Alright. We know amid all the excitement of moving abroad, there’s that underlying stress about how it’s all going to be funded.

If we stay on track with being honest and upfront with you guys, we’ll go ahead and let you know from the start that it ain’t necessarily cheap.

In reality, you need to think of this as an investment into your future. Sure, you’ll be shelling out a good chunk of change to make it all happen, but the return is oh-so-sweet.

We’ve taught you how to save money before you get here. We’ve told you how much you’ll make when you get here, and we’ve also told you how to ball out when you’ve started bringing in the dough. Now you need to know start up costs to teach English in China.

So let’s get to it! Here is your definitive guide on the start up costs to teach English abroad.

Keep in mind this guide assumes you have never traveled/ taught English abroad before, so we’ll start from the very basics. If you already have a passport, TEFL, etc. then you’re already in the green!




You’ll need a passport, obviously. You should be applying for that immediately if you don’t have one. Ideally, six months in before you plan to leave, but we’ve seen people get by with even newer passports.


  • Passport Costs for a 10 Year Passport: $80-$135 depending on your country of birth
  • Passport Photos: Up to $15


At one time, a TEFL certification was just an extra mph to maybe land you a better position. Now, the Chinese government has decided it is absolutely a requirement.


Your health check is a required document to apply for your working permit. This is sometimes completed in either your home country, China, or both. This depends on the city’s local government requirements.

  • Z-Visa Health Check Out of China: Up to $200
  • Z-Visa Health Check in China: Up to $100


In most cases, your criminal background check can be completed at a local level through your local police station or DMV.

  • Criminal Background Check Cost: Free — $15


This is a newer step in the process introduced in early 2017. Previously, it applied only to some cities and certain type of schools.

Every single one of the documents listed above, in addition to your college diploma must be notarized and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in your home country in order to apply for a working permit in China. No exceptions.

  • Authentication of Documents Cost: $75-$435


The visa application is for China is for processing your documents and application. If you’ve provided all of the documents correctly and they are all notarized, there is no reason your visa would not be processed.

  • Z-Visa Application Fee Cost: $90-$140


This is the final pre arrival cost and can vary heavily from where you are in the world.

  • Average One-Way Ticket to China: $500


A VPN, or virtual private network, is absolutely needed in China to get passed The Great Firewall. If you’re not a social media user, this still applies to you! Almost every foreign media, email, and search engine site is blocked. You can pay monthly for your VPN, but we advise just doing the year up front so you don’t have to worry about it.

  • VPN Annual Fee: $12.95/month, $8.30/month if you pay for the year up front


I know this seems like a lot, but that is exactly why we gave you guys a step-by-step guide on how to save to get over here.

This can take just a few months to save up for if you play your cards right, and based on the schools we work with, you can have made all your money back and then some within 60 days of you starting to teach.

Now, it’s important to know that we work with hundreds of schools. Some are willing to reimburse you for a few of these costs, some are not.

Some are even willing to reimburse you for all these costs, AND give you a settling bonus to make sure you don’t go broke when you get here! Even though, I have to say, if you’re going broke in a developing country, you’ve got some life evaluating to do.



If you read my blog on how much money you can make in China, you know that schools in first tier cities do not pay for your housing anymore. If you some how talked you way into a contract that does, more power to ya. We, personally, do not have this option available.

Schools will, however, give you a monthly housing allowance that can cover anywhere from 75%-100% of the rent, or a higher salary where you are just expected to delegate your funds as you would in your home country. I mean, does your current job offer you a salary in addition to a housing allowance? Probably not. 

If your school does provide housing, but you opt for an allowance instead, these are the costs you need to be prepared for:

  • three months of rent up front
  • Housing agent fee (one month of rent)
  • Deposit (one month of rent)

In China, you pay three months of rent at a time, unless you are moving into a house that has roommates who are cool with you paying month to month. If you don’t use a housing agent, which is hard to do, you can nix the agent fee.

The highest rent in China is currently in Beijing, which would average $580-$870 per month in the city center for a one bedroom apartment. Possibly half as much outside of the city center.

If you’re dead set on living in a metropolis, we advise reading this blog from The Spartan Wanderer first. The grass isn’t always greener, but the money is.

We will happily provide you with resources to find a great place. Unfortunately, finding an apartment months in advance here is almost impossible because of the population density. If you’re not ready to sign a lease, there’s about one billion other people who are. That said, if you’re getting a place by yourself, it’s usually done within 72 hours.

Your school’s foreign affairs worker will help you look for an apartment when you arrive, and the school will typically pay for your hotel for up to a week while you search for an apartment.


Phone plans are cheap here. You pay to refill your phone every month depending how quickly you use up your data.

  • 4G Phone Plan with Talk & Text: $51/month


For some, a gym is a luxury. For others it’s a necessity. Because gyms are still a relatively new concept in China, they are slightly more expensive, and you must pay for the year up front.

Depending on the tier or the city you live in, the price will also vary.

  • Annual Gym Membership: $145-$725/year


If you’ve just moved into a new place, you’ll pay for an entire year of internet up front as well. The costs are significantly cheaper than in western countries.

  • Annual Internet Provider Fee: $174-$290/year


This is for the random stuff you should definitely buy new or bring over from your home country if you happen to have room in your suitcase.

I’m talking bedding, toiletries, etc. In the rarest occasions does a school provide these things. 

Most cities have an IKEA, so expect the same prices if you decide to make that trip. We know it’s stressful, so just reward yourself with an ice-cream cone and a hot dog afterwards.

Let’s say your house has absolutely nothing in it, although landlords tend to leave some decent cooking supplies, here’s what those furnishing costs look like:

  • Housing Stuff: $75-$100

So there it is, all of the start up costs to teach English in China that need considering.

In some cases, if you’re moving into a house with a few other people already living in it, you may pay month to month for a few of these things instead, making it slightly easier to adjust.

So, as you bust out your smartphone calculator and begin adding everything up, don’t mind the financial anxiety that kicks in. Just know that the hundreds of thousands of expats here have done it. If we can, you can too. Besides, that $10 an hour job you currently have definitely ain’t paying off those college loans. It’s time to go somewhere that can help you get on track with life.

Now, here’s where it gets good: ask us how you can get a free flight and 10,000 Yuan ($1,450) settling bonus to take care of most of these costs. We dare ya. Apply today.

P.S. If you’re already a super qualified North American teacher that needs to save up to get here, make a minimum of $17 an hour teaching English online. Apply here.

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