Paid For A Gap Year: What Is It Like To Be A Tour Guide In Thailand?

Thailand Island Koh Chang

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend your time travelling around Thailand while getting paid? That means meeting amazing new people, hanging out on raft houses and exploring tropical islands, all while getting a paycheck. If you have ever dreamed of doing this yourself, then read on to find out what the reality is really like.

Being a tour leader can be a great way to earn some money whilst you are travelling. We talked to Thailand tour guide Lindsey McIntosh about her experiences working with Lost Beaches Travel Company, who do amazing 16 and 26 day tours for anyone backpacking through Thailand.

What made you decide to travel to Thailand in the first place?

I had a friend who had visited a few years prior around 2011, then I visited in 2013 for the first time. He was raving about how fun it was , so I had to visit. I’m from Canada and had traveled a bit around my country but I definitely wanted to experience something a bit more exotic, a bit crazier. So I saved a bit of money that summer and went on a trip of a lifetime around Southeast Asia. Thailand was easily my favourite, I can’t get enough of it.

Has working abroad been something you planned on doing?

Since I travelled to Australia when I was 20 I knew I wasn’t meant to stay in one place full time. I prefer a warm climate, it’s cheaper, there’s more to do and it is a much more active lifestyle. You won’t spend as much money because you can be off exploring in the warmth. It’s much colder in Canada and not as enjoyable. I am super lucky to land this job to be paid to explore and travel!

“Always be prepared for anything that could happen and always join in on any new experiences or opportunity, as you may never know what you are missing.”

What are the best parts about your job?

Easily my favourite part is meeting new people. I love the Thai relationships we have with our local partners, who are absolutely fantastic people as well. It is a crazy experience getting to meet new people every 2 weeks; We laugh, we party, we experience all that Thailand has to offer. In more cases than not everyone becomes long lasting friends after the trip. It is really a type of relationship with people you can’t forge back at home. I’m always super exciting to get to know them and see how they will be on tour!

Also, let’s not forget all the beautiful places we get to go to – absolutely epic.

What does a regular work day look like to you?

It varies by day; Exploring Bangkok for the day, watching epic sunsets in Ko Pha Ngan, swimming in the fresh water in Khao Sok National Park, partying on Koh Phi Phi.. there really is never a dull day. We never stop at all!

Have you learned anything working and living in a foreign country?

Totally. Being able to travel back home is huge. So having a support system to go home to is awesome if anything goes awry – also today, it’s easy to keep in contact with friends and family at home through Skype and messaging programs at all times.

Also, you have to rely on yourself to learn the culture and adapt to it. Being respectful to that culture is definitely something we endorse and practice at Lost Beaches Travel.

Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff, enjoy life out here while you can!

What’s your best travel tip?

Always be prepared for anything that could happen and always join in on any new experiences or opportunity, as you may never know what you are missing.

As a tour guide, you meet tons of new people, how do you keep up the energy to interact with new people all time time?

Every group of travellers is a totally new experience. All like minded, but always a different awesome vibe with every group. Each person sees thing differently and we meet every type of personality under the sun, so as long as you enjoy meeting people, getting along becomes super easy. Hanging out with new friends never gets boring trust me!

What do you say to someone thinking of travelling to Thailand solo?

100% do it! The moment you get off the plane you’ll make a ton of friends with your other group members and it will be the most self-educating experience you’ll ever have.

A group tour like ours is a great way for people who are perhaps a little nervous about travelling solo for the first time to get used to the lifestyle, gain a little confidence and have a bit of a safety net to fall back on.

You’ll meet a ton of people along the way, about half our travellers come solo and they never look back.

What are your travel plans in the future?

My bucket list is long, but would totally love to see New Zealand at some point this year . I’m loving working now but am still keeping my options open for more travel.

Have you ever wanted to be a tour guide in Thailand? Do you think a tour would be a good way for you to ease into the backpacking lifestyle? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.


This article was written in partnership with the Lost Beaches Travel Company. Any views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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16 comments on “Paid For A Gap Year: What Is It Like To Be A Tour Guide In Thailand?
  1. Angie Lee says:

    I am so jealous! Talk about an idyllic lifestyle, actually getting paid to run tours in paradise? Sign me up!

  2. alicesgapyearadventures says:

    Oh I so want to go back to Thailand some day, I’m missing my gap year so much, I have always dreamt about doing something like this but have never really put much thought into how to do it!

  3. Jenny says:

    But what about backpacking? In all your articles you talk about how travelling independently is best. Taking a tour seems to go against that right?

    • Not at all Jenny, there is a difference between a package holiday and a tour. If you take a package holiday and sit by the pool in a resort then go back home, I’d agree with you, that isn’t any way to visit a country. However taking a tour like this doesn’t mean you can’t travel independently too. Tours like these are fantastic for those who want to travel independently but just need a little bit of support and confidence at first, or those who are traveling solo and want to meet new people or even those who want to do a specific activity. There’s nothing stopping you going on a tour like this (there are a great many choices dependent on your interests) and then continuing your solo adventure afterwards.

  4. Flick says:

    I’ve always wanted to travel around the Thai islands and party, but as a solo woman I’ve always been a bit shy and nervous about doing it on my own. This group look great, I’ll definitely look into them.

    • Well let me reassure you that if you wanted to travel around independently then you will be absolutely fine and will have a whale of a time, solo female or not. Thailand is an amazing place and very easy to travel through. But if you don’t quite have the confidence yet or need that little bit of backup, or even if you just wanted to relax and have everything sorted for you while you find your feet, that is where groups like this can come in really useful and be a great benefit. Try a tour out, find your feet and then carry on exploring at your own leisure when it is over! You may even find a travel companion or two!

  5. Laura Swiffen says:

    I took a tour at the start of my trip through South America last year (An Inca Trail trek) and it was definitely a great way to meet new people and not have to worry about everything when first arriving in the country, and I then went on to backpack through the rest of south America after that. I am planning a trip to SEAsia next year to do a LOT of beach hopping and partying and although I am much more confident to backpack on my own now I am still thinking of taking another group tour at the start. These look like the exact type of group I am looking for!

  6. John says:

    Great interview, I can imagine it can’t be an easy field to get into though. So many people must want to do it.

  7. Sounds like a fab job! Can I go back in time to when this was a possibility please? 😉

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