Thailand

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

International mail takes two to three weeks. Your mailing address during training will be as follows: 

“Your Name,” PCT
242 Rajvithi Road
Amphur Dusit
Bangkok 10300, Thailand  

Only letters will be accepted at this address. Trainees and Volunteers should not have any packages delivered to the office in Bangkok.

Telephones

Trainees are provided with funds to purchase a basic cellphone upon arrival as a safety and security requirement. Volunteers regularly use text messaging to communicate with each other, their Thai friends, and people in the U.S. If you bring a smartphone from the U.S. make sure it is unlocked from the U.S. network before you come. It’s quite easy to call the U.S. from Thailand, many trainees and Volunteers in Thailand also use VOIP services such as Skype, for international dialing.

Internet

Shops that provide Internet and email access exist in cities and rural towns throughout Thailand. Most offices and schools have computers, which are in constant use, and many have Internet connections. Many Volunteers bring laptops from home. There are plenty of computer repair shops in Bangkok and most other large cities in Thailand. If you bring a laptop or other device, it is recommended that you purchase insurance.

Housing and Site Location

Most Volunteer sites are in towns or villages that may be from one to six hours from the nearest city. With very few exceptions, only one Volunteer is placed in each site and the nearest Volunteer could be several hours away. You should come prepared to integrate yourself with your Thai community and center your social life around friends and activities at your site. You will be able to get together with other Volunteers on the weekend and to collaborate with them on certain work projects but this will not be the majority of your time. In villages and small towns, where most Volunteers live, homes have electricity and indoor plumbing, including toilets and cold-water showers. The current electrical current is 220 volts  cycling at 50 hertz. Drinking water must be either boiled or purchased, but is readily available. During pre-service training and the first month of service at site, trainees and Volunteers live with a homestay family. Basic amenities (e.g., soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, lotion, sanitary napkins and tampons, towels, film, stationery, stamps, sodas, and instant coffee) should be available in provincial or regional centers, if not in your town. You should also be able to purchase small household electronics, such as an iron, rice cooker, fan, etc.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 

Food and Diet

The food in Thailand is extraordinary. The staple food is rice, so you will find a variety of rice (or noodle) dishes for all meals. For example, you might have boiled rice with some type of meat for breakfast, fried rice or noodles with or without meat for lunch, and boiled white or brown rice with curry or stir-fried vegetables for dinner. Breads, rolls, and doughnuts are available in almost all convenience shops. In these mini-marts, Volunteers can occasionally find cereals, spaghetti, and peanut butter. All kinds of vegetables and fruits are available in the markets year-round, and tofu can be found in most locations. Food stalls in district towns offer reasonably priced cooked food and are open from early morning until late at night. Volunteers can cook for themselves, buying meat, rice, vegetables, and fruits from local fresh food markets at their sites. Food is relatively cheap and can be purchased comfortably with the monthly living allowance. Vegetarians can also eat well in Thailand, but some may find it difficult to maintain a strict diet, especially in some social contexts and due to the common use of fish and oyster sauce.

Transportation

The transportation system in Thailand is good and convenient. One can travel to and from sites to other towns, including Bangkok, via air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses or, on a few regional routes, by trains (with sleepers) or airlines. Transport within towns is typically by a covered pickup with two rows of seats or by bicycle. Car transportation arranged by a school or office is sometimes available to schools that are difficult to reach by bicycle. Driving or riding as a passenger on a motorbike is strictly forbidden. Finding a consistent means of transportation can be challenging, especially in the early months of service. The Peace Corps will provide you with a monthly transportation allowance and a mountain bike and bicycle helmet for travel to offices and schools, for errands, and for pleasure. Thus, trainees and Volunteers are expected to be comfortable riding a bicycle for five to 10 miles per day. The bicycle will be your only mode of transportation during pre-service training (PST) for daily travel between homestay accommodations, language, and technical training sites. Because PST is usually in a large town and in villages, you may be riding along four-lane roads, as well as rough asphalt roads in the villages. In both PST and in many sites, riding a bike is the only way for trainees and Volunteers to get around so it is extremely important that you are comfortable riding a bike on hot (95 degree) days from home to a work site. Bike training for the local context will be provided during the first week in Thailand. The Peace Corps requires that Volunteers wear helmets whenever they are on a bicycle. In addition to a helmet, Peace Corps also provides the following bike accessories:
  • Water bottle 
  • Tire patch kit 
  • Headlight 
  • Taillight 
  • Bicycle tools
  • Lock (key lock)
  • Mudguards (fenders) 
  • Other bike accessories

Social Activities

You will spend much of your free time playing sports, eating, going to movies, attending Thai festivals and cultural events, and socializing with your Thai colleagues and neighbors. Dating as it is known in the United States will be noticeably absent. Your ability to adjust to and enjoy this kind of social life will be an important aspect of your success as a Volunteer.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Dress Appearance and personal presentation are extremely important in Thai culture. Male Volunteers should know that long hair, beards and mustaches, and earrings are not commonly worn by Thai men and are less culturally accepted, particularly in rural provinces. In many schools and offices, the principle, mayor, or other supervisor strongly prefers that their staff not have beards or tattoos. Multiple-pierced ears and body piercings are not commonly worn by either gender. Some people associate tattoos with criminal activities. If you have large tattoos, you may want to choose clothing that will cover them, especially for more formal work settings.