What To Prepare Before Getting On A Plane To Teach Abroad

What To Prepare Before Getting On A Plane To Teach Abroad

Teaching English in a foreign country sounds like a lot of fun. Salaries are normally pretty good and you will be able to travel around places you’ve never seen before. But not so fast! Before you accept the first job offer sent your way, there are a few things you need to know and be prepared for before you start packing.



Make sure you know where you will be located, and whether it’s a place you want to live in for the next few odd years. It sounds very exotic when a recruiter says they can place you in a school in Thailand. Wow! Thailand! Beaches, parties and cocktails. But are you actually located close to a beach? Are there anything to do? How many residents are in the city. For all you know you will be teaching in a remote village close to nothing. (Unless you want to be of course). Have an idea where you want to live, tell your recruiter you’d like to live in a big city with lots to do or in a quiet village/town.

Is it easy to travel around from where you are located? How much does a train/plane ticket cost from where you will be situated? Check out the big travel site or lesser know (but still good) ones like www.rome2rio.com for travel options from anywhere with different kinds of transport. Make sure you know how much time it will take you from where you are situated to major cities or tourist attractions.

Read some reviews of other TEFL teachers and where they think the best places are to teach and why.


Don’t assume that the weather will be friendly, do your research! Make sure that the weather waiting for you is something you can live with. China usually has very cold winters and very humid summers, seasons change over night. Today it will be Summer and tomorrow the coldness will sweep in without notice and “BOOM!” it’s Autumn! Before you know it you’re walking around with furry boots, gloves and thermal underwear. Thailand has either wet or dry weather. Very hot and humid or rainy, windy and humid. Teaching in UAE will have you running for an AC from spring right through to winter!



It’s not necessary to have accommodation before you leave. Usually the company that employs you will be able to recommend temporary accommodation until you’re on your feet to look for your own apartment.

It’s better to wait until you arrive, you’ll have a better idea of where everything is and how much things cost. You could ask around on Facebook groups for expats about shared accommodation to save costs and to meet new people.

Be careful! Don’t get scammed! If the deal sounds to good to be true, it usually is. Refrain from paying a big deposit before actually looking at the house.  The most affordable local housing is rarely advertised on the internet.  It is all word of mouth or a simple sign posted at the entrance to the soi (street). Some agencies will charge you double just because you’re foreign, it will be wise to take a local with you when house hunting.

Find some great FB groups and information on housing on our Thailand Country Information Page


Have a folder with all of your original important documents but keep a backup copy in a digital storage in case of emergency. Some documents should be certified for visa purposes, make sure you find out from your hiring company which ones need to be certified so that you have those documents ready before you get on a plane. Here is a short list of the most general documents you will need to have:

-Medical check

-Academic record (Degree – certified, TEFL certificates)

-Passport (Make a few color copies just in case)

-Non-criminal record (issued in your own country)

-Driver’s license and/or ID card

-Visa (Make a few color copies just in case)

-Passport sized photos (Have a few taken in your home country and take them with you, it’s usually a huge endeavor finding a place to take these photos and they’re normally not cheap.)

-Copy of your resume and reference letters.

Find some great information on visa/work permit on our Thailand Country Information Page but don’t worry, Icon Recruit will be there to help you understand the process and what to do.

Salary expectancy 

English teachers are currently in very high demand especially in Asian countries. And a lot of training schools pay high salaries to attract native speakers to come to their country to teach. Have a decent read through your contract. How many paid leave days and sick days do you have?  How much holiday time is offered?  Unpaid leave?

Also remember that the local health insurance may not be on par with your home country though it is much less expensive.  Consider travel insurance or temporary health insurance for living abroad.

Find some great information about health on our Thailand Country Information Page

Living costs

Bangkok salaries are higher than other cities in Thailand but the living costs is too.  Comparatively, Thailand has a lower cost of living though some things are on par with western prices.

Check out the Cost of Living in Bangkok calculator but remember that it is much cheaper outside Bangkok.

Spending and surviving will you first arrive 

You’ll probably have to train and work for probably a month and a little before you’ll get your first salary. Make sure you have enough spending to help you survive that first part. Always have extra money available for unforeseen circumstances, like a taxi ride from the airport or other transport expenses that you didn’t think you’ll have. Night’s out that cost more than you’ve budgeted for or expenses like mobile phones, wifi, sim cards and food.

Regardless, you will need to have a budget to support yourself during your relocation and settling in over the first 2 months. It is always best to over budget than to under budget and find yourself in a lean financial situation. When considering a budget or finance for your relocation, the big items will be accommodation and visa run but there are also others.

Find some great information about finance and your arrival budget on our Thailand Country Information Page


Make sure your internet banking is working and that you’ve informed your bank that you’ll be abroad for a year. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to contact your bank from across country.

Culture Shock

If you’ve never been to Asia or the Middle east you are in for a big surprise. These countries are the complete opposite to Western societies. Different believes, eating styles, living styles, food cultures and work ethics. Prepare yourself emotionally and get ready to adapt really quickly!

Most Asian countries don’t speak a lot of English (Duh! That is why they need you to teach their children.) You’ll be in many situations where you don’t know what’s going on or who is saying what. It will be a good idea to learn a few common phrases in Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Arabic or Thai before leaving.

Common phrases you’ll most definitely need to learn:


“I want to go to ____________”

“How much is this?”

“I want _____”

“Where is the ______”

Remember something that can be really rude in Western cultures can be seen as extremely polite in other countries. Number one rule probably everywhere is to accept a gift or to try a different kind of food when someone presents you with it. Without rolling your eyes or saying: “Eeuw, yuck!” Asians haven’t been exposed to many foreigners in their lives, especially in smaller towns. Be prepared to have your photo taken or strangers staring at you in the streets or on the train.

Don’t forget that you’ll also meet a lot of people from Europe, Africa, Canada and South/North America and even they can get on your nerves with their different ways of thinking. Try to understand that everybody’s different and that everyone is a product of their upbringing and surroundings! Exercise tolerance and you’ll be fine!

Find some great information about Thai culture and language on our Thailand Country Information Page

And remember that Thai people are rather easy going, polite, and enjoy meeting foreigners from all over!

What to pack? 

Western Medicine

External hard drive with your favorite shows (but don’t worry, Thailand has Netflix!)

Laptop and iPad

A decent backpack for weekend travel

Very comfortable shoes (you’ll be walking a lot)

Clothes -Don’t pack your evening gown or a black tie for those ‘just in case’ events. Pack clothes according to the weather, if you don’t come from a cold country. Wait until you get to your destination before buying clothes for winter (your destination’s shops will most probably have more efficient body protection than your own country’s).

If you have space, you could pack in a towel, pillow and sleeping bag (This is something you don’t want to spend money on in your first month.)

There will be many incidentals that you will find you need after moving so plan your finances accordingly.  Consider what you can bring and what you should simply purchase here. There are many local businesses to help you set up your house such as Big C, Tesco Lotus, Ikea (Bangkok only), or even Chatachuk Weekend Market in Bangkok.  There are also e-commerce sites to order which will ship directly to your home.

APPS to download

A reliable VPN – for countries that don’t allow Google based pages

Air matters – Pollution check app

Tripadvisor – Travel app

CTrip – For easy travel bookings

A good weather app

A decent translator app (online and offline) VERY IMPORTANT!

A money converter app

Line – WhatsApp is not as popular in Asia

Skype – to stay connected to family and friends.

Nothing ever goes as planned, but if you are prepared for anything you’ll deal with unexpected events much easier. Good luck!

For More Information, Visit Our:

Thailand Country Information Page

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