setting something up before coming to Costa Rica – I know too many people who have done that and been extremely unsatisfied for various reasons. It is best to first come to Costa Rica, find a place you would like to live, learn about the various businesses hiring English teachers, and THEN get a job. I give this same advice to people who are moving here and are not even looking for a job. Each little town in Costa Rica is very unique with its own set of advantages and disadvantages that can be detrimental to your happiness depending on your own wants and needs.

Most of the English teaching jobs in Costa Rica can be found in the Central Valley. Currently, there is high demand in Heredia, a nice suburb of San Jose. A lot of universities are located in Heredia, so it has a great college-town vibe and vibrant town center. It’s also a safe town to live in with nice, respectable people. I recommend Heredia as a good place to start searching for a job or a place to live, but don’t sign any contracts before you test drive!

Other options in the Central Valley: San Jose (if you want the downtown city living experience), La Sabana if you can afford it (west of downtown San Jose – tons of $$ nice condos), San Pedro (east of San Jose, colder), Tibas, San Antonio de Belen, Santa Ana…

If you want to teach English on the beach in Costa Rica, be prepared to volunteer your time.

How do I find a good job teaching English in Costa Rica?


    • be a native English speaker
    • an undergraduate degree (any field)
    • a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificate
    • be currently living in Costa Rica

Start by looking online for job postings and reviews of English institutes and universities: craigslist.com, the popular ESL forums, GoOverseas.com.

Google and contact some of the institutes and universities in Costa Rica. Ask them if there are any available jobs and if not, send them a resume so they have it on hand when one does become available. Turnover rate for English teachers in Costa Rica is very high.

Most importantly, talk to the local expats and English teachers. They are a wealth of information and can give you the lowdown on all the various businesses hiring English teachers.

living in costa rica - storm clouds in Costa Rica

This day brought some interesting storm clouds – a welcome break from the usual flat grey sky of the rainy season.

I want to move to Costa Rica in September…

WHOA back up!

I came to Costa Rica for the first time in September and had a blast. Rain? No big deal. Yeah, I was on VACATION.

Living and working through the rainy season is a bitch. It’s not that bad after nine months of gorgeous weather, but to deal with it first and not have the dry season memories to hold on to, you will certainly hate it. Why?

    1. You have to double or triple an already long commute time because there are vehicle accidents and natural impediments like landslides, floods, new potholes, and sinkholes. Plus, people in Costa Rica have something in common with the rest of the world – they don’t know how to drive in the rain.
    2. You are still expected to show up to work looking professional after you just braved the tropical monsoon. If you are taking a bus or walking – that includes having mud splashed all over you or if you are lucky you are just soaked to the bone.
    3. Plus, you won’t be taking many vacations during September or October because the closest dry beach is a daytrip through one of the most dangerous highways in Costa Rica – Braulio Carrillo parkway. Even if you find the time to go, you will probably be so exhausted from fighting the rain, traffic, and people during the previous week, that you will just want to stay at home and relax.

My advice? Do not move to Costa Rica in September or October. Wait until at least November. There are already a lot of adjustments to be made and you don’t need to make it harder on yourself by moving in the middle of the rainy season.

Another reason to hold off on moving in September is that there are not many businesses that hire during the last few months of the year.

Schools in Costa Rica have their big vacation break during December and January and the school year starts up again at the end of January. This is also true of other types of businesses, too, including language institutions – not many people hire right before or during the rainy season due to decreases in customers and also not wanting to pay aguinaldo (year-end bonus) to new hires.

Your best chance of being hired is at the beginning of the year, in early January. Second best chance is throughout the year up until about August.

To sum up

I recommend saving up some money to live on for a few months and coming to Costa Rica to look for a job instead of trying to find something beforehand. To do this comfortably, bring about $1000 for each month that you plan on being unemployed. That should cover food, shelter, transportation, and some extra traveling $$.

Do not move to Costa Rica in September or October. Plan on living in the Central Valley for the best job opportunities.

Have a question? Leave a comment below and I will answer it. Also, sign up for my mailing list so you don’t miss any updates. Pura vida :)


  1. Charlotte says

    Thank you so much for this Erin! A fab blog with loads of great information that definitely helps me … especially about coming out to teach in September, may have to alter my plans slightly now but that’s no bad thing! It could give me time to find a job before the sun comes out :)

    • Erin Morris says

      You’re welcome! I should also mention that not many people will hire in December since it’s the end of the year. It doesn’t hurt to pass out resumes, but your best chance for being hired by a school is actually in January since the school year starts at the end of January. Institutes need people year-round.

  2. says

    Nice blog Erin but don’t you need to mention that people should be legally allowed to work in Costa Rica? Or are you encouraging people to work here illegally? If they are discovered working illegally they can be driven to the airport and put on a plane? Costa Ricans can’t walk off the plane in the US and start teaching Spanish and Americans cannot do that in Costa Rica either …

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks for the comment.
      I think it’s odd that you assume that I’m encouraging people to work illegally in Costa Rica. What on earth would my end game be?

      As for your comparison of US laws to Costa Rican laws – I do not follow the logic. What Costa Ricans are allowed or not allowed to do in the United States has absolutely nothing to do with what US Citizens are allowed or not allowed to do in Costa Rica.

      The Costa Rican law states that foreigners may not do a job that can be done by a Costa Rican. However, there are not enough Costa Ricans with native English pronunciation and fluency to fill the demand for teachers. Hence, the demand for native English speakers. Some schools offer work visas and really give them, some schools offer work visas and never follow through, and other schools hire without ever promising anything. I’m simply offering some tips on teaching English in Costa Rica.

  3. Tita says

    I agree with Scott. Folks should not be encouraged to come here as a tourist to teach English. Folks wanting to teach in Costa Rica should first obtain a work permit, or legal residency. A reputable employer can assist with the work permit. Legal residency is another matter.

    • Erin Morris says

      You should read my response to Scott. It seems pretty obvious to me that you have no experience actually teaching English or you would not suggest someone go through the 6-month to 1-year long process of obtaining a work visa or residency BEFORE they start working. I don’t know any company who is willing to sponsor this expensive process for someone they haven’t even worked with before. Ludicrous.

      I also want to add that most people coming to Costa Rica to teach are not looking for legal residency. They are usually on a gap year escape, doing a career break, between jobs, or looking to explore a little between college and a “real job.”
      A work permit is sufficient for those purposes.

      Costa Rica grants a 90 day tourist visa to most country’s citizens, so why can’t people come here on that, look around a bit to see if they like it, and then find a legal job? Most companies DO NOT HIRE unless you are already in the country. Coming on a tourist visa is perfectly fine. If the person decides they don’t like Costa Rica, they can leave without abandoning a job contract and putting a Costa Rican business in an ugly predicament.

      • Scott says

        From my friend Attorney Rick Philps:

        “To get a work permit to teach English, the particular institution where the person would teach has to submit a solicitation to the Immigration Department in support of the work permit being granted. The solicitation has to be convincing to the Immigration Department that no Tico is available to fill the teaching position. In the final analysis, it is an exercise of discretion the on the part of the Immigration Department to grant the Work Permit. It is certainly far from a certainty of being granted. To merely arrive in Costa Rica on a Tourist Visa believing that you could secure a job teaching English would be “pure nonsense”.

        Lic. W. Richard Philps
        Direct Telephone:(506) 2288-4381 Ext.102
        Fax Number: (506) 2228-7094

        • Erin Morris says

          Well, you can’t just step off the boat and get hired. There are standards. These companies that are hiring and providing work visas have requirements. They aren’t just handing them out to anyone. If someone comes to Costa Rica on a tourist visa and meets the requirements of the companies hiring native-speaking English teachers, there is an opportunity to get a job with them and obtain a work visa. I’m not trying to sell anything (e.g. legal servies), I’m just writing about my experiences.

          • BAT says

            Erin, I have now been in Costa Rica for about 16 months without a residence visa.To do so, I leave the country every 90 days or so to meet the immigration requirements. Not sure how that would work for those interested in LIVING and teaching here.

