Volunteer in Thailand
Trip info for Thailand
Book your placement with £145. Then £195 once only contribution plus £13.50pw for midweek hotel accommodation. Weekends on pay-as-you-go basis to enable greater flexibility when exploring.
Improve opportunities and volunteer in Thailand 2015 - 2016
Thailand Placement Details
Here's everything you need to know about our teaching project in Thailand including teaching advice for novice volunteers, what to take and getting around in your free time.
About the Project
OV volunteers put on a show in English for the scouts.How does the project in Thailand work?
All volunteers fly straight into Phuket airport where our regular driver will be there to meet you and take you straight to the guesthouse in Khao Lak. Transfer time is about 2 hours. If arriving during the day, this will provide a great opportunity to take in the scenery on the coastal road.
What if I have never taught English before?
No experience is needed. Although TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) experience can be useful it is certainly not a requirement. If you are new to teaching, check out our quick guide on the basic technique used by most teachers. Most volunteers find by day two they have got the hang of it and have settled into their new role. This is because TEFL teaching methods tend to follow an established routine using a lot of repetition and question and answer rather than explanation or self-learning methods which are more typical in the UK and Europe. This makes it easier for new teachers because you will be using the same general method for all your first classes, although the words you teach will change each lesson. In fact experienced teachers new to TEFL methodology may find drilling and repetition requires some unlearning of Western teaching methods.
OV volunteers based at school on the coast on beach between classes.
How will I know how and what to teach?
Each weekend the coordinator gathers everyone together to prepare the lessons for the week ahead. There is no need to bring anything from home. Pre-prepared lesson plans are provided and the children follow a curriculum which has been tried and tested over many years so you know what you'll be teaching actually works! Although you can always bring a few mini fun ideas for the end of your classes.
How many schools are there?
The volunteer programme focuses on five main schools throughout the year with additional schools taking volunteers during the summer season when more volunteers arrive.
Volunteer relaxes at end of day with girl scouts.
How are placements allocated?
School placements are allocated on arrival by the coordinator carefully matching volunteers to schools. Volunteers are placed in pairs and small groups wherever possible or placed with volunteers who have arrived before you and will be leaving soon. Friends or small groups of less than 4 are placed together. Accommodation near the school is provided by basic hotels which are comfortable by local Thai standards. And on Thursday or Friday volunteers head back to Khao Lak to meet up, prepare for the week ahead or take time out to relax and explore
How are volunteers making a difference in Thailand?
Do not be fooled by the large American style schools which are the norm in Thailand or the perfectly turned out children in immaculate school uniforms. Many of the children you are teaching come from very poor families who work in agriculture and whose parents may be working for as little as £1 a day. These poorer students without good English cannot access higher education and university without passing the national examinations in English which are an indicator of background and class. But it is just these poorer schools, despite appearances, which cannot provide adequate English teaching for their students to be able to pass the exams.
Thai English teachers are fairly proficient at written English and grammar but lacking in oral practise so you can be sure you are not replacing a valuable teacher, but instead filling a much needed gap.
Most volunteers will make a visit to a temple at some point during their stay. Buddhism is an important feature of life in Thailand.
Thailand Programme Costs
What do I need to pay for the placement?
Once you have booked on and secured your place on the Thailand programme with the registration fee, there is an additional once only support fee of £195 which includes your first two nights accommodation in Khao Lak on arrival. In addition the first two weeks of midweek hotel accommodation near your school is payable of £13.50 per week. So for example, for a 2 week stay, £152 is payable before travel which includes your first two nights accommodation, the local support and training fee and your midweek hotel accommodation. The weekends are paid on a pay-as-you-go basis to keep your weekends flexible depending on whether you choose to stay near your school or visit Phuket with friends. This means you will not be paying for weekend accommodation in advance which you might not be using if you decide to stay in a hostel elsewhere whilst sightseeing.
Volunteer picks up teaching resources at the programme's head office in Khao Lak
Everyone covers their return flights to Phuket which is the closest airport to Khao Lak rather than a flight to Bangkok which requires an overnight train followed by a 5 hour coach! You will also need to allow for your airport pick up (approx. £20 payable on arrival) although the return journey will be cheaper on public transport to Phuket then taxi to the airport. For meals and daily expenses allow for £20 - £30 a week. For a weekend trip down to Phuket, a boat trip to the islands and hotel accommodation with meals out and drinks allow £100. But we recommend taking as much as you can extra because you might decide to do extra activities or fit in a Full moon party if the dates coincide with your stay!
Can I extend if I decide to stay longer?
