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Teaching English in Thailand (The Country Guide)

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If you love pad thai, island hopping, ancient temples, and wild parties, then Thailand just might be the ideal destination for you.

People love teaching English here because the cost of living is low, the lifestyle is fun and exciting, and there are lots of expats so it’s easy to make friends.

Read on to find out what teaching English in Thailand is like and how you can become an English teacher here.

Quick Info: TEFL Jobs in Thailand
Available JobsPublic & private schools; Language centers; Colleges & vocational centers; private tutoring (freelancing)
Visa RequirementsBachelor’s degree; TEFL Certificate; Native English speaker status preferred
Monthly Teacher Salary$1,000-$1,500
Monthly Living Cost$550-$800
Peak Hiring MonthsFebruary-April; August-October
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Fast Facts About Thailand

Boasting a sizeable stretch of coastline and no fewer than 1,430 islands along with the Thai highlands, the Mekong River, and more, Thailand has no shortage of natural beauty.

This country of over 68 million is located in Southeast Asia and borders Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Malaysia. 

Thailand is a tourist mecca because of its delicious food, crazy nightlife, warm culture, and more.

It’s also a popular destination for ESL teachers because the living here is easy, the cost of living low, and the job market open. 

And while the market for ESL teachers has been becoming more competitive as Thailand’s economic level rises, there are still plenty of positions for endeavoring teachers here.

Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi, Thailand (Photo: Humphrey Muleba)

Basic Requirements to Teach English in Thailand

The only things you need to teach English abroad in Thailand are a bachelor’s degree and a 120-hour TEFL certificate. 

You’ll have a much easier time finding jobs if you’re a native English speaker, but if you’re not one you’ll still be able to find jobs here — you just might have to look a little harder.

Note that if you’re serious about teaching here long-term (as in for longer than a year or two), then you’ll need an education degree and a teaching license in your native country. 

If you just want to come for a stretch to explore, teach, and take a brand, and live abroad, then you don’t need to worry about getting any education certification beyond a TEFL certificate and a bachelor’s degree.

TEFL Courses in Thailand

If you haven’t taken a TEFL course yet, consider taking one in Thailand! 

Taking a TEFL course on-site is great because it gives you the opportunity to make friends with fellow expat teachers, get acquainted with your surroundings, and learn about how to be a good English teacher in Thailand specifically.

Many TEFL courses also have job placement programs, so you can show up to Thailand for a course and then get a job once you’re there.

We’ve picked out a few great TEFL courses in Thailand so you can choose the one that’s best for you.

And if you decide to get TEFL certified online instead of on location, check out our guide to choosing the best online TEFL course to find the one that fits your needs.

Job Opportunities and Salaries

There are a number of opportunities to teach at different schools and employers in Thailand. 

ESL teachers commonly work at language centers, public or private schools, colleges or vocational schools, or international schools

Some people also tutor students privately to supplement their income.

Let’s look further into what teaching at different kinds of schools looks like, and what kind of salaries and hours different jobs have. 

Full-time jobs at legitimate employers will provide teachers with health insurance and help them obtain work visas, along with helping with other aspects of getting settled in the country. 

Most schools also provide employees with free meals during school hours and end-of-contract bonuses, and some schools even give teachers a housing stipend. Check with potential schools to see what their package includes before signing a contract.

Language Centers

If you teach at a language center, you’ll probably keep irregular hours and have a fluctuating schedule and income. 

You may work nights, weekends, and split shifts, but you’ll earn more than you would at a public or private school and you’ll have more control over your time off than you would at a traditional school. 

You can also request to teach only adults at a language center if you’d rather not teach children.

Salaries vary drastically at language centers, but you can earn upwards of $1,600 a month as a language center teacher depending on which company you’re working for and how many hours you’re putting in.

Colleges and Vocational Schools

Just like at a language center, you’ll probably keep irregular hours and work some nights if you teach at a college or vocational school. You’ll also be teaching adults in this position.

You can expect to make around $1,000 a month as a teacher at a college or vocational school.

Public and Private Schools

If you work at a public or private school, you’ll be teaching students who are anywhere from kindergarten age to 18 years old. You’ll keep a regular school schedule, get evenings and weekends off, and receive a regular paycheck.

You’ll also get all normal school holidays off with this job. 

You can teach public or private school for a couple of years with a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate, but if you want this kind of job longer term you’ll need a teaching certificate.

Teachers at public and private schools make around $1,300 a month.

Side Hustles

As we mentioned above, lots of people tutor on the side to increase their income. If you can help students prepare for standardized tests or improve their English to get into college, you can make quite a chunk of change, but you can make good money doing regular tutoring, too.

