Why Brazil is perfect for first time TEFL travelers!

If you fancy living and teaching English in one of the most dynamic and inspiring countries in the world then head to Brazil. Energetic, eager, and sociable students as well as a buzzing nightlife, party goers atmosphere, and the fact that local Brazilians wear tiny swimming costumes (whether you’re male or female) on the beach are great reasons to go to Brazil to TEFL. (This post is as seen on the i-to-i TEFL blog)

Life in the classroom
It was while teaching Brazilian students that I really fell in love with TEFLing. They were fun, open, and a great laugh. During my time in Salvador, north Brazil, I taught mostly adults in three different academies. Each director had a different outlook on teaching. One was more focused on grammar and following a text book, another on business English, and the other on improving student’s conversational English.
I loved it because every day was different. The strange thing was that my favourite part of the week was Friday evenings. Not because I went out on the lash with my students, but because the director did a special music session where the students could listen to a couple of songs (also translated into Portuguese) and then sing along. It was amazing how many joined in. This was followed by an informal conversation class. I was getting paid to listen to songs and chat to Brazilians. It was great. (Photo by L.Marcio_Ramalho)
Students were keen to learn; most needed English to help them in their career or to find a job in the tourism industry. Two male students in their fifties said they were learning English so they could escape their wives for a couple of hours a week.
A massive plus on teaching adults was that I’d often get invited out at the weekends. I used to hang around with a few lad students and teach them naughty expressions, while they did the same for me in Portuguese. I also met up with a few pretty Brazilian ladies, which added to the excitement.
The only negative aspect was that I only just made enough money to get by. I was working illegally and there were better academies around but I only had three months experience. Salvador is not as well developed as Rio and Sao Paulo and I’ve heard there are more job opportunities there.
Life in the real world
The main reason I went to TEFL in Brazil was to see the carnival. In Salvador there is a massive African influence and the five-day carnival party was mental. The city came alive with various styles of music. Huge trucks with enormous speakers trailed the streets followed by hyped up Brazilians and tourists from all over the world. It took me about a week to recover from the late nights and boozing but it was worth it. Be warned though, crime is high during this period and most of the dodgy locals are on the lookout for rich tourists invading their party.

(Photo by fagavronski
In previous blogs I mentioned I was almost mugged in Ecuador. In Brazil I was not as lucky. In Rio de Janeiro a scrawny little lad distracted me while someone else stole my bag, and in Salvador a homeless beggar ripped my watch off my wrist. I lived in fear for a while in Brazil, but once I’d learned the language and got to grips with the area I had a great time. I used to run by the sea three times a week, have fun on the beach with students at the weekends, chill out in the squares watching capoeria, and go partying in the evenings.
I was a bit hard up on cash so I lived in a house with a Brazilian family and six others. Murphy, a tough Nigerian man, was the only one who spoke English. He became a good friend and filled me in on all the gossip in the house. Apparently the landlady was sleeping with the odd job man and also looking after her fifteen year-old niece’s son. Over time I began to learn Portuguese and got on with everyone. It was hard living with so many people, but life was never dull.
The best time to head to Brazil to find a job is before carnival because the school term starts just after. I arrived before carnival and walked round most of the schools with my CV. In 2012 the carnival is from the 17th to the 21st of February; so get a move on. Click here for dates from 2012 to 2030.

Overall I enjoyed my time in Brazil. If I had been working legally for a decent academy then I would have stayed longer. Are you thinking of heading to Brazil or already living out there? Let us know something about your experience. If you have any questions then leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer.

24 thoughts on “Why Brazil is perfect for first time TEFL travelers!

  1. While I was there I worked illegally on a tourist visa like most of my colleagues. Saying that, the academies were quite relaxed about the whole visa situation. To work for the better schools you will need a visa and most schools will help you get one once they are happy with you and you with them, but you have to be there and show you are keen to stay a long time. Have a look at this post for more information.

    http://www.onlinetefl.com/tefl-faq/content/21/209/en/which-visa-do-i-need-to-work-legally-in-brazil.html

    Are you thinking of going out to Brazil? Where are you teaching now?

  2. Ugh I'm jealous. It is my dream to be teaching in Brazil by last next Fall. What certification class should I look at/is that even the first question I need to ask?

    -Nate

  3. Hi Nate,

    Thanks for the comment. Brazil was a great place to live and teach. You'll have a great time. I'd say definitely get a TEFL qualification if you can, or try one of the on-line courses. i-TO-i are pretty good. Where are you thinking of going?

  4. That sounds amazing! Do you know if there is there a minimum age limit? I want to get a certification and go next year, but I'm only 20 and I'm not sure if I'd even be considered for a job.
    – Lorilie

  5. Hi Lorile,

    20 to 21 is fine. You might struggle a bit to find work at first but if you do a CELTA then you'll be alright. Do you have a degree? Only problem is that some CELTA courses and employers require a degree. Good luck.

