Guide to TEFL in Egypt
Egypt has a lot to offer the qualified TEFL teacher: Work in language academies and international schools in the bustling cities of Cairo and Alexandria or the Red Sea cities of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh; hospitable, humble and welcoming people, and an unrivalled cultural experience.
What types of English teaching jobs are there in Egypt?
There are several kinds of teaching positions available in Egypt, mostly in the larger cities such as Cairo, Giza and Alexandria. Some of the most applied for positions by foreign teachers are in large International schools in these cities and also in the Red Sea cities of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh. However, teaching in International schools is not always easy, due to their strict curriculum and issues that can arise between parents and senior staff.
There are also smaller, more independent schools which, although they consider themselves as international, work on a much smaller scale. These tend to be more popular with families on a smaller income; the more renowned International schools charge large amounts for their children to attend.
Other popular options for teaching are English Language centres/academies, teaching Business English directly to companies, and teaching private students on a one-to-one basis or as a small group. If you are working in a language centre you will most likely be approached by students looking for additional private lessons either for themselves or for friends or family members.
One last thing to mention here is that Egypt is currently building a new administrative capital city to the east of Cairo, which could potentially open up many more teaching opportunities.
How can I find English teaching work in Egypt?
Looking for teaching positions in Egypt is not easy if you are not already in the country. Even though many TEFL websites advertise teaching positions in Egypt, it is unlikely that you will get a reply (or if lucky, a late reply). Perseverance is the key though if you cannot be in the country or do not wish to travel there without being offered a position beforehand. Some contracts come with benefits packages which might include flight and accommodation costs, health insurance and help with visas. It is important to thoroughly research the language centre or other institution that offers you a contract though, as some do not deliver what they promise.
When is the best time of year to apply for English teaching jobs in Egypt?
For International schools and state schools, it’s best to apply before the start of the school’s academic year, which tends to be after the summer season.
With Language centres, businesses and private students, you can start all year round. However, Egyptians love their vacations and have a lot of them. Therefore, for private classes, it is good to check when most of the big city residents are away as there will be less demand. For example, most families travel for Eid at the end of Ramadan.
What qualifications and experience do I need to teach English in Egypt?
To teach English in Egypt you won’t need a degree (unless you’re teaching in a public school). You will, however, need a TEFL certificate and many schools will require two years of experience.
Applying for a visa
You will need to check your country’s government website for information on visas. For example, travelling from the UK, you can apply online for a 90 day entry E Visa which saves you travelling to the Embassy and currently costs between £75 and £129. You would then need to re-apply in Egypt to extend your visa by 6 months after the 90 days. This can be a testing process, particularly in Cairo as the Office for Passports in Tahrir Square is always packed, difficult to navigate your way around to find the right department, and has long queues. I would recommend taking an Egyptian friend with you to help.
You can obtain a visa a lot more easily at the Hurghada offices in the Red Sea region. You can apply for one here even if you live elsewhere in Egypt. Visas will cover you for work and residency.
What is a typical salary for an English teacher in Egypt?
Depending on your work environment, salaries can vary greatly, and you might end up earning anywhere up to about $2500 USD a month. Of course, such a salary goes a lot further if accommodation is included. Top International schools are renowned for paying the best salaries for English native teachers, and these often include accommodation (which may be shared with other foreign teachers) as part of the package they offer. If you do secure a contract with accommodation and some of the other benefits I mentioned earlier in this article, you can live very comfortably in Egypt (more on this below).
Smaller International schools pay a much lower salary and do not provide you with accommodation, so that is something that you would need to sort out yourself.
Websites such as “Internations” and “Expats Egypt” are very useful both for finding accommodation, and also for advice from other expat teachers in Egypt about what you should be paying, and so on.
Language Centres in Egypt tend to have a set rate for teachers. This can vary and can be negotiable, so it is up to you how much per hour you are willing to accept. They generally pay cash in hand at the end of each week. Do your research online by chatting with other expat teachers in forums before accepting a rate.
Private students in Egypt tend to pay well due to the fact that they come from middle-class families. It is up to you to set your own hourly rate. A typical rate may be about £10 per hour. Please bear in mind that a female teacher will not be allowed to teach a male private student in her apartment, because you are not a married couple.
Business classes in companies tend to pay per session, per group, in cash.
What’s the cost of living like in Egypt?
In general, the cost of living in Egypt is very affordable. Your largest cost will be accommodation if this is not provided by your employer. Unfortunately, many private Landlords assume that, as a westerner, you are in a good financial position and so tend to charge a higher rent than they would to an Egyptian (often double). So again, it is a good idea to do your research before travelling and establish some contacts on the websites I mentioned above for information and recommendations. In total, you can expect to pay anywhere from £350 to £750 GBP for your monthly living costs.
Food costs are affordable. Local food is of course cheaper than imported international food. Local cuisine is very tasty. Restaurants offer a wide range of cuisine from Egyptian, to Syrian, Lebanese and Moroccan, and are very affordable. A 3-course meal may set you back around £8. Street food is very popular, incredibly cheap and tasty.
Cairo and Giza both have a metro service. However, I would not recommend it for women. They have separate carriages, but local women tend to be quite rude to foreigners. This comes down to jealousy and can make you feel uncomfortable. Local taxis are the best option. Be aware that the meter should start on a set figure, as some drivers will try to scam foreigners, so check the meter when you get in. It is also advisable to learn some basic Egyptian words (directions, ahead, left and right) as they often try to take you the long way around.
What’s life like in Egypt for an English teacher?
As with any country, there are pros and cons to living in Egypt as a foreigner. If you choose to live and work in Cairo/Giza or Alexandria, then you need to be of a strong nature, as these cities are 24/7 and extremely crowded, with non-stop traffic.
Not everyone is aware that Cairo and Giza are two different regions, and whilst they are joined at the point of the Pyramids of Giza, the Giza plateau extends far into the desert regions and now has large cities built throughout. These have become very upmarket with large shopping malls and upper-class residential accommodation.
Cairo is busier, is central to many of the tourist attractions and is the commercial centre of Egypt. Alexandria (the old capital) is a few hours from Cairo and has many language centres and historical sites.
The Red Sea regions are holiday hotspots and it therefore tend to be slightly more expensive to live and work there.
Egypt is a Muslim country and as a foreigner you will need to show respect for local customs. As a woman, this means dressing in an appropriate manner with trousers or below the knee skirts, and long sleeves. The dress code in the Red Sea area is more relaxed.
Egyptians love to socialise. However, it is not always easy for foreign women to make friends with Egyptian women. Often, parents do not like their daughters mixing with foreign women due to the more “relaxed” western culture. Making male friends is a lot easier, but be prepared to be stared at if you are a foreign woman sitting with an Egyptian man in a cafe or restaurant.
Overall, Egyptians are very hospitable, humble and very welcoming, especially families, who can often invite you to their homes to eat with them.