Preparing to take your TESOL course and teach English in Thailand is not a one-step process by any means, but it can be simpler than you might realize. For chronic over-packers, there is the 3-pile process: one of necessities, one of maybes, and one of wants. What to pack for Thailand? One suggestion is to pack only the first pile and scrap the rest.
I never abided by that rule because I could never decide what would go in which pile. So instead, here are some my packing tips (and tips from others!) on how to prepare for your adventure abroad teaching English in Thailand:
1. Don’t forget these important items:
- Passport, License, and Visa (and copies), teaching documents (official degree certificate and transcripts), and extra passport photos
- ATM/Debit/Credit Cards (let your bank know you’ll be in Thailand!)
- Cash to exchange (roughly $200-600)
- Any daily medication (with copies of prescriptions), bug spray, sunscreen, and lotion
- Laptop and chargers (with converters/adaptors –Thailand uses 220V, and the plug-in style is the same type you would bring to Europe and North America)
2. For teachers, bring at least two formal outfits.
Here are more teacher suggestions on what to pack for Thailand:
- 2-3 longer skirts that cover the knee
- 2-3 blouses that cover the shoulders and chest
- 1-2 dresses that cover the knees, shoulders, and chest
- Closed toe shoes
- 2-3 dress shirts
- 3-4 pairs of dress pants/trousers
- 1-2 ties
- 5-7 dress socks
- 2 pairs of shoes (1 brown, 1 black)
When teaching English in Thailand, presenting a small gift from your home country to the school makes a fantastic first impression and can help you create some lasting friendships right away. Consider these gift ideas:
- Treat: chocolate, maple syrup, or cookies
- A travel book with pictures of where you’re from
- School supplies: children’s books, magazines, colored pencils, construction paper
3. Bring a small duffel bag or backpack for weekend trips
This was a definite necessity when I studied abroad, and one of the first things I put in my suitcase. It’s so helpful for shorter weekend trips, and I guarantee you’ll be making at least one or two trips while teaching in Thailand!
Sizes in Thailand tend to run on the smaller size, and finding larger Western sizes can be challenging in small towns. Regardless, it is still possible to find these larger sizes at bigger shopping malls in cities. Also it’s important to recognize that Thai culture values modesty, so remember that when packing clothes.
4. Bring a rain jacket, sweatshirt, and good walking shoes
These items were not forefront on my mind when I was wondering what to pack for Thailand, but you’ll definitely be grateful for them once you’re in the country. Bus rides and airplanes can get chilly, and broadly speaking, Thailand’s rainy season can run from May/June to October.
There are some gorgeous national parks all around Thailand, and you’ll want to bring some comfortable walking shoes for hiking and exploring.
For women, a long scarf to cover your shoulders or knees can be useful when visiting a temple or the Grand Palace. The one I brought became one of my most essential items: I used it at the beach, as a cover-up, and also as a blanket on some very chilly bus rides.
What to pack for Thailand: Helpful Items
- A Kindle: English books aren’t as easy to come by, so if you’re a big reader, having a Kindle is wonderful for traveling.
- Consider bringing an extra inexpensive, unlocked phone with you to Thailand to function as your Thai phone. It’s simple to buy one once you’re in Thailand, but it’s sometimes nice to know that you already have one you can use.
- A small coin purse for loose change, and a money belt for weekend trips.
I had the chance to sit down with Tara, one of our TESOL Course participants, and chat about how she prepared for taking the TESOL course and for her adventure teaching in Thailand:
What are some things that you didn’t think to pack first but are grateful for now?
Photos from home. It’s not something that I thought I’d want once here in Thailand, but just having a few photos from home can be so comforting. I also brought a travel journal that I’m looking forward to filling with thoughts and memories from my experience.
What is one item that you wish you’d brought to prepare you for teaching in Thailand?
More skirts! I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find longer black skirts that are light and breathable. Most of the skirts I’ve found here in Thailand are made of heavy material and are pretty expensive. I also wish I’d brought more breathable, light blouses for teaching.
You only brought one backpack on this trip. That’s pretty impressive! What advice do you have for anybody that’s worried about over-packing?
Roll all of your clothes. It saves so much room. And invest in some zip-up cubes. I swear by them. It makes my bag so organized, and it helps me keep track of what I have. Another tip I’ve learned is to bring a separate bag of dryer sheets to keep your clothes smelling fresh!
Generally, just remember to bring what’s necessary and don’t worry too much about bringing duplicates.
What is one thing you wish packed more of?
Bug spray! I use it so much here. I’m almost out. It’s not too easy to find great bug spray here, so I definitely wish I’d brought a couple more bottles. Another important thing I brought was electrolytes. They’ve been super useful here because it’s so hot, and you’re constantly sweating. I’m almost out of them too – it would’ve been nice to have more.
Thank you so much, Tara! You gave us great input on what to pack for Thailand. We’re so excited for your adventure teaching English abroad, and we can’t wait to congratulate you on finishing your TESOL Course!
I’d love to hear from you: What to pack for Thailand? What are some of your packing tips? Have any of you traveled to Thailand before? What are some essential items you always bring with you when traveling abroad?