            I want to commend you for the way you handle difficult people. I suspect Scott is concerned that no one gets the wrong idea about coming here to work. But the reality is that each individual considering teaching English is most likely a mature adult. As such, THEY have the responsibility to confirm all the legalities in doing so, not you. Reputable schools will take care of these legalities or offer help in doing so. The teacher is here to teach and need not be concerned with the process the school goes through to get their part done. It’s nice that you have offered some practical tips but thinking people will accept them as that, tips not legal jargon.

            One final note. I rent an apartment in the Cartago area where temperatures are considerably cooler than most other large cities. Anyone looking for more temperate climate only a half days journey from the beach should consider this area. Not sure of the job prospects here, but as you mention many times, it’s a good idea to travel a bit and find what suits you. Costa Rica has a place for everyone.

            Keep up your good work.

  4. Sandra says

    Very useful Erin, and I love your blog. One thing you don’t address is how much Spanish one needs to know to teach English down there. I can picture me standing in front of students with blank faces because they don’t know English, and I don’t know enough Spanish to answer their questions (yikes). I suppose there would be an interview process, and would it take place in the Spanish language?

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks for the comment. What a great question! You don’t need to know Spanish. Most language institutions in Costa Rica teach immersion style classes so they really do not even want you speaking Spanish to the students. The interviews are in English, too.
      That being said, I speak Spanish, and it has really helped in certain situations. For example, when the students are directly translating and it doesn’t make any sense in English, it is easier for me to identify the problem area. Another example – when I need to communicate something really important about procedure, like the syllabus or class rules on the first day and they just don’t get it in English (you can also have a Spanish speaker do this for you).
      So, you don’t need to speak Spanish to get a job and you are asked not to while teaching, but I recommend learning it.

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks Roy. It was raining like crazy here this December, you’re right. I thought the 2011 rainy season was never going to end!
      Usually you can count on rain everyday in September and October. November and December are tricky. I’ve been here for mostly dry Novs and Decs and also some pretty wet ones. Still, the rain in Nov and Dec is not as bad as it is in October. If you’re the type of person who hates rain, then it’s best to wait and come in January to avoid all of it.

  5. says

    A real nice piece of information there Erin! Really great of you to have put it up there.
    Wish you have a lovely week ahead Erin:)

  6. says

    Such a great honest post. So many teach english blogs are really airy and happy but don’t tell any real life experience or suggestions. Great tips!

    • Erin Morris says

      THanks! I think it’s important to tell the truth so people don’t come expecting it to be puppies and glitter purple unicorns all the time.

  7. rsparky says

    Dont move to Cost Rica…It will take you a year and a half to gain residency and if you havent been married to a Tico/Tica for three years or are able to bank a significant amount of money in a local bank..you wont get residency. Teaching english here you can expect to make 500.00 dollars a month which wont even pay your rent. The people here are evil and the food sucks….

    • Erin Morris says

      I’m sorry your experience was so bad. With that negative attitude, I’m surprised you weren’t waited on like a king or at least paid a fair wage. Shocker, really.

  8. rsparky says

    DO NOT MOVE TO COST RICA. North Americans beware. I lived there for 4 years and it is a horrible place to live unless you are a multi millionaire and can afford a beach home in Guanacaste. The locals lie,cheat and will take you for every dime. BEWARE OF COSTA RICA….

    • Erin Morris says

      I disagree with everything you said.
      I’m curious why you stayed for 4 years if you hate it so much. I hope you are out of the country now – for your sake as well as for ours.

  9. Tricia says

    Its a great info that you share your knowledge to some other people..Its good for you to help some other people..

  10. WolfieCR says

    awwww, just when I lose hope in my government policies……something mysteriously happens that makes me entertain FOR A MINUTE that they are right in a few things :)

    rsparky, I am glad (hope) you are back wherever you came from , all the best.

  11. Mike says

    Great website Erin. It has given me a lot of ideas and has me pumped. I am moving down to take a computer teaching position at Marian Baker School in July for the next two years. I am going to focus my search for housing in the Mercedes or San Pedro communities. What do you think? I need a balance between being a professional and having a life and not riding the bus forever. I would like a nice place for between $300 to $450. I was also want to buy a motorcycle since it is financial suicide to bring a car there. On other sites they say riding a motorcycle is suicide there. I am guessing they are just focusing on retirees. I have rode bike around (rainy) SE Asia without to much difficulty. I know a lot of questions and this is just tip of the iceberg. I think its kick ass you quit your job and took off. Awesome.

    • Erin Morris says

      :) thanks for the comment
      I would never ride a motorcycle in Costa Rica. I would also never ride one in SE Asia. I’m just not that confident…or brave. I have a teacher friend who has a motorcycle…and lots of students do, too. It is definitely the fastest way to get around. I suppose it’s a lot like driving a car – you just have to learn the particular culture’s rules and methods. The people I know with bikes have been in the most accidents due to potholes, not to other vehicles hitting them. Still, some of these potholes can kill you.
      I’m not familiar with Mercedes…oh, wait do you mean Mercedes in Heredia? San Pedro is cool, but on the other side of San Jose. Where is Marian Baker School? If you don’t want to be on the bus all the time, you need to live very close to the school or get that motorcycle. Let me know where the school is and I can help out more.
      You can get a really nice place between $300 – $450, but should expect a roommate type situation. Most people here share housing. One bedrooms are rare.

      • Mike says

        The more I have researched San Jose. Living in the Escazu area would be to far of a drive to school and it sounds kind of like a retirement community. If I live around the University of Costa Rica it is 7.6 km to work it also seem to have a cheap bar district, attractions, and nice surrounding areas. I am still open to suggestions.

        The school is on the west side of town 2.5km west of Parque del Este on the 202 Route (I just wanted to practice giving CR directions.) From Google Earth there looks like it is on the edge of city sprawl. This would also put me in between downtown and work. You can also Google Marion Baker San Jose CR and it will give you the exact route and location.

        • Erin Morris says

          I looked up your school on Google maps and you’re absolutely correct – Escazu is too far away. Plus it has too many gringos IMO. San Pedro is good…I’m not really very familiar with that area. I think Tres Rios is nice but honestly don’t remember… Curridabat… you’d probably be happier closer to the UCR if you like to go out. Don’t commit to anything long term before you get here and have a chance to look around and actually do the commute a few times.

  12. Mike Mihaljevich says

    Nice site, content and format> I was a publisher and I can appreciate it. Erin, I taught in Mexico last year for three months and much of what you said applies to my experience there. Everywhere you go there are positives and negatives. One thing you may be underestimating in your perception and evaluation of your experience is the fact that you do know Spanish. Those of us who are not fluent can find it much more difficult to navigate through a different culture. The fact that you speak fluent Spanish no doubt means you are respected and treated somewhat differently. Living and working in Mexico was somewhat challenging for me not being fluent although I got by with my basic Spanish.

    It was not clear how many hours per week you worked. You said two or three classes but how many hours? I mean it sounds like you made a $1000 for 15-20 hours per week or are classes longer than an hour? In Mexico, pay can be very low at the language schools )$4-$6 per hour.

    And how do you get to work and back in the rain. I understand this is a problem in Mexico in Guadalajara where I lived but I did not stay through the season to experience it. In GDL, streets flood and turn into streams and everyone gets one so I am told.

    I assume you had a vehicle? Can one easily get a driver’s license and car or is it best, even in the rain, to take public transportation. Oh, and is it easy to deal with taxi drivers and the transportation system. In Mexico, it seemed really difficult to figure out what bus went where and one had to constantly ask people where to get off as the bus drivers didn’t seem to communicate anything. It was tricky in the big city.

    Can one find small one or two bedroom places? Cost?

    Don’t know if you have been to Mexico but how is sanitation there? water? Also, noise. I found that living in Guadalajara was REALLY noisy and Mexicans generally LOVE noise and are not particularly responsive to requests not to party all night if you want to sleep (because you have to work).

    Lot of questions but this might be helpful. I was a professional teacher in Calif. and taught in the Peace Corps in Palau for your information. Don’t have TESL but have Credential and experience, also I am a writer.

