Traveling to Hat Yai:
If you are traveling from the U.S. you’ll most likely fly from the west coast. When I traveled on my first international portion of my trip I flew from SFO into Hong Kong. The flight was a little over 13 and a half hours, and I slept almost the whole way. Singapore Airlines is an incredible airline and they really are attentive and take great care of you! The food on the flight is also incredible.
Insider Tip: Purchase a neck pillow at the airport – this will allow you to sleep comfortably for hopefully most of this portion of your flight. Most likely your plane will depart around 1 a.m. so you’ll want to sleep as much as possible. Second, if you have time before your international flight, go to a money exchange and get some baht right away. If you don’t have time, you can do this in Bangkok, but you’ll want to have baht with you and doing so will help you avoid ATM fees.
Connecting flights into Hat Yai:
For my itinerary, I connected through Hong Kong and continued to Singapore. From Singapore I flew into Bangkok, and from there, connected onto another flight to Hat Yai after going through customs. Depending on where you are coming from and what airline you choose, will dictate how many connections you have. The airports are incredibly easy to navigate, so don’t be nervous about being able to find your gate. Just like any airport you are used to, everything is also in English!
You’ll need to go through customs after collecting your luggage. This was a really easy process and shouldn’t take too long. You’ll receive a paper departure card, which you will want to hang onto in a safe place. Once I was through customs I had to check in for my flight to Hat Yai and go back through security. Again, everything is also in English so it is easy to find the carousel for your luggage as well as where to check-in for your domestic flight.
Insider Tip: After your longest flight (assuming you’ve managed to sleep) try staying awake until you arrive in Hat Yai. This will be a little difficult as the day goes on, as it will be completely opposite your body clock. If you can manage however, you’ll be able to get to sleep at normal nighttime hours in Hat Yai, which will make for an easier transition.
Arriving in Hat Yai:
After a long day of traveling, you’ll be greeted by members of Road Experience at the Hat Yai airport. They are wonderful and will take great care of you! The hotel in downtown Hat Yai is only about 20 minutes from the airport. Hat Yai is much smaller compared to Bangkok and you’ll find it’s easy to navigate after a little time exploring.
Insider Tip: Bring a converter for charging your laptops and devices. Some of the outlets are not compatible with 3-prong chargers, so you’ll want to bring something that can adapt to the 2-prong outlets.
Orientation Day 1:
You’re most likely going to be jet-lagged but don’t worry because the first day of orientation is really fun. Wake up in the morning and grab breakfast in the hotel (it should be included) before orientation starts at 9am. You’ll only have to walk a few steps as orientation is in the same hotel you are staying in!
Day one of orientation covers Thai culture, transportation options, basic phrases that will be helpful for you to learn, dress code for teachers, Thai student behavior (like shyness) as well as what the schools and Thai teachers will expect of you as a foreign teacher. After this introduction (and an hour break for lunch), Road Experience will take you to get photos taken for your Work Visa, so make sure you have some baht on hand to cover the costs.
After orientation you’ll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to relax or get out and explore Hat Yai. I suggest the latter, as it is a fun city to be in! The hotel has everything you could need within walking distance. Across the street is a spot to get a Thai foot massage and 7-11 just further down the street is a great option to get snacks, water, sunscreen, toothpaste, etc.
Around the corner from the hotel are two great restaurants to experience local Thai food for dinner. Don’t be afraid to take a Tuk-Tuk if you want to venture further (like to the famous Khlong Hae Floating Market, which only happens on weekends). Central Festival in downtown Hat Yai (just a tuk-tuk or motor bike ride away) also has a great night market where you can experience classic Thai street food and other various vendors. You can get dinner for all of $2!
Insider Tip: Don’t be afraid to go explore! Even if you don’t know any Thai, everyone is very friendly. If you learn how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Thai, it will go a long way… and so will a smile. Thai people are very friendly, and the locals in Hat Yai are usually excited to see foreigners.
Orientation Day 2:
Day 2 of orientation will mostly cover the Visa process and what to expect from the Embassy, as well as the forms you need to submit for your time working and living in Thailand. Road Experience will also help you navigate finding a place to rent while in your placement location. The rest of the time will be for you to prepare for your 50 minute lesson plan for your practice teaching day at the local school the following day.
Insider Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is your time to get all the answers you need to prepare for your time living and teaching in Thailand. Everyone at Road Experience wants to help you be successful, and the best part, they are locals and can really assist in fine tuning your Thai and give you helpful tips for your time teaching in Thailand.
Practice Teaching Day in Hat Yai:
Today is your chance to work with real Thai students with zero consequence! You will arrive at the school in the morning, and will teach 2, 50 minute classes. One in the morning with students about 13-15 years old, and one in the afternoon with students approximately 16-18 years old. No one is judging you this day, but you’ll want to do your best. It’s your chance to get the butterflies out and test different teaching techniques. Remember that individual students’ English levels will vary, so you will want to be flexible in your level of difficulty with the class.
Topics can be anything you want (from weather, to what you do in your free time, or your ideal birthday party, for example). This is a great chance to see what works, and what doesn’t so you can take those lessons with you into your actual placement school. Don’t forget to have fun with the students and smile!
Insider Tip: Thai students don’t like to be called out individually in class (especially the girls). If you can manage small group participation into your lesson plan rather than asking for individual volunteers, you’ll probably get a better response (Road Experience will also discuss this during your orientation). Keep a loud voice and energetic tone to keep students’ attention – you’ll have between 30-40 students in your practice class!
Once school is over (around 3:30 pm) you’ll head back to the hotel with the other teachers. Feel free to use this time to relax, or join the group out for a farewell dinner. Tomorrow you’ll be heading to your placement location!
Insider Tip: Exchange contact information with your fellow teachers. These people will hopefully become your friends during orientation, and you’ll want to keep in touch with them to plan some weekend or holiday adventures.
On that note… traveling around Thailand is very easy!
When you find yourself with a long weekend or a holiday break from school, you’ll definitely want to travel for some adventures around Thailand. Traveling in the country is very affordable and very easy. There are many options for travel, (which Road Experience covers during orientation) including trains, busses, and obviously airplanes. There are A TON of beautiful islands in Thailand, and if you need a change of pace, I’d highly recommend exploring as many of them as you can!
Final Insider Tip:Don’t forget that you are living and working in Thailand! How amazing is that?! Be courteous and gracious and above all, it’s important to be flexible. If you have a good attitude, it will go a long way in getting through any obstacles or set-backs. Thai people are generally very understanding, friendly and helpful. As a teacher in Thailand, take your job seriously! For Thai people it is a very prestigious job. Always be on time, and get involved right away with your Thai teachers, students and community. Making an effort will only benefit you in the long run and ensure that your experience in Thailand is unforgettable.