Where to teach English as a foreign language in Brazil

You can’t beat a bit of Brazil on your TEFL adventure. It was while in Brazil that I truly fell in love with the world of TEFL. My students were first class and I began to realize that I could travel the world and teach English as a foreign language. Brazil is a massive country though, so where should you go?
Here’s a brief guide on the top three places
View out to sea by the Lacerda Elevator
Salvador, Bahia
Salvador, capital of the Bahia region in north Brazil, is also known as ‘the capital of happiness’ because of the laid back people, constant outdoor parties, and buzzing carnival atmosphere. After Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Salvador has the third largest population, 2.5 million, so it has a town like feel. I loved my time in Salvador and would definitely recommend it. (Photo by Mario_Carvajal)

Teaching English in Bahia
I’m a tad biased because this is where I lived for four months but Salvador is a great place to teach English. Even after travelling the world and teaching most nationalities, Brazilian students are still up there with my favourites. Their happy-go-lucky attitude is contagious and they learn English with passion. There are plenty of language academies in Salvador and quite a few respectable schools who provide good working conditions. 

I had fun while teaching in Salvador and taught a range of teenagers and adults. Some of the adults were just as immature as the teenagers so it was a good laugh. They don’t tend to take life so seriously which makes your job easier. Have a look here for what life in the classroom was really like.

Locals practising capoeira

Things to do

There’s loads to do in Salvador and the Bahia region. Make sure you plan your trip around the carnival though. I got there in early February which was perfect to witness the build up and also find a job (term starts after the carnival). The music has more of an African drum influence and watching the bands parade around the streets and jumping around behind the huge Trio-Electricos is an adrenaline pumping experience.
Pelourinho, the historical centre, is a buzzing area. Here you can see live capoeira in the squares, try the delicious acaraje, and have your photo taken with the bubbly Bahiana women. The 17th century cathedral and colourful buildings are impressive and the views from the plaza next to the Lacerda Elevator are spectacular. Be careful in the area because it can get dangerous, especially at night. (Photo by Wagnertc)

There are 80km of beaches to choose from. At the weekends the ones in the centre get packed and claustrophobic; head north for prettier and more peaceful spots. The waves are big enough for surfing too. I didn’t go (I was a bit skint towards the end of my trip here) but Itaparica is supposed to be a great island to visit.
If you find a decent schools then you can live well in Salvador. I met a lot of expats living comfortably there, one of whom had just got married to a local woman and had a flat overlooking the sea.

Useful links

View of Sugarloaf from Corcovado Mountain

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, or River of January, is one of the most exciting cities I’ve ever visited. I was buzzing from the first moment I spotted the Christ the Redeemer statue in the distance. Rio, nicknamed the Marvellous City, was the capital of Brazil for two centuries before the current capital Brasilia. With a population of over 6 million you won’t get lonely. It’s dangerous though. Rio has fame for the favelas – slums on the outskirts – where drug trafficking and gang fights are common. I had my rucksack stolen in the Rodoviaria bus station so keep your eyes open for dodgy thieves. (Photo by over_kind_man)
Teaching English in Rio de Janeiro
Part of me wishes I’d stayed in Rio to teach English. I remember what a friend told me as we sat on the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain. 

“It must be wicked to live here,” he said as we gazed out along the beaches. “It’s like London but with beaches and fitter women.”
There are an abundance of language academies so you shouldn’t have a problem finding work. The only downside is that Rio is quite expensive on a teachers wage (between R$20 to R$30 for new teachers). Most schools in Rio want you to work above board which means getting a working visa. Have a look at this article about teaching English in Rio de Janeiro for a deeper insight.
Things to do

Over 3 million people visit Rio every year making it the most popular destination in South America. Rio is all about the beaches: Ipanema, Copacabana, and Leblon are the most trendy and fashionable. Thongs and tiny bikinis and skin tight swimming trunks prove for tantalizing people watching for everyone. (Photo by over_kind_man)

Two of my favourite views in the world are at the Christ the Redeemer statue at the top of the Corcovado Mountain and after a cable cart ride up to the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain. From both of these spots you can really appreciate how enormous Rio is.
The carnival is more flamboyant and samba based compared to Salvador. It’s hectic too; over 2 million people attended in 2011 covering 3 metro stations.  
The 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in Rio and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final will be played in the Maracanã stadium. So during the next couple of years will be an exciting time to teach and live in Rio de Janeiro; might see if my wife is interested in a change.
Useful links
Ibirapuera Park

Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo is massive. With a population of over 11 million
you can imagine how daunting Brazil’s largest city is. It’s also known as
“Sampa” or “Cidade da Garoa” (city of drizzle) and is famous for its unreliable weather, enormous skyscrapers, hectic traffic, historical buildings, and impressive architecture. I was only in Sao Paulo for twenty-four hours and it was enough for me, but you might like it. (Photo by rafaelguimaraes)

Teaching English in Sao Paulo
With 11 million people you’d expect quite a few would be up for learning English. While in Australia and London I’ve taught kids from Sao Paulo and they were a good bunch. They were proud to be from such a large city and a few seemed quite spoilt. I’m not sure what it’s like to teach in Sao Paolo (any comments welcome) but I’m guessing there would be a lot of opportunities to teach business English.
Banespa Building

Things to do

The thing that struck me most about Sao Paulo was how cosmopolitan it was. There is influence from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Japan, and Africa. There are more than 60 different types of cuisine and over 12,000 restaurants.
There are many important monuments and landmarks including the Banespa Building, Cathedral da Sé, Edifico Italia, Paulista Avenue where you can find MASP art museum and cultural centres, and Brooklin the financial district. Parks are scattered all round the city. My favourite was Ibirapuera Park because of the lake and views back over the skyscrapers. There is also a zoo and aquarium in Sao Paulo. There are three football teams known as the ‘Iron Three’: Corinthians, Pameiras, and Sao Paolo FC. If you like the buzz of big cities then teaching English in Sao Paolo could be for you.
Useful links
So there you go. I hope this helps if you’re thinking of going to TEFL in Brazil. I’d definitely recommend adding this amazing country to your TEFL list. If you’re considering Ecuador then have a look at a similar article about where to teach in Ecuador.

12 thoughts on “Where to teach English as a foreign language in Brazil

  1. Hi, Joel Martin here! Just wondering about Campinas, Sao Paulo state, about 2 hours away from Sao Paulo city. When I vacationed in Natal a nice British man who owned a bar said that he had a friend who didn't speak much Portuguese but who made about 4 to 6000 reals per month teaching English to university students and business men! Please contact me at darren.j@gmx.us for any input! Thanks! Joel

  2. Hi Joel,

    Thanks for the post. 4 yo 6,000 reals per month? I wonder what Special Brew Man thinks of that one? Err, seems a bit far fetched to me, but working for a university you never know. I don't know anything about Campinas, maybe some of my readers can help you? Where are you based? Good luck.

  3. Hi dear. I wounder if this blog is active? I just finished my degree in England and am desperate to return to Brazil. My degree had TEFL

  4. Hey, thanks for the comment, yes the blog is active, you just have to check the blog post dates :). Not sure what else to say…did you have a question???

  5. it is quite possible do make from 4 to 6,000 BRL a month teaching English in Sao Paulo. I teach at an English school (a good one) and have private students, I'm Brazilian, live and teach in Recife (not even half as large as SP) and I make from 4 to 5,000 BRL a month. I've got friends who have managed to make 10,000 a month in Sao Paulo (I do agree it's quite hard to get to that point though). The secret is: having the right qualifications and going to the right places. It takes a while to reach this nice standard but sure it is possible. The only thing you can't do is accept low-paying jobs for too long thinking there's nothing better out there!

  6. Hi there! Do you have a list of schools in Salvador with good working conditions? I'm very interested in working in this city but I've heard some not so great things. Also how did you go about renting a place to live here? I've heard its difficult for foreigners. And did you have a work visa for Salvador? Thanks!

  7. Hi there! Thanks for this post on where to teach in Brazil. I've always wanted to visit Brazil and experience the Brazilian culture.

  8. Hey Anonymous,

    To be honest the schools I worked for weren't that great. I think one has closed down now too so couldn't recommend any. I found a flat by chance by bumping into another English teacher while job hunting. Best way is to get over there and just hunt around, put the word about. I worked illegally, I've heard it's a bit of a pain to get a work visa, how long are you thinking of going for?

    Thanks for writing!

  9. Has anyone heard of good schools in the north? By the Amazon? I am really interested in leaving Sao Paulo for good. I cam here because I don't like the sun (and beaches by extension) but I wish I went somewhere north, where the rainforest is (while it lasts). Anyway, please let me know. I speak some Portuguese so I can search but I had no luck so far.

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