Test prep tutors make $10-$16 an hour, and regular tutors make a little less.

Some people also do freelance writing or photography, moonlight at language centers, or find other odd jobs on the side. 

Having a side hustle in Thailand is a great way to get to know the country, try your hand at something new, and earn a little extra cash.

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Hiring and Application Process

There are a few different routes for getting hired in Thailand, but the good news is that there are always jobs to be found. 

Private schools and language centers hire teachers year-round, while public schools’ peak hiring season is February-April and August-October as schools gear up for the new semester.

There’s lots of flexibility in how to go about finding jobs in Thailand: many people apply to schools online before they enter the country, but lots of people also wait to find jobs until they’re in Thailand. 

Because the cost of living is low and schools like interviewing people in person, it’s pretty low-stakes to come to the country and get a feel for things while you look for jobs. 

If you get a job once you’re in the country, you can use your TEFL provider, a job recruiter, expat networks, Facebook groups, or online job forums to find work. 

Keep in mind that if you go through a recruiter it’ll make the job-hunting process go more smoothly and they can help make sure that you’re paired with a school that meets your needs, but they’ll probably take a chunk out of your paycheck. 

Use the list below to find jobs whether you apply online or in person.

Once you’ve found some jobs that interest you, prepare a CV or resume and either email it or deliver it personally to schools. 

If you’re applying online, you might also prepare a short intro video wherein you talk about any childcare or teaching experience you have and demonstrate that you speak English clearly and with a neutral accent.

Don’t be afraid to include information that doesn’t seem completely relevant to education on your resume. 

One teacher got a job because of past film production experience that she used to help put on drama performances at her school in Thailand, and experience in other fields can also prove useful in classroom situations. 

The turnaround time for applicants in Thailand varies, but if you apply during peak hiring season you can expect to start working posthaste. 

Visa Requirements for Thailand

You might hear about people working in Thailand on tourist visas, and if you want to risk doing so that’s your prerogative. 

But you should know that the government has been cracking down on people teaching illegally in recent years, and people have been known to be denied reentry if they have a ton of tourist visas in a row in their passport or something looks fishy. 

Additionally, you’ll have to leave and reenter the country every 30 days on a tourist visa, which is … a lot. And you’ll get fined around $16 a day if you overstay your visa. 

All told it’s probably just not worth it to teach on a tourist visa unless you have a really good reason for not getting a proper work visa and also you don’t mind breaking the law and taking risks.

If you’re employed at a legitimate school or company, though, none of this should be an issue because your employer will help you obtain proper documentation, which for ESL teachers in Thailand means a non-immigrant B-visa and a work permit. 

You can get your B visa before entering the country and then get a work permit once you’re there. You can also enter the country on a tourist visa, take a TEFL course and seek out employment, and then dip out of the country and reenter on a work permit. 

Leaving and reentering Thailand isn’t a huge to-do, so don’t worry too much if you want to figure out employment and other nitty-gritty details once you’ve arrived. 

Let’s quickly go over what materials you need for a non-immigrant B visa and work permit in Thailand. 

Materials for a Non-Immigrant B Visa

  • A passport with at least 6 months validity remaining
  • 1 passport-sized photo
  • A notarized original diploma from an accredited four-year university
  • A notarized FBI criminal background check
  • The visa application fee
  • Documents from your employer verifying that you’re employed by them

Materials for a Work Permit

  • Your passport, complete with a valid non-immigrant B visa
  • 3 passport-sized photos
  • Evidence of previous teaching experience or a certified TEFL certificate
  • A medical check issued by a Thai doctor
  • A notarized original diploma from an accredited four-year university

Again, your school will help you through the process of obtaining a visa, but you can also contact the Thai embassy nearest you for more information about these processes, and you can also deliver your materials to a Thai embassy in order to get proper employment documentation.

The Financials of Teaching English in Thailand

Recent inflation in Thailand means that the cost of living isn’t quite as low as it once was. However, expenses here are still quite low compared to many places in the developed world.

You can get by on less than $1,000 a month if you budget and save, and while you won’t get rich here you can definitely live comfortably and still have money left over at the end of the month. 

Numbeo’s breakdown of basic everyday expenses in Thailand will give you a better idea of what your monthly costs might look like here.

Average prices for everyday items in Thailand (numbeo.com)

Expat Life in Thailand

Your day-to-day life in Thailand will vary depending on where you’re teaching and where in the country you’re living, but overall you can expect a low cost of living, a vibrant expat community, and plenty of opportunity for adventure no matter where in Thailand you are. 

