Volunteer in Thailand: An Introduction

Thailand, formerly known as Siam, is a country of many wonders. From mountains and jungles to beautiful cliffs and beaches, to the busy streets of Bangkok, visitors have so much to explore in “The Land of Smiles.” As Thailand becomes more developed in major cities such as Bangkok, it still lacks in progress in more rural parts of the country. One such area is Sungburi, where Build Abroad volunteers do most of their work.

Singburi is a quiet town about two hours north of Bangkok, but still close to larger cities and cultural centers. Volunteers will primarily be working on renovations in nearby schools and orphanages.

Fun Fact:

Thailand is the world’s third largest exporter of rice and has over 3,000 kilometers of coastline with some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Learn more about the Culture of Thailand here.

The Experience

Life in Thailand is lived at a slower pace. The term “Mai Pen Rai” is often used, and is the equivalent of “no worries.” 95% of the population in Thailand is Buddhist, and many villages and towns pay more mind to their temples than they do their own homes.

Build Abroad provides all accommodations for program participants. Living accommodations during the week consist of dorm style volunteering housing. This housing is on one campus, so you will have the chance to live and interact with other volunteers. Group and common areas are also included on campus.

Local Thai food may be different than Thai food you have in your country of residence. Meals usually consist of rice, egg, and fruit. Meat and noodles will sometimes be served. If you see jars of red and green peppers, be careful! They will be extremely spicy.

Aside from volunteering, you will have plenty of time to explore the surrounding area or even take weekend trips to nearby destinations in Asia. Many volunteers take trips to the jungle or relax down south at the islands.

“Wow. I wish I could go back. The work I did in Thailand with Build Abroad was very fulfilling and I know I improved the living conditions of families who truly deserved it. My only advice: bring insect repellent!”

– Kara S., Volunteer

A typical week for our volunteers

Volunteering takes place during the week, Monday through Friday. Your first week will be an optional cultural immersion week.

Typical Day:  Volunteers will work a morning shift and a shorter afternoon shift with a lunch break in between. A typical day is as follows:

8:00 AM – Travel to job site to build after having breakfast with host family.
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM– Morning shift ends and volunteers have their lunch break.
3:00 PM – Work day ends and volunteers are free until dinner.
7:00 PM – Dinner with your host family.

(Please note, this schedule can vary as project phases change.)

Program Costs

Length of Stay Program Cost
1 Week $510
2 Weeks $740
3 Weeks $970
4 Weeks $1,200
5 Weeks $1,430
6 Weeks $1,660
7 Weeks $1,890
2 Months $2,350
3 Months $3,250
4 Months $4,150
5 Months $5,050
6 Months $5,950

More About Thailand

From the towering skyscrapers and bright lights of Bangkok to remote hill tribe villages in the mountainous north and idyllic island getaways in the south, it’s no wonder Thailand is one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations. For those who decide to volunteer in Thailand, you’ll be greeted by an undeniably friendly people, one of the world’s most mouthwatering cuisines and an intoxicating cultural history that is still visible today.

Top tourist destinations near Singburi

Wat Pikun Thong

Wat Pikun Thong is renowned for housing one of Thailand’s largest seated Buddha images, Phra Phutthasuwanmongkhon Mahamuni, which stands 42 meters high. It is in the pose of giving a blessing, with crossed legs and one hand draped across his knee and the other resting in his lap. There’s also a statue of the esteemed monk Luang Pho Phae within the complex and a museum dedicated to his life, together with numerous other Buddha images in different postures and some quirky animal statues and cartoon-like people.

Wat Sawang Arom

Wat Sawang Aron is a working temple near the town center and home to the Nang Yai Museum which is dedicated to traditional Thai shadow puppetry. Many of its beautifully carved puppets date to the late Ayutthaya period and it’s a great place to learn about this ancient performing art and witness a puppetry play.

In Buri National Museum

Situated within the complex of Wat Bot, which itself features beautiful wooden carvings on its doors and panels, is the In Buri National Museum. It showcases artifacts excavated from the province’s ancient sites, including Ban Khu Mueang and the Maenam Noi Kilns. There are also impressive Thai and Chinese ceramics, traditional instruments, weaving looms and fishing nets which offer a fascinating insight into the local culture and history.

