Travelling & teaching English in Thailand during Covid-19
Can you tell us more about you? Why did you decide on the big move to Thailand?
My name is Shauna. I’m 25 and from County Westmeath. I’m a fully qualified Cabinet Maker /Carpenter. I studied 4 years of Woodwork in university to get my Level 8 Bachelor’s Degree. When I finished my schooling, I wanted to go travelling, but unfortunately needed money for travelling. My aim was to work for 1 year and then go travelling once I had the funding. I was hired into joinery straight from university as a project manager and ended up getting settled and working for 3.5 years there. I decided to make the big move to Thailand! I always wanted to go there since I was small. I knew now at 25 if I didn’t go at this moment, I would still put it off for more years and then feel like it was too late. However, I have learned from travelling to Thailand it is never too late.
You have selected to go for a Paid internship in Thailand which has all-inclusive TEFL and connects you with secure partners in Thailand, why did you decide to go with the internship?
I went with this option as I had made several phone calls to Katie at the TEFL Institute to discuss the different options available. I felt this one suited me the most as this internship has everything set up, which made it very easy and less stressful to make the big move.
You were originally supposed to go to Thailand in October, but due to Covid-19, your start date had been changed to December. Tell us a little bit on why you decided to go ahead and travel during COVID-19?
Yes, it was actually all cancelled for this year as the Thai government decided not to let foreigners into their country. My Thai consulate representative informed me at the time, and I was upset but understood the situation. I then received an email a few weeks later explaining we were now allowed to come to Thailand, but we had to come by a non-Immigrant B visa. Previously, this visa is processed in-country. I had 3 days to make my decision as we had little time to start getting the paperwork organised. I made my decision by writing pros and cons, and after all that, I crumbled up the paper and said ‘’let’s just do it’’. Lots of people asked me about travelling during COVID-19. I wasn’t worried because I knew that I wouldn’t be returning home for a while. My main concern was bringing COVID-19 back to my family, which was not going to happen since I have no return flight booked. After seeing what it is like to travel during COVID-19, I believe now that I was very safe. Planes were fumigated, people stayed 2 meters apart and wore masks everywhere. I actually feel safer here in Thailand than at home. Thailand is nearly back to normal and is one of the countries with the lowest rate of COVID-19.
A lot of people are a bit unsure of what needs to be prepared before you can enter Thailand. We would love to know the process you went through to get to Thailand?
After accepting my position to travel to Thailand, I first sent signed scans of my passport, a Garda check [Irish police check], my degree and college transcripts to my Thai Consulate representative. She then organised all the paperwork in Thailand for me to apply for my visa. This included permission to work from the Education Board in Thailand and paperwork from the school accepting my position.
When I received all the paperwork, I was then able to apply for my non-Immigrant B visa on E-visa with the London Thai embassy.
For my preparation, I had to ring the Thai embassy in England due to Ireland’s Thai embassy being closed with COVID-19. After I completed my visa form, I scanned all relevant documents online including a passport copy, degree, and declaration form. At the end of the section, I had to request to post all my documents including my passport to the Thai embassy for the visa. I was unable to travel to the embassy to get my visa in person due to COVID-19. This process overall took 1 week. When my visa was cleared, they sent me an image of it. While I was waiting for my passport to get returned to me, I could apply for my COE (Certificate of Entry). Everyone needs a COE to get into Thailand. My name and number were given to the government for the COE back in the early stages, so they were aware that I was applying for one. There are two stages of a COE; the first stage is general information from passport and visa (this took 12 hours to be approved), the second stage is where I had to upload my travel insurance that must cover COVID-19, flight cancellation cover and quarantine confirmation. This then took another 12 hours to be approved. The Thai embassy gives you a list of approved airlines and approved Quarantine hotels. My flight was booked through the Emirates website and my quarantine organised directly by emailing with the hotel. After all these processes, I was finally ready for my Thailand journey and it was time to start packing. For the airport, I needed copies of all of my paperwork from these processes and a COVID-19 test and “fit to fly” confirmation 72 hours prior to my arrival in Bangkok.
How did you find your flight and airport service? What has changed in your opinion and what do you think people need to look out for?
I flew from Dublin airport, it was empty. I went through security and was at my gate very quickly. I sat and watched my plane be unloaded and cleaned for an hour before being boarded. I flew with Emirates economy class to Dubai, and then to Bangkok. In Dublin and Dubai, all my paperwork was checked, i.e. COVID-19 test, visa, passport and insurance. The plane’s capacity holds 400 people and on both flights, 70 people were boarded to fly. Upon arrival in Bangkok, we were seated in chairs where a member of staff would check all our paperwork again. When we were cleared from this section, we passed through 5 other checkpoints checking temperatures and the same paperwork at every station. Other than security to get into Thailand, nothing much else has changed as airports will soon start to go back to the way they used to be. We will still have to keep masks on and sanitise which is to be expected as it is the NEW NORMAL.
When you finally arrived in Thailand how did you get to your quarantine location? Was it expensive? What did it cover?
I arrived by minivan supplied by my hotel to quarantine. It was only a 15-minute drive as I chose somewhere close to the airport. After travelling for 16 hours, I didn’t want to stay in a minivan for too long. I have booked my quarantine for the 15 nights and cost me 42,000 THB (€1150). This included airport transfer, 15 nights in a pool view deluxe room, 3 meals a day, 24hr nurse assistance, 2 COVID-19 tests, COVID-19 certs for leaving, 1 hour of relaxation from day 7 if the test is negative and room complimentary snacks. It seems expensive paying for it at the beginning but when you work it out it works out €77 a night with 3 meals a day. This is actually a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel in Ireland. I recommend spending a bit of money on quarantine as it is your home for 2 weeks. People who booked the cheaper hotels ended up with bad food, service was very bad and room problems. Quarantine hotels range from 28,000 THB (€750) to 100,000 THB or more
Personally speaking, how did you find the self-quarantining?
I actually loved quarantine. The first week my sleep pattern was all over the place. Quarantine gave me the opportunity to get the jet lag sorted before entering Bangkok. I watched plenty of Netflix (so make sure you get a good series lined up to watch), I decided to watch all 15 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy again. The hotel I chose was great – good food and good service, which makes anywhere more pleasant to stay. You do start to go a little crazy but get back on track by thinking about the fact that there is only 5 more sleeps till FREEDOM.
Did you have an orientation in Thailand?
We did a 3-day online orientation with various Thai representatives and other teachers like me. This is where we discussed teaching, Thai culture, transport around Bangkok, Thai language and the process of extending or renewing the Thai working visa.
Have you met other teachers yet? If so, how long after your arrival did this happen?
After my 2 weeks of quarantine, I spent 3 days in Bangkok exploring before going to Rangsit to meet other teachers. I met 6 other teachers in person, we had drinks and dinner in the hotel we were staying in before our meeting the next day where we met our consulates in person and signed all the paperwork for work permits and bank accounts. Before all this, we had a Facebook page set up for all 28 teachers coming in December. This is where we first started communicating which each other on finding out what school everyone was going to and if anyone needed help with their visa process, one of us was sure to help.
And finally, do you have any top tips about travelling during COVID-19 that you wish you knew before leaving?
Bring a lot of snacks for quarantine in the hotel, and don’t eat them all in the first 2 days like I did. Make them last, trust me it helps with your cravings you get.