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

employment contract agreementSigning a Contract - Take your time

Before signing any work contract, be sure to invest some time in reading it carefully. It is advised that someone else read over the contract, and be sure you know what the standard conditions are in the specific country you are travelling to. Most contracts are different depending on which company or school is involved in searching for teachers and obviously in which country the company or school is located. This "sample contract" is available simply as a guideline to give you some ideas of what companies and schools expect from the teachers they employ. After glancing through or printing the contract you will be able to consider the employer's requirements and how their requirements will meet with yours.

Be mindful of the following...

• Unpaid Preparation Time
• Split shifts
• Extracurricular activities
• Unpaid holidays
• Sick days
• Reimbursement of airfare
• Health facilities/insurance
• Overtime
• Accommodation
• Transportation from airport when first arriving in the country
• Transportation
• Holidays

Be congenial, It is important to remember that you are travelling to another country where things won’t be exactly the same as ‘back home’. Only negotiate things on your contract that you feel very strongly about. Generally, conditions are good for teachers, but if you seem too demanding your job offer may be overlooked.

employment contractsYour Passport and Visa

In order to travel/work in another country, you will need to obtain a passport and a visa if you have not already done so. These documents can take some time, so be sure to plan accordingly. The amount of time can vary depending on your departure date and the country.


Every traveller needs a passport. It is the documentation that an individual uses to certify their identity, citizenship and confirms their eligibility to travel. Once a passport application has been lodged, it usually takes between 2 & 6 weeks to process, depending on your country’s passport processing system. You will have to obtain and complete a passport application form from the appropriate department in your country. These can usually be picked up from a post office, or downloaded from the internet. Aside from the application form you will need to include other documentation including passport photos, and identification. For specific details on what is accepted by your country’s passport issuing office, consult the application form.


To travel to some countries and in order to work in most countries, a traveller needs a visa. A visa is a type of document that is granted by the destination country that allows you to live and work there. Travellers generally apply for their visa through the embassy of the country they wish to visit within their own country. Generally, work visas are only granted once you have signed a work contract. Although it is notrecommended, some teachers travel to a country without a work visa, and instead stay on using a tourist visa. It is important to understand what a visa means and differences in their definitions.

Work Visa

The process for obtaining different types of visas is different for each country. Often, you must apply for a working visa through the embassy in your home country for the country where you intend to work. Generally, the application for a working visa will need to be accompanied by a letter from your employer confirming your employment, a signed copy of your work contract, a copy of your flight itinerary, copies of your degree and university transcripts (if applicable), your passport, your birth certificate, and some other documentation, passport photos, and there is always a processing fee. It can take up to 6 weeks to process a work visa, so be prepared to wait. Each country has unique regulations when it comes to issuing valid working visas.

Working Holiday Visa (WHV)

Working holiday visas are not usually issued for the purposes of EFL. Basically, these agreements allow travellers to work and travel. They usually have strict restrictions, including age, duration and cannot usually be renewed.

Spousal Visa

As the name suggests, this type of visa allows someone who is married to a citizen of another country to live and work in that country with their family and dependants. These visas are often very strict and time consuming to apply for. In many cases you would have to file a second visa to work in the country anyway. Be sure to do plenty of research on which type of visa you need for your specific situation.

Student or Tourist Visa

Tourist visas are issued to travellers for short term purposes, usually a holiday or vacation. Student visas are obviously issued to students enrolled, preparing to study or taking part in an exchange program in a particular country. While it is possible to find work while travelling on a student or tourist visa, it is not advised as it is illegal in most countries. In some cases, schools may ask you to come on a tourist visa if there are strict time limits. You will usually be organised a working visa after you arrive. If you choose to do this, you may be required to do a “visa run”, by which you visit a neighbouring country to renew your visa. Schools should pay for this, but as there is no legal standard for this type of arrangement it will be up to you to organise it with your employer.

