Hangzhou is a great place to teach English.
This modern city is home to top schools and eager students, and just an hour away from Shanghai by fast train.
Most importantly, Hangzhou is one of China’s most beautiful cities.
There’s a famous Chinese saying that goes “In heaven there is paradise; on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou.”
It basically means Hangzhou is a real-world paradise!
Compared to the breathtaking natural beauty of Australia (where I’m from), I don’t agree with this saying entirely.
But when compared to other cities in China, I wholeheartedly agree – Hangzhou is paradise.
I’ve travelled and worked in numerous Chinese cities and Hangzhou is by far one of the most impressive.
What stands out is the greenness of the city. There’s a lush and tropical feel to the place, and the locals really care about the environment.
Hangzhou is very green compared to other Chinese cities.
For me, that’s super-important. I mean, who wants to teach English in a city you don’t feel comfortable in?
Before you pack your bags to teach in Hangzhou, however, there are some things you need to know.
So, here are my six tips for teaching English in Hangzhou.
1. Do your TEFL course before you go
If you don’t have a TEFL certificate, which is one of the requirements to teach in China, some schools will invite you to do the course in Hangzhou as you start teaching.
I strongly recommend against this.
Why? You might be a few modules into the course and decide that teaching isn’t for you. And as nice as Hangzhou is, you’ll be in a foreign environment.
Complete the course in your own country, i.e. before you’ve paid for flights and signed on the dotted line.
That way, you’ll be 100% committed to teaching in Hangzhou.
Do your TEFL course before you leave for Hangzhou.
A TEFL certificate is also required as part of the Z visa process for China, so you can work in China legally.
If you need TEFL course inspo, check out my review of the best online TEFL courses here. It'll save you time and money!
Alternatively, if you can afford it, consider the Trinity DipTESOL or the Cambridge CELTA. These are top-notch courses because they have built-in teaching practice with tutor and peer feedback.
These courses may also allow you to teach in your own country.
TEFL, however, is the minimum requirement for China.
2. Jump on the bullet train
Hangzhou is only a stone’s throw from some other great cities.
This means you can explore much of China on your weekend!
Shanghai is only one hour away by high-speed train. So if you feel like heading to China’s most cosmopolitan city, it’s easy to do it in a weekend or even a day.
(Mind you – Hangzhou is pretty cosmopolitan itself!)
A train ticket to Shanghai costs up to 80 yuan (US$11). Or, for less than half that you can take a slower train that takes 2-3 hours.
So, keep some money aside for travel expenses, because you’ll likely spend some time outside Hangzhou.
There are some great places to visit in and around Hangzhou (pictured: Hangzhou's Silk Street).
Equally as close to Hangzhou is a city called Ningbo. It’s home to one of the country’s oldest libraries and has a nice museum.
It has a pretty chilled vibe, and isn’t touristy like Shanghai. I think that’s why I like it!
And, only 20 minutes away from Hangzhou, is a place called Shaoxing.
Here you can try a Shaoxing custard tart or even rice-wine ice cream (the city is known for its locally produced rice wine).
So, if you do decide to teach English in Hangzhou, make sure you capitalize on its handy location to other nice cities via bullet train.
It’s one of the advantages of teaching in this well-connected city.
3. Rent or buy a bike
Traffic is pretty bad in Hangzhou.
In fact, the city recently ranked the highest in China for the longest traffic jams.
Luckily though, it’s fairly easy to get around Hangzhou by bicycle.
Riding is a great way to keep the city green. And, because Hangzhou is such a beautiful place, you’ll get to admire it even more as you cruise around on two wheels.
Exploring by bike is also good exercise.
If you’re like me, you’ll be eating lots of dumplings in China. This starts to show if you’re not careful!
English teachers cycling around West Lake.
I always buy a bike when I’m living in China, but you can hire one of the many share bikes dotted around the city.
Mobike is one of the largest bike share companies in China, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one of their bikes. Plus, they’re bright orange.
Download the Mobike app to scan the code on the bike, and off you go.
Rides start at just one yuan (about US 20 cents), making it the cheapest mode of transport around.
If you’re interested in other helpful apps, check out these great China apps.
They’ll make it easier for you to communicate, get around, and pay for food while you’re teaching in Hangzhou.
4. Bring some money with you
If you want to teach English in Hangzhou, I recommend bringing a bit of money with you.
You’ll need a comfortable buffer of cash to see you through until you receive your first pay.
If you teach in a public school in Hangzhou, housing will be included as part of your salary package. This means you can forget about ever having to pay for rent.
However, if you want to teach in a private language institute (also known as a training center), accommodation generally won’t be included.
If you don’t move in with a fellow TEFL teacher who’s already in Hangzhou, you can rent your own place with the assistance of the school.
The initial rent payment can be quite high. This is because rent is typically paid every three months.
There may also be a one-off real estate agent fee on top of that.
So, before you pack your bags for Hangzhou, ask your school how much money you should bring with you.
This video gives you a look into a nice Hangzhou apartment that you can get for US$560 per month.
I like this video because it's not the typical over-produced video you often see on YouTube!
5. Be prepared for the weather
Like I mentioned earlier, Hangzhou is really green. But the city can still get hot and humid!
In summer, the temperature can easily reach 35 C (95 F).
So, if you're interested in hiking the surrounding tea fields and villages, I'd save this activity for autumn.
Hangzhou is also located in a subtropical monsoon climate zone.
This means you can expect heavy rains in the middle of summer, as well as in the typhoon season in August and September.
Both suncreen and an umbrella will come in handy!
6. Get a VPN before you go
Even though Hangzhou is a modern Chinese city, like elsewhere in China the internet is censored.
This means many of the websites and apps you rely on, like Google, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, won’t work while you’re teaching in Hangzhou.
The thought of not being able to use Facebook to stay connected with friends back home makes me shudder!
To get around this, you’ll need to download a virtual private network (VPN) app on your phone before you arrive in the country.
Leading VPNs that work in China include:
If you don’t have time to compare, you can jump straight to my review of the best VPN apps for China here. You’ll see that ExpressVPN comes out on top.
One last photo of beautiful Hangzhou!
Downloading a VPN before you arrive in Hangzhou will ensure you have access to the sites you want to use.
If you leave it until after you arrive, it may be impossible to arrange this, as the sign-up or payment page will be blocked.
FAQ about teaching English in Hangzhou
How much money can you make teaching English in Hangzhou?
The salary range is about RMB 6,000 to RMB 18,000 per month. I've written a guide about teaching salaries in China here.
What can you expect as a teacher in Hangzhou?
Have a read of this honest blog which focuses on the first week of teaching.
What are some challenges of teaching in Hangzhou?
Check out this humorous blog. I didn't write it but I think it's pretty accurate!
Got any questions or comments about teaching in Hangzhou? If so, leave a note below and I’ll get back to you, pronto.