    One of the best sites I have seen. Good job.

  13. Lara says

    Hi Erin-
    You have a great site! It has been helpful as I think through my move to CR from NC. I am a teacher like everyone else. I already plan to move down this summer sans job and find something once there (thanks for validating this idea), but can you give any suggestions for temporary housing while I figure out where I would like to live and work? A place to start from?
    I would also be interested to know the top 10 things you would advise bringing from the States when I make my move; what I need or really don’t need but maybe think I do?
    Thanks for your input!

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks for the compliment :)
      To start off, I’d recommend renting a room in a shared housing type situation. Like a hostel, but for longer term renters. You can rent by week or by month. These types of places are usually full of English teachers or volunteers and you can make some really great connections here. One of those will be the owners or managers who will prove to be an invaluable resource if you choose to continue living in Costa Rica. Let me know if you want the contact info for a couple of these places.

      Top ten things? eeks, well here are a few …
      1. Don’t bring too many hiking or beach outfits. Working in the Central Valley, you won’t need them. Instead, bring professional attire. Ticos really value dressing well. They even dress up to go to Walmart or the mall.
      2. You can find almost anything here, but like WolfieCR said – it usually costs more. I usually stock up on tampons, ibuprofen, hair stuff, contact solution… it’s the over the counter med/bathroom stuff that will break your bank.
      3. Bring portable speakers if music is important to you or if you want to use them to teach English here.
      4. Your laptop. Go ahead and sign up for an online backup system if you don’t have one already. That way your data is protected and not lost in case the laptop gets stolen or damaged. I use Crashplan.
      4. I guess I would say that the least amount of stuff you can bring, the better. You will find that you accumulate a lot and if you start off smaller, it will be less stressful when you leave.
      5. Bring patience. You need A LOT of that in Costa Rica.

  14. WolfieCR says

    my two cents, since I must be the winner of the award for of the “most ridiculous things in suitcases” for at least 10 years in a row I can say that most everything I used to bring is now available here (even if , at ridiculous prices)

    In my list of exotic stuff, I’ve brought all sorts of candy (brachs, sweettarts and M&M’s, brachs I couldnt find except in pricesmart in bags that had other stuff I didnt want, swettarts and M&M’s are much more expensive)

    if you smoke and you are set in an specific mark you may need to bring that too but in that regard best to just quit altogether , just buy them at the duty free on your way out and put them in the freezer here

    for sure laptops, I am from here and I dread having a computer with a Spanish keyboard

    anything that is electronic here has an expensive surcharge due to taxes

    I find over the counter medicine is ridiculously priced compared to the US so bring your nyquil etc from there instead, on a bizarre twist, heavy duty medication is much cheaper here than in the US

    books are expensive if you want to read them in English so it would be better if you bring a kindle loaded with your favorite books

    I would say, it all depends to your capacity of adaptation, you can find almost everything in here but you will be shocked at what it costs, you can either try to keep getting the same brands in here and pay anarm and a leg OR use this as an opportunity for a much simpler life

    if you bring a laptop get one of these http://www.amazon.com/Kensington-64068F-MicroSaver-Notebook-Security/dp/B00000K4KH/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335827453&sr=8-1 , I’ve always found them handy

  15. WolfieCR says

    aha , typo , about cigarettes I meant set on an specific brand , but again, that is something you can probably quit upon arrival

    another weird thing I brought an I havent seen here yet, a potato ricer

  16. Karen Hlynsky says

    I am a very young 62 (people think I’m 40) and learned that it is impossible to get a work visa in Japan or Korea if you’re over 55. Can you tell me anything about age discrimination in Costa Rica? Is age a barrier to employment?

    I’ve also heard that the benefits of some teaching jobs include participation in the health care system. I’ve also heard that after a certain age you cannot buy into the health care system.

    Can you provide any information about this?

    • Erin Morris says

      I honestly don’t know anything about this. I’ve seen many retired expats teaching English, but they were working at the English Institutions and not at the University. That might all have residency status and don’t need a work visa… I’m making a wild guess here. I’ll see if I can find out anything by asking around…

  17. Josh says

    Hi amazing blog, I’ve been looking on the net for so long to find useful information about teaching in Costa Rica.

    It all sounds lush right until you shattered my dreams:

    If you want to teach English on the beach in Costa Rica, be prepared to volunteer your time.

    So does this mean that it is very difficult/very rare to find teaching jobs near the coast then?

    I can’t cope with blistering heat unless I can jump in the ocean to cool off – not even in Britain!

    • Erin Morris says

      Yes, it is near impossible to find a paying teaching job on the coast. I hear of one or two possibilities popping up every now and then, but to get it you will be competing against every other person who has the dream of living on the beach in Costa Rica. Plus, it is HOT on Costa Rica’s coasts. The Central Valley gets cool… If you can afford to teach part-time, you can live in the Central Valley and travel quite frequently.

  18. Wagner says

    To Rsparky… U said that Costa Rica is a terrible place to live so why don’t u leave my beautiful country right now??? U think that the people in CR r bad people??? What abouth that?? A fly talking abouth wash ur hands !!!! Lets me ask u something , how can u sleep at night ???

  19. Brien silver says

    Hi Erin!

    Great information and thank you for spending the time to allow people like us who are looking for quality information on teaching in costa rica. My girlfriend and I are looking to teach there for the next school year. We don’t have TEFL certification but do have over a year of experience teaching ESL in south Korea. I’ve heard it’s still relatively easy to find a job but wanted to hear your recommendations. We also were told it would be good to go down in November for a week a so on a vacation/job search to interview with schools for th r next year school year. Any thoughts on this? Look forward to hearing from you soon.

    • Erin Morris says

      You are going to need certification to teach at most schools, regardless of experience. There are quite a few people teaching here with Masters in TESOL, etc, so that will be your competition. Turnover rates are high since there are so many job opportunities and usually people just come down for 6 months or a year. This means you can basically walk off the boat and find a job.
      I recommend coming down here with some money saved up or some form of part-time additional income because the standard salary from teaching English full time won’t allow you to save any money. It all goes to rent, groceries, traveling. The type and quality of schools varies wildly here, so it helps to have some extra cash in case you wind up in a situation that you don’t enjoy and need time off to find another job.
      And you HAVE to travel while you are here. If you take a job that keeps you in the Central Valley 24/7, you will burn out quick. Getting to the beach or mountains is quick and easy, it just requires some extra spending money and the energy to do it.

  20. says

    This is such a great post, hun. :) I’m going to do one very similar about teaching in Mexico soon.

    I think after Mexico I’ll probably be heading somewhere where I can make some money to pay off my debts. Then I plan to come back to Latin America. Costa Rica will definitely be on my list of places to teach. :)

    • Erin Morris says

      Awesome, it’s great to hear from you! You can’t make money to pay of debts in Costa Rica, but living here is definitely an experience worth having. Are you going to South Korea or the Middle East? Save up some cash and come explore Costa Rica. I’d love to show you around! :)

  21. Angelica says


    Thanks for the tips on ESL in Costa Rica. I look forward to checking out those jobbing websites you mentioned. I am wondering what is best TEFL, TESOL, or the CELTA certificate? Is one better than the other. Is one accepted more world wide? Does one look better than the other on a resume? Which one cost the least? How can I find a company to sponsor my certification rather than paying for it myself?

    • Erin Morris says

      Most places accept any of the certificates: TESOL, CELTA, or TEFL. You should look around and ask, though. The school I am currently teaching at required a TESOL. If the teacher had a TEFL, they were asked to take a week or two of the TESOL course to supplement the TEFL. I’d recommend looking at ESL and TEFL forums for answers to most of your questions. I’m just one person with one experience while the forums will be filled with a lot of voices. They are also a good place to look for job openings. Look in the job description or contact the school to ask about sponsorship.

  22. Angelica says

    I have another wondering. Do you know how teachers of the TEFOL programs get paid and if that is significantly different than teaching ESL? I have seen on some websites they want a master’s degree and that you are TEFOL certified. Do you have any info on this or could you point me in the right direction? I am currently an ESL resource teacher here in the states and want to look for jobs teaching teachers. I wonder if this pays more?

