Coming to Teach English in Thailand from the West can sometimes make you feel like a millionaire. With high exchange rates of USD and GBP to Thai Baht, it’s common for people to lose touch with reality when it comes to spending. After all, exchanging the amount you would normally pay for dinner into a chunky handful of colorful cash can make you feel like you are in a game of real-life monopoly, especially with your teacher’s salary in Thailand reaching the 30,000 + range in the local currency!
But while your daily expenses may seem so negligible compared to what you spend at home it is very easy to adapt to a newly lavish lifestyle that you might not have been used to back in your country.
Frequent massages, take out coffee and eating out for every meal can become the norm but wherever you are in the world – money will always eventually run out if you spend more than you earn.
I have just completed the most life-changing experience of my life teaching English in Thailand with TravelBud and I’ve prepared this guide to help fellow soon-to-be teachers make the most out of your teacher’s salary in Thailand.
How much will you earn as an English teacher in Thailand?
If you embark on this experience through TravelBud’s Teach English in Thailand program you are guaranteed a very generous teacher’s salary in Thailand of 30,000 – 40,000 Baht per month (which works out to approximately USD $800 – $1300 or GBP £770 – £1025).
Where you end up in the salary range depends mainly on how age, qualifications, experience, and where in Thailand you get placed.
While it may not seem like a big sum when it is directly converted into your home currency, this salary goes really far when comparing it to the local cost of living, which is just one of the many perks of embarking on this adventure.
Foreign English language teachers in Thailand also tend to earn approximately double what local teachers earn as English language education is so highly valued by Thai locals.
By immersing yourself into the local lifestyle and with some clever budgeting you are guaranteed to be able to travel throughout the country during your time off and even save some money for your eventual return home or use it towards paying off your student loans.
How does the cost of living compare to an English teacher’s salary in Thailand?
A salary of a beginner English teacher in Thailand will take you a lot further than the salary of a newly qualified teacher back home.
A monthly cost of accommodation in a mid-range town in Thailand is around 3,500 – 5,000 baht (USD $115 – $165 or GBP £90 -£130).
This works out to roughly 12-15% of your monthly salary.
For comparison, a newly qualified teacher in the UK would have to fork out between 37-40% of their monthly income for renting a place outside of London.
Or compared to first-year teachers in Chicago, where one would pay between 25-30% of one’s salary toward rent.
Dining like the locals
One of the main lifestyle differences between Thailand and the West is that it is significantly cheaper to eat out than it is to cook at home. In fact, the eating out culture is so common that most apartments or houses do not come with a kitchen.
A typical apartment unit almost always comes with a fridge, bedroom furniture, and an en-suite bathroom but usually no kitchen equipment. The eating out and street food culture are undoubtedly some of the best things about living in Thailand.
Thai street food is some of the best in the world and in fact, it is so good that it is home to some Michelin star street food chefs.
A typical street food dish is significantly cheaper compared to that bought in a restaurant but the quality of the food is not at all compromised.
While a 30 baht Pad Thai (less than USD $1 or GBP £1) on the side of the road may lack the aesthetics and luxury to that of a modernised restaurant down the road, it certainly makes up for it in flavour and ease at which it can be bought.
Street food does not mean low quality or unhygienic food. It means authentically cooked home recipes without the cost of restaurant-running expenses included in the price. This not only applies to food but also drinks.
While Thailand offers a great range of cute and quirky cafes, using them to keep up your daily coffee addiction can quickly become one of your biggest outgoings. Street coffee can be equally as good and usually comes at half the price.
Plus embracing Thailand’s street food scene will allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture and make local friends – a unique part of this experience.
Making extra moola
English is one of the most in-demand skills in Thailand and being an ESL teacher can open up unlimited opportunities for extra income.
While your salary as an English teacher is more than enough to live a comfortable life on, it may not be sufficient to fund a 4-week backpacking trip around South East Asia during the school holidays.
It is common for English teachers to take up extra work in the form of private tutoring. This can be done by working at a language school or simply tutoring your street vendor’s children in the evenings.
The English programs in Thai schools are very competitive and usually cost more than triple compared to the standard curriculum. Most local families simply cannot afford these programs for their children, but they are very eager for them to take up occasional extra lessons with an English speaker.
Once you form a good relationship with your barber, barrister, restaurant owner or your yoga instructor, you should ask around if they are interested in some private lessons for their children.
This is also a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the culture, and great language exchange to practice your Thai!
In recent years along with the expansion of technology, there has been a rise in freelance online English tutoring opportunities.
Many online tutoring companies offer the flexibility for you to choose your own schedule and pick up extra classes whenever you want. They usually pay a very good wage which will guarantee to fund your more expensive weekend excursions.
Making the most of your time in Thailand
One of the most common reasons why people choose to teach English in Thailand is because they have the opportunity to live in a unique culture and spend their weekends and holidays exploring the breathtaking beaches and mountains all over the country.
While the cost of this lifestyle certainly adds up, clever weekly budgeting and adopting the local way of life can have you saving up a lot of money to spend your weekends exploring what this fascinating country has to offer, and guaranteeing you a culturally immersive experience like no other.
While Thailand does not pay as much as the likes of Teaching English in South Korea it will definitely see you living a more than comfortable lifestyle in one of the most culturally immersive and hospitable Teach Abroad destinations Asia has to offer.
And by taking advantage of the handy tips in this guide, it will become even easier to save and even earn a lot more than the average ESL teacher.