Teaching abroad FAQs

What does a teaching abroad vacation entail?

As our teaching abroad travel guide explains, you can make a difference regardless of your background or qualifications as placements are available for experienced teachers, first-time language assistants, sports coaches or homework helpers. The important thing is to choose a placement that matches your skills, to ensure you – and your students – enjoy your lessons to the fullest.

Do I need to be qualified?

The volunteer work you will be able to undertake depends greatly on your qualifications, experience and the time you can commit to the placement. If you are a qualified teacher (including TEFL certificates) and you can commit to a minimum of one month, then you can lead classes in schools or summer schools, following the agreed curriculum. Unqualified volunteers or those opting for shorter placements will be assisting teachers in class, leading conversation sessions, helping out with homework and volunteering at after school clubs. This is to ensure consistency for the students; a rapid turnaround of teachers hinders learning, can result in repetition and fails to create the important teacher-student relationship.

What subjects can I teach?

Most teachers and assistants will be involved in English lessons; however, some placements also include music, sports coaching, maths, drama or arts, depending on the volunteers’ skills and interests and the needs of local communities. In the case of English lessons, it is very valuable for students to be able to practise the language with native teachers in order to improve pronunciation and conversation skills – so even if you are not actually teaching, you are providing a much needed service. Qualified coaches can also lead sports sessions in schools or after school clubs.

Know before you go

Your vacation company should be able to provide you with information on things such as dress codes, local culture and beliefs, and anything which you can donate to the school. You may also be informed about local environmental issues to help to minimise your impact – such as water use and waste disposal. All reputable and responsible organisations will require a DBS check (or equivalent background check) to be carried out on anyone applying to volunteer with children or vulnerable adults. Qualified teachers should also be informed about the curriculum in order to be able to plan their lessons.

Is there any training included?

Many placements offer inductions on arrival, including orientation in the local area, cultural training and an induction into the kind of volunteer work you will be doing, including the school and syllabus. Inductions usually last at least one day.

Can I enjoy other activities alongside the teaching?

Combined volunteering vacations mean you will be mixing your classes with other activities – a popular option is yoga and teaching in India, where morning yoga sessions are followed by afternoons assisting teachers in a local school. Other options might include lessons in the local language, including Spanish, Portuguese or Thai. And on weekends you are free to do as you choose!

How long do placements last?

The shortest volunteer teaching placements are just a week long. These are best suited to those helping out with conversation classes, homework or after school clubs, as you won’t need to get stuck into syllabuses. Even if you are a qualified teacher, you’ll need to commit to at least a month to be able to plan and lead classes, to ensure consistency. The maximum time you can volunteer for is usually around 12 weeks – though do chat to the vacation company if you think you can commit to longer – the more time you spend on a project, the more you can offer your students and the local community.

When will I be teaching?

Some teaching placements will only be available at certain times of year, depending on the local term times. Others may offer both regular school and summer school placements, meaning they can be offered all year round.
Usually, you will be teaching from Monday to Friday, with weekends free to relax, explore the surrounding area or go on excursions. Some activities may be included in the placement fees, such as short tours, language lessons or a weekend excursion. For those leading classes, there will also be time during the school day to spend on lesson planning and preparing materials.

What is included in my fee?

The cost usually includes accommodation, transfers, inductions and support. Some projects include all meals, others include breakfast and lunch, others are self catering. Speak to your volunteer organisation to find out if any other activities are included – some offer weekend trips or excursions on your days off, as well as covering transport costs to the school, SIM cards and so on. It is also common for a part of your fee to be donated to the project itself – covering materials, equipment, classroom construction or local staff salaries in order for the projects to be able to keep running.

Where will I be staying?

Due to the nature of these placements, many are based in rural areas and smaller villages where the need for teachers and teaching assistants is greatest; this provides a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and get to know local teachers and other community members. Accommodation options vary hugely. Often there is a dedicated volunteer house; while some placements have the option of staying with a host family. Volunteers on a Thai island may even have their own beach hut!

Accommodations are usually located within easy traveling distance of the school – either on foot, by bike or by local bus or tuk tuk.

Teaching abroad tips


Who are these trips for?

