Cost of Living
The most expensive place to live is probably Singapore and the cheapest Cambodia, but that is like comparing apples to oranges. They call Singapore "Asia Light" because if you are just starting out a teaching career in Asia and you do not want much of a change from what you are used to, Singapore is not a bad place to be. You will get the most money for teaching, but beware that it will cost you the most money to live.What you want to do is figure out how many minutes or hours you have to teach to buy whatever it is you like to eat or drink, like a bottle of beer or a nice juicy red tomato. That is, essentially, what we call cost of living. Note that if you are paying more than 25% of your net salary on accommodation, you know you are living in a place with a high cost of living. When I say net salary, be sure to know whether the school pays your taxes or you do. t could mean a lot of money in your pocket if you get or can negotiate the right answer.
Cambodia is a developing country, so although you will make a relatively small amount of money in salary, it will probably be tax free and I doubt you will pay taxes. The school usually takes care of this in their own way and it is their business how they want to handle it. However, if you are looking for fancy shopping and air conditioned buses, give Cambodia a miss. Personally, I really dislike the air conditioned buses in Singapore because they were way too cold and whenever you walked passed a department store on Orchard Road I was always caught with a blast of cold air which I hated. However, when you are searching for an air conditioned restaurant in Phnom Penh, you might appreciate that blast of cold air.
If you live in a main centre in China, like Beijing or Shanghai, it will cost you dearly for accommodation, as will Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh, but if you choose to live in a rural area, you will make less money but your money will go a lot further. If fact, you will live so cheaply you will for sure bring money home or at least have lots to spend on week-ends for travel.
Of course you are not going to South East Asia to stay in one place and prepare lessons every weekend. You want to get out and see the country and a lot of that will take place on a plane, unless, of course, you live in China where there are 300 kilometer an hour trains that are so much faster to use that airports.
However, if you do want to travel a lot, live in a place like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur as opposed to Phnom Penh or Hanoi, because Bangkok is an airline hub like Chicago or Atlanta and it is easy to get a plane to anywhere. If you live somewhere like Mandalay in Myanmar you will always be taking a bus to somewhere to get a plane to somewhere else before you can even begin to think about where you want to really go.
Talking about buses, there are some really great buses like Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh ( as long as you use the right bus line) but there are also some really awful routes you should be aware of that will seem like the longest ride of your life. Most of the travel in South East Asia is by bus and you will be very happy when you pay for you ticket. No matter where you live, the cost will delight you since it will be so cheap.
Renting a car is probably out of the question. I rented an old clunker in Phuket and the first day I hit another car parked on the side of the road. You know, when you are used to travelling on one side of the road and suddenly drive on the other side, it is very hard to judge distances. Most teachers buy or rent a motor-scooter but since I have not done that I have very little to say about it. All I can comment on is my observations on Monday mornings when teachers come limping into school with broken ankles and other assorted pieces of bandage attached to different parts of their bodies.
I think I will do more of this "comparison shopping" in my next blog. This is probably enough now to get you thinking and I will add more in the next few daysl