Richard McCully

Teach in Thailand - the ultimate gap year

Why Thailand would make a fantastic choice for your year off.

I did a little three-month trip after I finished university but never did the whole year. Maybe I wasn’t adventurous enough and also I think it was just too expensive for me. However, looking back at it, I think coming to work in Thailand for a year would have been the ultimate gap year experience. 


The main reason I did just a three-month trip was that I didn’t have enough money to do more. I would have loved to have visited more places and gained more experience. 

Most gap year teachers in Thailand will probably work for an agency at a government high school. The 30-40,000 baht a month would have made a huge difference to me and I think it would make a gap year great. 

In general, if you’re planning to come here for a teaching gap year, you can get by and have a little trip every month based on your salary. If you plan to travel frequently then maybe budget to have an extra $200-400 a month saved before you arrive. 

Like-minded people

Imagine coming from your country and arriving on the first day of your initiation to find a whole room full of people on the same journey. I can only imagine the energy and excitement on that first day!  The chance to meet people from all around the world with whom you can meet up with and exchange ideas and advice. It would be a great networking opportunity. 

You will be placed at your school with at least one other foreign teacher from your agency but more likely there will be a small group of you together. This means planning weekend trips and dealing with life in a new country is much easier than you would think. 

With the huge number of tourists in Thailand you will meet others - whether it is just for a few days on your trip or other foreigners who live near you. 

Location, location, location

Some schools are by the beach, some are in the city, while others are in the countryside. All have their positives and negatives. Sometimes your agency will let you choose a location, sometimes you will get given a random location. 

Many people dream of being by the beach but wherever you end up working, you will have an interesting environment and nearby places to explore. Transport in Thailand is pretty good. so even if you fancy a weekend by the beach, it isn’t hard to get there. 

Work / travel balance

Some people worry that they will spend a lot of time working whilst on their teaching gap year in Thailand but that isn’t really the case.

21 hours a week is the most you’ll have to teach and with set working days and term times, it is simple to plan your travel time. You will have office hours for sure but you can use these to do admin and planning for trips away! By most days you’ll be home at 4.15pm and ready to enjoy the amazing sunsets and food that Thailand has to offer. 

Teaching in Thailand

Perhaps you’re nervous about teaching in Thailand. The good thing is you will get training and most people who work in a school for their gap year really enjoy their work! 

Most agencies will put on a training and induction weekend for their new teachers. These sessions will give you ideas on how to teach, cultural issues and travel tips. For those who want to do more teacher training before arriving have a look at the teacher training guides on

A lot of times the students will be super excited to see foreign teachers. Some schools find it difficult to get foreign teachers so they will really appreciate you being there. You will get to do a wide range of activities and might be asked to take part in shows, sports events or school trips.  

Your agency or school will normally provide you with what to teach and you can create your own lessons and develop as a teacher over time. The good news is your agency will always be there to support you as they want you to enjoy your time in Thailand. 

Real world skills

Teaching in Thailand for a year will give you so many real-world skills which employers will love. Working in a foreign country is great for your CV because it shows your flexibility, understanding of other cultures and possibly the ability to speak a foreign language. 

Teaching also promotes a number of skills which are useful in many other jobs.

Firstly you will have to do a lot of admin work on your teaching gap year and using photocopiers, fixing the printer and writing reports are all things you will need to do in any office job. You’ll fill in spreadsheets and create posters which are useful skills to have. Teaching in front of 50 students is also a great public speaking experience for you. 

An important part of teaching is planning. Planning is a transferable skill which can be used in many professions. Creating lesson plans and a syllabus will put you in good stead for your future job.

Nine or ten month contracts 

Whilst you are in Thailand for a year it’s important to note that many schools are only open for 9 or 10 months a year. This means plenty of time for you to travel - a key part of your gap year! 

A lot of full-time teachers in Thailand complain about 9 or 10 month contracts. Basically some schools don’t pay you whilst you’re on term breaks so check this out with your agency first to find out what the deal is. For these full time teachers, they miss out on money but as a gap year student you’ll already have savings put aside for your trip to help you get through these unpaid months (if your school doesn’t pay). 

Thailand - the country

Thailand is an amazing place to visit. On a standard tourist visa you won’t have enough time to see everything. With a teaching gap year you’ll have a one year visa and enough time to see all Thailand has to offer. 

Thailand is also a great hub for South East Asia. It is so simple to visit other neighboring countries so don’t worry that you’ll miss out on these places by working in Thailand. 