    • Erin Morris says

      It depends heavily on where you are teaching and that question can only be answered by doing the research. The teachers that I know here in Costa Rica with Masters degrees in TESOL who are teaching English teachers are not making more than teachers teaching students or are making only slightly more.

  23. Lola says

    Hi Erin! I love your blog and your responses to the comments– so well thought out and eloquently written and with a good sense of adventure to tie it all together, congrats.
    I am moving to CR in a few weeks to teach/tutor etc in Santa Ana. I volunteered in CR for a few months a few years ago and have some good resources to move there. However, it’s nice to have a young western woman’s perspective on the whole ordeal.
    A few questions– what is the best way to find a place to stay? I have a pretty low budget and have found some rooms via CouchSurfing but was wondering if you’d recommend other means to find a good place, or even a host family.
    Also, what’s your opinion on the entry into country— ie the whole shabang with having to have the ticket for departure? I am flying in with Condor airlines (part of Lufthansa, I hear they suck but oh well) and would be flying “out” with a US airline but the tickets would be separate, obviously. I wasn’t wanting to buy the ticket until I was sure when I could leave for my work vacations but if I have to it’s no big deal.
    Also also, I forget if you said you have a work visa, but how did that all work out? My “boss” says they’ll sponsor me so I assume we’ll start the process once I’m in the country but wanted to know if it was smooth sailing or not.

    • Erin Morris says

      Hey thanks for the kind words :)
      I’m answering your questions in larger posts over the next 2 weeks, because there is a lot of information that can be shared. For now, the short answers are:
      Tips for finding a place to stay on a tight budget:
      1. walk around town and look at for rent signs (a lot of people don’t use internet)
      2. check flyers at grocery stores
      3. for host families, stay with someone through your institution, they can hook you up.
      4. look on Costa Rica craigslist
      5. look on mercadolibre.com
      6. bargain the price down!

      Flying into the country:
      Definitely have an exit ticket. You can buy a refundable ticket and then cancel it once you are in the country so you don’t lose any money on change fees.

      Work visa:
      Someone does have to sponsor you. This means they act as the hiring party when applying for the work visa. The actual process can go a million different ways. They could pay for it or not pay for it, they could hire a lawyer or firm to do the process for you or not… but you need a birth certificate with an apostille, and a recent criminal background check from your state of residence with an apostille. I’m actually surprised they didn’t tell you this already since it is a lot easier and sometimes required that you be in the States to get these docs. You should contact them immediately to ask what the deal is. Maybe they are putting you through a trial period before they agree to sponsor you, which is not uncommon, but it is common for you to not be told these things beforehand. Don’t worry, though, there are 1 million places to teach here in case that one doesn’t work out.

  24. John says

    Great site Erin. Have you heard of cactusTEFL or NCFE accreditations? Im debating between two courses. These are their accreditations. Thanks!

    • Erin Morris says

      I have not heard of either of them, but I’m no expert in the certification area. Although I do know that the best kind of certification gives you hands on training. In my experience, most schools don’t care where the certificate came from as long as you have one. They’ll know soon enough whether you can actually teach or not.

  25. debra bauerle says

    I am an ESL teacher from CA. I currently ive in Atenas. I do not wish to work in a school. I have had several people approach me and ask me to give them lessons in the evening. I do not know what to charge. Could you give a me a ball park figure. Lessons would only be an hour maybe an hour 1/2— I would like to make a little spend money, but don’t know what a fair price to charge is. Thanks

    • Erin Morris says

      Private English lessons begin at 6.000 colones per hour. Depending on where you are, what your experience is, and who your client is, you can go as high as 15.000 an hour. Check your local grocery store bulletin boards to see what your competitors are charging.

  26. Wilson says

    Hi, love the site! I’m considering a move to Costa in June 2013; my friend lives in Coronado outside of San Jo. I’m looking into an agency called Language Corps (languagecorps.com) that has a 140-hour TESOL training and certification course, have you heard anything about this company? Thanks!

    • Erin Morris says

      I have not heard anything about them, sorry. Their site looks nice though – gives the impression they know what they are doing.

  27. George says

    Hey, Erin. Great website. Very happy you are having a great time in CR.
    Pretext: I am half Costa Rican, born in Canada. I have been down to CR many times in my life and to be honest I am my happiest when there. I have been thinking of teaching English in CR, basically looking for work to be there for an extended period. I don’t have TEFL, nor do I have experience teaching. I do have my BA, however. I have family living in San Rafael which is close to San Jose. Right now I am 30. Spanish is my second language.

    So with that pretext I have a couple of questions. I know I can stay with my family, so living there would be comfortable. I am familiar with the country, speak the language, etc… I guess my question is what is the age range for english teachers? Do they prefer younger teachers (20s)? Is it possible finding legal work with decent pay ($500-$1000/m) without TESOL or TEFL or is that mandatory? With the pretext, would work be somewhat easy to find in the central valley? My main concern is going there with no plan and looking for work there.

    • Erin Morris says

      Coming here with no plan and looking for work seems like it’s totally doable since you are staying with family. That means you won’t starve or be on the streets! Half a full-time teacher income goes straight to rent.
      You should look into options for TESOL or TEFL first, so that you can decide where you want to get one. I also recommend coming down with some savings so the transition is easier and you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. Teaching English full time is a lot of work and you do not get paid for grading or lesson planning, so living and working here is not going to be like a vacation. I balance it by only teaching part time. If I had to teach full time, I’d probably go insane.

  28. George says

    Oh and sorry for the scatterbrained quality of my message. The info is all there but maybe not in most coherent order. Hope you make full sense of it.

  29. Allison says

    Hi Erin! Thanks so much for your post. I have been looking into teaching in Costa Rica for some time now. I graduate this coming May with a degree in Spanish ed and a minor and certification in TESOL. I was just wondering if you had to sign any contracts. I cant move until mid september and stay until may. But after reading your post about the rain season do you think I should wait until December or January if I were to move there? Do you think I would have any problems with my employer if I only wished to stay for 5 or 6 months?

    • Erin Morris says

      It depends on your employer: re: length and contract. I do not recommend moving to Costa Rica during rainy season unless you enjoy making yourself miserable.

  30. Vikki Wade says

    Is TEFL certification “required” or will a BA suffice to teach English in CR? Btw love the blog! Great info!

  31. Michael wood says

    Hi Erin;

    i have my Ontario ESL qualifications here in Canada and 25 years teaching in the public
    system. Do you see this as enough to qualify me to teach down there? So i will need a work visa eh? if I am on pension would that qualify me for residency?


    • Erin Morris says

      Hi Michael, there are a lot of teachers down here without any qualifications and they have jobs. You need to understand that most employers down here don’t reward teachers with more experience or qualifications, so you would still be earning barely enough to maintain. BUT if you are on a pension, that might be super nice to have that extra income. I was combining teaching part time with my graphic design and writing work and it was a nice income. The law says you need a work visa, but a lot of institutes are breaking the law by employing teachers without work visas.

      There is more than one way to qualify for residency. I suggest hiring a lawyer specializing in residency to guide you through the process. I have not used one myself, so I can’t honestly recommend anyone. Watch out for people (expats and Ticos) who recommend services (even lawyers and doctors) for profit – it’s common to set up a 10% or 20% commission on referrals in Costa Rica for ANYTHING. That being said, not all of that is dishonest. You need a 6th sense to sort through the bullshitters. A lot of them have websites, similar to mine, but with lots of ads or articles linking to various services and recommending a TON of stuff.

      • Michael wood says

        HI Erin:
        It sounds like you are having the time of your life and you know the ropes as well..good for you! I still have some unfinished business of raising my son but i hope to live out my dream of spending time down there ….Thank you for your wealth of information…

        God bless

        from Canada

  32. Andrew says

    Hi Erin love your site!

    Im probably asking quesitons that I know the answer to but I’ll go for it anyway.

