Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

Updated August 11, 2019
Mike Cairnduff

Teach English in Shanghai

Do you want to teach English in Shanghai? If so, keep reading!

Shanghai is a great place to teach English.

It’s a cosmopolitan city, the food is delicious, and the weather is pleasant most of the time.

Not only that, Shanghai is home to many great schools and eager students!

It’s no wonder then that it’s the city of choice for many TEFL teachers who want to teach in China.

But like many teaching hot spots overseas, there are some important things you need to know about teaching in Shanghai.

Check out these five top tips. They could save you time, money and effort!

1. Bring enough money

Shanghai can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be.

The average monthly salary in the city is now almost 10,000 yuan (approximately US$1,400) according to the China Daily. It’s second only to Beijing.

You could spend 60 yuan a day on meals or spend 300 yuan per meal.

Chances are you won’t really know how much you will have to spend until you arrive.

That’s why it makes sense to have a comfortable buffer of cash to see you through until you receive your first pay check a month later.

Bring some money if you want to teach in Shanghai

Want to teach English in Shanghai? Make sure you bring enough money.

If you teach in a public school, accommodation will be included in your contract so you won't need to worry about rent money.

However, if you teach in a private language institute – and there are hundreds in Shanghai – accommodation generally won’t be included.

This means you will need to rent your own place (with the assistance of the school).

The initial rent payment can be quite high. This is largely because rent is typically paid every three months.

To get an apartment in Shanghai you’ll also have to pay a damage deposit equal to one month’s rent.

And, on top of that, if you use an agent there will be an agency fee of around 35%.

So, to rent a 6,000-yuan-per-month apartment, you may have to shell out:

  • 18,000 yuan in rent
  • 6,000 yuan in damage deposit, and
  • 2,100 yuan in agency fees.

This totals 26,100 yuan just to move in. That’s US$3,770.

If this seems a bit steep, don’t worry – you have options.

You could move into a shared flat, instead of renting your own. This would avoid these big initial expenses.

Alternatively, teach in the public sector in Shanghai and you won’t need to worry about rent payments at all.

2. Bring your credit card

If you think you might need to use a credit card while teaching in China, don’t cancel the one you have now and think you can simply get a new one in China. You can’t.

In fact, getting a credit card without your company co-signing the credit application is nearly impossible if you’re not Chinese.

Bring your credit card if you want to teach English in Shanghai

Bring your credit card if you want to teach in Shanghai.

If you do happen to get one, the best you would get is one that must be prepaid. This isn’t really ‘credit’ at all.

Luckily, cash is still widely used in China.

All your travel arrangements can be made in person in cash. Hotels may require a 500 yuan (US$72) deposit if you arrive without a credit card, but this isn’t a problem for most travelers.

If you plan on traveling to nearby countries like South Korea or Japan, having a credit card is essential. So make sure you take it!

3. Arrive on the right visa

To teach in Shanghai legally you must arrive with a Z visa in your passport. You should not enter on any other visa.

Getting a Z visa to teach in China can take time, so it’s important to start it early. Leaving it to the last minute shouldn’t be an excuse to enter China on a tourist visa!

Rest assured that Hello Teacher! can help you get the right visa.

Teaching in Shanghai

Make sure you're on the right visa before you teach in Shanghai.

4. Learn about Shanghai before arriving

The best way to prepare yourself for being immersed in Shanghai culture is to learn all you can before arriving.

Read books and watch documentaries about the city's interesting history.


Check out the numerous YouTube videos (like the one below) on the kinds of cool things you can get up to.

And, if you know anyone who has been to Shanghai before, ask them all about it!

When you arrive you’ll at least have some expectation of what you might encounter and will be better prepared to start your new life teaching in Shanghai.

5. Buy a VPN

Numerous foreign websites, including Facebook, YouTube and Gmail, are not accessible in China.

Other sites may be accessible but you have to wait minutes for pages to load.

That’s why you need a virtual private network (VPN) if you want to teach English in Shanghai.

Leading VPNs that work in China include:

(You can see my review of the best VPN for China here.)

Paying for a VPN before you arrive in China will ensure you have access to the sites you want to use.

If you leave it until after you arrive, it may be very difficult, if not impossible to arrange this, as the sign-up or payment page could be blocked.

I hope you liked these tips!


Blog published with permission from Learning Education, a school in Shanghai; some of the content originally appeared on Facebook.

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