Thailand for gap year teachers

A year spent teaching here in Thailand can be a valuable experience. The real-world skills you’ll learn will be useful. The friends you make will help you through the tough times and lifetime bonds can be forged. The chance to see real Thai towns and villages off the tourist trail will show you what the country is really like. 

Overall I think if you’re planning on coming here for a year to teach you won’t be disappointed! 

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

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.

Order now in e-book or paperback format.


Jonny Jon, I'm merely providing information for gap year students who want to come here. Gap year students do come here and as is the largest teaching website for Thailand I guess some of them will find this site and as such find this information useful.

Arguments about teacher quality, visas and whatever could go on for years without everyone agreeing. There are all sorts of teachers who work here with and without work permits.

I've been writing articles on Ajarn long before my book came out. I've been here pretty much six years so I know a fair amount without being hit but the bluntness and bitterness of some long term expats who seemingly like to take a dig at everything which isn't in their echo chamber. Also it seems a lot of people prefer a 283 page book with everything in one place plus 13 expat interviews, pick up a copy, I'll even sign it for you if you want ;)

By Richard, Bangkok (14th September 2018)

Clearly Richard this article to promote your book, but seriously one has to wonder how much you really know about this place. Your book could have been written as a one page blog about what to expect in Thailand, of which there are many.

These backpackers are an agencies dream teacher, who pay bottom rates for 9 months of the year and could care less about the quality of education in Thailand. They are just in it for the money and is the last thing this country needs is unqualified backpackers who have come to try their skills in the classroom. Also the 2 time in and out rule means that after the 2nd visa run they will not be allowed back into Thailand and will be stuck at the border, so I have to wonder what your real objective is? To promote your book, give the agencies lot of cheap options for that government school that no-one cares about, or a serious consideration about Thailand needs in it progression to make it an advanced nation.

By Jonny Jon, Bangkok (9th September 2018)

Anyone ever stop to consider the fact that it's illegal to teach if you are only an 18-19 year old with no degree?

By Marty, Phuket (3rd September 2018)

Did you know that Thailand has the highest foreign teacher turn over rate in SE Asia?
It's not because of the other friendly and nonjudgmental teachers.
It's not because of the highly organized education system.
It's not because of the more than adequate high salaries which also includes many benefits.
It's definitely not because of the friendly and polite manner foreigners are treated with here.
I think the reason why Thailand has the highest teacher turnover rate is because they never invest in a pair of rose colored glasses.

By john doe, Bangkok (2nd September 2018)

I think a lot of you missed the point of my article, Matt included.

This article is not about the merit of gap year teachers, it is merely giving potential gap year teachers advice. This site surely attracts all kinds of people - professional teachers, non-native teachers, gap year teachers etc - why not write an article to give advice to one of these groups? As Mark said schools that have no chance of getting "professional" teachers are happy to get gap year teachers as they still have skills and are better than having nobody (or even some long term teachers).

Jonny - the pay argument doesn't matter for gap year teachers. They will likely either have savings, money from family or be up for "roughing it". Long term teachers who stay on 10 month contracts at 30-40k a month is a totally different argument unrelated to gap year teachers.

By Richard, Bangkok (2nd September 2018)

Johnny Jon
I think a lot of these gap-year kids have the bank of Mum and Dad to fall back on when cash reserves run low. That's generally the way the world works.

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (2nd September 2018)

Fortunately these guys and gals are being caught by Immigration on work related offenses and if you cannot prove where your money is coming from you will not be allowed back into Thailand. Most agencies are reluctant to provide visas and work permits simply because of the cost and the hassle involved and most are reluctant to go through that. Added to that most do not have degrees and so they are happy to ride on the tourist visa until it runs out. Thinking about their next weekend, the next full moon party it seems these young guys have no interest in anything else. After working with these guys for a few months, most of them were lazy, just in it for the ride, had nothing to offer, would not do the exams, and would do no preparation for the classroom. One wonders Richard after your **whopping 3 months experience** in Thailand what makes you think you have the right to criticize other people who have chosen to make this place their home.

Also new so called newbies (not teachers) let’s be honest they have no right to call themselves teachers without a day of experience in the classroom, will not get 400K, they will get 30K or less. This is the agencies dream come true, young good looking teachers willing to work for bottom dollar. What could they want more? So you have experienced teachers with 10 years’ experience and if they have the misfortune not to have moved on through these schools are stuck to work with these airheads with no work experience. Most of them are nice guys but that does not mean the TEFL industry should be screwed up by a few guys with no interest or passion for their jobs other than providing agencies with low paid and low motivated newbies with no direction other than their next party.

