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When in Thailand: How to Turn Your Vacation Into a Vocation

Picture of Kyle Hulme
Updated: 14 August 2017
Travelling through Thailand can be a life-changing experience. Each year, millions of tourists grace its shores and instantly become captivated by its nature, the people and the way of life. Most people return to their home countries after a short stay, growing wistful, restless and itching to return. More and more people, however, are turning what is initially a short trip into one that’s a lot longer by either getting jobs in Thailand or working remotely here. Here’s a guide on how to do just that.

Teaching

A popular choice for extending your time in Thailand is to become a teacher. Don’t think this is just a casual gig in shorts on the beach – it’s bound to be hard, stressful and frustrating at times, but can be incredibly rewarding. The need for teachers in Thailand exceeds the supply, so finding a job isn’t an issue, with plenty of vacancies at all levels, from kindergarten all the way to university.

A teaching or education-based degree isn’t necessary, but having one can prove to be a lucrative investment, with private international schools often paying more than double what you could make in a regular government school. In order to work legally and attain a work permit, a degree of any sort is all you need, and non-native speakers will need to take a test to prove their English capabilities.

With extended breaks in March, April and October, and plenty of long weekends due to Thai holidays, it’s a good way of earning money, giving back and funding your travels in Southeast Asia.

Teaching English is a great way to stay in Thailand
Teaching English is a great way to stay in Thailand | © Filip Pticek/Flickr

Diving instructor

Another common gig for foreigners in Thailand is to become a diving instructor. Providing you’re PADI qualified, there are usually plenty of vacancies available in coastal cities, such as Phuket, and islands, including Koh Samui. Hiring from within is popular in this industry, so you might have better luck finding an instructor job at the same diving school at which you became qualified. It’s also possible to get a work permit in this field, so no need for visa runs across the border.

Like teaching, it’s not just a holiday – you’ll be busy and responsible for the lives and enjoyment of those you’re taking out several times per day. That said though, Thailand has some great dive spots, and being amongst the fish and the coral reefs sure beats sitting behind a desk.

An office with a view
An office with a view | © Damian Almua / Flickr

Freelancing

As people are travelling more and becoming less inclined towards sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day, the number of digital nomads is on the rise, and Thailand is a great place for freelance working. Whether it’s writing, editing, graphic design or whatever, there’s a good chance that if you stick your head in a coffee shop in Bangkok, you’ll see a foreigner sitting behind a computer doing it. Thailand’s low cost of living, decent internet speeds and work-friendly café culture makes it a great place to freelance. The only downside is that you can’t get a work permit – whilst visa runs across the border can become an annoyance, think of it as a chance to check out a new city, and, of course, you can work on the move.

Freelance from anywhere
Freelance from anywhere | © Kelly Iverson

Hotel or restaurant manager

If you have experience in this area, then there’s always a hotel, hostel or restaurant in need of someone to manage them. It might be long hours and hard work, but it’s an excellent opportunity to meet people and become a part of the local community during your stay. These kinds of jobs can be pretty lucrative – especially if you can speak several languages – and are a good way to earn and save for future travels.

Of course, it’s always possible to start your own business, but it’s not such a simple task. You’ll need solid legal representation and a trustworthy Thai business partner, as foreigners can only own 49% of a business in Thailand.

Experience opens doors in the hospitality sector
Experience opens doors in the hospitality sector | © Phuket@photographer.net/Flickr

Actor or model

Yes, we know not everybody has the looks to be the next top model, but modelling and acting jobs are surprisingly common in Thailand. There are plenty of casting calls on various Facebook groups that offer a considerable amount of money for a few hours or days of work. Like in any country, earning an income from this line of work is never guaranteed and might see you attending several casting calls with no joy, but it can be a great way to top up any existing income that you might be making in Thailand.

Striking a pose in Bangkok
Striking a pose in Bangkok | © Mark Fische/Flickr

Switching offices, multinationals and NGOs

Before you go ahead and quit your job and book your tickets, you might want to check if your company has a Thai office. There are plenty of multinational corporations with offices all over Thailand, so it may be possible to simply relocate instead or find a job similar to your current one in Thailand.

There’s also a long list of NGOs doing great work in Thailand, from fighting for equal rights to helping those in poverty. Whilst some may need Thai language proficiency or need you to work long hours, it’s rewarding work and an excellent way to give back to and help those who need it.