    Both my girlrfriend and myself are looking to come out to Costa Rica in May, I would love to teach TESOL near a beach (I surf: ) I know you said get ready to volunteer but have you heard of any options?

    With the academic year starting in January I imagine coming over in May also make things difficult in terms of getting hired?

    Really would appreciate your advice.Keep up the good work!

    • Erin Morris says

      If you have a Masters in TESOL or extensive experience teaching and are a certified teacher in the US, you can get a job on the coast. Those schools hiring highly qualified professionals would only hire mid-semester/quarter/bimester if someone was suddenly unable to hold the position.

  33. Andrew says

    Also I keep seeing websites stating that you dont necessarily need a TESOL to teach, surely this cant be the case??

    Thanks again.

    • Erin Morris says

      It totally depends. I worked at a place teaching English before I got a TESOL certificate. They had me do a 2-hr lesson as my second interview which is an awesome idea because I’ve seen a lot of people with TESOLs and TEFLs who couldn’t teach someone how to use a spoon. At this particular place, I had to go to the student to teach so that’s like 1 – 2 hours of transportation.

    • Erin Morris says

      A company in Costa Rica needs to sponsor your work visa. You need docs from the States, but there is an expiration date on them so don’t get them until you find someone to sponsor you.

  34. Vikki Wade says

    Your info is so informative…almost through with my degree…. found several sublets as well as low $$ rentals on craigs list and some rental agencies in CR….keep posting!!

  35. Jackie says

    Hi Erin:

    Do you know the reasons for the high turnover rate of English teachers?

    Do you think Costa Rica is a place where you will live for the rest of your life?

    Enjoyed reading your blog. Informative and interesting.


    • Erin Morris says

      High turnover rate: teaching English full time in the Central Valley is not easy. You are in a city, with traffic, with concrete, with a full work schedule. It is not living on the beach sipping piña coladas and working part time, which is what so many people have in their minds when they move here.

      I don’t know how long I will live in Costa Rica. I sure am enjoying it for now, though :)

  36. Ken Davis says

    Hi Erin,
    After living in Costa Rica for some time, would you be able to recommend a reputable TEFL or TESOL course close to San Jose? I would really appreciate any help with this.

  37. Krishna says

    This was great reading. We are considering a move to Costa Rica. I have my wife and 3 children. Ages 16,9, and 7. My wife is 37 and has been teaching for 10 years in elementary and junior high. I have been an educational assistant in juniour high for 10 years and coaching basket for 7 years. I liked your comment re the Central Valley. I was looking for a starting point. My thought was to come to Costa Rica for a month or so to get a feel for country. I would want to rent in a decent neighborhood with my family. Heredia sounds like a good start. We do not live a very lavish lifestyle and we don’t expect to do so in Costa Rica. Any other info you can send me re Heredia would. I’m hoping this will be a start to some good discussions. Thanks in advance. Krishna. :)

    • Erin Morris says

      Heredia or Escazú are good places to start. There are also jobs in San Pedro if you are interested in living close to the heart of downtown San José. Good luck with your search!

      • Krishna says

        Thanks Erin. We are talking as a family re Costa Rica. We are looking to visit/ vacation for maybe a month and a half. ( all of July and the beginning of August. ) We would want to rent a furnished house. Is that safe to do and is the prices reasonable?

      • Krishna says

        Thanks again Erin. Escazu seems a lot closer to the capital. Are Escazu and Heredia comparable? Any pros or cons you can give me on either would be appreciated. Thanks again.

        • Erin Morris says

          pros and cons of Heredia vs Escazu totally depend on what type of person you are. Personally, I prefer Heredia because I think it way prettier. It’s more difficult to get to and from Heredia than Escazu, and there are more expats in Escazu. …there is also more concrete and traffic and annoying upset people in Escazu. Escazu has Multiplaza (con for me, pro for mall-lovers). Escazu has CIMA Hospital. Heredia has Paseo de las Flores. Escazu is closer to the new pista which goes to the Pacific Coast. Heredia is closer to the pista that goes to Braulio Carrillo.
          Some people feel like Escazu is similar to the States. I agree.
          Do some exploring on your own – make up your own mind and have fun doing it!

  38. Evan says

    Hey Erin!

    Thank you so much for the great read! I have learned a lot through the informative post and equally, through your responses to questions.

    I am very excited at the opportunity for me to teach in CR! I am an English teacher for about 10 years with BAs in English Literature and Education and will be completing my MA in English next year, through an online program.

    My last concern is in regards to my TEFL certification. I am planning to enroll by month’s end and would like some guidance as to which course I should take; the 20, 60, 100 hour one?

    • Erin Morris says

      That totally depends on you. I haven’t had anyone ever ask me about the specifics of my certification. You might want the extra hours if you feel you need more training in teaching to non-native English speakers. Check on course content for material that you feel you really want/need to learn. If there isn’t anything new in there for you, go with the least expensive! In Costa Rica, there is a little grace at the beginning in which the school expects you to do some on-site learning. With your background and experience, you are going to be considered a great candidate seeing as how a lot of the teachers come here with ZERO experience.

      You should also consider whether you will only be using this in Costa Rica or if you will want to take it to another country (so check on their requirements).

    • Erin Morris says

      Also, thanks for the comment. You might be the first to read all the comments! :)
      I’m working now on an ebook about teaching English in Costa Rica…should be out soon…

  39. Michelle says

    Hi Erin, do you have any information on American families living in Costa Rica? I am finishing up my BA and would love to teach English. I have a 6 and 8-year-old, a husband and a dog. I really have to bring all of them, no way around it! And what an awesome experience for all of us.

    • Erin Morris says

      I’m not really sure how to answer this because I’m not sure exactly what you are asking. Info on American families living in Costa Rica? I assume you mean families from the States that moved to CR… there are some here. That’s about all I know. Well, I can also say without a doubt that you cannot support a husband, 2 kids, and a dog on an English teacher’s salary in Costa Rica. 500 – 1000 USD a month is enough to support ONE person (and a dog or two) in Costa Rica. You will need like 1500 – 2000 a month at least.
      If you have savings you can live off of, then go for it!! :)

    • Erin Morris says

      You’re welcome. Hey, if you are considering applying to any of the international schools, you should contact them first just to cover your bases and make sure they accept the 20-hour certificate. They are the strictest.

  40. Kerry Lynn says

    Hello Erin,

    I am planning on moving to alajuela in the next few months. I fell in love on my last visit and am wanting to get a English teaching job. I have my BA and and curious if a TEFL is required. I don’t plan on looking for a job till I get there as that is what I have read is best to do. My Spanish is pretty non existent so I will be taking Spanish lessons while I am there as well. Would you recommend just going & interviewing? I was also looking at some programs here in the states that set you up with an English teaching job, but I will be living with locals and won’t need room & board. Just curious your thoughts! Thank you!

    • Erin Morris says

      You will have a lot more options with a TEFL or any other certificate. Most places require it, plus you learn a lot while getting the certificate. I definitely recommend it. (unless your BA is in TESOL or a related field!)

  41. Laurel Bielec says

    Hey Erin:
    I am coming down March 30 to finish my TEFL with Maximo Nivel in San Pedro. Where abouts are you? Maybe we can get together. If not this time, soon. I will be moving to CR the end of May. You can email me privately if you want to talk.

    I have been to CR before and know quite a bit of this but I have still learned from your blog. Keep up the good work. I plan to start a blog on my experiences down there too. :)


  42. shelby says

    Hi erin, so I love your blog and I’m planning yo move to Costa rica in January. I saw some of the work permit comments, but I was wondering how you did it and how difficult it is to obtain a work permit. Also, should I arrive on a tourist visa or what should I apply for before arriving?

    • Erin Morris says

      It’s not difficult, but it is a long slow process. You need to arrive on a tourist visa unless someone has sponsored you before you even come to Costa Rica. To get a work visa, you need an employer to sponsor you, so look for a job that offers that. When applying for the visa, you will need to give to your employer’s lawyers an official birth certificate with an apostille from the city you were born in and a criminal background check with an apostille from the city you last lived in. Both of those documents expire, so judge carefully when you get them.
      And remember – just coming here you are not guaranteed a work visa, so you might be stuck here on your tourist visa working for someone that keeps dangling the prospects of a work visa in your face.
      Be patient and flexible.

