Many people have asked us about our adventures in Thailand and how we find living and working abroad. We’ve been living and teaching in Thailand for a year now and we thought it would be a good time to share our experiences. We will tell you everything you need to know about our budget, our lifestyle, our jobs, our travels and everything in between. Even though we know that everyone’s experience will be different we just want to provide you with our guide from when we arrived in Thailand to where we are now.

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Our guide to teaching, living and traveling Thailand Part 1

From South Africa to Thailand

For 3 months before we came to Thailand, we did so much research about working abroad and which agency to use. After doing all our research we finally decided to go with a company called TravelBud.

TravelBud helped us with everything, from booking our flights to setting up the agency we did our TESOL course through.

A TESOL or TEFL certificate is required by most schools that employ foreigner teachers. You can, however, complete a TESOL/ TEFL certificate online. This will save you some money if funds are tight. We used an agency to complete the course through, the agency we used was Xploreasia.

Chane and Jon completing their TESOL certificate.

We had an amazing experience with them. They help us deal with the new country, new food, new language, etc. Xploreasia gave us the proper Thai experience, for elephant sanctuaries, muay thai, temples and more.

The Budget

Most agencies will give a budget break down on their website of the funds you will need. It’s quite a high amount but we do recommend that you stick to this budget as closely as possible. The reason why we say this is because for the first two months we were in Thailand we didn’t earn any money. The first month we completed our TESOL course. The second month, we started working mid May and only got paid at the end of May. It makes sense right?

So on that note, here is our fund breakdown in Baht (the Thai currency) and what we used the funds for:

The budget needed for the 1st month of completing TESOL:

  • Course enrollment deposit: ฿12,113
  • Final Course payment: ฿39,757
  • Visa: ฿1,102
  • Flights: ฿26,497 (price will depend on the country you fly from)
  • Travel insurance: ฿17,983
  • Hotel in Bangkok: ฿1,780
  • Accommodation:  ฿7,389
  • Food (฿200 per day):  ฿6,000
  • Entertainment: ฿1,695
  • Miscellaneous: ฿2,965
  • Bank account setup: ฿1,270
  • TOEIC test: ฿1,271

The budget needed for the 1st month of working :

  • Food:  ฿6,200
  • Accommodation: ฿8,000
  • Entertainment: ฿1,695
  • Transport: ฿2,925
  • Visa Run: ฿4,235

Total: ฿142,877 / (R63,958) / ($4,582).

airplane in the sky.

Month 1 in Thailand

When we arrived, we got picked up by an arranged driver which took us to the Forum Park Hotel. This was recommended and book on our behalf by the Xploreasia team. The hotel cost ฿1,780 for 3 nights. It could be less depending on how many nights you spend in Bangkok.

After this, we were transport down to Hua Hin town in Phachep Khiri Khan province with the Xploreasia team. Once in Hua Hin, Xploreasia arranged accommodation for us that we had to pay for. You will get a room which you might have to share with someone else who’s doing the course with you.

The payment for the accommodation includes a deposit, our rent, and our water and electricity which for us was ฿7,389 for a month. You will get the deposit back if you don’t damage anything. Everyone doing the course stayed in the same building. We had the opportunity to get to know each other very well and some of us became really close friends.

If you already completed a TESOL course online, you will just enjoy the excursion. Such as cooking class, visiting an elephant sanctuary, learn some Muay Thai boxing, visit temples and so much more.

Also Read: 5 Wonderful things to do in Hua Hin Thailand.

If you enjoy local Thai food from the street vendors, you can easily get a meal for ฿50 p.p. So the food budget of ฿6,000 includes three meals a day and your water. This is a very strict budget. If you want more expensive food, snacks, and alcohol you will have to budget more. That could also be where your entertainment budget comes in. The budget for miscellaneous of ฿2,965 we spent on doing your laundry, buying things we needed around the apartment and supplies for our course.

We spend our entertainment budget of ฿1,695 on nights out, markets and we also visited beautiful attractions during the weekends. The course classes will take up 5 days out of the week. On the weekends and some nights you are free to spend your time however you want.

After our month of completing the course, Xploreasia organised us a minivan to Bangkok. Here we met our agent at a bus station. Don’t be nervous about meeting your agent. When we met our agent, I was wandering around the bus station barefoot. Not by choice but because my shoes mysteriously disappeared on the minivan ride to Bangkok while I was sleeping. If I can survive that without picking up some crazy foot decease or being fired you can survive meeting your agent.

Chane standing in the bus station barefoot in Bangkok because her shoes got stolen

Month 2 in Thailand

We started working on the 15th of May and by this time we were on our feet and ready for it. We still needed money so this is where the rest of our budget comes in.

Our accommodation was ฿4000 per month but for the first month we had to pay a deposit that was equal to 1 months rent (They could sometimes ask for 2 months rent as a deposit). We had to buy food, rent a scooter, wash laundry and live for a whole month without getting paid. Another thing that we have to budget for was a visa run that everyone has to do in order to get your NonB working visa.

We budgeted only ฿4,000 for the visa run but it ended up costing us ฿7,500. Luckily for us by the time we had to do our visa run we already got our first salary.

What we learned about Teaching in Thailand

Teaching in Thailand has been one of the most amazing and most frustrating things we have ever done. Most locals in Thailand don’t speak or understand English. So imagine walking into a classroom of 30 students that are running wild. They don’t understand you and you don’t understand them, so what do you do?

Don’t let that scare you away you will quickly learn to understand each other. Through body language, facial expressions and hand signals. Most of the time you will have a Thai teacher in the class that will help with keeping the students focused.

Chane and Jon at their first day teaching at a school in Thailand

In Thailand, the schooling system works as follows you have K1-5 (Kindergarten), P1-6 (Primary School) and M1-6 (Highschool). The Thai school year consists of two terms; term 1 is from mid-May to early October and term 2 is from November to early March.

In Kindergarten the kids learn more through interacting with them in our lessons. They love playing educational games or singing songs. When you teach kindergarden try to learn a few phrases in the thai language that you can use in the classroom. It will make it easier for yourself and for them.

From P1 to M6 the students become easier to teach as their English becomes better and better but they also become harder to control and more reluctant to learn which is normal. Our best advice for teaching is to have a good balance between being a fun teacher and being a strict teacher.

English camp for high school students that want to learn english in Thailand

Thailand has a no-fail policy meaning you can’t fail the students. The biggest problem we find is that there is a lack of communication between Thai teachers and foreign teachers. Most of the time if anything is happening within the school, we as foreign teachers only know about it on the day it happened. We got used to the idea of just going with the flow after a while. Learn to be very flexible and be prepared for anything that can happen.

Yes some days we got frustrated and mad at the students. We believed this is the end, we can’t do this anymore but then we calm ourselves and realise everything will be okay. 

Once you start working at a school we recommend push through the semester. If after 6 months you realise you don’t want to do this anymore you can leave. We have heard of so many people that come here for 3 weeks and then leave because it’s not what they expected. Take it from two people that have been doing this for a year, the first month will be difficult. You will feel that it’s not worth it but once you get used to how things work it will be life-changing. We planned to only come here for 6 months and look, we are still here.

Find part two down below

Also Read: Our Guide For Teaching, Living and Traveling Thailand (Part 2)

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