It’s hard to believe I have been living in Thailand for a little over a month already – a month filled with trials and tribulations. Recently, I finished my TESOL course in Chiang Mai, and have now officially packed my bags and settled in the district of Minburi in Bangkok. I (barely) survived my first week teaching both primary and secondary students, but I can tell the struggle will be 100% worth it.
The following points are what I wish I could have told myself not to worry about before I came here!
When I first started researching this program, I was terrified to hear that we would arrive in Thailand and not be paid for two months (if you take the TESOL course). After living off of a 1,000 euros per month salary the past two years in Spain, I thought my budgeting skills were good, but not you-won’t-get-paid-for-two-months good.
Once I got here, I was shocked at how cheap everything is. In my first month alone I have been able to go on a weekend trip to Pai, spend a day at an elephant sanctuary, take several day trips, see three movies, eat out every meal – and get my daily coffee – all while staying within a set budget.
I live in a suburb outside of Bangkok, and the average amount I spend on meals is about 60-70 baht (around $1.50-2). I have become so accustomed to these prices that I cringe when I get a bill over 100 baht ($3). I am also able to get Starbucks-worthy coffee for 25 baht ($0.75) every morning.
This country-wide cheapness doesn’t just end at food and drinks, but is great when it comes to traveling as well. When we went to Pai, we stayed at this Airbnb for $8 dollars a night that had free breakfast and morning yoga. My whole weekend probably cost $40 total.
With all this being said, before you come to Thailand, I definitely recommend thinking about your spending habits. But, do not kill yourself trying to pinch pennies. You will be shocked at how far the dollar can go here, and how budgeting for two months can actually be feasible. Below I have outlined my average daily budget so you can get an idea of how much you will spend each day here.
$1 USD=35 baht
Lunch: Free (provided by my school)
Dinner: Depends, but on average in my area street food is 40 baht and a sit-down Thai meal is around 70 baht.
10 Minute Taxi to School and Back (split between 3 people): 40 baht
Water Bottle Refill: Free at school, 1 baht at a machine
For my six months here, I packed a 50-pound suitcase, 50-liter backpack, and a reasonably-sized purse. I didn’t think it was that much until I lugged my bags through four airports, two taxis, and then finally unloaded all my belongings in my hotel room. When I looked at all of my stuff, I realized I basically packed for Thailand like I was moving to a deserted island. My makeup duplicates alone took up probably half of my carry-on. While there are definitely things that are difficult to find, (ladies-tampons, for instance) Thailand has almost everything you can find at home.
It’s also a plus that these items are significantly cheaper here. Thailand is filled with world-renowned markets that have beautiful, cheap clothes, scarves, bags… You name it! I was especially nervous about school supplies before I came, but there are so many places that you can find items for school. I was in Chiang Mai for my course, so there were plenty of store options to get school supplies. The Maya Mall is a great place to start, or even your local 7-Eleven will be your savior in this situation. I recommend starting your school supply collection right when you get here, it will save you a lot of time and effort once you arrive to your placement.
It is also good to know that if you over pack, the postal service here is incredibly cheaper than I imagined, and you can send things home with no problem. I wish I had left more room in my suitcase before this, so learn from my mistakes!
No matter how much I researched Thailand, read articles, and marveled at pictures, I was still terrified about the unknown of moving to this country. I had a million questions and no answers. I had some friends telling me I was going to be abducted and other friends telling me I was going to have the time of my life.
This has been my third move abroad, and I think with any move abroad fear of the unknown plays a huge factor. Even though I still had a million questions, once I got to the airport I accepted that the unknown was going to have to be something that I couldn’t fear anymore. I have found an incredible support system through Greenheart Travel and Xplore Asia in my short time here. Some of those fears I had before seem comical to me now (having to kill spiders the size of my head, and only being able to shower with a bucket come to mind), but I realize now those fears are so minor compared to the grand scheme of this experience.
So, my advice with this is simple: Embrace the unknown! Do not let fear of the unknown block you from fully accepting this incredible opportunity. Yes, it is true that you will have countless questions about your placement, your housing situation, your school itself, and plenty more. But, answers come with time. You will make friends, you will have a say in your placement location, and yes, you will have struggles assimilating to the new culture. The good thing is those struggles usually make the best stories.
Bridget Shrode is a native Chicagoan who has a serious problem with actually staying in Chicago! This is her first year teaching in Thailand, and she can already tell it might be the best one yet. Bridget has also taught for two years in Spain. Even though Europe has her heart, Bridget enjoys exploring all Asia has to offer. You can follow more of Bridget’s (mis)adventures on her blog – Finding Bridget.