Get Real: the good and the bad of 10 popular expat destinations

Published on 3rd February, 2015 by Amy Bardsley. Published in For Candidates / TIC News

What's life really life in the world's most popular cities?

Here are 10 cities that are currently very popular for international teaching jobs; highlighting the negatives, as well as the positives of what you can expect to find there:


There’s a huge selection of jobs for good teachers here with over 230 international schools. Socially, there’s lots to do in Dubai with great nightlife. It’s a very popular destination for tourists and expats. You can’t miss the Burj Al Arab here; one of the world’s most luxurious hotels and one of Dubai’s most iconic buildings… However, accommodation can be expensive if your employer doesn’t provide a good accommodation package, and traffic is currently a problem.


A truly international city with lots of expats. There are many international schools, most of which are good or very good quality. The favourite spot here is the Corniche, a waterfront promenade stretching along Doha Bay where everyone socialises; both expats and locals… However, traffic is challenging and accommodation can be expensive. The cost of living is quite high but if you shop around you can find good prices.

Abu Dhabi

This is the fastest growing emirate with many new international schools and several others in development. Salary packages for experienced, qualified teachers are good and there’s plenty of opportunity to save money while working here. You’ll find lots to do socially, particularly on popular Yas Island… However, there’s not the variety of social life that you’ll find in Dubai. It’s also a very sprawling city, undergoing a great deal of construction, and traffic can be a challenge so pick the location of your accommodation wisely.


An exciting, vibrant, international city with fascinating history and culture, and amazing scenery. The food is very good and the Bund, Shanghai’s waterfront area is the place to go. There are several international schools here and more are planned… However, there are restrictions for local Chinese children attending foreign-owned international schools right now and so the choice of international schools continues to be fairly limited. It can take a long time to travel across the city.


An extremely welcoming and safe city with a low cost of living and fantastic food. Don’t miss Wat Pho, the amazing temple of the reclining Buddah. There’s a huge variety of international schools, including many very large schools offering some great opportunities for teachers. You’ll find some of the best schools in Asia here… However, salaries do vary enormously and watch out for Bangkok’s treacherous traffic. Also bear in mind Bangkok’s tumultuous political situation.

Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam’s most exciting and energetic city, Ho Chi Minh is very popular with tourists, particularly because of its warm, welcoming locals and great food. It’s considered a very safe city. The historic Ben Thanh market is a popular destination, not to be missed. The international schools are excellent here and salaries go a long way… However, the selection of schools is not extensive.

Mexico City

The city is undergoing a major regeneration and is flourishing culturally. Its selection of cuisine is gaining global attention. Don’t miss the dramatic, marble Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City’s famous opera house.  You’ll find here a huge metropolis, made up of small, unique towns that have their own character; it’s an exciting city in which to live… However, although its safety record is improving you still need to be careful, and there is a limited selection of international schools.


Beijing is an exciting place to live with its lively hutongs (narrow streets), unique culture and fascinating tourist attractions including the incredible Great Wall. It’s a very safe city and the food is amazing. You’ll find a great choice of international schools here and the saving potential is high… However, in recent years, Beijing has become a more expensive place to live and the air pollution can be challenging at times.

Hong Kong

An incredible, vibrant city full of rich culture and amazing food. Don’t miss a visit to the Peak, Hong Kong’s famous mountain that offers fantastic views of Hong Kong harbour and the city.  You’ll find some of the world’s top international schools here offering excellent packages to experienced teachers. The city has a very good public transport system… However, it’s a very crowded city and your accommodation will likely be small.


Russia’s most exciting city with a fascinating and diverse culture, exceptional arts, wonderful nightlife and a public transport system that rivals anywhere in the world. Red Square is Moscow’s most popular attraction. There are some very good international schools here… However, not much English is spoken by the locals and the winters are extremely cold. Also consider the political situation here.

Now take a look at our recent blog to find out about the ten best countries for international teaching.

You can read about teachers' first-hand expat experiences in our Teachers Interviews section, and check out where you can work in our Vacancies section. Don't forget, you can download the TIC App to stay up-to-date on all the latest news, advice and vacancies!

You may also be interested in these informative blogs:
Ten Best Countries for Working Overseas as a Teacher
10 Tips for Job Hunting Teachers
TIC App helps job-hunting teachers stay ahead

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Amy Bardsley

Amy is one of our recruitment consultants she has great experience of recruitment selection methods and strategies and since joining TIC has attended international conferences and placed many teachers overseas.