How Teaching English in Hong Kong Can Fund Your Travel Addiction

How Teaching English in Hong Kong Can Fund Your Travel Addiction

While quitting your job to live a life of spontaneous travel may sound super romantic, it’s just not feasible for most people. At least not right away.

Because let’s face it, as much as I wish it didn’t, travel costs money– and often quite a bit of money. So unless you’ve carefully saved beforehand or you can create a steady income online, you’re just not in a position to be jobless.

But wait, wait…I mean, c’mon guys, just last week I told you all about how you can live a life of travel AND maintain a fulltime job. So what if, rather than trying to travel while working, you instead work while you travel.

It’s a win-win situation really. You get to experience slow, sustainable travel while earning money to further support your travel addiction. And there are many jobs you can get abroad, like fruit picking, au pair work, or bartending, just to name a few. But what better way to earn money abroad than by teaching English…in Hong Kong!

Why in Hong Kong? 

Because Hong Kong is awesome! No, really.

Hong Kong

Here are 6 reasons why teaching English in Hong Kong is perfect for funding your travel addiction:

1.Hong Kong is a ‘Gateway’ Asian Country

The unique thing about Hong Kong is that it’s truly the only Asian country where East meets West. English is everywhere, foreigners are everywhere and Western culture is a huge influence. So if you’re unsure about being able to handle the drastic cultural differences of most Asian countries, Hong Kong is the perfect gateway into Asian culture and lifestyle. It’s the perfect blend of cultures that leaves you feeling right at home.

2.Demand for English is High

In a major international finance hub like Hong Kong, learning English becomes a top priority. There is an emphasis for students, in both public and private school systems in Hong Kong, to learn English from kindergarten and up.

Private learning centers have also been on the rise to help supplement the compulsory English courses in schools. Take all of that and mix in the fact that Hong Kongers prefer native English teachers means that there’s constantly a high demand for teachers.

Hong Kong

3. Job Requirements are Low

If you’re hoping to teach in international schools or private schools, you’ll find that the job requirements are actually held to a pretty high standard in Hong Kong– which means you need to be a certified teacher. However, to teach in public schools or at learning centers, you really only need a university degree and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate, which can easily and cheaply be obtained online.

Some learning centers will even hire you even without a TEFL, and everything you need to know you’ll learn on the job.

4. You can Afford Travel While Still Saving Money

Hong Kong has some of the highest wages for English teachers in Asia. And while startup costs are a bit high, the general cost of living is cheap.  Public transportation costs are around $0.50 – $1.50 USD to get almost anywhere in Hong Kong, food is cheap so long as you’re not eating daily at Western import restaurants like Outback Steakhouse or TGIFridays, and thanks to lovely government stipends we rarely have bills to pay.

And yes, rent here is horrific, my portion of rent is nearly 40% of my paycheck each month, but after living costs, I’m generally still able to put away 30-40% of my paycheck into savings and my travel fund.

Hong Kong

5. Public Holidays Aplenty

Hong Kong has a total of 17 annual public holidays, and it’s standard for most employers to give two weeks vacation leave. Not to mention, if you work for an actual school, you’ll also be getting all the normal school breaks and leave for examination days. That’s a lot of days you can take off to go travel if you use them wisely!

Some teachers get around 40 paid days off per year– not bad if you ask me!

6. Hong Kong is the Travel Hub of Asia

Not only does Hong Kong have one of the nicest airports ever, but it’s also right in the heart of Asia. Within an hour you’re in China, Macau or Taiwan, within another three you’re in Singapore, Thailand, or Japan. It’s been the perfect base for all of our travels around Asia. Even if you’ve used up all your vacation days, you can still find time on the weekends to travel.

We’ve often gone to Macau or Mainland China just as a day trip from here. And that trip to Singapore I took last January? I went straight to the airport after work on Friday and got back Sunday night just in time to return to work again on Monday.

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Would you teach English in Hong Kong?

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28 Comments

  1. Tyler
    June 11, 2014 / 1:47 am

    OK, I’m going to be playing devil’s advocate here. :)

    Having been to HK multiple times, as well as China and Taiwan I’d say HK is the worst choice to make as a teacher of the 3. Not only rent, but everything else is expensive. $1.50 anywhere? If I took the MTR from Prince Edward to central it was already $12-14 HKD. Never mind if I had to connect or go further.

    Food for $20-30 a week also seems really tough to pull off. Maybe you could share how you do that?

    • Beth Williams
      June 25, 2014 / 6:08 am

      It’s true Hong Kong is certainly more expensive than China or Taiwan, but the pay is also higher as well. It’s also a higher standard of living (at least compared to Mainland) and more western for those who are unsure if they’d fit in with the Asian lifestyle.

