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  

After the completion of training, Volunteers transition towards receiving letters and packages mailed directly to sites – either at their workplace addresses or at their rental houses/homestay family residences.

Telephones

Peace Corps provides each Trainee with a feature phone upon arrival.  The phones are capable of making and receiving calls, sending SMS/text messages, and will have WhatsApp already installed.  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.  

Windows-based computers and Android-based mobile devices dominate the market in Thailand. Apple products and devices running on iOS carry premium prices in Thailand and are more costly for accessories and servicing.  

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

Trainees receive a daily stipend in Thai Baht, starting on the first or second day in country, meant to cover basic meals and incidental expenses.  Although currency exchange kiosks and ATMs are plentiful in Bangkok, there aren’t any currency exchange kiosks at the training site and few accessible ATMs in the surrounding communities.  If you need “extra” Thai Baht for homestay gifts or anticipated one-time expenses, consider options for obtaining Thai Baht at an international airport or major bank in the U.S., or at one of the numerous exchange kiosks in the baggage claims areas of the airport in Bangkok prior to boarding the bus for the training site.

After training, Volunteers receive a monthly allowance intended to cover food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts, and thus Peace Corps discourages supplementing living allowances with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash for safety reasons. 

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. 

Trainees will be issued mountain bikes and helmets – a non-negotiable requirement for riding in Thailand – for use starting at training and throughout the duration of service. In most cases, bikes are the most consistent, or the only, mode of transportation possible.  Thus, Trainees and Volunteers are expected to be comfortable riding for five to ten miles per day in hot and humid conditions often exceeding 95 degrees. Bicycles will be your only mode of transportation during training for daily travel between homestay accommodations, language, and technical training sites. Because pre-service training is usually in large towns and in villages, you may be riding along four-lane roads, as well as on rough asphalt roads in the villages. In addition to bikes and helmets, Peace Corps provides accessories including: water bottle, tire patch kit, lights, tools, locks, and fenders.  Although gel seat covers are available for purchase in Bangkok, some Trainees bring their own from the U.S.  Bike safety and basic maintenance training will be provided during the first week in Thailand. Nonetheless, self-study and practice improve both competence and confidence.  Prior to arrival in country, consider reviewing online resources for repairing flat tires, and attending maintenance workshops offered by community bicycling organizations near you.

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.