How To Save Up To $18.000 A Year Teaching English In China While Traveling

Living in China and working as an English teacher, like us, might not only be a great cultural experience, unforgettable adventure and travel dreams come true, but also a great source of income. I have mentioned before that my full-time job as an English teacher in one of private Chinese kindergartens allows me to support my long-term voyages across Asia, live here at high standard and still be able to save some money. You can find English teaching jobs in China here on eTramping.

A typical Chinese classroom. Minimal. Very Feng Sui.

If you have ever considered going to China and working full-time, here is how much money you can approximately earn within a year, what your spending might be and how much in total you can save:

Income in China

Current rate

1 RMB (Chinese Yuan) = $0.16

1 RMB = 0.12 euro

1) Full-time Teaching Job

The salary for English teachers in China vary a lot. It depends on your teaching experience, references, gender, nationality and location. If you don’t have neither TESOL nor TEFL certification, you are an inexperienced teacher, and your university degree is not related to education, you will obviously get paid less, but you can still get a job. Moreover, female teachers are typically paid more than male teachers because they are considered as more patient with kids and more reliable. Nationality, in most cases, does not play a major role- as long as you are a Caucasian and you speak good English – you shouldn’t have any problems finding a job as a teacher. If you’re not Caucasian, you may find it more difficult to find an English teaching job in China, but we know great many people who managed to do that, so don’t give up. To increase your chances you should take a TEFL course and prove to the schools that you’re qualified teacher. Obviously, the salaries in bigger cities are much higher than in small towns/countryside (the cost of living is also higher).

Don’t think that the higher salary is impossible to obtain, either. If any of this sounds like something you are interested in pursuing, then by all means start working toward a degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TESOL). As long as you study hard and make sure to be conscious of all career opportunities both in and out of school, you should be all set. Both me and Cez did our TEFL accreditation and we’re happy we did.

Adorable Chinese students.

Inexperience teachers can earn between RMB 6.000 and RMB 10.000 per month. RMB 6.000 is the absolute minimum for 16 x 45-minute classes so if you ever get offered less, you can start laughing (ironically). This amount of money can be offered in small towns and rural areas where you don’t need to spend much on food and transportation. If you are TESOL/TEFL certified teacher in a bigger city, your salary should be between RMB 8.000 –RMB 15.000 (again per 16 x 45-minute classes). The more hours you work, the more money you can get. For instance, an average salary of experienced foreign teacher working up to 35-40 hours (including office hours) would be RMB 14.000 or more.

2) Private Teaching

Apart from working in a school/learning center or kindergarten, you can also do some private teaching in your apartment. Most weekends are off work (Mondays and Tuesdays if you work in a Learning Centre) so if the time allows, you can teach a few kids at home. An hour (60 minutes) of private English tutorial is between RMB 150-RMB 300. Let’s say you work 2 extra hours on Saturday and 3 extra hours on Sunday and you charge RMB 150/h, you can earn up to RMB 3.000 per month.

 3) Winter and Summer Camps

During the summer and winter you can also work as a teacher. There are summer and winter camps held in all provinces in China. You will be teaching for 14 days in a row, 4-5 classes a day and your pay should be between RMB 8.000 and RMB 10.000. These courses are very intensive, but you can earn more money in 2 weeks than usually in a month and still have another 2 weeks off.

Total earning teaching English in China

RMB 9.000 (your salary) + RMB 3.000 (private teaching) = RMB 12.000/ month, RMB 120.000/ 10 month + RMB 18.000 (summer and winter camp, RMB 9.000 each)= RMB 138.000 = $21.345.


1. Accommodation

The good news is that almost all Chinese schools provide a free accommodation (fully equipped) for their teachers. It does not matter what province you work in and how many teaching hours you do weekly, you will be given a free apartment with free Wi-Fi and no bills (electricity, water, etc.) to pay monthly. Some schools might ask you to pay your bills, but it should not be more than RMB 300 per month (up to RMB 500 during the summer for the air-conditioning).

Our flat in Dongguan. Small but cozy.

 2. Food

Again, most of the schools offers free meals during your working hours. If you work early in the morning you can have a free breakfast and lunch (rice/ noodles, meat and veggies) in a school canteen and some snacks in between (a piece of fruit, cookies). If you do late shifts you can stay after your class to have a nice dinner with your colleagues.

A serving of Baozi – traditional Chinese dumplings.

Don’t worry if you don’t want to eat at work as dining out in local restaurants is not expensive at all. A typical Chinese breakfast (3 Chinese dumplings, porridge or noodle soup) will cost you between RMB 3 and RMB 10, you should not pay more than RMB10 per lunch and the same amount of money for your dinner. Add a bottle of water (RMB2) and a can of coke (RMB3) and your total food cost per month should not be more than RMB 1.200.

Food spending

  • Breakfast – RMB 8
  • Lunch – RMB 10
  • Dinner – RMB 10
  • Drinks – RMB 7
  • Total: RMB35 x 30 days = RMB 1.050/ month, RMB 12.600/ year = $2.068.

