Gap Year Thailand
What you'll do on our gap year programs
About the program
Briefing & Orientation
You will fly into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and take an internal flight to Chiang Rai, where you will meet your Africa & Asia Venture representative. Together you will travel to Tha Ton, about one and a half hours through some of northern Thailand’s stunning scenery – your base for the orientation course.
This is a chance to settle in, unwind after the hectic few days leading up to your departure and a long journey, as well as an opportunity to get to know your group. The orientation course is important to make sure you are fully prepared when you start your project work. It will be led by your representative giving you a chance to get to know them too. You will be based at Maekok River Village Resort in Tha Ton where they will cover:
- Thai history, culture, customs and polite behaviour
- The Thai language
- Thai cooking
- Health & Safety issues
- Advice on communicating with your students and how to structure your English sessions
After the orientation course you will head out to the villages. All villages are within 90 minutes of Tha Ton and of the hospital at Mae Ai.
Your new home will be close to the local school, or actually inside the grounds, at the heart of the village. Here the representative will leave you to settle into your new home, but remember they’re never more than a phone call away if needed!
You will live in a designated self catered house in two’s or three’s. Types of houses vary – some are traditional wooden Thai houses and some more modern, brick built. You will have a living room, a bedroom, kitchen area and bathroom. Thais are very hygiene-conscious, so bathrooms are usually very clean. The school will give you lunch, but you will have to buy and cook your own breakfast and evening meal – or eat from the small food stalls and restaurants in the village; they are incredibly cheap and great value for money. You will grow to love it and soon feel very much at home!
We encourage independence and so you will not have someone cooking and looking after you – it’s a chance to step up and take responsibility for yourself. You will be given a daily food allowance and will be expected to shop at the local markets and cook for yourself – picking up lots of great Thai cooking tips from as you go! This is the best way of getting to know people, being involved in the community and gaining an understanding of living there – you are not a bystander watching from afar.
Whilst not living with you full time the Africa & Asia Venture representative is never far away and there whenever you need them. They can be contacted by phone 24/7 and will visit you during your project.
Our gap year projects and volunteering opportunities in Thailand join forces with the Maekok River Village Project which works to improve facilities in schools in the Fang Valley. Africa & Asia Venture volunteers have the chance to help at primary or middle schools with local children or those from nearby hill tribe villages. Your volunteer placement will involve you helping children with their spoken English, as well as reading and writing.
You will be formally welcomed to the school. It will take a bit of time to know all the staff, but you will be looked after by one of the English teachers (who may not be a confident English speaker!). The school will normally give you lunch, shared with the other teachers. Schools are always at the centre of the village communities, so you will be very well known and your presence much appreciated. Socialising in the staffroom and outside of the school gives you a chance to get to know the staff who will explain the Thai way of life and traditions, perhaps teach you some Thai dancing or Takraw (a sort of cross between volleyball and football).
The Thai schools’ English syllabus is entirely an exercise in writing, so neither teachers nor children get a chance to speak it. That’s where you come in! You will assist the Thai English teacher with pronunciation and give the children a massive boost in confidence. Most pupils will be aged between 4-11 years old and class sizes can vary. The children respect older people (you!) but can be quite cheeky and are very competitive! You can choose to spend time in the classroom running your English lessons alone or with your volunteer partner, or you may prefer to run smaller English sessions or one-to-one’s with those children who need a bit of extra help. Most schools have a quiet period after lunch.
There is also plenty of opportunity to play sports with the children, all schools are built around a football pitch-sized space so there is scope to play football, basketball or volleyball. Alternatively you can help with clubs for art, music or drama. You will need to apply energy to start extra classes for local villagers, for example, to arrange activities or sports with other schools, but it will be worth it! Scouting is important in Thai schools and scout or guide uniforms are worn once a week. On other days different dress is worn.
The Maekok River Village Project have also set up a Special Educational Needs Centre in Tha Ton, and Africa & Asia Venture volunteers are welcome to support the new facility and its students. Get in touch if you would like to learn more about the Centre.
Thailand is intensely patriotic and, at the pinnacle of this feeling, is the hugely respected King. You may have ‘King Day’ holidays. Occasionally, schools have picnics or other celebrations at weekends but otherwise your time is free to have fun and explore. This is also a good chance to pop into the local town to do some shopping, check emails, catch up on news from home, or meet up with other volunteers, visit their schools and travel in the local area.
As your project comes to an end it is not quite time to say goodbye… we offer approximately four weeks of independent travel at the end of the venture, to ensure a good balance of volunteering and adventure. Thailand and the surrounding countries of South East Asia have lots of exciting and beautiful places to explore which you won’t get to see on your weekends alone.
Many gappers want to stay on and travel but don’t know if others on the project will too. Therefore we include this extra travel time to ensure that you experience as much as possible and know that you will have people to travel with. From our experience travelling is often when problems occur, from lost passports to getting ill – that’s why we have the motto ‘Once an AV, always an AV’ – we’ll still be there to help you, even though your project has finished.
The list of places to go and things to see in Thailand and further afield is endless. Here’s a quick selection of some of the things our gap year travelers have done:
- Visiting the iconic beaches and secluded islands for sunbathing or scuba diving, especially in the archipelago on the western side of the Thai Peninsula
- Crossing into Laos to visit Luang Prabang and head down the Maekong River to Vientiane, that very French city
- Travelling (flying by one of the region’s low cost carriers) to Siem Reap and visit the astonishing Angkor Wat, one of the wonders of the world
- Visit Vietnam, its lovely gentle people and the Maekong Delta, Ho Chi Min City and the relics of the Vietnam War
- Travel down into Malaysia, taking the train to Singapore or crossing to east Malaysia to visit the orangutans (originally Orang Hutan or “Forest People”!) before they become extinct.
There is no shortage of things to do and see. Our only rule is you do not travel alone.
Haven't got time?
“A really fantastic experience with a great group of people.
The faces of the people in the community when we had finished our program made the effort worthwhile!”Summer program, Thailand
Check out our blog on for more about the gap year experience…
These kids show the lengths they go to after the school day, to seek out nature, excitement and a new experience. Let’s watch them head to the bat cave….read more
Our gappers teach basic English language through lessons, games, songs and art activities.read more
Once you’ve made the decision to do something different for a few months or even a year, you need to decide where to go and what to do, to ensure you get the most from your time investment.read more