Absolutely! After all the experience you will have gained in your first two weeks it would be a shame to let anyone leave the programme who don't want to. It's always great for volunteers to continue building on what they and the children have learnt. Extensions over 2 weeks are on pay-as-you-go basis at your hotel near your school, if we know before you go that you may be staying for more than 2 weeks we will inform the local team for you so they are aware. If you decide in Thailand to stay longer than originally planned it is essential to make your coordinator aware so they can plan for new arriving volunteers accordingly and liaise with your school.
A volunteer teaches Thai Moken children. The Moken are a marginalised sea-gypsy community, historically nomadic, now living in houses on stilts on islands. They suffer much discrimination as they are considered outsiders.
What other costs are there?
All volunteers cover flights to Thailand, Phuket is the usual airport which is the nearest airport to Khao Lak (airport code HKT) and travel insurance which includes medical bills and repatriation. We will organise an airport pick up from Phuket from the regular driver automatically for all volunteers, this is approx. £20, payable on arrival.
You should also allow between £30 and £50 weekly for personal spending, meals and local transport and extra for tours and trips you may like to go on. Thailand is a cheap country for eating out and public transport but try to take as much as you can as you would for any holiday, because you don't want to miss out if your fellow volunteers decide to do an activity or tour at the weekend. Money can be easily wired over from family if you need some extra using a service like Western Union if you don't take a bank card with you.
Smiling face welcomes you as a volunteer teacher!
Do I need to learn to speak Thai?
English is widely understood, particularly in Phuket and in the South where it is almost the major commercial language although a Thai phrasebook and dictionary may come in handy. You will have plenty of opportunities to practise Thai with teachers in the teachers room at the school as only the Thai English teachers you work alongside will speak English but many more will want to get to know you and might invite you to a family get together after a few exchanged basic greetings.
What's the weather like?
Thailand has a tropical climate with high temperatures. Temperatures range from 20 to 35 Celsius. The hottest month is July. November to February are the coolest months and is a pleasant time to visit as the heat is more manageable.
OV volunteers and children having fun after classes.
What you need to know
Thailand is divided into different regions with their own laws, in a similar way to the American states. The region where volunteers are based does not follow the national Thai immigration rules regarding volunteer/work visas. The chief immigration officer for the province inspects the programme annually. The last inspection was July 2014. The programme was found to be exemplary. The only provision for volunteers teaching on the programme in the province is that work is unpaid, hence the annual inspection. There are stiff penalties for anyone found working on tourist visas and not paying tax. British passport holders do not require visas for stays in Thailand less than 30 days, your passport will simply be stamped with an arrival date on arrival, you will need to arrive with a return ticket or onward ticket to a neighbouring country to show you will not be overstaying your 30 days allowance in Thailand. If you are staying longer than 30 days a 60 day tourist visa can be obtained before arrival.
What's the transport situation in Thailand?
Transport is usually provided by the schools so you will only be needing transport if you want to travel back into Khao Lak at the weekend to head off to explore. Phuket is the main attraction for a weekend trip although there are tours available in the Khao Lak area which can be booked easily after arrival. Buses or tuk tuks are the main form of transport in Thailand. A trip to Phuket by bus costs about £2 each way, a visit to the local market costs about £1 each way, per person, if two share. A modern taxi from Phuket town back to Khao Lak costs in the region of £17 to £28 depending on the company.
What level of support is provided?
Support is provided in the first instance by the head of English at your school and Thai English teachers. Your British and assistant English speaking co-ordinator in town can be reached by telephone for any immediate advice during your stay that cannot wait until the weekend when you will be back in town. All volunteers are strongly encouraged to return into town every weekend for the weekly meetings and to prepare for the week ahead. This is a great way to meet other volunteers, collect the next week's lesson plans which are all pre-prepared and stay up to date with what is going on. For accommodation support, your hotel manager and their staff will provide this and are experienced in looking after their volunteer English teachers. On the other side of the coin, a lot of preparation goes into organising the placements for volunteers behind the scenes before your arrival and trying to match volunteers to the school which they and the children will gain most from. So if you have any concerns about your placement during your stay, contact the local support team who will be able to advise you. There is usually nothing which a couple of days experience in the classroom won't resolve.
OV volunteer in their class with the local teacher.
Travel with another volunteer
How can I travel with someone?
Although most volunteers fly on their own, and about 7 in 10 do, the programme works best when volunteers are paired up at schools so it is extremely unlikely you will be on your own unless the other volunteer you are placed with leaves the programme early to travel! But new volunteers arrive every weekend throughout the year so there will always be new faces arriving each week to join you. If you would like to fly out with a fellow volunteer, we can pair you up, just let us know at the time of booking. You can also:
- Add yourself to the Buddy List to meet other volunteers and find a familiar face when you arrive. It is also a good place to find others who may want to travel around Thailand and further afield after their volunteering.
- Join the volunteer community on Facebook and like the page to connect with others, receive regular updates and get inspired for a future project elsewhere. We regularly add a Travel Buddy list round up on Facebook too so when you spot one, leave a comment with your travel plans so others can get in touch and you can start planning together.
