It's totally possible to teach English abroad and get paid airfare and/or free housing. Free housing is more common and paid airfare is less. But if you are a beginner then teaching English in Asia might be a good start for you since some of these benefits are common in a couple of countries there.
These two benefits can really help you save money.
All schools and countries don't offer this, but some do. In Eastern Asia: China and Korea are usually the only countries that offer free housing and airfare (with full-time employment), but there are some exceptions which I will mention later.
There's usually free airfare (paid upfront) and housing in South Korea
Schools in South Korea usually offer the best benefits in Asia. Two of these benefits are usually free housing and paid airfare for full time jobs working in hagwons or teaching in a public school. The deal is schools will usually pay for your ticket upfront to fly to Korea to teach English. First you have to sign a contract with the school before they will buy the ticket.
The ticket isn't exactly free though and if you break the contract within 6 months you will have to pay the school back for the ticket. That means that they will subtract the ticket from your check if you quit or leave within 6 months. Schools can have slightly different rules regarding this so it is best to check the contract.
They also provide housing which is free. However, utilities are not free. So you will have to pay for heat, water, gas, electricity and maybe even a garbage fee. Some jobs in Korea such as universities or after school programs in elementary schools do not offer free housing, but they do usually offer an housing allowance/stipend instead.
Under my first contract in Korea I had great housing. It was a large studio apartment with a loft located in Seomyeon, Busan. It was modern with a large window, kitchen, bathroom and heated floors. It was about a 15 minute bus ride from my school.
Under my second contract in Korea. I had so-so housing. It was a pretty small studio in an older house. It wasn't very attractive, but it was very close to my school.
- Learn more about teaching English in Korea.
There's often an airfare reimbursement and free housing in China
Many schools in China offer free housing and an airfare reimbursement for signing a year long contract. The free housing can vary in quality and the airfare reimbursement usually comes at the end of the contract (a year later). That means that unlike Korea the majority of schools in China will not pay upfront for the ticket. Most of the time you will have to complete the year in order to get the ticket. A few of the large companies such as Disney English may pay upfront for airfare as well.
Some full-time jobs in China may not offer either of these benefits.
I worked at a school in Shanghai that did not offer free housing. At that time I stayed in a hostel. In fact in Shanghai and in some of the other big cities you may not get free housing.
- Learn more about teaching English in China.
I never have heard of free airfare in Taiwan. I have on occasion seen jobs advertised on ESL Cafe that will offer free housing. This is pretty rare in Taiwan. Most of the time teachers fly to Taiwan out of their own pocket and then look for jobs once they arrive.
Most look on Tealit for jobs. ESL Cafe is mainly a portal for teachers looking for jobs in other countries. If you do see a job advertised on the international job board it's probably because for whatever reason that school would prefer a teacher who is not in Taiwan.
Some schools may sometimes help you find housing, but as I mentioned before it is rare to find free housing in Taiwan. Teachers often find housing on classifieds, or through real estate agents.
- Learn more about teaching English in Taiwan.
Is there any free airfare or housing in Japan?
Most schools in Japan do not provide either. Like Taiwan many schools in Japan will prefer that you are already there. Some of the larger companies like ECC, AEON, or the JET program do hire from abroad, but rarely do they provide any benefits.
AEON states on their site:
"All teachers are required to pay for their airfare to Japan. A one-time Flight Allowance of 70,000 Japanese yen is paid to eligible teachers after completing Initial Training in Japan in their first month’s salary."
Apparently the flight allowance comes with your first paycheck. To be elgible you must complete their training and not currently reside in Japan.
Your best bet for finding free airfare in Japan and maybe free housing is through the JET program. From what I understand they do provide free airfare and a few people claimed to get free housing. If they do not provide housing then they will help you find it.
- Learn more about teaching English in Japan.
What is the free housing like?
The housing can range in quality and it is usually a studio apartment for one person. Sometimes schools may have teachers live together in an apartment. In that situation you will have a room and share the kitchen and bathroom with other foreign ESL teachers like yourself.
What's the housing like? Well that depends. Part of finding a good job abroad is to ask questions. The same goes with the housing.
How to find good housing:
- Ask to see pictures of the apartment (if you are in your home country). Go see it in person if you are there looking for a job.
- Ask how far the housing is from the school.
The housing could be old, dirty, too small, without heat, without hot water or far from your work. Remember to ask questions.
Another expense you may have to consider is a visa run. You would want to ask the school if you would have to do this when you arrive to change your visa or not. Also ask them if they will cover those expenses.
Teachers in Taiwan and China usually go to Hong Kong to get a new visa.
Is there free housing and airfare anywhere else?
Other than Asia you can try teaching in the Middle East. UAE, Dubai, Oman, or schools in Saudi Arabia sometimes offer free housing and airfare for teachers with experience and good qualifications.