In this section, we’ll dive into some of the logistical aspects of what life in Thailand is like and how to get set up with all the things you need to live in a new place. 

Accommodation in Thailand

Unless you teach somewhere rural, you’ll probably be responsible for renting an apartment on your own. 

Don’t worry, though: You can get a room in a shared apartment in Thailand for as little as $80 a month. Of course, you can always spend ten times that on a private state-of-the-art apartment with a pool and other facilities if that’s more your jam, too. 

When you’re looking at apartments, remember to factor in electricity costs, and make sure to see if utilities are included in rent or not. Try to get a government rate for electricity costs or you may find yourself paying exorbitant amounts for electricity. 

Don’t worry as much about water and internet — the rates for those tend to be more stable. 

Also, consider whether your unit fits a washing machine or not. If your unit doesn’t have a washing machine you can buy one for around $200, but if it doesn’t fit one you’ll have to go through the ordeal of schlepping your laundry somewhere to wash it. 

Renting an apartment in Thailand is pretty easy:

You show up, sign a 1-year contract, and pay the first month’s rent plus a 2-month security deposit. That said and done you can move in basically whenever.

You’ll usually be able to pay utilities at your apartment’s front office, and you can pay for internet at “ubiquitous 7-11s” or set up automatic billing.

Use one of the resources listed below or a Facebook group to find an apartment, or ask fellow expats or someone from your school to help you look for housing.

Transportation in Thailand

In Bangkok mass transit is cheap and super convenient, and there are even free buses in certain areas! 

You can also take tuk-tuks, taxis, motorcycle taxis, water taxis, riverboats, Grab (it’s basically Thai Uber), and more. If none of those transportation options sound good to you, you can also walk or buy your own motorcycle. 

If you’re in a big city in Thailand, don’t worry: you’ll find a way to get around.

Smartphone Plans for Expats in Thailand

Setting up cell service in Thailand is easy: you can bring your own smartphone to Thailand and put a Thai SIM card in it, and you’re good to go! 

You can get a SIM card from a Thai phone carrier shop, found at the airport, the mall, and elsewhere. You can also get prepaid refill cards from 7-11, Tesco Lotus, Family Mart, and other convenience stores. Refills cost as little as 16 cents.

The major phone carriers in Thailand include True, AIS, and DTAC.

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Setting Up a Bank Account in Thailand

Setting up a bank account can be a headache, but don’t worry: your school will more than likely help you set up an account and get an ATM card. And even if they don’t, the process is a lot more straightforward than you might think!

The three biggest banks in Thailand, SCB, Bangkok Bank, and Kasikorn, all have English options so you won’t be totally out of depth. And there are three Citibank branches in Bangkok where you can get help in English, too. 

Best of all, Bangkok Bank has a branch in New York, which makes international transfers a whole lot easier (and cheaper). 

Learning Thai

Living in Thailand is obviously the best time to learn Thai, but beware that Thai is not the easiest language to learn. For one thing, you need to learn a new alphabet with 44 consonants and 15 vowel symbols that combine to create 28 vowel sounds. 

For another, Thai is a tonal language, so you have to learn the tones for different words in addition to how to pronounce them. 

That said, though, learning Thai is incredibly gratifying, and once you start it’ll only get easier especially if you’re living in Thailand and practicing speaking every day!

The Best Cities to Teach English in Thailand

While you really can’t go wrong in terms of picking a place to live in Thailand, there are a few cities that stand out as particularly popular expat destinations. Let’s look into what sets each one apart.

Bangkok

Loha Prasat, Bangkok, Thailand
Loha Prasat, Bangkok, Thailand (Photo: Alejandro Cartagena)

The capital of Thailand and its most iconic city, Bangkok is a place where you’ll never get bored.

Bangkok is by far the most populous city in Thailand, with a population of over 8 million and in the city and almost double that in the metro area. 

You’ll never get bored if you live and teach English in Bangkok: this international city located near Thailand’s sprawling coast is full to bursting with street vendors, night markets, temples, nightclubs, and anything else that might catch your fancy. 

The cost of living in Bangkok is slightly higher than in other places in the country, but the city is still eminently affordable. 

The job market is also more competitive here than in other cities, but there are also more jobs to be had in Bangkok than anywhere else in Thailand by far.

Phuket

Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, Thailand
Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, Thailand (Photo: Deepain Jindal)

Situated in the south of Thailand and home to over 300,000 people, Phuket is Thailand’s most densely populated island and a major tourist destination.

You’ll find all the modern amenities you need here, along with temples, outdoor markets, and other attractions.

There are tons of teaching jobs to be had here, and if you live here you’ll find yourself among a large and welcoming expat community, pristine beaches, and a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle.