      The most you’ll pay on the MTR is about $14, but that’s because you were crossing under the harbor. If you avoid doing that, or instead whenyou need to cross take a bus or ferry, you’ll do it a lot cheaper.

      Eating also heavily depends on your area. I was near Prince Edward, so it’s an older, cheaper area, and that’s reflected in the food prices as well. I’ll be publishing a whole breakdown of my monthly expenses tomorrow, so check back for that!

    • Judith
      July 11, 2014 / 11:28 am

      Going to agree with this post here. I live in KL, and whenever I hop over to HK I feel like my wallet gets pounded.

      • Beth Williams
        September 28, 2014 / 10:50 am

        It does, doesn’t it?

  2. Cindy
    April 17, 2014 / 2:25 pm

    Hi Beth,

    I’m sorry if this is a redundant question but I’m very interested in teaching in Hong Kong but I can’t even find any programs to apply through. I am currently teaching in South Korea and would like to start a contract in September. Any idea where I should start searching?

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 8:42 am

      Here you don’t really apply through “programs” or “agencies” like you probably did in S. Korea. In HK you really just apply at individual locations, but unless you have an actual degree in education, you’ll be fairly limited to only teaching in learning centers and not actual schools.

      The best place for finding jobs is on Jobsdb, which is a job search engine of sorts. Let me know if you have other questions about contracts, salary, etc.!

  3. Jaya
    January 20, 2014 / 11:56 pm

    Hi Beth, your posts are certainly inspiring! Sounds like you are having a great time in Hk..

    I recently moved here, and I really wanna learn mandarin..preferably from a school..is there any place that you suggest I can go to?

    • Beth Williams
      January 23, 2014 / 8:17 am

      Thanks Jaya, and welcome to Hong Kong!

      I honestly don’t know that much about Mandarin, so I have no interest in it myself. However, I’ve been looking into furthering my Cantonese by taking lessons, and the school I’m really interested in also offers Mandarin lessons. It’s called the Hong Kong Language Learning Center.

      Other popular options I know of are taking classes at the YMCA or at HKU or ChinaU.

      • Ashley Maves
        March 15, 2014 / 10:40 pm

        Hi Beth,

        My partner and I are moving to Hong Kong in August to teach in an international school. I have been looking at blogs about living in Hong Kong and I must say, yours have been very helpful.

        One of our concerns was the expenses in Hong Kong. We have been told to find a place in the New Territories around Kowloon. I noticed, you pay 2 k a month correct? Your apartment is exactly what we would be looking for! Other than the rent, are most things cheap in Hong Kong (food, clothes, etc)? We were wondering what the saving potential would be. Also, are there certain things that I should not leave Canada without?

        Thanks,

        Ashley

        • Beth Williams
          March 17, 2014 / 8:12 pm

          Hi Ashley,

          I’m glad you’ve been able to find my blog helpful! Living in the New Territories would be cheap, but it’s a bit further out, so transportation does add up fairly quickly depending on where you are traveling to. That’s why I settled on Kowloon which is in between the NT and HK Island (both the location and price).

          Other than rent, everything is pretty cheap here in Hong Kong. I spend maybe $20-30 on food per week? I’ll be writing a breakdown of my monthly expenses and savings really soon (towards the end of the month)… so do watch for that!

          As far as items not to leave without… if you wear shoes larger than a size 8 I’d bring shoes as it’s hard to find them here. Otherwise, most products I use back home I’ve been able to find here no problem!

  4. January 8, 2014 / 2:21 am

    Hi Beth. I stumbled upon your blog while looking for HK expat blogs. My husband and I love Hong Kong and it’s been one of our go-to destinations for short vacations since we just live in the Philippines and Hong Kong is really close by.

    During our last trip, we toyed with the idea of moving there for a few years to study art and make art (we illustrate for books and do design work for companies here). Both of us are also teachers in our country, with a teaching license each, so when I read this blog, I immediately got high hopes for that possible move.

    Thanks for a insightful post! :)

    • Beth Williams
      January 16, 2014 / 10:28 pm

      Living in Hong Kong has been absolutely wonderful! Let me know if you have questions about moving here :)

  5. Tiffanie
    November 22, 2013 / 6:14 am

    Hi Beth,

    I stumbled upon your blog through a Google search on Teaching Abroad in Hong Kong. I am very interested in teaching English in Hong Kong, as I am currently working in the public school district and my grandparents are located in HK. However, I have not found any reputable companies and websites. Do you have any suggestions on where I can get started? Your blog is very well done, it was very nice to navigate through!

    Cheers from Davis, California!

    • Beth Williams
      November 22, 2013 / 1:33 pm

      Do look into international schools and bilingual schools here, as they pay the best. Most people will go through the government NET program here (although this is only for public schools), or ESF when looking for teaching positions.

      Let me know if you need more assistance getting here! HK is a great place to live and work.

