COVID-19: Update from the TravelBud team

The information below was last updated on May 7th 2020. We will update this page as frequently as possible.

Quick links to sections on this page:

“There is no education like adversity.” – Benjamin Disraeli 

TravelBud has been monitoring developments around COVID-19 closely. We are in regular contact with our in-country teams on the ground in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, South Korea, Japan and Costa Rica.

We would like to share some important information about what we are doing to support the global effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 while also doing our best to minimize disruption to the programs we offer.

Before we do so we would like to extend our sincerest thanks to those who have sent messages of support during this difficult time. As a small company we truly value your understanding and continued support. Together we will overcome the challenges that we face today.

Program Updates

It is difficult to predict how long containment measures will be in place globally, or what further restrictions may be imposed.

At this stage, TravelBud will only be enrolling new participants in programs which commence from September 2020.

The commencement dates for the programs which have spots available and which are, unless otherwise advised, proceeding as normal are set out below:

PROGRAM

INTAKE DATES

Teach English in Thailand

2020

28 September 2020
26 October 2020
23 November 2020
28 December 2020

2021

25 January 2021
29 March 2021
3 May 2021
31 May 2021
28 June 2021
27 September 2021
1 November 2021

Thailand Summer Teach

2021

7 June 2021
28 June 2021

Teach English in Vietnam

2020

7 September 2020
12 October 2020
16 November 2020

2021

22 February 2021
31 May 2021
26 July 2021
23 August 2021
29 November 2021

Teach English in South Korea

2020

31 August 2020
26 October 2020

2021

25 January 2021
26 April 2021
26 July 2021
27 September 2021
19 July 2021

Teach English in Myanmar

2020

28 September 2020

2021

18 January 2021
26 April 2021
28 June 2021
27 September 2021

Teach English in Japan

2020

30 November 2020

2021

1 March 2021
31 May 2021
30 August 2021
25 October 2021

Teach English in Costa Rica

2020

23 November 2020

2021

15 February 2021
10 May 2021
28 June 2021
22 November 2021

Online TEFL Course

2020

First Monday of every month.

2021

First Monday of every month.

We appreciate that you may have questions you would like to ask us, particularly if you are enrolled for a program which commences before June 2020, or if you are considering enrolling for a program in the future.

In what follows we do our best to answer what we believe are likely to be the most common questions. If you don’t see an answer to your question you can contact us at [email protected] or via the contact details in the sidebar and we will respond to your inquiry as quickly as possible.

FAQ

What is the current status of programs before September 2020?

Across nearly all of our program countries, this wave of COVID-19 outbreak is coming under greater control, and we are starting to see things open up. We’ve updated the conditions and short-term outlook for each of our main program countries:

THAILAND

On April 27th the Thai national government announced the extension on foreigners being banned from entering the country until May 31st, with the primary goal of preventing the risk of a COVID-19 resurgence in Thailand. Thailand has managed to contain the spread of the virus with the daily new cases being reported dropping significantly over the past weeks. On April 27th, only 9 new cases were reported, which shows great progress from the nearly 200 daily news cases that were reported at the end of March.

The country is opening back up and easing local restrictions in stages, with less affected areas opening fully and immediately, and larger urban areas, such as Bangkok, opening gradually.

The Thai government has announced automatic visa extensions for foreign nationals through the middle of July.

They also announced that the start of the school term would be pushed back from the beginning of May, the normal start of the 1st term, to the beginning of July, and that the term would likely run all the way until May or June 2021. The normal October break, which separates the first and second terms of the Thai school year, is likely to be cancelled. As Thailand’s education bureaucracy is decentralized, some schools will open before July, but most will stick to the July 1st opening.

INTAKES

Our next available intake scheduled to proceed is June 29th. For those whose intakes before June 29th have been suspended, they have been offered the following options:

  1. Defer their start date to an intake later in the year free of charge
  2. Complete our internationally accredited online TESOL course where a job placement will be secured for you before arriving in Thailand. When Thailand’s borders re-open, participants can join an intake and receive their 1-week cultural orientation before heading to their school to start teaching
  3. Switch to our new 160-hour hybrid TESOL course which provides the best of both worlds – earning your 120-hour TESOL certification from the comfort of your home while receiving an additional 2 weeks of in-person training and cultural orientation in Thailand before heading to their school placements

We will continue to monitor things daily. 

VIETNAM

Vietnam has been one of the most effective countries in the world in combating COVID-19. With only 270 cases across the entire country and zero deaths, it has seen a huge drop in its cases over the past several weeks and now routinely has days in which there is not a single new case in the entire country.

On April 23rd, the government announced that the country graduated from the lockdown, and, with the exception of some areas near Hanoi, could open up.

The country is now slowly going back to a “new normal”. Schools have already reopened in some areas and are expected to reopen nationwide on or before May 11, which is great news for our nearly 100 teachers currently in the country.

