Richard McCully

More than just money

Consider the 'perks' of a teaching job as well

When deciding which job to take in Thailand many people look straight at the salary and think the "extras" aren't that important. However, I have come to realize that there are many other important factors that you should consider too, some of which are just as important as the salary.

Visa and Work Permit

If your job doesn't include a visa and work permit then you will be doing costly border runs and face the risk of being denied re-entry into Thailand. Having done one border run from Bangkok to Vientiane I can tell you that it isn't fun or cheap. Three days and 9,000 Baht later I was ready to look for a new job to escape that hell.

If you are a native speaker and have a degree then there is no reason that you shouldn't get these documents and secondly that your employer pays for them. My first employer made me pay for mine which wasn't a good surprise.

Getting a new visa and work permit update each year can cost you upwards of 5,000 Baht plus travel and time expenses. Make sure the job covers these and pays for them.


Linked to visas, my current company has a "visa guy" whose job it is to sort out everything regarding visas and work permits.

You know the guy who cuts to the front of the queue at immigration and seems to know everyone there - well he is my company's visa guy. I had to apply for my yearly visa last week and I arrived 15 minutes early at Chaengwattana and met my visa guy who had all the documents for me to just sign.

We spoke to the security guard and got queue number 5 despite there being over 200 people in line already. I was out of the immigration department within 15 minutes with a new visa, single re-entry stamp and the promise that my work permit would be updated and back to me in a few days. I don't go to immigration for 90 day check ins - it is all done by my visa guy.

The amount I save in time, effort and cost is huge to me - it's a great perk of my job.

I also have foreign support staff at the head office who look after HR, contract and tax issues for me - I don't have to do anything myself and if I have problems I have experienced native English speakers to assist.

You should check what assistance you are offered. My first job was in the sticks and meant a 1,000 Baht round trip cab fare to go to immigration without any help or assistance from my agency - it's a situation that I didn't prepare for or ask about before I accepted the job.


Working in Thailand you will want to get insurance. Whether it is motorcycle accidents or drunken escapades on vacation I always see a steady stream of foreigners on crutches, with broken arms or just feeling the effects of a bad somtam.

Thai social security should be taken from your monthly pay check and give you access to some medical services at a selected government hospital. However, I would say that for many people this isn't enough and some form of private medical insurance is advisable. This can cost upwards of 2,000 Baht a month so if it is included in a job offer then it is a very good perk to have on top of your salary.

Check details though as many policies just cover the basics. For example my work insurance covers only 3,500 Baht per accident and 2,000 Baht per day for the cost of the room and nursing etc. This covers for broken arms and simple illness, perhaps food poisoning etc but if the worst happened I would have to pay for surgery or advanced treatment out of my own pocket.

My friend got a terrible fever and spent four nights in Bangkok Hospital and walked out with a 95,000 Baht bill - she didn't have health insurance and left Thailand the next week.


Some jobs, especially those at government schools, come with free housing or a housing allowance.

This could work both ways in that maybe the house is great or the allowance covers what you want to rent but it could also limit you to living in a certain area. Do you really want to be living on the school campus in free accommodation?

Allowances of 3,000 are typical in my opinion from many agencies and can either be in a set building or they may pay you extra and allow you to find your own place. This could turn a job which is paying 32,000 Baht into a 35,000 Baht job when you consider your housing is provided free of charge.

Holiday Pay and Bonus

It is now more common for many government jobs to only pay for 11 months (sometimes less) so really the monthly salary is less than advertised as you won't be paid for the school holiday months. So if you can find a government school job which pays all 12 months then it will definitely help your finances.

It is also more common for bonuses to be paid to staff who complete a 1 year contract especially at language centres, private and bilingual schools. Normally an extra month's salary, it is a welcome yearly top up to your funds. Maybe you see a job which pays an extra 1-2k a month but in reality this is less than one paying a bonus if you plan to stay the year.

You should also think about restrictions on when you can use your holiday. I worked for an agency and confirmed my holiday dates during the October holiday only for them to email me during my holiday to tell me school would now start a week earlier (whilst I was in the USA). This was the final straw for me as they docked me a week's pay for the time I "missed " so I left to my current job.

Working in a language centre I have to work weekends but I can also have my holiday whenever I want. I went to my sister's wedding in June, I couldn't have gone if I was in a government school job. The value of this flexibility is important to me and it is hard to put a monetary value on it.


It is important to remember that certain parts of Thailand are cheaper than others. For example your money will go further in a sleepy Issan town than on Koh Samui. It is also important to be somewhere you want to be. In the end being in that sleepy Issan village might drive you insane and force you to spend a lot of money travelling away in your free time.

Get Everything

So yes your salary is important but also check the above to make sure you are getting the complete package. Of course you can always ask for these things at the interview stage and there is no harm asking.
In the end there are many jobs which offer all, or the majority of the above, in addition to a good salary so don't be afraid to look around and find the perfect complete package for you.

If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country

You might be interested in....

Pay rises and promotions - How to aim higher and enjoy a better quality of life as a teacher

How far does a 30K salary go in Bangkok? - Will you be living well - or simply surviving?

The cost of living guide - How much do foreign teachers in Thailand earn and what do they spend their money on? 

Richard is co-author of a great new book on planning a life in Thailand. 

Planning your new life in Thailand isn’t easy. There are many hurdles to jump and potential frustrations galore. From practicalities through to cultural issues, from finances to fitting in and making friends, there is so much to learn. Luckily, you will find all the basics explained in this 282 page book. 