3) Travel

If you are a budget traveller, China will be your paradise! It’s not only massive, extremely beautiful and challenging in terms of the language, but also very affordable. You can easily travel by bus from one city to another (an average bus ride costs RMB 30-RMB 100) or by train if you want to get from one province to another (one-way sitting ticket costs between RMB 80 – RMB 200). In some major tourist cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Zhangjiajie or Chongqing, you can easily find a budget hostel for which you can pay RMB 30 per night (dorms). There are also a few places such as Fenghuang and Dongguan where hostels are not very common and you need to spend more money like RMB100 per night.

The Temple of Heaven, Beijing.

Let’s say you want to go for one weekend trip every month:

  • Train tickets – RMB 400
  • Hostel RMB100/night 3x RMB100 = RMB 300
  • Food RMB 35×3= RMB 105
  • Other expenses (taxi, souvenir, ticket entrance to different attractions) RMB 400 = RMB 1205/month, RMB14.460/ year = $2.374.

Summing Up A Year in China


Your Spending/ Year:

  • Accommodation – RMB 0
  • Food – RMB 12.600
  • Travel – RMB 14.460
  • Total: RMB 27.060

Your Earnings/ Year: RMB 138.000

Your Savings/ Year: RMB 138.00- RMB 27.060= RMB 110.940 = $18.215.90

Now tell me…

Is it worth working in China? :-)


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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82 thoughts on “How To Save Up To $18.000 A Year Teaching English In China While Traveling”

  1. I don’t understand how you can write, “Nationality, in most cases, does not play a major role- as long as you are a Caucasian and you speak good English”

    If being Caucasian gets you the job in China, then nationality does play a major role in most cases. For me, I’m African-American and I am planning to apply for a teaching job in Korea. In S. Korea, I know ethnicity does not play a major role but the country a person is from is what matters to them. An applicant has to be from an English-speaking country such as US, Canada, UK, South Africa, etc.

    1. That’s really great. South Korea differs from China on many levels, and I’m happy you plan to see what it has to offer.

      When it comes to China, you need to understand that most important is image. Parents mostly don’t speak any English, so they judge teachers by the looks.

      It doesn’t mean you can’t get a job in China. We worked with African-American in one of the schools. I also know one guy who doesn’t speak English much, but teaches because he is Caucasian. Therefore, there is an exception to every rule.

      Good luck! Have an amazing time teaching, I’m sure you will love it.

  2. Those kids are adorable!!! I love your apartment, it’s really cute. China is a fascinating country and teaching English sounds like a great way to save for travel while having an awesome experience – well done!

  3. This is such a great post. I love one-stop-shopping blog posts — this one says a ton about living in China. To be honest, I had no idea a person could save so much in one year working there. I love the idea of the camps — I definitely prefer intensive gigs, and I think they’re better for students anyway than the “drip feed” style of 2 lessons a week like is done in most places. Maybe I’ll make it over there some day once I part with Japan. And teaching kids would be awesome!

  4. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Is ethnicity very important in China? (I suspect the answer to this is YES!) I am Canadian and am a native English speaker with a PhD in Psychology, but I am not 100% Caucasian… so would that make it very difficult for me to get a job teaching English in China?

    1. Steph, seriously I would not worry about not being 100% Caucasian. There is a high demand of teachers and you have other great skills to offer. Would not be a problem at all!

  5. Hmm… sounds like it’s an bit easier to save money in China than in Korea. Maybe I’ll have to journey on over to China after my 1 year in Korea is up!

  6. I love the minimal look of that classroom! Here in Korea, my classroom is jammed full of things – more than I actually need to be honest. I was thinking of possibly teaching in China after South Korea – if I can get through the challenge of getting a job. It’s tough being an ESL teacher when you’re a native speaker, but don’t look it. Thanks for this post Agness :) it’s been a lot of help.

  7. Hello…great post..I just purchased the book..excellent..I teach in Thailand and I wanted to explore some more while trying to save. Could you tell me what the tax rate is in China for the foreign expert teachers? Is that 18k figure after taxes? Thank You, Joe

    1. Same thing I was thinking. I am not white either. Was glad to see another response from a non-white aspiring teacher and to hear that there are african-american teachers and hopefully teachers of other races as well.

  8. Thanks guys-I have surfed the net intensively for the past week and without a doubt your posts have been the best.I am a 46 year old white male and would like to teach in China.I have a university 3 year national diploma and want to do the tefl course.(where can I do this?)I also have two teenage daughters that I need to send some child support money to and how you mentioned what can be saved,I am over the moon.Work is extremely scarce in South Africa for white males due to the affirmative action policy.It has been a dream of mine to teach and travel for many years.What is your take?Is there a chance for this young 46 year old male to get hired?

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hi Mark!

      I’m glad you found our post useful. Please send me a message at [email protected] so I can help you out find a teaching job. My boss’s recruiting teachers for September 2014 and February 2015, so that would be a great opportunity for you to apply!

