So 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 highlights, our jobs, our travels and everything in between. So now that you know what this blog post is all about, you have to answer one question:

|“Are you ready to change your life forever?”

If your answer is “maybe” or “hell yes” please continue reading.  If the answer is “No” well maybe we can change your mind. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s just get straight into it. 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 about 3 months before we came to Thailand, we did so much research about working abroad and which agency to use. This was a very stressful process for us, not knowing who to trust and who not to. So after doing all our research we finally decided to go with a company called TravelBud. You can use this company, no matter which country you come from. TravelBud helped us with everything, from booking our flights to setting up the agency we did our TESOL course with. So this is just the tip of the iceberg but finally, we had a place to start.

A TESOL or TEFL certificate is required by most of the schools that employ foreigners to teach English. You can, however, complete one online which will save you some money if funds are tight. We used an agency for the course. The agency we used was Xploreasia.

Chane and Jon completing their TESOL certificate.

We had an amazing experience with them. They did everything in their power to make us feel welcome. They helped us deal with the new country, new food, new language, etc. Another reason why we enjoyed doing our course with Xploreasia is because of the excursions they took us on. The gave us the proper Thai experience and helped us to find our first job. We didn’t have to worry about any of that which made our first month enjoyable and less stressful.

Most agencies will give a 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 money at all. 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, you can have a look at the budget on their website but here is our fund breakdown in Baht (the Thai currency) and what we used our funds for:
 1. 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
  • 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

2. 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)

Many of you might think there is no way we will use all of that money in two months. So I’m going to explain to you everything we went through and how we spent our money.

We had to fly to Thailand which cost us ฿26,497. You can get cheaper flights but we decided to get a flexible ticket which is more expensive. We weren’t sure how long we were going to stay so this was a good option. The money for your course and the visa we paid before we arrived in Thailand.

airplane in the sky.

The day 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. We decided to spend 3 nights in Bangkok to do some exploring.

After this, we were transport down to Hua Hin town in Phachep Khiri Khan province with the Xploreasia team. It’s about a 3-hour bus ride from Bangkok. 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. We came as a couple so we were able to share a room.

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 the 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.

Meeting new people and being in a new country you will want to have nights out and weekend outings. We do recommend that you do it because it’s amazing and this is a life-changing experience. 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.

While we did our course we had meetings with the placement team. During which they told us where we would be working and which agent we would be working for. 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 a.k.a our boss, 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

In Bangkok, we stayed with a guy that worked at the agency for a few days. After this, we went with our agent to the school that hired us in Chumphon province. The agent showed us around the town and helped us find our accommodation, transport and helped us settle in. 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. A lot of people don’t understand when we say that most people in Thailand don’t speak or understand English. Before we came to Thailand in my mind everyone in the world knew English. That’s a myth. 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.

We have had the opportunity to teach both kindergarten and primary. In Kindergarten the students stole my heart. I realised that the kids learn more by interacting with me than through our lessons. They love playing educational games or singing songs. Our advice for teaching kindergarten is to learn a few phrases in their 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. The students should know that you are the teacher and they should listen to you but they should also know that if they listen and participate they will be rewarded with a game. This will keep the students more engaged in the lesson and more willing participate.

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. This is a bad thing to us because it makes the students lazy but also a good thing because it pushes you as a teacher to work harder.

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. We grew so much in the year we have been teaching in Thailand. The students are amazing, they have so much respect for us.

We learned to connect with our students on a deeper level than just through communication. I have to admit some days the students ran up to me and started talking to me in Thai. Even though I couldn’t understand what they were saying, through their facial expressions I knew exactly how to react. Are they happy, sad, angry or just telling me a funny story. Through this, I connected with them, laughed with them, cried with them or even just acted surprised without even knowing what they are saying to me.

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.

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

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