Taking a year to pursue your passions in the real world is a great way to spend some time getting to know yourself at any stage in life. A gap year in Thailand is an excellent choice because you can boost those yoga skills, master the art of cooking authentic pad Thai, and learn about conserving elephant sanctuaries. And that’s just scratching the surface! Thailand will introduce you to living in a non-western culture while giving you the opportunity to do some soul searching. So go on and take a Thailand gap year where the “land of smiles” will give you a new experience abroad!
Thailand is the hub of southeast Asia and a dream destination that brings in over 32 million visitors each year. Whether you love big cities, mountains, jungles, or beaches, Thailand offers it all. A gap year in Thailand will easily allow you plenty of time to explore—especially when you base yourself in one of these hot destinations.
Bangkok. In the capital and largest city in Thailand, you will be able to stroll through many colorful markets, explore the Grand Palace, and experience the nightlife of Khao San Road. Weave your way through the crowded streets while snacking on street food at every corner. With great public transportation you can easily get across the city via skytrain or tuk-tuk. Your mind will be blown as you walk down the streets witnessing both wealth and poverty, high rises and temples, and tourists and locals all scrambling by. But you’re not here just for the touristy bits, right? On your gap year in Bangkok you can find competitive internships, volunteer with young children, or even master the Thai language - สวัสดี!
Chiang Mai. Calling all gappers with a heart for animals - you’ll love getting down and dirty with different conservation and sanctuary programs. This city up north is a playground for the outdoor enthusiast. Laid back in comparison to busy Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a place where expats seek refuge from the rush of modern life. Head up north to adventure near the golden triangle, trek through the jungles, and see the historical Wat Chedi Luang. Chiang Mai is a charmer that should not be surpassed.
Phuket. If you prefer beach vibes to jungles and cities then head on down to the largest island off of the coast of Thailand. With access to other jaw dropping and glam islands such as Phang Nga Bay or Phi Phi islands you can rest assured that you made the right decision in going for a Thailand gap year. After a day of studying the ins and outs of Buddhism, you can relax on one of the beaches while enjoying a massage or chase sea turtles while snorkeling in the crystal waters. Aside from melting on a beach every day, you can also head off to see the temples such as Wat Chalong or cheer on a muay thai boxing match.
It’s great to kick back and read a book while eating tom yum gung after a long day of scanning the markets; but a Thailand gap year is really about finding something meaningful that can enhance your overall life experience. The following are gap year programs in Thailand that might just spark your interest.
Volunteering. Volunteering in Thailand during your gap year will stand out on your resume and give it that unique international boost. Some top volunteer opportunities around Thailand are working at an elephant sanctuary, teaching English, or working with refugees. You will be able to provide your skills and services to locals in need and have a sense of fulfillment at the end of each day.
Internships. Thailand gap year internships are a great way to test out a new career path while abroad. While your buddies back home are fulfilling their higher ed. credits with textbook overload and blinding laptop screens, you will be seeking a whole new academic experience. Whether you are curious about hospitality and tourism, education, or environmental conservation, you can be sure to accomplish some rare academic and work experience.
Adventure Travel. Maybe you just want to play. There is nothing holding you back from backpacking around Thailand for an ultimate adventure before stepping back into your college or career track. Spend a gap year trekking through the jungles, scuba diving off of the islands, or practicing muay thai. You can also immerse yourself in Buddhist philosophy or just take time for peace and meditation. Thailand has an adventure for every wandering soul and you deserve it.
Everything else you need to know about gap years in Thailand
Costs. A gap year program in Thailand along with the cost of living is much more affordable than a western country. Massages, tuk-tuks, and delish street treats are all just a few bucks. Getting your essentials at the markets is also affordable. Prices are usually negotiable so be sure to test out those haggling skills. Traveling within Thailand is affordable as well. You can take trains or planes across the country for around $40 one-way. Although penny pinching in Thailand won’t be a problem, be sure see if you are eligible for scholarships or check out FundMyTravel to raise some mula before you head out on your overseas gap year.
Accommodations. Most gap year programs provide accommodation. There is no better way to experience a new country than by being offered a homestay. A homestay will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself into Thai family culture and devour homemade food - yes please! You may also be set up in a guest houses or apartment with fellow travelers who are doing a program similar to yours. For those who plan to backpack around Thailand, budget hostels are great for making nomad friends and learning about events going on around the area.
Visas. Keep in mind you must get a visa to stay in Thailand for more than 30 days. There are different procedures for volunteers, interns, or backpackers when applying for a visa. Although Thailand is pretty lenient on doing visa runs across the border, they are tightening up and always could deny your re-entry into the country if not done properly. Make sure to check out the GoAbroad embassy directory to ensure you are following the steps to securing your year stay in Thailand.
Safety. Thailand is a safe place to travel. As a rule of thumb, it is always important to be cautious of your surroundings and to not walk through dark alleys in the middle of the night - that doesn’t sound fun anyway. Although pickpocketing isn’t common, it can happen if you aren’t paying attention. Same with scams; you should know the price range of taxis and tuk-tuks before hopping in. Overall, people mind their own business and are very friendly.
GoAbroad's Inside Scoop
A gap year in Thailand is unique! How many people do you know that have jumped out of their comfort zone to take the path less traveled? Take advantage of the time to do some soul searching while munching on mangoes and learning the lingo. A gap year in Thailand will provide you with a different perspective of the world. After a long day of meeting friends, playing with kids, or bathing elephants you will have that satisfaction in your heart that you did something meaningful. Not only that, but friends back home will be green with envy while scrolling through your Instagram pics.
This is your chance! Make sure to fully engage in the culture. Learn bits of the unique language, take Thai cooking classes, meet the locals, and learn to drive a motorbike. Also, stay up to date with all of the festivals and events throughout the year; Songkran—a three-day water fight, the lantern festival, the Lopburi monkey buffet, and the Chinese New Year are just a few faves. If you throw yourself into the culture and hype, you are sure to make the most of your gap year in Thailand.
So ditch the hot pockets, freshman 15, and throwing money toward an undecided major. Taking a gap year in Thailand could end up shaping your life in a way that you cannot yet fathom and the learning opportunities are endless. Meet a new bestie, find a second “home,” and realize you can survive abroad without mom doing the laundry. Taking a gap year in Thailand before college, a career change, or just out of plain curiosity is perfect for figuring out your next step in life.
Make sure to check out why saying yes to a gap year in Thailand will be one of the best decisions of your life!