Mae Nam Noi Kiln Museum

During the early Ayutthaya period, Mae Nam Noe Kiln was the largest producer of earthenware in the region, with its products including jars, jugs, floor tiles and cannonballs having been discovered at numerous royal archaeological and shipwreck sites around the world. The Department of Fine Arts has created a museum here for visitors to gain a better understanding of how the kilns operated (with information in both Thai and English) and the earthenware once produced here.

Thai traditions

Blending influences from India and China with distinctly local elements, Thailand can roughly be divided into four regions, with unique cultural traits exhibited. Northern Thailand is heavily influenced by Burmese culture and aspects from the historical Lanna Kingdom, while Northeastern Thailand (Isan) has a Lao-speaking majority and is composed of predominantly rural communities. Southern Thailand extends along the Malay Peninsula, with influences from Malaysia in its Muslim fishing communities, while Central Thailand is the seat of the modern-day capital, Bangkok, and has the greatest concentration of ethnic Thais.

Around 95% of Thais are Theravada Buddhists and this has a strong influence on the country’s culture, with the beliefs and values of Buddhism impacting day-to-day life. Respect for elders and non-confrontation are integral aspects of Thai behavior, with showing anger or lying considered shameful. Sanuk is another important element, meaning a playfulness or sense of humor that captures the Thai spirit.

Religion has also played an influential role in Thai architecture, as exhibited in its elaborate temples, with beautiful mural paintings, wooden carvings, stucco work and bronze Buddha images. Textiles also have a long traditional and royal history, with distinct regional styles in weaving across the country. Thai classical dance originated from folk dancing, with its hand gestures reminiscent of Indian dance believed to have come from the Mon and Khmer cultures. Southern dancing shows influences from Sri Lanka, while the central region reflects courtly traditions and masked dancing has been recorded on stone inscriptions dating back to the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom.

Thai cuisine

Combining sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy flavors, Thai cuisine is one of the most popular in the world and has been exported across the globe. But while pad thai, red and green curries and massaman have become staples on Thai restaurants outside of the country, a walk through any night market reflects the huge diversity of food available and makes eating a highlight of any volunteer project in Thailand.

Thai cuisine can roughly be divided into the four different regions of the country – the Central Thai cuisine of the rice-growing plains around Bangkok with influences from the Dvaravati culture of the Mon and where both the Ayutthaya and Sukhothai Kingdoms flourished; Isan or Northeastern Thai cuisine which exhibits the influence of Khmer culture; Northern Thai cuisine in the lush highlands of the former Lanna Kingdom and now home to many of the country’s ethnic minorities; and Southern Thai cuisine from the Kra Isthmus which shows influences from ethnic Malay culture.

Hokkien people who migrated from China in the 15th century introduced wok cooking and dishes like fried rice/noodles and steamed buns, while Indian and Persian traders brought dried spices which led to yellow and massaman curries being developed. The Portuguese arrived in 1511, with many of their egg and milk-based sweets adapted with the available coconut milk, while chilies arrived from the Americas in either the 16th or 17th century and now play a prominent role in Thai cuisine.

Keep an eye out for tom yum goong (spicy shrimp soup), som tum (green papaya salad) and tom kha kai (chicken in coconut soup), as well gaeng daeng (red curry), pad krapow moo saap (fried basil and pork) and kai med ma muang (chicken with cashew nuts). Thailand also has an abundance of sweet treats, including the ever-popular khao niao mamuang (mango with sticky rice), kanom khrok (coconut-rice pancakes) and thong yot “gold egg yolk drops”.

Airlines which fly to Thailand from Europe, North America and Australia

Suvarnabhumi Airport is the main gateway for most visitors to Thailand, located around 25 kilometers east of Bangkok’s city center. There are no direct flights from North America to Bangkok, with flights connecting through China with China Eastern or China Southern among the most affordable, as well as those through Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific.

For those flying from Europe, there are direct services from London-Heathrow with British Airways, from Paris with Air France, from Vienna with Austrian Airlines, from Cologne/Bonn with Eurowings and from Helsinki with FinnAir, as well as to Amsterdam with KLM, to Frankfurt with Lufthansa and to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo with Norwegian Air Shuttle.

If you’re flying from Australia to volunteer in Thailand, there are direct services with JetStar, Qantas and Thai Airways to Bangkok, as well as some direct services to Phuket.