TEFL Abroad: What to Put in Your Suitcase

What should I take overseas with me?
What should I leave at home?
Should I mail stuff to myself?

Take only what you really really (really!) must. Humping heavy stuff around the world is no fun at all. Especially, as it seems you will only arrive on very hot and steamy days or in the middle of an ice storm, neither of which is a lot of fun for “humping” stuff around!


Okay, I’m an older guy, so I always think about what medicine I need that I can’t find over there. Ask on discussion boards. Generally speaking though most medicines are much cheaper overseas, so don’t bother to stockpile. Unless the medicine you need/want is unusual or very new, it will most likely be easy to find where you are going.

What is Critical?

Anything critical for maintaining your health, bring it with you.

Other Stuff

Bring only the basics in clothing. Yyou’ll find you can get by with far less than you are used to. Bring a few special photos of family and friends.

Teaching Stuff

Bring one or two reference books. Books are heavy and bulky, but they are often quite expensive overseas and sometimes hard to come by. But. . . with the Internet – you don’t need them quite as much.

You can look up almost everything online. And, even the most remote villages nowadays have Internet access (okay, an exaggeration!). But the Internet is available almost everywhere now.

To Bring a Computer or Not

Lots of people use moving as an excuse to pick up a nice notebook computer. To me, just something to worry about having stolen. A cheap desktop where you are moving will cost you (usually) about half what your notebook will cost. But, prices can vary a lot – so ask on the discussion boards. And, often, pirated software (I’m NOT advocating this) is loaded onto these desktops for free or a tiny fraction of what you would pay at home for the same stuff.

Get a big memory stick or portable external hard drive – load all your essential stuff on it – and bring that instead. It’s a whole lot less trouble!

Mailing Stuff

Not recommended. Things get lost, things don’t arrive. If you really need it, put it in your suitcase. If it is critical, carry it onboard with you.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Many of the items you consider very important to take with you, really aren’t. If you can’t imagine needing something in the first week on the job – don’t take it.


Author: Ted

Semi-retired EFL teacher/teacher-trainer working and living abroad since 1989 in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.