  6. Hey, I just recently graduated from University of Colorado (I studied Environmental Studies) and have decided to TEFL in Brazil. I was wondering what you suggest for the certification, in-class or online, and how it would affect getting a job (I plan to work in Belem, Para- which is where I studied abroad)). There is a course in Rio through http://www.bridgetefl.com/ however, this costs around USD2000 and doesnt provide food or lodging (which would be about another USD700 for the month). But this course does provide on-site training and applied/monitored teaching. However, I have just come across this groupon for http://www.tesolexpressonline.com/OnlineCourses which brings their TESOL 120 Advanced Certificate down from USD599 to USD80! Anyway, my main question here is, can you still get jobs in brazil with TEFL online certificates. Which certificate(s) do you have? Any other advice is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Zach

  7. H Zach,

    Great choice man, I never went to Belem but heard good things. I'd definitely go for in-class course, just to get some interaction with the students. That's the best part, seeing their faces and interacting with them to get a real feel for TEFL. Also it's important to have lessons with monitoring, that way you know you're on the right track.

    USD2000 sounds a lot for a course, is it a CELTA? Do you get free tickets to the football or something too? Only joking. If a course has gone from USD599 to USD80 then I wouldn't bother, sounds like a dodgy deal, I might be wrong though.

    I have a TESOL, basically a CELTA, and I'd go for one of those if you can. Online courses are good, but to get a job with the better schools then you need to fork out a bit. Don't pay loads for an online course, you should get some student contact too.

    What's your plan? Is this a career move or just something to get out to Brazil for? All the jobs I got in Brazil were pretty relaxed about qualifications, I don't think any actually knew what a CELTA was, as long as I could speak English then they were happy.

    Hope that helps. Have a look at my latest blog http://teachingenglishinaforeignland.blogspot.com/2012/03/essential-resources-for-tefl-in-brazil.html for some more info.

    Thanks

    Baz

  8. Hi All..

    This blog is great, I have found it quiet hard to get information about teaching English in Salvador. I am currently doing a Tefl course and I will be going to Brasil this June or July. Has anybody any ideas on which academies to approach. I will have a visa so all good. I am also currently studying portuguese.

    I appreciate any advice or tips that you can provide me with.

    Thanks in advance
    Jane

  9. Hi Jane,

    This blog is great? Glad you think so! So you're off to Salvador? When? Term has just started so you might struggle to find work at the moment, at least until around September I think. While I was there I worked for P.E.C, A.E.C, and OKEY DOKEY, but to be honest there are mush better schools. I can't remember their names but if you look on the equivalent of yellow pages in Brazil (http://www.phonebookoftheworld.com/phonebookofsalvador.htm) then get in contact with them before you go. Have you got any qualifications? It's great that you have a visa, that was a problem I had. Where are you based?

    Anyways, any q's then let me know. Good luck.

    Baz

  10. Hey Baz

    Thanks for getting back to me, I will have a look at your suggestion. I'm currently based in Ireland. I'm heading to Salvador in July probably, i've been there before so have seen what its like.
    I have a degree and a lot of experience however not much teaching experience, currently doing my Tefl course so hope to get some teaching work to get me started.
    How did you find Salvador to live in did you like it?

    Jane

  11. Hi Jane,

    No worries. Yeah I liked Salvador. I had a great time in the carnival and my students were fun and a good laugh. I couldn't have settled there though. I felt as a foreigner I didn't have many rights, but having a visa will help you.

    I lived in a bit of a scummy area round the back of Pelourinho. I could have found a better place but I was skint at the time so it was all I could afford.

    Good that you are doing a TEFL course. Let me know how you get on. Good luck.

  12. Hi Baz,

    Can I just say this blog is the best one I've found yet! Extremely informative and well- written. Thanks for taking the time.
    Anyway, I have Just started my TEFL course with i-to-i, as well as graduating from University of Leeds. Me and my partner are looking to go out to Rio in January and start job hunting but we also really want to travel.

    What are the chances that we could land a TEFL job in the same area? I understand we may not get the same school and that's not a problem, but we obviously don't want to have to travel hours away from our base.

    Also what are general apartment prices like in Rio? As we are hoping for two incomes we would like to know what's a good range in the budget of a TEFL teacher and what's not. I assume that any travelling ideas we have we should do after our contract ends? If we get a working visa how long does that give us until we are illegally in that country?

    I hope this isn't a lot of questions. Thanks

    Kendal

  13. Hey Kendal,

    Thanks for the comment, great words. Sorry for not replying sooner, been mega busy since I got back England for a month.

    Brazil is a great choice and I'm sure you'll love it. You should be able to get a job in the same area, I know plenty of couples who have worked in the same cities, and even the same school, but I'm guessing you want some space :).