  43. says


    You seem to be the person in the know?? I have applied for a teaching post in costa rica, teaching science, I am a science teacher in the UK. I am hoping if I get offered to posiiton my partner will be able to join me and find work. If he takes a course to teach english how possible is it that he will find work once we arrive? I have concerns that I will be employed and i’m not sure how easy it will be for him…what do you reckon? I;m assuming from the other posts it’s ideal for him to look for work once we arrive, because it is unlikely he will find work before that time. Here in the UK he actually works in film and media, but how likely he finds work doing that …i’m not sure…teaching english will definitley be a start..

    I appreciate any advice possible..


    • Erin Morris says

      It’s easy to find jobs teaching English in the Central Valley of Costa Rica if you meet these requirements:
      • you are a native English speaker
      • you have an undergrad degree
      • you have a certificate to teach English
      • you present well and do not stink (seriously. Ticos value presentation and personal hygiene)

      And btw, I’m definitely not “the person in the know,” I’m just a person who has some experience teaching English in Costa Rica. :)
      Good luck with everything!

    • Mike B says

      Depending where you teach she should be able to find some type of position within the school without having to go through ESL training. She would be happier to teach in a normal private school than a language school. The pay is better and if you can get in the same school less commute expenses. I work at Marian Baker School and there are various other schools that need Media or tutors or other random needs she may be able to fill. You will just have to check around. What school are you getting hired at?

  44. says


    Well done with the website – reading your experiences, your opinions, & your reactions to a few negative idiots in this thread, I really respect you!

    Anyways, I am coming to CR to teach English sometime this year – I am thinking September after the summer (haha after reading this post). I have 2 questions – 1.) I would like to teach part-time like you, ideally private lessons instead of school (I heard it pays more) – do you know any organizations/companies that are hiring? 2.) My spanish is okay (good for a gringo), but one of my main motives for this move is to become fluent in Spanish. I will learn a lot by being submersed in the culture, but I wanted to know if there is any schools/companies/organizations that compliment their English teaching employees w/ Spanish-learning opportunities? Or is it up to the English-teaching employee to be proactive & learn Spanish on their own?

    Thanks so much for your willingness to help all of us,


    • Erin Morris says

      Hello there, I’m glad you picked up on my advice to not come here in September! If you do, just be prepared for a really rough adjustment!!!
      1. Private lessons do pay more, but you also have to deal with clients not showing up, not paying… a lot of teachers I know gave up on private lessons because of these problems. The culture here, it’s not required to cancel with notice or even at all, so you might even be sitting there expecting someone to show up and you call and they are like “oh, I’m not coming today.” or they do come and ask if they can pay later. <– those are common problems. To make that business model work in Costa Rica, you would have to be extremely vigilant and strict and that might not even be enough. You can work part time at institutes though. ProLanguage might be hiring. Check with them. You travel to the students, so it can be challenging, but not too bad if you are part time. They won’t even entertain the idea of hiring you unless you are already in the country, though. 2. Tons of language institutes offer free Spanish lessons for their teachers. It’s pretty common, actually. You can also set up a conversation exchange – I did that with one of my students and it was really helpful.

  45. Michael says

    Hi Erin,

    I am currently taking a break from college. I don’t have my Bachelor’s yet, but will be getting a TEFL or TESOL certificate this summer, am a native English speaker, and do have experience as an undergrad TA. DO you think I will be able to find a teaching position in CR without a four year degree?


    • Erin Morris says

      That depends on what type of TEFL/TESOL you get and where you get it. Bridge has a good program. Their partners in CR are Maximo Nivel. If you take their TEFL course and prove to be a great teacher, they could offer you a job in CR, Peru, or Guatemala regardless of you having a 4-year degree yet or not. They also offer resume building and job assistance, which is nice if you want to work elsewhere.
      If you are really interested in their course, email me and I can get you a discount.

  46. Lori says

    Hey Erin: having come down and got my TEFL certification through Maximo Nivel, I can attest that you have given wonderful and accurate information. The program at Maximo was excellent and I highly recommend it. I am currently in Nosara. I am not teaching at the moment because I wanted to leave the Central Valley for awhile. I am lucky to have money to live on for awhile. There is a small village school here where I hope to volunteer for awhile but they definitely don’t have money to pay a teacher. I am 57 and Maximo was very willing to hire me here in Costa Rica or their schools in Peru or Guatemala. It is true that some countries have age limits but Costa Rica is not one. Just be a good, energetic, and dependable and they will love you! :).

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks Lori! I’m working on putting together a book with info and resources about teaching English in Costa Rica. I’ve been researching for the past 6 months and have been most impressed with Maximo Nivel. I’m really excited that I was able to work with them and offer a discount for referrals. See how awesome they are? Well, I don’t have to tell *you* that, you already know :)

      Nosara is beautiful. Volunteering out there sounds wonderful as long as you can afford it. People ask me a lot about age discrimination, so it’s great to hear you have not experienced any. Thanks for the comment!

      • Craig says

        Hi Erin,

        This has been the most informative and helpful comment thread I have read so far. Thanks for the time and energy you have put in here!

        I have been considering Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica for their upcoming start date of the 20th November. I, like the other person who wrote to you, do not have a degree. I am leaving my current position in a senior role for a company in the UK. I’m from the US and a studied Spanish for four years in my 20’s so can get by. It is that time in my life to do something I believe I will love and take some time to see more of the world (I know it will be hard work). I have savings to cushion the lower pay I expect (just not the large amount required to obtain a residency visa). I have the option of taking a TEFL course here in London before I head to Costa Rica or taking the course at Maximo Nivel, then finding work. The courses in London only seem to offer 20 hours of classroom work and the rest online. This doesn’t seem the best approach without a degree.

        My thinking is that if I take the Maximo course I would be getting a better certification, especially with more in class practice teaching. This also seems to be the best approach as I would have time to not only acclimate to the new country, but also have my feelers out for work once the course is completed.

        Also, I assume a legal work permit is out of the question due to the lack of a degree, so the visa run will be part of my existence? I don’t mind this as I intend to be there for one, maybe two years total.

        What are your thoughts? And if you agree with my line of thinking I would love to take advantage of that discount with your referral!


        • Erin Morris says

          I agree. If I were in your shoes I would opt for the TEFL in the country where I wanted to teach, especially if it’s a better program. Totally makes sense. Just let them know I sent you and they’ll give you the discount. Let me know how it goes!

  47. Vikki Dilworth says

    I am so glad to see Lor’s comment about age as I am 51 and planning on relocating to CR next year.:) Erin I am interested in the Maximo program and you are so informative! Love this blog!

  48. Danielle says

    Hi Erin!

    You talk a lot about how it is easier to find a job once in Costa Rica.

    But I was wondering does this include contacting the schools ahead of time to set up in-person interviews? Or do you just go door-to-door to the language schools to see if they are hiring?

    I guess I’m just wondering why it is so much easier to find a job once in the country?


    • Erin Morris says

      Most schools don’t want to hire someone unless they are in the country already because there is a much better chance that the prospective employee will actually show up for work if they are in CR. A lot of people send emails asking about job openings while they are only entertaining the idea and not fully committed to Costa Rica. You gotta be in love with Costa Rica to work here.

  49. says

    Hi Erin,

    I thought I already sent this, but I guess I never hit the submit button.

    Anyway in one of your blogs you mention how it is easy to find a teaching position while actually in Costa Rica. However, I was wondering why? Were you referring to setting up in-person interviews before you leave to Costa Rica or do you have to go door to door to the different language institutes asking if they are hiring?

    I was just wondering because I’m not having too many responses when I email different schools about teaching positions in Costa Rica. I’m hoping it’s better once down there?

    I have a degree, a TEFL institute, and I am a native speaker.