Volunteers share a class using well used teaching resources - the sticky board and printed flashcards
What to take
What do I need to take?
Although few resources are needed from home for teaching, you will be expected to dress appropriately as the schools can be quite rigid in their dress code. A good guide is to wear what would be considered appropriate for teaching in a school in the summer in the UK/Europe. Leave your shorts and strappy tops for the hotel and weekend. If unsure then as a rough guide stick to the following: a plain blouse/shirt or long conservative summer dress, knee length skirt/trousers/chinos and sandals/shoes. Flip flops are okay. Volunteers not dressing appropriately can find their placement after the weekend has been cancelled by the school. British culture would involve a polite reminder to the teacher before this happens whereas most Thais avoid face to face offence at all costs so these things can come as bit of a surprise! At least now you are aware!
Volunteers on a tuk tuk taxi head back into Khao Lak. Tuk tuk taxis are the usual form of transport in Thailand.
Thai schools love their presentation and awards days so it is also a good idea to take an extra smart outfit for these special occasions. There may also be senior government ministers or local dignitaries visiting so you won't want to be the odd one out if the Thais are in suits!
What happens when I arrive?
Volunteers flying to Phuket are met on arrival and transferred to the guesthouse in Khao Lak where all new volunteers are based for the first weekend. The recommended day to arrive is Friday. A Thursday may work well if your flight route was long or you would like to spend Friday resting. On Saturday everyone gets together at the programme's head office to prepare for the week ahead and collect materials. When you are dropped off at the guesthouse on Thursday/Friday don't worry if no one comes from the office to meet you, they will know you have arrived as they arranged your pick up and transfer for you. You can use the time to relax, chat with other volunteers and backpackers in the bar/restaurant, try your Thai in local shops and enjoy the beach and the guesthouse staff all speak English. And don't worry about not meeting up on Saturday - they will come and find you or contact the guesthouse, Khao Lak is a tiny place and the office is closeby.
Volunteers preparing classes together at head office at the weekend.
For teaching, worksheets are photocopied all follow the Thai national curriculum and are all ready to use, there is no need to bring any additional materials with you. The activities are idiot-proof and easy to follow which is great for anyone new to teaching or new to teaching English. They have been tried and tested and used for many years by many volunteers so teaching could not be easier. The only other thing you want to make sure is that you have the right clothes for teaching, then you are half way there already!
Volunteers are placed in one of two teaching teams, starting the week on a Sunday or Monday. There is no difference between the teams and friends are always kept in the same team. On Sunday or Monday afternoon at 3pm (depending on your team) the pre-booked taxi or minibus takes the volunteer group to their hotel near their school placement. In the summer months there can be as many as 10 volunteers at the same hotel but will be teaching in different schools in pairs or small groups.
Volunteer shares a class, often volunteers share in the summer months.
How will I get to the school each day?
Each morning at 8am the schools that are not within walking distance send transport to collect the volunteer team. Transport is also provided to take you back to the hotel after school finishes at around 3pm. All the schools are well accustomed to receiving volunteers and have an established system in place so you won't get lost or left at your school or hotel!
How will I get back to Khao Lak at the weekend?
On Thursday or Friday (depending on your team) the volunteer team usually returns to Khao Lak together by taxi which leaves the hotels at around 4pm. Then you are free to rest and explore.
What can you tell me about Thailand?
Thailand is an independent country that is situated in the heart of southeast Asia. Burma and Laos border Thailand from the north, Cambodia to the east, from the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia and the Andaman sea from the west.
Volunteer Jessica takes a Muay Thai boxing lesson.
In terms of total area mass, Thailand is the world's 50th largest country. The current king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, has ruled since 1946 and is currently the world's longest serving head of state.
Thailand is a wondrous kingdom, featuring Buddhist temples, exotic wildlife, and spectacular islands. Along with a fascinating history and a unique culture that includes delectable Thai food.
What can I do during and after the project?
There may be a beach nearby if you are lucky to get a town on the coast but if not then the coast will never be too far away and you will be back in Khao Lak every weekend to meet up with everyone.
At the weekend volunteers either hang out at Khao Lak or head to Phuket to take a tour. Many volunteers head to the beautiful beaches within easy reach. Visit the James Bond Island in Phuket and visit where the Leonardo Dicaprio film 'The Beach' was set.
Take in a muay Thai (Thai kick-boxing) match; this traditional sport can be seen every day of the year at the major stadiums in the provinces. Thai boxing matches are preceded by elaborate ceremonies and accompanied by lively music. Head off after your volunteering to enjoy Thailand's thousands of kilometres of coastline. Have a go at sea canoeing and kayaking through the spectacular limestone islands in Phang Nga Bay and explore the half-submerged caves and grottoes.
