Working whilst travelling can be a truly amazing experience: the opportunity to live in one place for more than a few days; to interact with the local people as not just a tourist and a lifesaver if you’re getting low on cash. There are two main jobs available for travellers wanting to work in Thailand:
Describing Thai children as the most motivated, happy and excited students in the world may sound like over-exaggeration but in reality it is just fact. Teaching in such a beautiful country is a great thing to do, either as a break in between travelling or as a whole adventure in itself.
For paid teaching work you generally need to have a degree, however some places may let this slide if you have enough relevant experience or are TEFL/CELTA/TESOL certified. You can acquire these qualifications before you go, or some places in Thailand offers courses to achieve them, for example the university at Chang Mai offers a teacher training programme.
Wages are not high by western standards; the starting salary of an English teacher is roughly 30,000 baht/ month though this depends on region. Teachers get paid slightly more in Bangkok. Of course the cost of living is a lot cheaper to counter act this though.
If you are finding it hard to find paid work, don’t have the necessary qualifications or are just there for the experience, then looking into volunteering might be a good idea. Many organizations need volunteers and if you look hard enough and find smaller independent charities or organizations then it can be relatively inexpensive. For example Child's Dream Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org) a reputable organization in Chang Mai, sets volunteers up in schools for no charge.
Still not convinced? Read our gapper Helen’s experience of teaching in Thailand.
This is a competitive field that is quite hard to get into and sadly, as well as being seasonal, is not that well paid. But with the opportunity to spend days out in some of the world’s best diving waters, finally using that PADI license, being a diving instructor is a great experience, if one that is initially hard to come by.
The majority of dive instructors look for work in Phuket, Kho Phi Phi or Kho Tao. Monthly salaries vary depending on season, commission, sales and your manager, but from 40,000-80,000 baht a month is generally agreed in Kho Phi Phi and Phucket.
Applying on internet forums and dive boards is a very difficult way of doing this; it is far easier to go in with your CV, with a smile and a good mannered persona. If you get the opportunity to do some freelance work then snap it up quick, it may lead to a job afterwards.
Generally you will need a work permit, this is particularly important if you want to work in Phuket. However dive shops in Kho Phi Phi tend to be more relaxed about it. Some of the busier dive shops on Kho Phi Phi are Barakuda, Phi Phi Scuba, Viking Divers, and Seafrog, but check out smaller shops as well.
For diving you will need a work permit. Begin by finding a lawyer who will help you set up your own Thai limited company to apply for a work permit through. This sounds difficult but in reality it is easy as there is an abundance of lawyers trained in this to help and you might find a diving instructor leaving Thailand trying to sell his company. Easy, but expensive, as it can cost up to 60000 baht to set up, and lengthy, as it takes around six weeks. It’s not a process to go through if you only plan on working for a month or two. It should be noted that if or when you decide to leave, it’s a straightforward process to sell the company and make some money back.
If all of this seems like too much hassle for you then there are companies who will sort the whole thing for you, at a cost.
Many companies, schools or universities will sort your work permit for you if you are planning on working or training as an English teacher. The permit for teaching, and for journalists, is a little different than the normal work permit.
Technically speaking, the Thai authorities categorise volunteering as a form of employment and require Foreigners to obtain a work permit even for small local projects. These are easier to get hold of than a normal work permit, and can be used even if you are volunteering for a weekend. Tourists are advised to take these rules seriously but in reality very few people do. That said Thai prisons have a reputation for being uncomfortable to say the least.
See Travel tips for Thailand for a comprehensive break down of nationalities and tourist visa durations.