Vietnam currently has a ban on foreigners entering the country and with the recent re-opening of the economy and easing of lockdown restrictions, we are hopeful that borders begin to re-open soon with precautionary measures in place to contain the spread.

INTAKES

We have suspended our March 23rd and May 4th intakes as schools currently remain closed in Vietnam and have implemented online learning, and there is a level of uncertainty around future travel restrictions to Vietnam from now until the end of May.

SOUTH KOREA

South Korea is finally beginning to return to some sense of normality. Most social distancing policies have been relaxed or lifted, children are beginning to go back to school, and life is going back to a new normal, defined by wearing face masks, using hand sanitizer, and overall cautiousness.

The government is still on high-alert and doing everything they can to minimize the risk of a second outbreak by constantly disinfecting public areas, tracking and tracing suspected cases, and closely monitoring all new arrivals into South Korea. Overall the outlook is very positive and hopefully, the worst is over.

South Korea’s borders remain open to those who are arriving with long-term visas, such as those arriving to teach English, some countries are still able to get visa-free entry, and flights are still operating in and out of Korea. It is one of the only countries you foreigners are allowed to enter at the moment.

We continue to be able to assist teachers with school placement, document collection, and visa processing as many schools are already hiring new teachers. Many private language schools are open now, and public schools are set to open in the next few weeks.

There is currently a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all new arrivals into South Korea, but this can be done at the teacher’s new apartment supplied free of charge by the school.

Teachers will also have to do a COVID-19 test but this is provided free of charge. The school will be able to give the teachers a sim card upon arrival and help them with food and supplies during this 14-day period. The only thing that our teachers will need to have with them is a smartphone so they can download the self-health monitoring application. We have had a couple of new teachers arrive recently and go through this process and everything went smoothly.

Our next big intake is planned for July 27th. We are very optimistic that this start date and in-class TESOL/TEFL will be possible and will have enhanced precautionary measures in place to ensure our participants’ health and safety remains our primary concern.

INTAKES

We have suspended our April 27th intake due to the uncertainty of travel restrictions to South Korea from now until the end of May.

Our in-country teams on the ground are currently in contact with all participants in South Korea and are updating them daily as news is released regarding travel restrictions and Visas.

MYANMAR

Myanmar has seen a slight bump in its new cases lately, which currently stand at 144. Despite this, the country has been aggressive in combating the spread of COVID-19.

Schools are shut, lockdowns are put in place in any areas where new cases are identified, and there is a national curfew in place through the middle of June.

International flights coming into and leaving Myanmar have been suspended through May 15th. Some schools are trying out online education with foreign English teachers doing some instruction through platforms like Zoom, but for the most part, teachers are having to survive with partial or no income until schools reopen.

There is no official date for reopening of schools.

INTAKES

Our next intake is scheduled for 28 September 2020

We will continue to monitor things daily and update this page with new information.

JAPAN

Japan has seen a jump in new cases over the past several weeks; the total number now stands at 13,231. The country was slow to respond to the threat of COVID-19 due to a combination of government indecision and cultural tendencies.

Foreign nationals from most Western countries are banned from entering Japan at the moment.

INTAKES

Due to Japan’s cases increasing recently, we have made the tough decision to suspend our July 27th and September 28th intakes due to the uncertainty of when Japan’s borders will re-open and how quickly they will manage to contain the spread of the virus.

Our next available in-class start date is November 30th.

All participants enrolled in intakes which have been suspended have been offered to defer their start date to November 30th free of charge.

They have also been provided the option to complete their TESOL certification online with TravelBud and will have their job placements confirmed from the comfort of their home, allowing them the flexibility to head over to start their teaching adventure as soon as it’s possible and safe to do so.

We will continue to monitor things daily and update this page with new information.

COSTA RICA

Costa Rica has nearly 700 cases of COVID-19 and has been in lockdown with closed borders for several weeks.

This has caused the curve to flatten and numbers of new cases are now in the single digits, which shows great progress.

The country is currently closed to foreigners until at least May 15 and our teams are closely monitoring the situation to keep all participants updated.

INTAKES

Our first intake is scheduled for 23 November 2020.

We will continue to monitor things daily and update this page with new information.

What is TravelBud’s advice for participants wanting to teach and travel abroad within the next 3 months?

During this time of uncertainty we are advising all participants to choose intake dates that fall later in the year.

We have published these intake dates above and on each program page on our website. There is no additional fee to switch between intake dates.

Options to get started sooner

During this time of crisis and isolation we’re on a mission to innovate and make our life-changing paid teaching programs as accessible as possible.

Hybrid 160-hour TESOL:

We have created a special 160-hour hybrid TESOL course, which consists of our full 120-hour online TESOL certification as well as 40 hours of in-class training in one’s teaching destination.

The first intake for this new program option is scheduled for June 29th in Thailand and has been a popular alternative option for participants who have had their intakes suspended due to COVID-19.

