TEFL Teaching in Deepest, Darkest Peru
by Jess Feehan
Jess Feehan works for Real Peru Holidays
Starting with the obvious, Peru’s capital and (by far) largest city is also the place where you’ll find the vast majority of TEFL posts in Peru. It’s hard to run a business in Peru without some sort of presence in Lima, and of course almost all the country’s large companies are based here, as are dozens of specialist language colleges, and hundreds of other general colleges where TEFL teachers can find work. You’ll also find more and more middle-class families paying for extra tuition for their children outside of school and college to give them a leg up on the career ladder – good English is considered highly important in many careers, although it’s fair to say that British English doesn’t have quite the cachet in Peru that it does in, say, Argentina.
So Lima is a natural choice for finding work, but do you want to base yourself there? The good news is that over the past decade, Lima has changed dramatically and while there are still many areas where poverty is a stark reality, much of the city feels really quite prosperous, and districts like Miraflores and San Isidro are positively affluent, with sushi bars on every corner, great nightlife, and the hottest culinary scene in the world right now – Peruvian food is the next big thing in the UK and the US and there’s nowhere better than Lima to explore Peruvian food. Peruvians will tell you that “Lima is Peru, and Peru is Lima”, and there’s a great deal of truth in that: whether it’s food, music or people, in many ways you’ll find the best of Peru here.
On the downside, Lima certainly doesn’t have the best of Peru’s climate. Although things warm up nicely from around October onwards, winter here (meaning roughly June through to September) is a grey affair and can be really quite cold. You’ve also got the usual big city problems of traffic (although Lima does have a great new suburban train line and the new Metropolitana Rapid Transit system) and high prices. All in all, though, these are small prices to pay for some time in one of South America’s most fun and vibrant cities.
Pros: Lots of work, Vibrant and exhilarating city
Cons: Very cool winters, Relatively expensive
Peru’s second-biggest city is a very different proposition, but in many ways equally appealing. Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, and overlooked by the snow-capped El Misti volcano, Arequipa is many holiday-makers favourite city in Peru. The colonial centre is almost two cute for words, with great building after great building, all constructed from the local white sillar stone. Arequipa has always been a prosperous place, and these fine historic buildings have nearly all been converted into great shops, bars and restaurants, making Arequipa a really fun place to be. Although there’s a reasonably-sized business community here, TEFL posts in Arequipa are largely in the regular education sector, but there are plenty about – Arequipa has the best universities outside Lima and a large student population. With a perfect climate, Peru’s best beer (mmm… Arequipeña!) and even Peru’s best go-karting track, if you can find a TEFL position you’re happy with, then a few months or even years in Arequipa are likely to make you very happy indeed!
Pros: Beautiful city, climate and people
Cons: Not overflowing with work
The third major centre for TEFL in Peru is the former Inca capital of Cusco. This is a fascinating and unique city and as the major tourist base for Machu Picchu, the tourist sector here is huge, meaning lots of TEFL positions for all those Cusqueños looking to improve their job prospects. The Spanish demolished much of Inca Cusco but by no means all of it, meaning that this is the only place in the world where Inca and Spanish colonial architecture stands side-by-side. Lots of tourists means arguably the best nightlife and restaurant choice outside of Lima, but it can make the centre of town very crowded during high season. The tip is to make sure you start work in, say, March or April so that you’ve had a few months to find your bearings and learn all the out of the way spots before the crowds arrive! The climate is another factor here, with the rainy season from November to March putting a literal dampener on things. In the winter (June to September) you actually have fine, bright days and it’s fairly warm but as soon as the sun goes down temperatures drop to near-freezing so make sure your accommodation has decent heating!
Pros: Fascinating city, Lots of work
Cons: Perhaps too many tourists, Extreme climate