  6. August 5, 2013 / 6:28 am

    Great insight into living and working abroad, thanks for sharing :)

  7. Daniel Christian
    August 2, 2013 / 7:18 am

    Hey Beth,

    Love your blog. I finished my TESOL/TEFOL this past weekend and am looking to apply in Hong Kong as that is where a couple of my friends are living as well.

    I had a couple of questions If you would be so kind (and have time):

    1) I have a trip to Asia (Philippines) already later this month so I thought I would swing over to HK and fill out some applications. I heard hiring is done in August/September and January/February. Does this sound right? I would be ready to pretty much go September 1.

    2) When seeing various ads, the schools seem to ask what I want to make instead of offering a specific salary. What is the kind of “going rate” for someone with a non-teaching related BS and a TESOL?

    Thanks so much! Again, great blog!

    Daniel

    • Beth Williams
      August 4, 2013 / 4:10 pm

      Hi Daniel!

      So basically, a lot of companies and government programs will begin hiring teachers in January/February. Whatever doesn’t get filled, will be advertised around July-September. The school year starts in September, so this is the perfect time to be arriving in Hong Kong. If you take a look on websites like Jobsdb, you’ll see plenty of teaching opportunities available right now.

      The other option you have is working for a language center. These hire year round, and act as tutoring or supplementary schools.

      It is very common for you to suggest your own salary here, which can be frustrating. I also had a non-teaching related BS and a TESOL when I first came to Hong Kong. Generally you’ll be looking at around 16,000-20,000 HKD per month. Aim and push for the 18-20k side.

      If you have any other questions, let me know!

      Thanks for your comment :)

  8. Ally
    July 31, 2013 / 11:05 am

    My spouse and I absolutely love your blog. Thanks for providing this information because we have been thinking about trying to teach English abroad somewhere. Maybe we’ll end up in Hong Kong :)

    • Beth Williams
      September 28, 2014 / 10:51 am

      Let me know if you do! It’s a great place for teaching.

  9. July 28, 2013 / 9:11 pm

    Great post! Appreciate you sharing your insight on funding travels while teaching in Hongkong. Just wondering how it works when you get sick or hospitalized..does the governrment cover medical expenses too or would that also affect overall costs working and living in HK whilst still fulfilling travel goals?

    • Beth Williams
      July 29, 2013 / 5:20 pm

      When you work in Hong Kong, you are issued a Hong Kong ID Card just like any permanent resident. This card allows you to visit doctors and hospitals for a very small fee. I unfortunately had a bad accident last fall that had my taking an ambulance to the hospital, staying in the hospital multiple nights getting tests, and getting stitches. In the end everything ended up costing around $300 HKD (~$30 USD).

      • August 1, 2013 / 9:48 am

        Hi Beth thanks for answering my question. I see that’s awesome having access to medical care. that’s what I was wondering about as medical/health issues can sometimes happen right when it’s least expected & can blow through one’s travel funds. so sorry to hear about your accident, hope you’re well and all mended now. I love your site esp the photos and the little tidbits about the city (the China ones) :)

        • Beth Williams
          August 1, 2013 / 1:17 pm

          Medical care is really important for any traveler to have. On top of what I’m provided by Hong Kong’s government, I also carry travel medical insurance from back home, just to make sure I’m covered in all countries I’ll be traveling to (Which is good because I also had a bad accident in Singapore! haha).

          At least everything is all healed up for the most part now and I’m ready to take on more adventures soon! Glad to hear you enjoy my blog. :)

  10. July 28, 2013 / 2:22 am

    If you’re a teacher, the government gives you a stipend? What kinds of stipends? What neighborhood of Hong Kong do you live in? (if you don’t mind me asking, because I understand that can be creepy coming from a stranger).

    • Beth Williams
      July 28, 2013 / 9:21 am

      It’s not if you’re a teacher, although a lot of schools will help provide a housing stipend for you.

      The government provides HK residents stipends for bills, such as water and electricity. Each month they give you something like, $250 HKD for your bills and you only have to pay what you go over. If you’re careful, you won’t go over– and anything you don’t use gets rolled over to the next month. (So if your bill is only $225, next month you can go up to $275, etc.)

      I think we’ve only had to pay an electricity bill twice in the past 13 months of living here… only because summer gets too hot and we end up blasting the aircon :)
      Also, I live in West Kowloon, so sorta near Mong Kok!

      • July 30, 2013 / 12:10 am

        ah, ok. That’s actually pretty cool they have a stipend for residents. Kind of takes the burden off =)

        • Beth Williams
          August 1, 2013 / 12:59 pm

          It really does help! But even without it, bills are really reasonable. Most of our bills would have been about $200HKD, which is around $20 US. Even my cellphone bill is $210 HK for unlimited calls and data.

          Super cheap living! :)