It provides the unique option to have the best of both worlds – getting started with your TESOL certification online from home with 2 weeks of in-person training and cultural orientation in Thailand before you start teaching. You will arrive in Thailand with a job placement already secured and waiting for you.

Online TESOL and Guaranteed Placement:

Participants can also opt to complete their TESOL certification online and our placement teams will facilitate the full job placement process online too.

This allows our participants to earn their TESOL certification, secure their job placement, and get all their paperwork in order from the comfort of their home.

Once travel restrictions are lifted, they can head straight to their destination to start teaching at their school.

What will the future landscape look like for travel?

We expect a few different scenarios for entry requirements based on what we are already seeing in South Korea and China, and what is being planned in Thailand.

COVID-19 Test on Arrival. They tried this in South Korea. The idea was to present proof of a test required before departing from one’s home country, and then one administered upon arrival. If results came back negative, you could enter the country without extended quarantine. For the approximately 48-hour period during which the test was processed, travelers stayed in a government facility. However, due to the tests not being 100% accurate, and the shortage of tests for the volume of travelers, it was quickly replaced in favor of a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all travelers. However, the test on arrival could be a viable policy if it can be improved on in certain areas and be made more widely accessible.

Flight availability and testing. Emirates is leading the charge with progressive plans to re-open most of their flight routes from July. They have been hard at work on being able to administer rapid testing for all their passengers before boarding flights and when arriving at their destinations. This has been successfully rolled out on their flights in April and May with test results being available within 10 minutes, and the airline is working actively to make this more widely available on all of their flights moving forward. We expect other airlines to follow suit and for this to be the norm for international until a vaccine is available.

14 day quarantines in a Private Residence or Hotel. This was in place in Thailand, for example, but was viewed as ineffective because there were widely publicized reports of foreigners breaking quarantine. This entry requirement also included proof of COVID-19 Test OR doctor note 48-72 hours beforehand. It was scrapped for a full ban but we expect this 14-day private residence or hotel requirement to be put in place in Thailand again once the country opens up to foreign travelers.

14 day Quarantines in Government Facilities. This was in place for a short time before borders completely shut down across Southeast Asia, and it is currently in place in Korea if the individual entering the country does not have a private residence. This entry requirement also included proof of COVID-19 Test OR doctor note 48-72 hours beforehand. In Myanmar, they are using a combination of government-facility and private-residence quarantine for a total of 21 days.

We may need to prepare for the possibility that in the near future, participants will be required to quarantine at a private residence/hotel. We can easily set this up in all of our destination countries but there could be an extra cost for hotel rooms/apartments for two weeks. With our Korea placement program, we have the ability to put them in a private accommodation at the school from the time they arrive, which would mean zero cost for teachers. This may be a future option for placement program participants in other countries too.

Final thoughts

We are going to get a clearer picture in the coming weeks of how countries across Asia and Latin America are going to open their borders.

One thing we expect is that they will do so slowly and cautiously.

Some countries, such as Vietnam, which is less dependent on foreigners, may take a slower approach than Thailand or Costa Rica, whose economies are more dependent on, and their cultures more open to, foreigner visitors.

We expect quarantines and/or rapid testing at airports to be the norm and will tailor our programs accordingly.

We are continuing to monitor the situation very closely and will update you as we get any further information.

Can I defer my program to a later start date?

Yes, you absolutely can.  You can defer to a later program at no cost, either later in the year or in 2021.

Can I switch between programs?

Yes, provided that you meet the requirements for the program to which you want to switch, we can assist you to do so.  There may be a slight difference in the cost which we will communicate to you in advance.  

What if I have to self-isolate on arrival?

We will continue to monitor things daily and update this page with new information.

What are TravelBud’s in-country team doing on the ground to assist with containment?

In response to the spread of COVID-19, our in-country teams have put in place a comprehensive plan to support teachers on the ground, keep participants on our programs safe, and advise in-bound participants on how to travel safely.

They are collecting information from a wide variety of sources, collating it and sending it out to our teacher communities in each country regularly. 

They obtain relevant information from speaking to schools, embassies, and teachers in the field, monitoring local language and international news sources, and speaking to local partners, all in an effort to better understand the situation each day and keep our teachers informed and safe. 

They have also set up hotlines and designated staff members in all of our countries for participants to contact directly at any time if they have any questions or concerns, or need advice.

Our in-country teams have also put in place procedures at our offices and programs to ensure participant and staff safety. This includes closely monitoring the health of each participant from the moment they arrive on our programs.

Finally, we’re reaching out to participants who are in the preparation phase of traveling to our programs and informing them on how to maintain hygiene and safety during travel.

This plan is evolving daily to meet changing circumstances and is informed by the travel regulations, restrictions, and advice of those countries who are sending and receiving our participants.

What is TravelBud’s refund policy?

TravelBud’s enrollment and final fees are non-refundable.  However, we are now offering all those participants whose programs are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic the flexibility of a free date change to a later program date within 12-months from the original program date.

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