In some countries, getting a work visa can be a highly expensive and time consuming process, so working on a tourist visa is fairly common. Tourist visas are usually only valid for about 90 days depending on which country you are travelling in. There two main downsides to doing this; It is illegal and, if a teacher is caught working without a valid visa, they can be given a hefty fine and will most likely be deported. Schools do not usually do very much to help. The other main reason is that you will often have to leave the country to renew the tourist visa; this is commonly known as doing a “visa run”. If it is suspected that you are working illegally a passport control official may stop you at the airport.

For all of the information you need on the type of visa you should be applying for, check Teflen’s Country Profiles and contact the nearest embassy or consulate for the country you wish to visit.

Teachers ChecklistLegal Issues

Every country has a different set of laws. You may need to apply for a police record check before travelling to your destination. It is a good idea to consider all of the legal expectations you will need to abide by while living in another country.

travel packing checklistAirline Tickets

While the cost of air tickets is sometimes covered by the school you work for, they usually require you to buy them upfront and you are reimbursed the cost later. Depending on the country and visa, you may be required to buy a return ticket, even though you are not planning on returning on that exact date. Details on tickets can be changed with the airline later, but consulates need to see proof that you are not planning on over-staying your visa.


Medical Considerations

When you travel to another country, you have to be aware that situations can get complicated quickly if you get sick or are injured. It is important to understand the medical situation you are getting into before you travel.

There are several factors which you should consider. These are…

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

Types of Vaccinations

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

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

• Hepatitis A
It is a good idea to get a Hepatitis A shot. Hepatitis A remains the most common disease among travellers. It can also be prevented by getting a simple vaccine. It exists in hot, humid climates and is spread through food, liquid and on people’s hands. Getting just one shot of the vaccine will provide protection for about 6-12 months. If you get a booster after the first shot, you will probably be protected for the rest of your life.

• Yellow Fever
This disease is found in Africa Central and South America (including some islands of the Caribbean). When you get a vaccine, you may be supplied paper proof that you received the vaccine. Vaccines usually protect the recipient for 10 years. Yellow fever is spread through mosquitoes, so it is imperative that travellers protect themselves from insects.

Financial Reminders

Before travelling, it is important to get your finances in order. This means closing any bank accounts that will charge you fees in your absence. If you have credit to pay, don’t expect it to go away while you are overseas. It is a good idea to talk to your bank and let them know what you are planning. They will also provide assistance if you plan on sending money home. It is also wise to speak with the tax department in your country and advise them that you will be out of the country.

Don’t forget to look at the exchange rate for the country and understand exactly what you will be paid. Look at the prices of necessities and compare to your local prices. Look into things such as pension and tax in the country where you will be working.


Get Prepared to Teach English Abroad: Travel Safety

Overall, going overseas to teach English is a positive, exciting and safe experience. This being said, there are a number of things travels should be aware of to help protect them from potentially dangerous circumstances. At home, it is easy to take safety for granted. If you know the local area, you know what is safe and what is not. A large degree of this comes with time and experience. It is natural to be cautious the first time you travel to a completely foreign country to live, but it is no good to be paranoid. By following a few simple guidelines, and maintaining common sense, a teacher can avoid a large amount of danger.

Taking Responsibility for your Personal Safety

Knowledge is your best defence. Research where you are going. Don’t miss an opportunity to get some local advice, as well as advice from other expatriates. Get a guide book and learn about the city you are going to. In the city, make sure you have accurate directions before you go out.

Make sure you know who will meet you at the airport when you first arrive. In some cases schools will send someone to meet you. In others, it will be up to you to organise transport to and from the airport.

Make copies of your passport, visas, work contract and travel itinerary. Always keep one copy in a safe place and another in your home country with somebody you trust. It is always a good idea to make sure someone else knows where you should be at any given time. Complete the emergency contact information in your passport. Take extra passport photos with you, you will need them for different uses once you land.

Make sure you have all the information you need to cancel your credit cards if they are lost or stolen. Also leave this information with someone you trust back home in case of emergencies. Copy down the international phone numbers for your bank.