    Re apartments in Rio, I don't want to lie, I haven't got a clue as I stayed in a hostel, but I paid 30 quid a month in Salvador, but that was a dive, sorry can't be more help.

    You can get between 600 and 900 quid a month depending on the school and hours, with two incomes that's plenty to live on. I'd do some travelling before, that way you can see whether you want to stay in Rio, but also you'll have more to speak about with your students, travel stories are always good and the students like the fact you;ve seen their country. Of course travel after as well, if you can.

    I don't understand your last question, can you elaborate?

    Anyway, hope that helps. Let me know how you get on…

    Oh yeah, and make sure you stay there for the carnival, amazing. Good luck.

  14. Hi Baz,

    Im also planıng to get a tefl certificate and work in Brazil. do you know anything about Paraty? I heard ıts a small town but I thought I can find schools there. What do you say about this? Im planing to get the course online but Im graduated from English Language and Literature department and I worked as a teacher for a while.

  15. Hi Baz,

    I know this is probably a bit of a long stretch seeing as you're teaching in Spain now, but I wonder what advice you've got for living in Brazil. I'm really tempted to just go wing it, UK citizen, TEFL qualified with summer teaching experience, so my CV's looking alright at the minute, but I'm about to graduate uni and not quite ready to settle in Britain yet. Brazil looks ideal and I'm hoping to head out in the next few months maybe, but my major worry is where to live? Did you find an appartment or did you just stay in hostels? I don't really know where to even start with that bit. The finding jobs bit I'm hoping will just be a case of speaking to schools and things, maybe I'm naive, but well, basically any advice would be awesome.

    Hope all is going well with your travels and teaching.

    K

  16. Hi, quick question.

    I am planning to go to Brazil in March next year, so the academic year will already have started. Will this have a big impact on my chance of getting work as an english teacher?

    Noel

  17. Hey Noel,

    I'd say yes, it might, can't you get over there for Feb? You'll miss the carnival too. Problem is that schools start after the carnival, once they know their numbers, so you're better off getting there then. If not then maybe get in touch with them now, and say when you'll be over there. Where are you based?

    Good luck

  18. Hi Barry,

    I'm coming to the end of a CELTA course in London. At the moment I'm thinking Rio is the place to go, with Carnival, of course the World Cup and it just sounding like an amazing place to live. You say you scraped by in Salvador, but that there should be more teaching opportunities in somewhere like Rio – which I'm hoping might make life a little more comfortable?

    I'm planning on heading out there in mid-Jan, on a tourist visa. Is work going to be hard to find before carnival?

    It sounds like staying in a hostel for a bit (a few weeks?) is a good idea, so as to be in a pretty good/safe location with potential for TEFL networking… and I'm guessing finding more permanent,cheap accommodation is a case of seeing what's available when I get there…

    Also, with the tourist visa – it's 3 months, right? Though apparently you can extend this another 3 months – is that a formality??

    I'm also a bit worried that come June Rio will become unaffordable because of the World Cup (and likewise, wherever I maybe staying during Carnival will also quadruple in price…)

    Sorry for another long comment but any advice much appreciated!

    Benjie

  19. Hey Benjie,

    Thanks for writing. No worries about the long comment, better than the rubbish spam I get!

    I'm jealous. I'd love to be heading out to Rio. You are definitely arriving at the right time, just like I did. Get your CV off there now though and get in touch with the schools. A lot has probably changed since I was in Brazil, but I'd say there were definitely more job opportunities. On the downside I'm sure loads of teachers are heading out there for the World Cup, wish I was…

    I think you'll be pushed to find work before the carnival, most of the schools I went to in Salvador beforehand were waiting till after carnival to know their numbers, but it's still the best time to get there.

    Yeah hostel is best, but get in a shared flat as soon as pos, much cheaper.

    Yeah it is 3 months and you can get an extension, but I think they are getting strict about that now.

    Prices are going to rocket, but if you have a place to rent then you should be fine. I would get a contract saying that the landlord doesn't put the rent up over that period.

    Have fun mate…best of luck. For a deeper insight into Brazil and living check out my book. Enjoy….

  20. Very good article! I’m moving to Spain in the end of this month and already got my TEFL course booked with http://tefl-madrid.com/. Spain looks really promising to me and I heard loads of positive feedback too.

    1. Thanks Lisa. That’s great you are booked up on a TEFL course. I’m soon to be publishing a book about becoming an ESL teacher which might help, keep your eyes out for it. What are you most worried about the TEFL course?

      1. Hi Barry
        My biggest worry is that I have no experience in teaching what so ever 🙁 Even knowing that the head teacher of TEFL Madrid Academy who is issuing me with all the details of the course insures me that it is not required and most of TEFL graduates don’t have any previous experience in teaching, I still worry about it. I hope this worry will pass with practise teaching lessons.
        Looking forward to seeing your book, I found your articles really interesting and very helpful too 🙂

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