Before You Go

How do I apply for a Chinese work visa?

The necessary steps depend on which part of China you will be teaching in. You can read more about what is required on our visa page. After your interview, we will provide detailed, personal assistance with each step of the visa process.

How much is a return flight to China?

Prices vary considerably depending on the time of year, whether you book in advance, and your cities of departure/arrival. Most schools provide a flight reimbursement of around 6000-13000RMB as part of your contract, and this will usually cover the entire cost of your flight.

What should I pack?

You’ll be able to find most things you want in China. Western food can be purchased at supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour, and more or less any item can be found on Taobao (the Chinese equivalent of eBay).

We suggest bringing:

  • An adaptor

The voltage in China is 220V. If you plan on visiting nearby countries in the holidays, a universal travel adaptor is a good investment.

  • Your favourite snacks

Comfort food is a must during your first few days settling in. There’s a world of amazing local food to try, and you’ll soon find out where to shop for your favourites, but it’s also great to have a few packets of emergency Monster Munch just until you find your feet.

  • Clothes

Although Chinese malls carry the usual Western brands such as H&M, Uniqlo and Adidas, some Westerners struggle to find clothing in larger sizes. Prepare ahead for different seasons!

After You Arrive

What happens when I arrive?

We or a member of your school’s HR team will be waiting for you at the airport and will drop you off at your hotel or apartment. Over the next few days, we will help you to get your Chinese SIM card, open a bank account, and anything else you might need to help you get settled in China.

After the initial few days, you will be assigned a bilingual co-ordinator, who will be available to assist you throughout your contract with us. If you need any help with booking train tickets, doctor’s visits or any other issue, your co-ordinator will be happy to help at any time.

Where will I live?

Your school will either provide you with free accommodation or reimburse the cost of your rent with a housing allowance in addition to your salary. All accommodation is fully furnished, and we or your school will assist you with viewing apartments should you choose to rent privately.

Life in China

Do I need to speak Chinese to teach English in China?

You don’t need to speak Chinese! Your classes are expected to be an immersive, all-English environment, so speaking Chinese in your lessons is actually discouraged. You should teach English using simple sentences, body language, and demonstrations of activities. You will likely have a bilingual teaching assistant in class to help you with translations if necessary.

In your daily life, a few simple words and phrases are useful to know. If you are interested in learning Chinese, there are countless opportunities to do so – many schools offer beginners Chinese lessons for anyone who would like them.

What's the cost of living in China?

The cost of living varies across China, but on average, China has a much lower cost of living than the West. All our schools offer competitive wages and most teachers are able to easily save at least half of their monthly salary.

Here are some approximate prices in Beijing:

Bus fare 2RMB 0.30USD 0.23GBP
Meal in restaurant 20-40RMB 2.97USD 2.25GBP
Total monthly utilities (water, internet, gas, electricity)


(depending on use)

29.74-59.49USD 22.50-45.00GBP
Weekly groceries* 100RMB 14.87USD 11.25GBP

*From a Chinese supermarket, used to cook local dishes. Some imported Western food can be more expensive.

Since schools generally provide either free accommodation or a housing allowance, and the prices of necessities such as utilities, transport, and food are low, the vast majority of your salary remains available for savings, travel, and entertainment.

What is the best way to get around in China?

Public transport – including buses, subways, and taxis – are very cheap in China compared to most Western countries.

In Beijing, a bus fare usually costs 2RMB (0.30USD or 0.23GBP), the subway between 2 and 5RMB (0.30-0.75USD or 0.23-0.56GBP) and taxi meters start at 13RMB (1.93USD or 1.46GBP).

You can also rent bicycles using an app. These bicycles can be found standing on pavements all around Beijing. Simply scan the QR code under the seat, pay 1RMB ($0.15), and ride to wherever you like.

What if I get ill?

Your school will provide you with medical insurance which will cover most of your expenses in the unlikely event of any serious medical problem. For minor ailments, medicines can be bought from your local pharmacy in China as easily as in your home countries. Should you wish to see a doctor, we or your school will provide a Chinese-speaking staff member to accompany you.

How can I transfer money home?

Most people find Western Union, Paypal or Alipay to be a convenient way to send money home. There are also international banks in each city, at which you will be able to transfer money to your home bank account.

Teaching English

Which type of school should I apply to?

There are many different types of schools in China, and each offers different benefits. These are some of the most popular positions:

Public schools – These schools generally have a total of 3 months winter and summer holiday, as well as Chinese holidays throughout both semesters. People looking to travel will have plenty of time to do so. These schools offer competitive pay and a stable workload (between 16-25 teaching hours per week).

Kindergartens – Kindergartens are usually the most relaxed environment to teach in. You will have 2-4 teachers with you to take care of the children and will mainly focus on activities like singing songs and playing games with the children. Extra responsibilities, such as curriculum design, generally aren’t required as most of the workday is spent interacting with the children informally through play.

Training centres – These are often the highest paying positions in China and put you in control of your own earnings. Training centres are ideal for ambitious people who want to take home as much salary as they can.

During our interview, we’ll discuss your skills and preferences so that we can match you with the type of school that’s right for you.

What holidays will I get?

Chinese schools have several paid public holidays each year. However, schools can differ considerably in the amount of holiday time they offer. If you are looking for long holidays in which to travel, you may wish to consider our public school positions, which generally have around one month’s winter holiday and two months’ summer holiday, as well as the other Chinese public holidays throughout the year. If you are less interested in holidays than in maximising your salary, you may wish to consider a training centre.

Can I teach English without any experience?

Yes! As long as you have a bachelor’s degree, a clean criminal record and are a native English speaker, you will be able to choose from a variety of competitive and exciting positions. You will receive training in your first few weeks and our teaching page is full of fun activities you can use in your classes. Many people teach ESL as their first job and progress rapidly from hands-on experience.


Are there any costs for Nova ESL’s service?

There are no costs, fees or deposits – our service is completely free to teachers. In fact, if you refer a friend to us, you can earn 100USD.

If you still have questions about teaching ESL in China, please email us at info@nova-esl.com.

Nova ESL connects teachers to schools across China. Our mission is to promote understanding between East and West, and to help people experience all China has to offer. Founded by a former ESL teacher from the UK and a Visa Manager from Beijing, Nova ESL has cross-cultural partnership at its core.

  • Address: Office 038, 4th Floor Tianshunrenhe Building, 30 Beiwa Street, Haidian District, Beijing, China
  • Tel: +86-10-64946380
  • E-Mail: info@nova-esl.com
  • www.nova-esl.com