Settling in Thailand takes a broad, insightful and balanced approach – neither too cynical nor evangelical, this book sets a precedent in terms of presenting a positive but realistic and non-judgemental description of Thailand life for foreign residents. 

Written by two British expats in Thailand, and with interviews with another 13 expats from around the world, you will get first-hand experience, advice and explanations of expat life in Thailand. With a combined 150 years of Thai experience this book is the ultimate guide to making sure your move and settling in Thailand goes smoothly.

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I have worked in international schools, Thai private schools and Government schools.

My first job 12 years ago was in a government school. I have now gone full circle and am just signed up for a second year in the government school i am currently working at.

The article is very correct in that many schools giving high salaries actually take many things out that bring the salary down a long way. This is not against us foreign teachers but is done to Thai nationals as well in many different professions.

This year we had many teachers leave our school as the base salary was lower but most i have kept in touch with did not receive a higher salary when all things were taken into account.

it got so bad that I am currently teaching 12 extra lessons per week and being paid 700 baht per lesson so my salary is higher than I woud achieve in a non Bangkok International school. I am working very hard, actually to hard, but I have all the bonuses and many more as i helped out. I have saved much more than 100,000 baht this year.

I suggest to those new to thailand that a lower salry in a government school is the way to go. Often because the government schools will allow you to leave early some afternoons. You do your work and they are helpful. Leaving early on a friday afternoon is great for weekends traveling. Just to not abuse it. Not every friday and make sure your assistant teachers are happy with your work.

Have fun Mark

By mark, Chantaburi (22nd February 2016)

Where to begin?

You have done an excellent job of illuminating the obvious but perhaps I'm just an old hack.

Much of this advice is not really advice in that you've no idea if your employer will make good on any of it.

Bestest advice re the "visa guy" is to not work for an agency. Especially if you are well capitalized there is no need. Nothing against visa guys, but if you come here to live, learn the system. Yeah, you will need someone to help process a B visa but this should be the school "visa guy" - you don't get to choose who assists you with processing your papers unless you pay for it.

OK, so I've been out here longer than when some of you were born. There is this nitwit idea with young people of being serviced rather than diy. DIY! Save AND learn Grasshopper.

Accommodation, whatever the school or agency (ack) offers, you don't want it. Especially if youre paying for it. Free, too lol.

AVOID AT ALL COSTS, agencies with complicated pay structures. EOY bonuses, pay rises post probation... guaranteed loser for you.

Location: avoid bullshit places, places you might go to have fun. You've come to work, do just that. Bangkok is it. If you can't hack it, try Seoul Korea. The money is already shit, no need to work for free.

Another thing per location, the farther you get outside BKK theore likely some nonsense can develop with your pay, visa, WP, etc. Also wages are ridiculous.

Location local: map out where you are living and calculate your daily transport costs. Money is so stupid here, there is no allowance for an extra 20b here or there. Your costs to from work for a job at a bare minimum of 35k is 100b per day and one hour one way.

Focus on the money exclusively the rest is just pussy shit. Next, classes and class size. What grades and levels! Next, holidays. Prestige, will this school help you get a better job? Finally, not ez to ascertain, but are the foreigners there competent or just flotsam? It's the farang that will make your life miserable faster than anything. That and a bs agency.

At the end of the day, you are left trusting people and in this biz, that rarely works out well.

Come well capitalized with degree in hand. Have a list of the top 100 schools in bkk. Have your resume sorted and a generic cover letter. Apply to total shit jobs, go interview and demo, waste their time on jobs you shod never take. You'll learn the process and see schools and all the blemishes. Interviewing is costly though.

Bear in mind you get two teaching waivers, two schools, four years unless you're special. Make it count.

Good luck and stay away from the agencies..

By Lou Mak, Bangkok (20th February 2016)

The 'complete package' is harder to find than this article makes out.

For most people arriving to Thailand, I'll bet that they aren't well resourced financially and will pretty much take the first job that's offered.

With most lower paid jobs (under 35,000 a month) there has to be a certain amount of capitulation when it comes to demands, perks or expectations.

But that doesn't mean that the jobs aren't there... it's just that you'd have to be extraordinarily lucky to find that perfect job when you first arrive in Thailand.

If a job really has all the 'perks' described in the article above, it's a good bet that the people doing these jobs aren't in a hurry to give them up. Also, these advantages may not come with the job when you take it on, but may be 'earned' over time in the future.

If you are planning on staying in Thailand for the long term, slowly migrating through the ranks of rubbish jobs to the good ones is a sensible thought process.

Without wanting to sound too depressing, in the last few years schools have found inventive ways to cut costs and abdicate their duty of care to farang teachers.

The rise of agencies has also made it harder for teachers to secure reliable year round employment with good benefits.

The trick is to make yourself valuable to employers. These means understanding exactly what they want you to do for them. (It may come as a shock to find out that the office staff don't give a toss what you do in the classroom so long as you show up!)

For the lower tier jobs it may take a year or two before you find a school that fits your requirements. Keep looking and with luck, it'll happen for you sooner rather than later.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (19th February 2016)

I agree with you Richard. Those 'visa guys', which every decent school and employer should have, are worth their weight in gold.

A school I worked at in the late 90's had Khun Oat. He was six feet tall with movie star looks and as camp as a row of tents. He was your classic Thai mincing queen. But everyone loved Oat and by god, did he know how to get visas and work permits done.

Whenever he entered the immigration or labor department, faces that would normally turn milk sour would light up in an instant. There was almost a fight to serve him.

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (17th February 2016)

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