Settling in as an English teacher - the journey and expenses
There is something about setting off into the unknown that makes one question their sanity. Leaving what you know for what you don't know can be exciting and stressful at the same time.
Not knowing what to expect creates unease in your sub-conscious. However being frightened of the unknown immediately sets doubt into your own existence and what you can achieve. Questioning if it is even possible to pack it all up and move to a foreign country. The thought of failure is insignificant to the journey that lies ahead.
In my short time in Thailand I have learned so much already. The journey here has already opened me up to alternative experiences. Meeting individuals from across the globe has taught me that it is alright to be different. When you live in a place where no one knows who you are or what you are, you have the ability to re-create yourself. If what you are looking for is to run away from problems, this is not the place, there are plenty of challenges here that one will need to overcome during their stay. (I will touch on that in another article).
If what you are looking for is experience and opportunity, this is the place for you. When I say opportunity, I do not mean to a better job, or a better lifestyle, I mean an opportunity to learn, create and succeed in whatever endeavour you have planned for yourself. It is up to the individual to make it their own idyllic experience.
If you are living a mundane life now, moving won't change that, unless you change your frame of thinking. My experience thus far has been extremely exhilarating, energetic and exhausting at times. What I have enjoyed the most is change, not just a scenic change but a change within myself.
If you are wanting a heads up about travelling to Thailand and first-hand experience of what I have experienced, then this article is for you. The article will highlight general experiences in Thailand, start up costs and general expenses.
I arrived completely oblivious to life in Thailand, only what I was told and what I had seen on YouTube. Arriving here was immediately an eye-opener for me, from the crazy Brit I met on the plane, who was a veteran in the game and knew the answers to all my questions about Thailand. His only recommendation was Pattaya.
This was later seconded by an older fellow from Italy, whom I could not understand until he muttered the word "Pattaya". It was at this point I knew Thailand was either misbranded or misunderstood. From my experience thus far, it is much more than a place for sexual pleasure. But who am I to judge? - we all come for our own reasons, mine being to teach English.
Arriving at the airport and walking out the door was immediately overwhelming. The heat hit me instantly and it was at that moment that I knew this was for real. Trying to catch a cab to somewhere, I had no idea where it was, was immediately a communication barrier, causing discomfort and utter confusion.
I was constantly hoping the driver knew where he was going. It had cost me 1,000 baht to get from the airport to my apartment, which was in Nakhon Pathom. Needless to say the driver pulled through and I made it to where I needed to be. The traffic was a nightmare and the racing drivers on the road were competing with my driver. Well that's how it seemed!
One thing I have learned here is that taxis drivers will squeeze as much cash out of you as possible, and as a novice traveller I experienced this daily for at least two weeks. (Make sure the taxi odometer is always on). It will always start on 35 baht as that is their commission.
My living apartment was a surprise. It was very modern, neat and reasonably safe. 35m², including free wifi, a gym area and an enormous swimming pool, which was a huge relief at that time as I was highly dehydrated from trying to manoeuvre around 27 kgs of luggage.
Our monthly rent upon signing up was 6,900 baht, including a deposit of 6,900 baht, excluding water and lights, which came to 2,200 baht at the end of the following month, which is not high seeing as I live with my air con on.
April expenses on rent were 13,800 baht and May's expenses for rent were 6,200 baht for my room and 2,200 baht for electricity and water (8,400 baht). At the time of writing I have yet to receive any income while living in Thailand, as I'm still on a tourist visa. So if you are planning on coming to Thailand to teach, these are rough costs that you will need to pay before you start receiving any income. Total needed to cover two months rental (22,200baht). This includes a mandatory deposit.
Let's move on to food
Luckily for me I am not a fussy eater and I am always willing to try new things. One can be very creative in the kitchen and Thai people will show you this. I don't cook for myself at all as it is very convenient to buy from street vendors or smaller restaurants.
I keep essentials such as fruit, some noodles and a few canned foods in my fridge and cupboard at home but other than that I'm eating five meals a day at a mean of 60 baht a meal. On the daily I spend about 300 baht a day on food. This can easily be reduced if you want to save some extra cash.
There is a wide variety of dishes here. I eat a lot of chicken, rice and noodles but I am not a fan of the soups. The foods are delicious and extremely spicy, filled with tangling flavours that will blow your taste buds. My advice is to try it all, it may just surprise you!
One thing about Thai culture that is different to the Western culture; food is never brought out at the same time, don't let this bother you or frustrate you. As a Westerner this is opposite to the norm, where food comes out simultaneously, but who likes cold food anyway? The best way to eat is to order several dishes with a few friends and try everything. That means no one is waiting while the others are eating.
This is one thing I really enjoy about Thai culture - being present and spending time with friends or family. I can recall many occasions back home where my family and I used to eat in separate rooms. Here family is all! There are also 7/11s on almost every corner, with all your basic essentials as well as a wide variety of treats and microwave meals.
Transport costs are what eat up the most cash. I am looking to buy myself a scooter as soon as I get my work permit, but for a 4km trip you pay about 60 baht. It may not seem that much but this adds up very quickly.
Investing in a scooter will save you cash in the long run. Thai people have a tendency of not wearing a helmets but as convenient as it sounds, you are playing with your life every time you jump on your bike. The traffic here is a nightmare and people will not hesitate to change lanes without looking.