  9. Hey Agnes,
    Włsanie planuję wyjazd do Chin by pracować jako nauczycielka angielskiego. Bardzo dużo pojawia się jednak w internecie ofert, które opisywane są jako spam. Czy możesz polecić jakieś agencje lub pośredników, a może bezpośrednio szkołę. Z góry dziękuję i gratuluję :)

  10. Hi!

    This article has been really interesting, thanks!

    Can I ask if you, and also other teachers in China, usually work most or every weekend?



    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hi Andrew. Weekends are off work in most of Chinese kindergartens, but some high school students study 7 days a week.

  11. Wow, I knew it was easy to save money while working in China. But $18,000? That alone is more than the gross annual salary for a significant amount of employees in the USA. Now I really do want to teach in China. I think my biggest challenge will be deciding which city to teach in. I’ve already done a business-related internship in Shanghai, so at least that city is not a lucrative option. Any particular locations you would suggest?

  12. Hi Agness,this post has been extremely helpful about giving some facts about teaching in China. My partner and I are currently sifting through job advertisements/recruiters to find a job for Feb 2015. Have you any advice on where to look for legitimate jobs? Any advive/help would be greatly appreciated!

  13. Hello Agness, this is a great post, very informative! I’ve been contacting employers/recruiters for more than a month now, trying to find a decent teaching job in China, unfortunately I’ve been unpleasantly surprised. The salaries and conditions turn out to be different than advertised, some ‘public’ schools are in fact private, all of them so far have tried to get me go there on a tourist visa, recruiters send me unchecked positions that turn out to be extremely dodgy and so on. I end up receiving the job, but my questions are never answered honestly. I am not a native speaker, but I’ve got a bachelor degree, CELTA and more than a year of teaching experience. Your post is so encouraging that I can’t help but wonder, why is my experience so far negative. I would love to hear some advice from you, as I am starting to think I am doing something wrong… It will be greatly appreciated!

  14. I think in some of the big cities in China that many schools will not provide free accommodation. I would say that is at least the case in Shanghai and Hong Kong. I taught in Taiwan, China and Korea.

  15. Great information on Dongguan, Agnes. The number add up but something else does not. Firstly, the only places that will give you free housing are universities. In that case, you’ll get paid anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 at the most. Specifically, I was making 4,100 at a university in Wuhan, was offered 3,500 from another school, and had an offers of 3,600 from a school in Chengdu. I have a CELTA certification, which is why I was making 4,100 while the other foreigners who were new to teaching made 4,000. For the record, I’m white and male.

    A private school, or “training center” (机构) paid my friend about 8,000 plus 1,500 housing, or 9,500. They most certainly did not pay his rent. The job I have just been offered in Chengdu will pay me 11,000 plus 1,500 housing for a total of 12,500 a month or 150,000 a year. Out of that 12,500, 2,000-2,500 will go toward an apartment. Let’s say I get the cheapest apartment possible for 1,700. That’s 20,400 a year on rent not including utilities (water, gas, electricity, internet), food, clothes, etc. That already brings us down to 129,600 or 20,359.11 USD at today’s exchange rates. You can easily imagine that saving up to $18,000 a year seems very unrealistic, not only when taking into account living expenses but also one-time expenses, such as a good winter coat, an electric scooter (2,200 minimum), emergencies, etc.

    Your estimates seem to assume you work at a university (free apartment) while getting paid the salary of a private school (8,000 – 15,000). It doesn’t sound realistic.

    Also, I have never heard of a school giving you free breakfast or any food but I’d love to work at one if it exists. At the university, teachers could go to the cafeteria the students used and we had to pay just like the students. It was dirt cheap for us but certainly not free.

    Lastly, for anyone getting excited at the idea of a free apartment with wi-fi, etc. bear in mind that, if you do work for a school that provides housing (again, most likely a university), and if that housing is subpar, you will also not be earning enough to rent a place of your own. Houses in China are not insulated, everything breaks easily, if you have faulty plumbing in the kitchen or some other recurring problem you will likely receive only band-aid solutions and live with that frustration for the duration of your stay. Some universities treat you like a student (or prisoner) where you have “curfews” and are not allows guests past a certain time (not all but it’s not uncommon).

    Just trying to provide a balanced view. You really have to be the kind of person who can deal with life in China or you won’t be having quite as much fun as Agnes, bless. :)

  16. You stated in #1: “…As long as you are a Caucasian and you speak good English – you shouldn’t have any problems finding a job as a teacher.” Are you kidding me?! Can you expound on this? I am not Caucasian. How exactly will my ethnicity affect my chances of getting a job?

    1. In you home country and / or most western countries your ethnicity may not affect your chances of getting a job, but your skin colour does affect your opportunities in China. It is as simple as that. The hardest time finding a job teaching English have Chinese descendants who don’t speak Chinese.
      Nevertheless, regardless of your ethnicity, there is still possibility for you to teach in China, it’s just not as easy as for Caucasians.

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