    • Erin Morris says

      Schools prefer applicants to physically be in Costa Rica so they know they are serious about the position they are applying for and also so they know they are somewhat familiar with life in Costa Rica. It’s just hard to live and work here. Also, that would be a huge waste of time for schools to entertain applicants who live outside of the country – everyone “says” they have plans to move to Costa Rica, but not everyone really does.
      Once you are in Costa Rica, you should see a drastic change in attitude. Also, try calling – sometimes email isn’t answered very quickly in CR.

  50. Paula VanderLaag says


    Thanks for the information and insights. I taught English in Asia for 10 years. I don’t think getting a TEFL Certificate is a worthwhile expense. What is your opinion. You recommend $1000.00 a month for expenses, yet I understand normal wages are between $500.-900. Survivable?


    • Erin Morris says

      I suggest $1000 a month for a studio apt or 1 bedroom, traveling every weekend, and eating/drinking out. You can definitely get by on $500 a month if you live with roommates, travel less, and refrain from going out a lot.
      10 years of experience sounds better than no experience and a certificate and people with no experience and a certificate get hired, so maybe you can, too. In your case, I would try contacting some schools and asking the hiring manager their opinion.

  51. Maringly says

    Hi Erin! nice blog for people like me who are looking forward to teach english overseas. My main concern is that I’m not english native speaker, meaning I came to the US when I was 13 years old and have been living here since then (14 years). My mother tongue is Spanish but I also know engligh since I went to high school and also college in NY. I’m planning to get a TEFL certification and then move to CR next year. Would it be harder or almost impossible for me to get a job teaching english in CR?

  52. Ken davis says

    Hi Erin,

    I’m looking to make a move to Costa Rica in August of this year 2013. I would like to start the Tefl course as well. Would you still recommend Maximo Nivel as a reputable company and is it close to San Jose? Also, would you recommend Paying on line for the August already now. Thanks for any help you can offer.


    • Erin Morris says

      I definitely still recommend them. You can still get a discount if you mention me or my blog, too. They are located in a section of San José called San Pedro. San Pedro is one of the nicer sections of San Jose. There are a ton of universities there and a popular section of town with good restaurants, bars, and shops. A ton of expats live in San Pedro.
      Paying now or later is up to you. I know they like to keep class sizes on the small side, so there is limited enrollment. August is close to the height of rainy season, though… maybe you should ask them for advice?
      Good luck with your move. Let me know how it goes if you decide on the TEFL at Maximo!

      • Ken Davis says

        Hi Erin,

        Just wanted to let you know that I am here in CR now and will be starting my TEFL course on Sept 20th at Maximo. Next week I will start my spanish classes there as well. For now I am living with friends in San Pedro, but will be looking for an apartment soon. Hopefully in my price range. Anyway, thanks again for all your help.

  53. Vincenzo Kacprowski says

    I am so glad I found your site. I really found you by accident, while I was browsing for something else. Anyways I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a tremendous post and an all round inspiring blog. (I also enjoy the design), I don’t have time to read through it all at the moment, but I have added your website to my favorites, so when I have time I will be back to read more. Please do keep up the awesome job!

  54. Ford Quarterman says

    Hey Erin,

    I have been following your blog for some time now – great job! My question is simple: I want to move to Costa Rica to teach English to businessmen. I think this would better suit me schedule-wise. Which are the best companies/organizations to teach English to Costa Rican businessmen? I have heard there are several companies that offer nice perks like free Spanish lessons, travel reimbursement, & same-day cancellation compensation, etc. I have a bachelor’s in Business Management, will have my TESOL cert, & several years working experience. Also, what could I expect pay-wise? Thanks!

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks Ford.
      There are many companies that teach English to business people. ProLanguage offers all the perks you mentioned, but traveling to businesses to teach is really time consuming and can be frustrating on the bus. Pay is like 8-11 USD an hour. Sometimes the classes for these on-site jobs are only 2 hours long though. So you travel on the bus (which costs less than 1 USD) for an hour, teach for 2 hours, then travel home for an hour. That’s 4 hours, but only 2 hours of pay plus a dollar for the bus. ProLanguage allows you to pick an area to teach in, though (unless someone already has it), which makes life so much easier. If you’re down for that, contact Dawn. She’s super nice and helpful.

      Institutes offer classes to professionals, those can range 2 – 4 hours long and take place at nights, during lunch, and on weekends. Pay is like 5-11 USD. Institutes also offer classes to a wide range of people, so you most likely would get a mix. And probably a split shift schedule (classes in the AM and classes in the PM) with 2 days off in a row.

  55. Rosesky says

    I’m going to San Jose as a mini-vacation and for dental work mid-August. I’ve traveled extensively & studied abroad, but never been to Central or South America. Any idea on where to make job inquiries while in Costa Rica? Certification/ Masters: secondary English Education, I teach high school/ adults of diverse languages & backgrounds [past 20 years].
    I’d love your thoughts on my chances of being successful enough to move here…

    • Erin Morris says

      Sounds like you are qualified to teach in the international schools, which is awesome because they pay 2-4,000 USD a month with many paid vacations. The process for applying at int’l schools is different from all the other EFL schools and institutes in Costa Rica. For example, they will not consider you if you already live in Costa Rica.
      So maybe look up a few and while you are in town, explore the area. If you like what you see, contact them when you get back home…or contact them before. Many operate on a US school schedule which means the school year will be starting in August.

  56. says

    Hey girl,

    I am a recent college graduate not ready to retire to a mundane life of a 9 to 5 in the U.S. Iv been researching best places to teach English abroad and Costa Rica seems like my best option due to its proximity to my home, Florida and ability to obtain work visas. Im just overwhelmed about where to start. Iv been trying to look up schools/institutes or job opening online but have not found any success. Do you have any advice or resources I could try? Also, if I were to just go to Costa Rica to find a job where should I start (names of towns/areas)? Thank you…Any information would be greatly appreciated!

    Shine on, Analisa

  57. Bella says

    Hi Erin,

    Thanks for directing me to your amazing blog here!! :)
    I’ve been reading through your blogs and comments ppl left.
    I’m wondering if a non native speaker has a shot teaching English in Costa Rica?
    I have my master in TESOL from the states, and have taught in the states for a year and other countries for 2 years now (all ESL related).

    Thank you again for all the great info you share. I really enjoy reading them all and happy that you are enjoying your life there!! :)

    Thanks again!

    • Erin Morris says

      The answer to the non native question used to be a simple No, but things are changing. If you do not have a strong accent from your native language, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Especially since you have a Masters in TESOL. from the US. That’s very impressive. With those credentials, you might be eligible to work in the international schools. They pay like $3000 a month as opposed to $1000 from the “regular” schools. The difference with them is that they prefer you to NOT be in Costa Rica when you apply, so research them on the web first. If you want to teach at the beach, you are the kind of candidate that will get the job (as long as you don’t have an accent). :)

  58. Chrissy says

    I’d like to give my children a cultural experience living in a different country for 1-2 years. We have other income we can live on (from investments) so we would not rely entirely on the meager pay offered in Costa Rica. My question is this: what about those of us who are older (35-45) who want to do this but have 2 school age children (in my case, both are in 1st grade now) who need to attend school themselves? Are they able to attend local, public schools? Are there any schools who teach an English-based curriculum (besides pricey international schools??) Any detailed information on this is GREATLY appreciated. Bottom line: I want them to attend any good public schools and NOT fall behind by leaving their schools here in the US and HOPE they could learn Spanish while down there. Help!

    • Erin Morris says

      I don’t have kids, so I really don’t know anything about this. However, my family did something similar with me when I was a kid. We lived abroad for a year and attended a school that was only in the language of the country we were in. My parents thought this was better for us to meet people from the culture instead of just meeting other expats. It was awesome. I am still friends with some of those kids I met in school. For education, my parents made an agreement with the school in my hometown to homeschool us with the same materials that our classmates were using. That way, we didn’t miss a year. So, maybe you could try something like that? Just an idea.

  59. Mike says

    Hi Erin, great site!