Chiang Mai

Tuk Tuks lined up in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Photo: Chris Arthur-Collins)

Chiang Mai is a city of a little over 100,000 people in northern Thailand. It’s got a beautiful landscape and a cooler climate than the rest of the country, and it’s also got delicious northern Thai cuisine like khao soi, a curry topped with crunchy fried noodles. 

Chiang Mai is a cultural center home where you can cruise the river, visit museums, shop at outdoor markets, and more. It’s also got a decently large expat population and good nightlife.

Salaries in Chiang Mai are generally lower than in Bangkok, but the cost of living is lower here, too.

Thai Classroom and Work Culture

Most of the rules of decorum and general day-to-day life are the same in Thailand as they are anywhere else. 

But, like anywhere, there are a few differences between Thai culture and other places’ that you should be aware of so you don’t accidentally offend anyone or make a fool out of yourself. 

And there are a few things that you should know just for your wellbeing, too. Like that you shouldn’t drink the tap water, for example. 

We’ve outlined a few guidelines about different aspects of Thai culture to help you get a sense of what it’s like and to help you navigate it better.

Polite Greetings: The Wai

People do a small bow with prayer hands called a wai when they’re greeting, thanking, or saying goodbye to people in Thailand.

When you’re with anyone who’s your senior, even if they’re only slightly older than you, it’s your job to initiate the wai. Make sure to wai to any teachers who are your senior. 

When you greet children with a wai, your hands can remain at chest level as you dip your head. When you’re greeting anyone older than you, your thumbs should be chin level when you bow.

The deepest wai is reserved for Buddha. When you visit Buddhist temples, you should wai to the Buddha with your thumbs to your nose.

Appropriate Dress

Female teachers in Thailand are generally expected to dress modestly, wearing high-necked blouses that cover the shoulders and knee-length skirts. 

Many schools also ask teachers to wear closed-toe shoes. Some foreign teachers wear maxi skirts, but most Thai teachers wear pencil skirts. 

Male teachers in Thailand should wear khakis or dress pants with polos or other collared shirts. 

If you don’t have clothes that meet these requirements, don’t worry. You can find inexpensive modest clothes at thrift stores or find cheap clothing once you’re in Thailand. If you’re curvy or tall, though, it might be hard to find items that fit you there.

If you live in a small town in Thailand where you might encounter your students and their families outside of school, you should dress modestly outside of the classroom as well as during school hours because teachers are highly respected in Thailand and should demonstrate professionalism. 

If you live in a bigger city, though, you can dress as you please outside of school. 

When you travel to different places in Thailand you can generally dress however you’d like. Just see what the locals are wearing and take cues from them if you’re unsure whether or not you’re dressed appropriately.

Vacation Days

Don’t worry: this is a fun one. 

Prepare to get a lot of vacation days in Thailand, the land of tourism and great weather. 

Public and private schools give teachers 20 vacation days a year on top of summer break. For those keeping track at home, that adds up to four full weeks off, which is a lot more generous than your average vacation package. 

If you’re not teaching at a public or private school, don’t worry. Teachers at language centers can get up to 10 weeks of vacation a year, giving them plenty of time to relax and unwind.

Take advantage of all the vacation days you get as a teacher in Thailand to explore the country and the region and soak up all the adventure you can.

Last Thoughts on Teaching English in Thailand

Many people regard Thailand as a vacation spot rather than a place to live and work. 

And if your primary goal in moving abroad is to rake in cash or become a long-term ESL teacher without a teaching degree, then Thailand may not be the right destination for you. 

If you’re looking for a way to spend time in a truly beautiful place, adventure, and learn about a different culture for a while, though, Thailand is an ideal destination. 

This sunny, beachy, culturally rich country has so much to offer. You’ll never be bored here (and if you ever are, there are tons of other interesting countries just a short distance away). 

There are also lots of ESL jobs to be found all over Thailand, and if you work here you’ll find yourself with a stable job that pays the bills and a fulfilling, relaxing life. 

Thailand is a beautiful place that has something to offer everyone. It’s got sun, sand, beer, and great dining, plus a million other things that have helped earn it the moniker “The Land of Smiles”.

If you teach ESL in Thailand, you’ll never regret it.

Find other popular countries to teach English in Asia.

Still wondering if this is the destination for you? Drop a comment below – – we’re here to help you on your journey.

About Molly Oberstein-Allen

Molly Oberstein-Allen spent a year and a half teaching ESL and STEAM in Shenzhen, China. She currently resides in Kansas, where she writes and teaches online. She's passionate about traveling, literature, and the outdoors.

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