Summer camps and sports
What are they and will they affect my stay?
Every year the King of Thailand decrees that all the schools in Thailand will have a summer camp or PE week, they can be great fun, but they can happen at short notice, often announced on a Friday to start the following week! The summer camps often involve English with the whole school year or school itself taking a class at the same time which can be quite a spectacle. At some schools volunteers have together on a stage using microphones taught to 800 children. That's something to mention on a CV for public speaking experience, although no one will force you to if you don't want to, but it can be an unusual experience. Summer camps tend to happen in July but the King's PE week can be at any time. As volunteers stay for a minimum of 2 weeks, one week should not interrupt things too much and the unique experience should make up for any irritation in the sudden change in the schedule. If you require a set minimum number of weeks classroom teaching because of a course requirement at home we recommend adding an extra week just in case. Flights are no more expensive for a 3 week return than a 2 week return and with the cost of living in Thailand considerably less than in Europe, you will only need around £50 for an extra week's volunteer accommodation, meals and transport so it can make sense to stay longer if you can.
Advice for parents
What should a parent be aware of?
The area where the programme is based is away from the backpacking hub in Phuket so there are few distractions mid week. The school week is pretty much like any other at home with lesson planning after school for the next day. From experience it is recommended all volunteers complete a minimum of 2 weeks to get the most out of their experience, often after the middle weekend in a 2 week stay, even the most novice teachers find teaching straightforward as you get used to the routine/accommodation/children and the teaching method which was introduced on arrival.
Each weekend most volunteers head back to Khao Lak to relax or into Phuket for the weekend, passing by the head office on their way back to their school on Sunday to collect the next week's teaching resources.
The biggest danger in Thailand for tourists is when hiring mopeds and having accidents and being fined by the police for not wearing a helmet when hiring one so best to avoid!
Free Time in Thailand
The team in Khao Lak can organise trips in and around the area including the Surin islands, elephant trekking and trips to the national parks. If you let us know before travel they may be able to get a group of volunteers together as it can be more fun! Or simply arrive, meet your fellow volunteers and organise a convenient weekend to tour and explore.
Volunteer takes an elephant trek with one of the local team’s daughters.
Get into the jungle with an elephant trek including a stop at a waterfall and lunch. Tours start at 9am from Khao Lak and finish at 2pm. Don’t forget to wear swim wear under your clothes in case you swim at the waterfall, a towel and insect repellent.
Surin Island snorkelling in paradise
Price £98 3 day tour
Book a package tour in Khao Lak to the Surin islands for a back to nature experience on an unspoilt tropical island. Spot monkeys in the trees and colourful coral and tropical fish in the crystal clear shallow water. The only attraction here is snorkelling (guides available) and total rest. Bring everything you need to be comfortable if camping although tents are provided but little else. For a little more hire a rustic bungalow.
A minimum 2 night stay is recommended to get the most out. Best time to visit October to May when the winds light and the sea blue and calm. Meals are provided at the camp-sites canteen.
Above in Surin, crystal clear water awaits abundant with tropical fish so bring an underwater camera with you. Above, tents on the beach at Surin campsite where most visitors stay.
Up to 30,000 attend the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party every month, the biggest in Thailand.
Full Moon Party
Price £150 incl. flight to Koh Samui.
The biggest party is at Koh Phangan beach on the East coast of Thailand. It hosts 10 to 30,000 revellers. The party starts at dusk when the sun sets and the full moon rises. Together with various DJs there are fireworks, jugglers, fire-eaters and acrobats. Most hotels require a minimum 3 night stay at the time of the full moon party.
To get there take a 55 minute flight from Phuket to Koh Samui approx. £110 return, followed by a ferry to Koh Phangan. Bus from Phuket to the east coast is a cheaper alternative but can take 7 to 10 hours and with the required minimum stay in Koh Phangan you will need at least 5 to 6 days to get everything in. Closer to Phuket, Koh Phi Phi island ('The Beach' film island below) has a smaller full moon gathering at it’s beach bars and you can catch the ferry in the morning back to Phuket if you are still awake in the morning! Do bring shoes for any full moon party as there can be glass in the sand from broken bottles.
Dates for the full moon party in 2014: 12/6, 13/7, 10/08, 08/09, 08/10, 06/12, 25/12.
2015: 04/01, 03/02, 05/03, 02/06, 30/06, 01/08, 29/08, 27/09.
Phi Phi Island
Price from just £37 - £57
A beach that cannot be missed and the one featured in the film The Beach. Can be visited on a day trip from Phuket. Take the ferry from Rassada Pier at 08:30, arrives 10ish. Ferries return to Phuket between 1 and 2pm). Or take an organised tour including guides and lunch for £52.
Phi Phi Island, film location for The Beach film.