    One of the few that has a good amount of info on teaching English in CR.
    I am planning on heading down in December and was wondering what most ESL teachers do for medical coverage. Because most are going to be on tourists visas, is it advisable to get travel insurance with medical coverage that will cover for a year or however long one plans to stay in CR (can be a bit pricey!)? Or is medical care so inexpensive in CR that it is worth the risk in not being insured?

    Your advice is much appreciated!

    • Erin Morris says

      That’s a great question. How much coverage you get is totally up to you. If you look into global health insurance specifically designed for those living overseas and not just for travelers, it is much more affordable. Some offer high deductible policies with air evac back to your home country in case of an emergency. Of course, air evac back to the States is worthless if you don’t have insurance in the States.
      If you are working legally in Costa Rica, you will be put into CAJA – public health system. It’s free, but the wait times are ridiculous. Nice to know you have it in case of an emergency, though.
      Private docs are affordable if you compare their prices with the States. Prices vary, too. For example a visit to the doc in San José can run $50 while a visit here in my tiny mountain town only costs $14. There are a lot of things you can get at the pharmacy, too. So you can treat yourself or even get a free consult with the doctor on staff at the pharmacy. Most drugs are super cheap here, too.
      IMO, I think the smartest thing to do is get a high deductible international plan in case of a tragic accident. You can use that to be treated in Costa Rica or medically evacuated back to your home country. Then for the little things go to the private Costa Rica docs or use CAJA.

  60. Daniel says

    Hi Erin,
    I live in Heredia and am running into some trouble finding an English teaching job because I don’t have TESL or TEFL. I do have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, but that hasn’t impressed so far. If you have any info on schools/centers that don’t require these certifications, I would be thankful. Last time I checked, they run about $2000.

    • Erin Morris says

      You can get a TEFL online for a lot cheaper than that. Schools here have upped their requirements for foreigners since more Ticos have become eligible to teach English.

  61. Steph says

    I am in a service learning program, and will be spending June in San Jose. I’ll be teaching English in a school. (Public) . I graduate in Dcember with a degree in Special Education; i would like to know are classrooms genersally equipped? As in, there are textbooks, materials, and or a set curriuclum? Also- Can I expect the classroom to have a white board or chalkboard w/ corresponding writing utensils? (I won’t find out specifics about the school I’m at or the family until the middle of the month, giving me less than two weeks to put it all together otherwise.)

    • Erin Morris says

      I’ve seen schools without books or chalkboards, nothing. I’ve seen schools with one book and a chalkboard, but no chalk. I’ve also seen schools with white boards and markers, air conditioning, games, projectors, and copy machines. It totally depends on the school. If you bring the materials and end up not needing them because the school supplied them, you could always donate them to schools without materials. :)

    • Daniel says


      I currently work at a school where some supplies are provided: whiteboards, markers, projectors and TV’s. I think I’m one of the lucky ones, however. I’ve heard other teachers say only minimal supplies and tools were supplied. I’m curious to see how the public schools are here in C.R. Feel free to email me and tell me what you think and I can tell you about the private schools. I’m thinking of applying to a public school in order to receive full-time hours. I’m currently only working about 20 hours per week and want to increase that.

  62. Devin says

    Thanks for the plethora of info, Erin!

    I have been researching going to CR to take take a four week TESOL course located in Manuel Antonio, which would begin on June 25th.

    You mentioned in a prior post that hiring generally comes to a halt around August, and I wanted your opinion on what you think opportunities would be like one month prior to that in July. I’m looking to work in the Central Valley and would be sending resumes out and trying to make contacts as soon as I was in the country in June. What do you think are the chances are of getting a job that time of year?

    I don’t want to be overly optimistic and stuck in a position where my savings is at a downward slide for five months before securing employment. I realize this is a general question, but any advice is appreciated.


    • Erin Morris says

      Your chances depend on a lot of things including your skills at job hunting and interviewing etc. Does the TESOL program offer assistance with job placement? If so, they can probably place you…you should ask them. Worst case scenario you can take a low-paying, sh*tty hours teaching job until something better opens up. Good luck!

  63. Valerie Butterfly says

    Erin, thanks so much for this blog! You have answered SO many questions and I’m thrilled that I can even ask questions which someone will answer!

    Are you the same Erin Morris that writes for International Living? (If I’m not supposed to ask that, feel free to delete my comment… not important, I’m just curious). I read a “postcard” you (?) wrote there and it sent me all over the web looking for a university town in Costa Rica’s central valley. What you are doing and where you’re doing it look like exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thank you sooo much for having the information available.

    I don’t have a question — yet — but just wanted to let you know how very much I appreciate your having this blog available!!

  64. Erin Wheatley says

    Hi Erin!

    First of all, great site! I think it’s super awesome how nice you are, to take time out of your day to help all of these people that are wanting to move to CR.

    Most likely, I’ll be moving to CR in January. I have a B.A degree, and am planning on getting TEFL certified before hand. (I also do Graphic Design, like you! – hopefully that’ll help with my expenses). I just have a few concerns before hand, and I’d be really grateful of your help to answer them:

    1) Is January a good time to come to Costa Rica and find a teaching job?
    2) I’m planning on living in Heredia in the Central Valley – however, I’d like to go to the beach on the weekends. How far is the bus ride from Heredia to the beaches?
    3) Do I need to bring my original birth certificate with me on my move? And my U.S. social security card? Any other documents that I need to bring with me from the USA?
    4) I’d like to find a community of people that could help me when I move there – like a female roommate, or a trusted family. Any suggestions?
    5) Which one of these packages do you recommend that I do when I get certified?

    Thank you in advance!


    • Erin Morris says

      Hi Erin :)
      1. Sure.
      2. Not sure. I drive. I think that requires 2 buses so it would be like 2 or 3 hours. Maybe you could look into Maximo Nivel’s new campus in Manuel Antonio so you would already be at the beach.
      3. No. An apostilled copy of birth certificate and criminal background check is what is required for a work visa. Those have an expiration date, though, so you might end up having to go back and get it anyway.
      4. I met people through school, work, online…
      5. Whichever you feel is best based on the experience you already have or don’t have.

  65. Hillary says

    Hi Erin!

    I’m an undergraduate student and I’m considering getting a TEFL certificate and moving back to San Jose. I used to live in the San Pedro area of San Jose and as much as I love the conveniences of American life I deeply miss the culture of Costa Rica. I am considering moving back to become an ESL teacher but I’m just concerned with all the financial stuff :/ When I was there I lived with a group and it was very inexpensive but if I was wanting to rent a small apartment with just one other friend how much would you suggest I budget? Also, I know that the salary for Costa Rica is low compared to America so how much on average would you say that an ESL teacher in the San Jose area makes and is it enough to live comfortably? Also, what are the hours like working as an ESL teacher? Please let me know, I’m looking forward to hearing from you :)

    • Erin Morris says

      Hi Hillary,
      I think you can get a 2-bedroom in San Jose for $400 – $700 a month ($600 being more common). Salaries for English teachers are like $800 – $1000 a month for a full load. I’m also pretty sure most places pay you only for classroom hours. So if you teach from 8-11 and then 2-5, that’s only 6 hours… and you lived here before, so you know it takes forever to get anywhere on the bus and the hours in between classes might not be enough to go home and come back.
      Maybe you can get a job at an international school – they pay really well and have great (paid!) vacation days although the daily hours can run long.

  66. Philip Docherty says

    Hello Erin,
    Not sure if anyone else has asked this question, but is there an age restriction for ESL teachers in operation? I currently teach ESL in Beijing, China, and their policy has been tightened up to exclude teachers over 60. I’m 62, in good health, but it looks like my days are numbered here, and am looking to move.. Any help or advice would be much appreciated – thanks!

    • Erin Morris says

      Hi there. I don’t know if there is an age restriction. I haven’t heard of one. Costa Rica does ask for age, marital status, etc and a photo when applying for jobs. I’ll ask around and see if I can find this info out for you…

  67. miscnunz says

    I’m curious about age as well, although I’m wondering how old one has to be? My daughter plans on a gap year, would like to get her TEFL while in CR. Wondering if she is too young…

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