Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, so it is only fitting that the main city in this beautiful province translates to “the City of Good People”. Surat Thani is home to a number of naturally stunning islands, namely Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Tao. It is also the largest province in Southern Thailand, and therefore serves as a gateway and transportation hub for travelers near and far. Those who volunteer abroad in Surat Thani will surely enjoy the city’s laidback lifestyle and glorious landscapes.
Volunteer Programs in Surat Thani
Due to its southern location, Surat Thani has a very tropical climate, which makes it an excellent choice for volunteers looking to live in a region where beaches are never too far away! English language skills are growing steadily over time, as is the tourism industry, so volunteers aren’t typically required to be fluent in Thai. Volunteer placements in Surat Thani can last a few weeks or for a more extended period of time, it is completly up to you!
The region’s client makes wildlife conservation a very popular area of volunteering in Surat Thani. Sea turtles in the region have specifically encountered more and more environmental hazards leading to a greater need for sea turtle conservation. Wildlife conservation volunteering in Surat Thani is often focused on restoring natural habitats for various threatened species. In general, conservation volunteering in Surat Thani allows volunteers to take a very hands-on approach to their volunteer work, which many volunteers greatly appreciate. The range of tasks involved in conservation volunteer work spans from assisting with nest hatching, collecting data, and conducting research to preparing materials for outreach programs or leading guided tours for visitors.
A few specific specialties within the field on conservation include environmental preservation and marine conservation. Not surprisingly, the majority of these volunteer placements are located along the coast. There is a big focus on conservation of coral reefs in Surat Thani, as this marine life covers less than two percent of the ocean floor but supports 25 percent of all marine life. Marine conservation volunteers can help increase awareness and involvement in conservation efforts, thereby decreasing the negative impact that humans have on coral reefs.
Another popular way to volunteer abroad in Surat Thani is by teaching English. As a teaching volunteer in Surat Thani you will not necessarily be responsible for the typical workload of a full time teacher, which means you’ll have plenty of time to do other things outside your placement. Volunteer English teachers in Surat Thani often work on improving the speaking and listening skills of local students, while also building their confidence in speaking English and interacting with native English speakers.
Life in Surat Thani
Thai people are very generous and friendly, so you will not have a difficult time making new local friends as a volunteer in Surat Thani. Your local friends will likely become like a second family to you, inviting you into their homes to get to know each other over a home-cooked meal. As in other Thai regions, volunteers should always wai when meeting a new person or seeing a familiar face too, so as to show respect.
There are many cultural characteristics and traditions that volunteers should be aware of to successfully integrate into life in Thailand. For example, volunteers should remember to never show the bottom of their feet (ex. propping your feet up on a chair is a no-no), as feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body according to Thai culture. You should also never step on money (even if it is flying away!) because the king’s face is on the bills and the Thai people have immense respect for their king.
Surat Thani is much more relaxed than major cities in Thailand, like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Volunteers should be prepared for “Thai time,” which basically means all meeting times are very, very flexible. For example, if you are supposed to meet someone at 2 p.m., don’t be surprised if they show up thirty minutes later than planned. Although this may frustrate some people, this can be appealing for those who want to enjoy a stress-free life as a volunteer abroad in Surat Thani.
Volunteers will still have the opportunity to travel as much as they please with ease, since there is an international airport located in Surat Thani. There are also plenty of other accessible modes of transportation too, including buses, ferries, trains, and tuk-tuks, that can help volunteers get around the region and both in and out of the country.
Costs & Affordability
Thailand is a very affordable country, and volunteering in a less populated area like Surat Thani means your money will go a long way. Meals can cost just 30 baht ($1) and most definitely provide enough food to fill you up! Local delicacies include fresh fruit, such as coconuts and rambutan, as well as a variety of seafoods, so make sure to bring your foodie spirit with you and leave your inhibitions at the door; the local flavors and spices are not to be missed!
Volunteer program costs will vary based on how long you are volunteering in Surat Thani and what is included. Make sure to check with your program provider ahead of time so you are fully prepared and aware of what is included and what isn’t. For example, some of your meals might be provided and some might not, so be sure to ask where you will be getting the remainder of your meals so you can budget effectively. If you are having trouble figuring out how to afford a volunteer program in Surat Thani, you can always try our crowdsourced fundraising!
Accommodation & Visas
Volunteer programs in Surat Thani usually include accommodation arrangements, but some may not. If your housing is not included, your program provider will likely be able to give you a list of inexpensive housing options; they will definitely still do their best to help you out! In more rural areas, like some parts of Surat Thani, volunteers typically live with local host families, which is a wonderful opportunity to experience Thai culture in a home environment.
Volunteers will need a volunteer visa to volunteer in Surat Thani. Volunteer program providers typically help volunteers through the visa process, but you can also apply for a three-month visa directly through an immigration office if your program provider does not assist with visa applications. There is usually very little stress when it comes to getting a visa to volunteer in Thailand, but it is important to get a headstart on the process instead of being left behind. Thankfully, getting a visa should in no way take a toll on your sanity! You will also have the option to renew your visa if you want to stay for longer than your intended to (and why wouldn’t you?). Make sure you also factor in what affects travel outside the country on the weekends will have on your visa situation, before you leave Thailand’s borders.
Benefits & Challenges
Getting Out of the Tourist Bubble. Volunteering in Surat Thani will give you a fresh perspective of Thailand. Not only will you learn a great deal during your placement, you will also build intimate relationships with locals during your volunteer work, something most tourists never have the opportunity to do. As a foreigner, regardless of where you are, you will be noticed (in a good way!). Expect friendly smiles and a warm welcome no matter where you end of volunteering in Surat Thani, and also some genuine sadness when you leave; make sure to keep in touch!
Mai Bpen Rai. Being in a different country and culture than what you’re used to can be challenging. However, the Thai have a saying that loosely translates to “no worries!” They are a very easy going and relaxed people, so try not to worry about the small (or large) problems you encounter as a volunteer in Surat Thani. If you adopt this attitude during your volunteer work, you will generally enjoy smooth sailing throughout your entire stay!