If you are thinking of moving to Thailand to teach English, but feel a little overwhelmed as to how much there is to do before you can leave, start planning by following the steps in this easy moving to Thailand checklist.
For most people, especially those who are single, a move to Thailand can be planned and executed in around three months. I did it in six weeks but, then again, I was desperate to get here.
Do you have enough money?
It is not just the money you will need to physically get here, it is also the money you will need until you get a job teaching English and get your first paycheck.
Remember, most schools pay at the end of the month, so you are not likely to get your first paycheck for two to four weeks after you begin working. Depending when in the month you start.
Money you will need includes first month’s rent, as well as two month’s deposit. Plus enough money to live on for a month, which includes buying food, eating out, doing some sightseeing (well, you are new in Thailand), transportation costs for bus, train, taxis, motorbike taxis etc.
Plus sundry expenses like cleaning supplies, toiletries, medications, and buying various bits and bobs you will probably need.
Are you qualified to teach?
While it is very easy to get a job teaching in Thailand, you do need to be sure you are qualified to do so. Qualifications required, at the moment, include a university degree in any subject and a TEFL certificate.
If you don’t have the university degree, that is going to take a while for you to get. A TEFL certificate can be obtained in Thailand in just a few weeks.
If you do need to get a TEFL certificate before you can teach, make sure you arrive at least six weeks before you plan on getting a job, as that is how long it will usually take to get one.
Do you have the right clothes?
Dress code is very specific for teachers in Thailand, and is probably quite a bit more conservative than you are used to.
Make sure you have enough appropriate clothing to last you at least the first two months. Especially if you are a size medium or larger in the west. That is due to larger sizes being more difficult to find in Thailand, especially for school-appropriate clothes.
Booking a flight to Thailand
Be sure to book your flight in plenty of time, as the closer you get to your departure date the more expensive your airfare will be.
Be aware, as you probably will not have a job yet or a work visa, under immigration law you are required to have a round-trip ticket once you arrive in Thailand. In my 16 years living here, however, I have never been asked to produce one by any Thai immigration official.
So, if you cannot afford to buy a round-trip ticket, don’t sweat it.
SPECIAL NOTE — Some countries and some airlines do seem to be strict when it comes to mandating you have a round-trip ticket before they will let you fly. The UK and Australia seem to be particularly bad, as do various airlines flying out of them. If you do want peace of mind, therefore, you can always buy a refundable ticket and then just get your money back when you get to Thailand. That is what a lot of people do. An Air Asia ticket to Malaysia is particularly good, as it is cheap. Just be sure you choose the option that is refundable.
Finding an apartment
If you are going to be teaching English in Bangkok, your moving to Thailand to teach English checklist should include finding a temporary apartment for the few weeks it will take you to find a job and start working. Or for the six weeks it will take you to complete a TEFL course if you need one.
I say this because Bangkok is enormous, and you will not want to commit to an apartment for a year if you do not know where you will be teaching yet. Otherwise, you could end up living on one side of the city and having a two-hour-each-way commute to your school.
Instead, look at short-term Bangkok apartments that you can rent month to month. That will give you time to get to know the city, find a job and then look for something more permanent once you know where you will be working.
I lived at PMansion in northern Bangkok for the first couple of months after I arrived in Bangkok (well, actually I ended up living there for 14 years, but that was because my school was close by, I loved my apartment, the location and the people that own the building). It is a great place to start out if you want something inexpensive and close to transportation that will get you around the city.
There are many other short-term apartment rentals in Bangkok too so just book a hotel for your first couple of nights in town, which will give you time to find one of them.
If you are going to be teaching outside of Bangkok, however, towns are much smaller so you can probably find a permanent apartment right after you get there. Again, just book a hotel for a couple of nights to give you time to look.
You need a visa
Visas have become complicated in Thailand in the last few years. The easiest way to make sure you have the right one is to ask your language school to help you get one if you are going to be taking a TEFL course in Thailand.
If you already have a TEFL certificate, apply for a six month tourist visa at the Thai embassy in your country. This will give you time to arrive, get settled in and get a job you like. Once you begin working, your school will then have plenty of time to be able to convert your tourist visa into a non-immigrant B visa before your visa expires, and get you a legal work permit.
You literally do not need them.
Sure, I meet people all the time that have gotten all kinds of vaccinations to come to Thailand but, unless you are planning on teaching out close to the jungle somewhere, you do not need vaccinations for malaria, hepatitis A and B, tetanus, cholera, diphtheria, Japanese encephalitis, rabies and typhoid.
Yes, there are medical organizations that recommend them. However, I have yet to meet anyone that has caught any of those diseases, and know few people that even bothered getting vaccinations.
Honestly, I never buy travel insurance. I just don’t. Especially as medical care is so cheap in Thailand.
But, if you are one of those people that feels safer with it then, by all means, buy a short-term travel insurance policy for at least your first three months in the country. After that, you should have some type of medical insurance through the school you work for.
Do not get a job outside Thailand
Finally, and THE MOST IMPORTANT THING on your moving to Thailand to teach English checklist — do NOT get a job while you are still outside the country.
If you do, you will usually get one of the lowest paying jobs available, and through a teaching agency or school that is not always as reputable as they could be.
Instead, wait until you get to Thailand and then start applying. Teaching jobs are so easy to get here, you could literally arrive today and be in a job teaching three days from now. Jobs found in-country pay a lot better as well.