Nice take on that – will be provided with a 9 month or 10 month contract so they have lots of time to party. Let’s hope so. Because your 30K salary will only take you so far. 30K a month = a 1000 a day if you do not have an apartment back in Bangkok and want to haul all your shit around with you, you could have 24K or less to “play with”. That includes beers, smokes, travel, and accommodation. I hope that you are good at it, because 30K spread over 9 months will leave you gasping for air. I hope you have rich parents or savings from back home because without it, you will be nursing that last Leo on some beach wondering what you are doing there. Good Luck.

By Jonnny Jon, Bangkok (2nd September 2018)

Thailand is a great place. It is filled with promising educational standards and ideas that meet fruition.
Most students are eager to learn and well disciplined. Teachers are professional, most overly qualified and humble. Salaries are more than adequate with lots of benefits and a promising future. Politeness abounds. Please enjoy a gap year and experience all the wonderful things Thailand has to offer.

By bob johnson, bangkok (1st September 2018)

A constant revolving door of inexperienced, immature, backpacker (1 year wonders) teachers is exactly why the Thai education system (ESL) is a shambles which funnily enough in your last overly positive post you were championing saying again how wonderful it all is.

While I admire your seemingly always "glass half full" positivity, approach to life is commendable you yet again fail to weigh up the negatives of the impact of having teachers coming here for a fun year of being no more than edutainers instead of educators and showing no long term commitment to the job.

This is a schools worst nightmare but an agencies dream as they don't have to pay these backpackers more than the minimum wage.

You need to be more balanced with your writing instead of just saying how wonderful everything is instead of looking at the downsides.

By Matt, Bangkok (1st September 2018)

Spot on Mark. I 100% agree with you on all you say.

Gap year teachers aren't probably taking the prime jobs in the best areas, they will be in the sticks at schools that struggle to find teachers. They also probably won't be the best teachers in the world but may be better than some here already

A year for a gap year teacher will give them real skills and won't be a blot on them as Jim states. How can experiencing a new culture, working in a real environment and gaining confidence for a year be a bad thing? If they're here for three or four years and not doing anything that's another thing....

Gap year teachers aren't a threat to us full time professional teachers, there's plenty of space for everyone here in Thailand.

By Richard, Bangkok (1st September 2018)

It doesn't make sense to hire lazy foreign students in Bangkok because there's a decent pool of expats who are here for the long-term and willing to take the job seriously. Also, in general, education matters more in Bangkok than it does in the rest of the country.

But in rural Thailand and most places that aren't Bangkok, there's a desperate shortage of manpower. So... are these rural places and smaller cities better off with nobody at all?

I don't think so. Most of the 'gap year' kids I have met aren't sex-crazed, unreliable drunks. They aren't teachers either, but they are mostly pretty good natured and enthusiastic to be here.

And for the kids, it's a bit of fun and a valuable cultural experience to see the pale humans with the hairy forearms that need to be stroked! They can scream 'Good Morning' at them at three in the afternoon and race off giggling to their chums in the playground. Parents will feel pretty good that there's a real farang that's at least making some kind of effort to get their kids off and running towards that job translating in the UN.

Sure, the 'gap street boys' (and girls) aren't going to change much academically - but then again, even those of us that take our jobs more seriously are very probably overestimating our achievements!

Chill out, Jimbo. There are worse things that can happen to kids at school than have a teacher who you don't approve of!

By Mark, The Land of Barely Concealed Rage. (1st September 2018)

The absolute worst hire imaginable, the milennial or even milennial +10. Anyone with designs to teach one year and then blow on out of Thailand has to be a long-term, professional teacher's nightmare.

They bring nothing to the job, not even their interest. Endlessly absent, late. No concern about grades, exams or how to prepare them. It's just a week by week existence of endless shitty games and immaturity.

Clueless to Thai culture and the classroom anyone that hires this lot should be terminated themselves.

As reported many times on this very website, time teaching in Thailand is a negative NOT a positive back home.

The British 'gap year' thing, isn't that time off in between undergrad years? Would these idiots not be illegal hires anyway?

Wow, what a bad idea.

By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (31st August 2018)

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