As mentioned before, laws and accepted behaviour varies from country to country. Don’t just assume that if something is ok in your home country that it will be acceptable in a foreign country. Find out as much as you can about where you are going before you get there. And of course, don’t be afraid to ask. Whatever your citizenship, you must obey the local laws of the country you are in whether you agree with them or not.

Once you arrive, it is important to get oriented as quickly as possible. Usually people who are the victims of petty crime are still new to the country and unaware of their surroundings. It’s a good idea to remain alert and learn to recognise potential threats quickly and avoid them. A big part of this is remaining calm. If you get flustered easily you will be more easily identified as a new-comer.

Be aware of the current political situations and avoid demonstrations and protests. Even a peaceful protest can quickly change. If you happen to find yourself downtown during such an event, leave immediately. While it may seem interesting, this is the demonstrators’ lives and should be respected.

While it may seem silly, look behind you ever now and then. Keep an eye on people who seem to be showing you more interest than you have in them. Keep moving and watch other people’s movements. This will help you spot suspicious people, but also help you avoid accidently bumping into crowds in the street. Make sure you are aware of how you can leave the place you are at any time. Also, try not to draw too much attention to yourself with flashy jewellery or clothing.

Remember the golden rule; safety in numbers. Generally, the more people in a group, the safer you are. When walking around the street at night, try to stay in groups of four or five. Being on the street with someone who can speak the native language is a massive plus. Find out from a local friend which places to avoid and what threats look like in the particular country.

Unfortunately, women can be targeted for bag snatchings. Women should always keep their purse close at all times. It is a good idea not to carry all of your money in the most obvious place. Make sure bag straps are secure and keep gold jewellery under your collar. Try to keep your valuables secure. This means leaving any important documents at your residence and not taking everything with you when you go out. Have emergency money or a credit card to cover unplanned costs. Don’t carry too much money, or too many credit cards. Only take what you need.

Remember to avoid the following:

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

Serious Emergencies

Fortunately, true serious emergency situations are really quite rare. You might lose your wallet, flight ticket, your passport, or your bags. Even though these situations certainly count as major annoyances, none of them could be classed as a serious emergency. A serious emergency would be a situation where a person’s health or safety is in immediate danger.

Once you have arrived in the country, establish a direct and reliable means of communication with your family and friends back in your own country. Purchase a mobile phone, sim card, or calling card if necessary. It is imperative that you be able to communicate with someone if you have an emergency. It is also important for your well-being that you have regular contact with familiar people. It is also important that these people have a way of contacting you quickly and easily. If there is an emergency at home or elsewhere, your family may need to contact you or simply hear your voice to make sure you are safe.

Develop a regular pattern for contacting people back home. Establish a plan keeping in mind differences in time zone. Make sure that at least one person knows where you are and how to contact you quickly.

Arriving In Your Destination Country

After much preparation you finally arrive in your destination country. This can be an exciting, but potentially overwhelming sensation. By stepping into a new country, you are effectively steeping into another world, with new customs, culture and physical environment. IF you have prepared well, there is very little danger. However, there are many things to still be careful of.

Make sure you know who is coming to pick you up from the airport. Before you left your country, you should have already discussed this and should know exactly where and what time someone is expecting to meet you. Be prepared with a phrasebook to help you if you are lost or in an emergency situation. Remember that outside the airport, most people will not speak English. If possible, have a copy of your new address in case there is a problem.

Once you move into your new place of residence, there are some things you can do to get settled in the area:

Familiarise yourself with the local area and your route to and from work. Get a copy of whatever public transport schedules you need, and apply for a driver’s license if possible.

Ask someone to point out the local shops, medical facilities and landmarks. These will help you when you want to get home and when you need something.

Find your local bank and automatic cash machine. Make sure you can access your money when you need it.

Organise utilities, such as gas, electricity phone and/or internet. These will help turn your new dwelling into your home and also help you keep in touch with friends and family back home.

Keep in mind that you are not only there to teach but to experience another culture. Spend some time learning the local language and trying new things. You may never have opportunities like this again so try to make the most of it and you will undoubtedly have a very rewarding experience.


teacher employment contractTeaching Your First Class

For many teachers, walking into the classroom for the very first time can be a strange and difficult occasion. Even the most confident teachers feel nervous before meeting a new group of students and the feeling is multiplied when it is your first class. Have faith that once you have completed a Teflen course you are well equipped and skilled for your new role as an EFL teacher.