Ridhi Patel, from our leading teaching abroad vacations supplier in South Asia, Volunteering Journeys: “We recommend that everyone and anyone who can speak, read and write in English should try to partake in volunteering to teach abroad. It’s about communicating with another culture and the exchange of knowledge which is important for development and to live in this globalised world. It can break barriers and also allow one to learn skills they did not know they had or living outside their comfort zone. Most importantly, it’s not that hard; it’s fun and really rewarding when you can teach someone something new. We get all sorts of volunteers for teaching – the majority are between 21-35 and over 50s. We also get families which is wonderful as children get involved with activities with their peers.”

Advice on choosing a destination

“Some destinations are definitely more suited to first time teaching volunteers such as Kerala, where it’s less intense and more relaxed. Projects in Kolkata for instance are more demanding and the hours are longer. Volunteers would be expected to aid teachers for large class sizes which makes it daunting sometimes. In Kerala our class sizes are manageable. In Thailand and Cambodia the culture is also more obedient and so it’s easy to teach the children. They absorb everything easily.”

Tips on what to bring

“Volunteers can bring many items to donate: old story books, activities, and games, stationery, art supplies, hand puppets and music and sport equipment is always welcome.”

Advice on teaching vacations abroad


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful teaching abroad tips our travelers have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
“Be prepared for the impact of coming back! You'll have an amazing time, really connect with the community and things in your head will shift, just a little ... but when you get home, nothing will have changed and it's a bit of a shock! Make sure you can stay for long enough!” – Emma Finlay on a community project in South Africa

“The most memorable has to be when we visited the mainland to teach in a Thai school. The children were not used to foreigners and were really excited to see us, they had us signing autographs and posing for lots of photos!! The school had organised and practised dances for us which we really appreciated and enjoyed watching!! The snorkelling trip on Koh Tao was also brilliant!! The only tips I could give would be to prepare yourself for the amount of traveling involved and for the heat but to just enjoy yourself!!! Oh yes, and take a VISA card for unforeseen emergencies or for booking flights and hotels out there.” – Justine Martin on a summer camp in Thailand

“I think that everything on this vacation was very well organised but I think that you need to stay in contact with the people on the ground as much as possible so having a local sim is really handy. Oh, and find out if it's school vacation time when you go as that does make a difference to the volunteering program. I would have liked to know what happens when school term time is on.” – Kristin Walters on a yoga and volunteering vacation in India

“Take light weight clothes (including swimming costumes) that cover knees and shoulders. Be aware that it will be very hot and there is no air conditioning.” – Ann Daly on a teaching project in Malaysia
Photo credits: [Question intro: Volunteering Journeys] [What subjects: Volunteering Journeys] [Know before you go: McKay Savage] [Helpdesk: Volunteering Journeys] [Other activities : Alma Ayon] [Included in fee: Volunteering Journeys] [Where will I be staying: Heather Cowper] [Who are these trips for: Volunteering Journeys] [Tips on what to bring: Nazareth College] [Tip 1: José Morcillo Valenciano] [Tip 2: Volunteering Journeys] [Placements last for: Volunteering Journeys]
Community volunteering in Kerala

Community volunteering in Kerala

Travel and teach in the gorgeous sunshine state

From US $1295 4 Weeks ex flights
Teaching assistant volunteering in Kerala

Teaching assistant volunteering in Kerala

Make the most of your vacations with volunteer travel India

From US $1395 4 Weeks ex flights
Nepal teacher volunteering

Nepal teacher volunteering

Volunteer with children in Pokhara, Nepal.

From US $2543 4 Weeks ex flights
Teaching assistant volunteering in South Africa

Teaching assistant volunteering in South Africa

Help disadvantaged kids to learn English in South Africa

From £1260 4 Weeks ex flights
Family volunteering in Peru

Family volunteering in Peru

Experience sensational Peru with family volunteering

From US $1295 4 Weeks ex flights
Volunteering in the Himalayas, Nepal

Volunteering in the Himalayas, Nepal

Unforgettable Volunteering in Nepal in the land of Himalayas

From US $1295 4 Weeks ex flights
Yoga in India and volunteering vacation

Yoga in India and volunteering vacation

Enjoy yoga and volunteer in Kerala, south-west India

From US $1350 4 Weeks ex flights
Volunteer in Peru, teaching and sports

Volunteer in Peru, teaching and sports

Experience a different side to Peru by living & volunteering

From US $1249 4 Weeks ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: DFID - UK Department for International Development]