If you are planning to stay in central Bangkok, there is a BTS which is very convenient, but again it will cost you anything between 35 baht -60 baht a trip.
(60 baht for 4km trip)
60 baht x 31days = 1860 baht, but let's be real, there will be days where one travels more than four kilometres. Try and share cabs because this will reduce costs.
This includes all toiletries, basic household items (such as a bowl or two) a few knifes, some blag bags and other general items, lets slap on another 1500 baht a month.
Try bringing across as much as you can. Ask a few family members to buy your toiletries, deodorants and toothpaste. Cutting out some costs this side will save you money. Deodorant will cost you nearly an arm and a leg here so bring as much as you can. Unfortunately some airlines don't allow aerosol spray cans on flight, so be aware of such circumstances before you decide to load your suitcase.
Let's be real, of course we want to have a little fun in our downtime, but moderation is key. If you are coming here to party, then be prepared to bring an extra 10000baht a month, maybe more. But for the more conservative folks you can budget around 3,000 baht a month. Otherwise invest in a good book and save the going out for another day.
Concluding Thailand costs
It is of utmost important that you have savings when deciding to move to a foreign country. Having a financial cushion will protect you from any unexpected expenses. This article was based on my initial start up costs; the grand total to survive here for two months is as follows;
Transport: 9,000 baht
Accommodation: 22,200 baht
Food: 18,000 baht
Household items: 1,500 baht
Entertainment: 4,500 baht
Unexpected expenses: 3,000 baht
Visa Run: 7,500 baht
TOTAL: 65,700 baht or 1900 US dollars. This will cover two months' expenses based on current exchange rate of 34.60.
All in all, my experience has been exceptionally accommodating. Without my friends this side and support group, I don't think I would have transitioned in as easy as I did.
The journey has only just begun, I don't expect chocolate and rainbows from here on out, but I know I have made it this far already, and any obstacle in the future will be a test for me to succeed. Moving away from loved ones can be a daunting experience, but in our day and age, a video call is literally only a few baht away.
My name is David Keth, an inspiring entrepreneur, qualified English teacher, holding a BA in Communication Science, and a financial WIZZ kid. Feel free to contact me via Facebook for any advice, look out for future articles and financial tips on how to survive the unknown, until then stay cool and embrace change.
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Nakhon Pathom is not a bad place to be, it has a nice small town atmosphere but then you're only an hour away from the bright lights and entertainment of Bangkok. I think you'll enjoy living there. Riding a scooter is a great way to save money and gain the freedom to explore, just take it easy at first. I started riding scooters way back and now I've worked my up to bigger bikes, and I don't regret it for a second!
By Danny, BKK (22nd March 2018)
Do not buy a scooter, you will die. Most Thai's start riding at age 10. On average 3 people a day are killed on a scooter in Bangkok.
There are many forms of transportation cheaper and safer
By Thomas, Bangkok (17th July 2017)
But, if you don't have a long stay visa; they probably won't give you the COR. A Yellow Book will often work instead of a WP, but you will need the COR for that, too. TM30s are also being required much more frequently than before.
By Mark, CNX (4th May 2017)
"Although you can't get it legally transferred in your name until you have a work permit,"
Totally incorrect. All you need is proof of residence to get the letter from Immigration. That proof could be a 90 day report or a letter from your Embassy.
By lloyd turner, bangkok (4th May 2017)
I enjoyed reading this, as someone who's been in Thailand more than a few years its nice to see the enthusiasm and excitement of a newbie. Would also like to see more updates as your journey progresses. Just out of curiosity, any particular reason why you chose Nakon Pathom? Do you have a job lined up there already, or know people there?
PS. Don't listen to the naysayers, getting a scooter is a great idea. You'll save so much money, its fun, and you'll discover lots of hidden gems that you'd never come across otherwise. Although you can't get it legally transferred in your name until you have a work permit, you can certainly buy a second hand scooter and wait to get the work permit before officially doing the transfer
By Danny, Bkk (3rd May 2017)
What folks don't seem to realize is that the daily rates on Agoda can be less than the monthly rates from the front office. No deposit, and daily cleaning, too. I, too, say rubbish on the scooter. Pay a little more for a prime location and take Uber or walk. The songtaews can often work just fine. I have seen so many, who thought they were geniuses to rent a house 20 Km from town for 6000 per month, and crash their bike within the first three months. Even if they are insured, and get great care; they will carry the titanium screws and trauma for the rest of their lives.
By Mark, CNX (2nd May 2017)
Eating 5 meals a day, at the cost of 18000 for 2 months? You must really love your food. Why do you think that you need a work permit in order to buy a scooter? You don't. But pay cash. However, don't get into the scooter habit, it's not the expense, it's the safety. Just don't, believe me, you will be grateful that you took my advice, because in 10 years time, you will be still alive.
By Jeremy, Udon (2nd May 2017)
An enjoyable read... I'm sure you'll start spending a bit more wisely the longer you live here. You seem to be paying over the odds for everything seeing as you're out in Nakon Pathom (not too far from me, actually!)
I did the same thing as you did... moved to a place outside Bangkok and hemorrhaged cash till I figured stuff out. You'll learn fast when you start relying on your salary to get you by!
I think there are many people who would be interested in some follow-up articles as your time here progresses...
By Mark Newman, Ratchaburi (2nd May 2017)