Through the 8 modules of the Teflen Master course you have covered everything you need to know before your first day. From classroom management and seating arrangements through contemporary teaching practices and onto teaching for specific purposes, you are more than ready to put this knowledge to use.

Most EFL teachers ask for a day to observe another class and prepare lesson plans for their first class. This is ideal although not always possible. Most teachers don’t mind having their classes observed and even like to have some outside feedback. Also spend some time getting to know your fellow teachers and colleagues at the school; they may be the best friends you have while overseas.

Be prepared for your first couple of classes before you go to the school. Don’t worry about delivering too much language on your first day. It is more important that you learn about your students and that they get some idea about you. Check out our teacher resource list for activities you can use. The important thing to remember is to stay calm and friendly. Don’t let the change of environment get too intimidating.

Following are some tips for your first week:

Follow the recommended procedure set forth by your school. Use school textbooks, and school curriculum. You will have a chance to try your own devised techniques once you are comfortable in a class.

Ask the school to explain clearly exactly what your responsibilities are, and what the school procedures are. Find out how students are grouped into classes, how they are assessed, how problem students are dealt with, and if there are any extra responsibilities you will have outside of teaching. It is also good to gauge the way the school interacts with parents when dealing with minors.

Learn the names of staff and students as quickly as possible. Attempt to learn the correct pronunciation of the name of the school and local suburbs.

Take plenty of time to plan. Plan your lessons and your day. Think about how you will get to and from school. Being punctual is as important as being a great teacher. In most cultures, a teacher is a position of respect.


Dealing with Culture Shock

All travellers experience culture shock to some degree. It is the physical or emotional discomfort associated with being immersed in a foreign culture. If someone finds a perfectly acceptable part of a foreign culture repulsive, this constitutes culture shock. Some teachers find it overwhelming, where others barely notice at all. Some teachers do not even realise that they experiencing culture shock, and have many problems in a new country. To help you identify culture shock. Its stages are outlined below.

Stages of Culture Shock

The Honeymoon Stage

During the honeymoon stage, teachers are often constantly surprised with their new culture. They find most things to be interesting, unbelievable or very funny. It is similar to the feeling of being on vacation.

The Hostility Stage

After a while, a teacher starts to notice things that aren’t as inviting. After experiencing a number of problems in the new culture, a teacher can begin to resent it. This is a natural part of the adaptation phase. People tend to become cynical and sarcastic regarding the culture.

The Depression Stage

Negative feeling reach a head and teachers can become depressed. This is usually accompanied by a feeling of boredom, isolation and loneliness. Teachers can have trouble going to work and interacting socially. Hopefully, this stage doesn’t last very long.

The Acceptance Stage

After some time, a teacher learns to see the good and bad sides of the culture. Life becomes easier as the teacher becomes more familiar with their local surroundings. They become comfortable with local food, drink and way of life. This stage usually sets in around three or four months into living in a new environment. This being said, different people experience culture shock in different ways and at different times in their travels. Just being aware of culture shock can help to lessen its effects.

Overcoming Culture Shock

Try to learn as much about the people of the host country. Learning about their customs, language and history can clarify some aspects that you don’t understand. Be open about your feelings. People will not know how to help you if you don’t express yourself clearly. Usually people are happy to offer assistance overcoming culture shock. Constantly remind yourself that you are having an adventure. Attempt to see new things as a challenge and not a threat. Don’t expect it to be easy, but expect to learn quickly. Establish a healthy routine as soon as possible in order to provide stability during the adjustment phase. Make your accommodation your home. Make sure you feel comfortable and safe at home. Develop a hobby, something physical is a good idea to maintain fitness. Refrain from value judgments on people you’ve only recently met.. Keep close contact with your family and friends back home in order to remain grounded. Observe other teachers’ classes if possible.

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