Summer High School Programs in Thailand with Rustic Pathways

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Rustic Pathways first offered Thailand programs in 1999, and the country has since become the hub of our Southeast Asia operations. We have an extensive team of incredible local staff who are experts at ensuring our students have authentic, transformative experiences. Thailand offers the widest range of Rustic programs, from gritty service trips and animal conservation programs to outdoor adventures and immersive cultural experiences.

Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand will immediately welcome and captivate you. The local people are incredibly friendly and deeply enjoy sharing their Buddhist culture, spicy food, and love for laughter. There is a peacefulness about the country, and the scenery is always entrancing.

Questions & Answers

This trip is very safe! Base houses are owned by RP, so it's is completely RP-Staffed. Trips that are not in base houses are still very safe and there will always be RP staff with you. I have never felt unsafe on any of my Rustic Trips.


based on 71 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
  • Program Selection 10
  • Pre-departure Help 10
  • In-program Support 10
  • Impact on Student 8
  • Value 10
Showing 61 - 71 of 71
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Beyond the best experience

I went on the Thailand Come With Nothing trip this summer and it was literally the best experience of my life! I loved that we were truly able to immerse ourselves in the culture and live with the locals. I loved that we saw parts of the country that were not normally seen by tourists and that we were able to serve each village separate depending on their needs. I do wish thought that each service project in the villages were a little bit more organized. in our first village, we built something that resembled a bridge for the community and i felt that the community need something much more worth while. I also wished that we were educated a little bit more on each of the places we visited so that we could make every new experience worth while. I also spent 2 weeks at the Hill Tribe Orphanage! I loved that we were able to live amongst many amazing karen children from the surrounding villages and chat and hang with them in close quarters. the group dynamics were great and we were truly able to connect through team building activities. I don wish though that we had less down time and more scheduled activities with our Thai buddies, although I had a great friendship with my Thai buddy after the two weeks, it did take some time and since many kids are only at the orphanage for one session, it would be worth it to add some other activities to help everyone get to know each other. While I was at the orphanage, i was able to teach tap lessons to the kids at the school. That opportunity truly meant the world to me and I cannot thank David Elbot and the teachers at the Bann Rai School for helping me make that dream happen.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change anything it would be to give us less down time, especially at the Hill Tribe Orphanage were there should be organized activities to really help us immerse with out Thai buddies. Also, from session to session there should be some variety of the orientation activities because it gets repetitive for both the returning students and the Thai kids and i noticed that the Thai buddies started to just run through the motions probably because the had just done the same this the past week.
Yes, I recommend this program
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What will your experience be?

My trip to Thailand was the greatest experience I could have ever had!The Rustic Pathways staff were so funny and I felt welcomed by them. I made so many friends from all over! Age, size, and color did not matter on this trip. We were able to express ourselves.I've never laughed as much as I did in Thailand. In the program we did a whole variety of different things to greater the community.We helped plant rice in a rice field, helped deliver food to local Thai people, went to the local schools on many occasions to help teach English like signs on a road and little sayings. We also helped teach swimming and helped the school by painting a mural! The most exciting part was in the boys orphanage. I have never seen so many happy little boys in my life! They were right when when they said Thailand is the land of smiles.I learned a lot about myself as well as others and a lot about Thailand, the land of smiles.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Thai Elephant Conservation Project

For my Sweet 16 present, I got to go to Thailand with Rustic Pathways for 10 days and train elephants! It was the most amazing experience and I would recommend it to anybody! My goal in wanting to travel to a different country was to learn a new way of life and see how other people in the world live since I feel like we take many things for granted here in America. I got exactly when I was looking for when I got to Thailand and I loved every single minute of it. From the amazing new food and culture, to the elephants, which were absolutely amazing, to the living arrangements, which were cabin-style dorm rooms, I had the best time ever. I made lifelong friends and the counselors that were with us were all amazing and they all had great stories to tell. At the Elephant Conservation Camp in Lampang, we would wake up every morning at 7am, put on our mahout suits and go into the mountains to get our elephant and then would would ride them down into the lake to bathe them. This was my favorite time of the day because it was refreshing for us and you could tell that the elephant absolutely loved it too! We would then ride them to the main camp and we would do a different activity each day whether it was going to the elephant nursery or hospital, or even the elephant show to watch them paint and play music! Each day was a new adventure and it was the most fun I have ever had! I would do it again in a heart beat!
If anyone has any questions about the program or anything, feel free to email me at [email protected]! :)

How can this program be improved?
There was nothing I would change about this program except for the length of it. Since it takes one day to get there and one day to get back, if the program was longer, then we could have had many more days of adventures and fun with the elephants!
Yes, I recommend this program
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I believe that RP has changed my life forever and those two years that I was able to experience the beauty of Thailand were the best summers by far. I'm proud to have gone on these trips and will cherish them forever. I would also like to add that our groups leaders, and our local staff were incredibly amazing. I was with Go Tha for both summers and he is one of the most funny and helpful people I have ever met. Also Kevin Connelly has been such an inspiration!!!!! Because of him, I've dedicated my time to taking pictures, mainly portraits, of people from all over the world. I would like to some day work at National Geographic and he is someone who will definitely have helped me get there. Thank you Rustic Pathways!-Eva Olaya

How can this program be improved?
maybe we could include a more different view of things, like some nightlife of a country that we've never been to before because that would be so different and incredible to compare.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Rustic Pathways Thailand

I traveled with Rustic all through my high school years and it shaped who I am today. Although, at times, I found it difficult to mix with other students, got bored of tourism, and wanted to interact way more with the locals, this program is amazing.
You will meet people from all over the world, and if you just listen they can teach you so much.
Chose your program carefully and make sure if fits to what you want and ask other people who have done the trip about their opinions.
Overall an experience that will change your life if you let it.

How can this program be improved?
Being more aware of the issues and complexities happening within the country instead of just tourism.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Best experience of my life

The program I went on was simply amazing. There are no other words to describe it. It changed my life truly. I got to meet so many people and got to explore such a different culture than mine. It just blows you away to see what life beyond the tip of your nose is. Yes, they are pricey, but compared to other High School Summer programs, they aren't at all. Plus, they have scholarships available. And in all honesty, the VALUE of this trip is way beyond a couple thousand dollars. It teaches you to be grateful and gives you a sense of global awareness. I'm so glad I went on a Rustic trip and I am so excited to go on one again this coming summer.

How can this program be improved?
My flight info is only given to me a week before, so that's kind of nerve-wracking, especially if it's your first time. And that they are so vague in what to pack, because really, I was terrified I wasn't going to pack correctly! Also, the layovers we had from country to country. Jeez. It was terrible. But in the end, all worth it.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Beware of this program

My daughter went on a Rustic Pathways to Thailand. Before the trip, I called to be sure it was safe & the owner called me promptly to reassure me. Subsequently, my 17 year old was on an excursion to visit a remote shrine & the 2 vans left without her!! They neglected to do a head count, and did not know she had been left behind. They had never given her any info on how to reach her group leader in an emergency. She did not have her passport with her nor even more than a few dollars. It was only because she kept her wits about her and found someone to take her to the police station in the next town that she was able to log on to their computer and ultimately re-connect and have someone come get her. They never even realized she was missing! This is absolutely a true story. As a parent, I was horrified when she called to tell me. Please note that when I called them to complain, the owner never returned my call. I counted the days until she was safely home, let me tell you.

Response from Rustic Pathways

Thank you for your feedback. We apologize for the negative and alarming situation you and your daughter experienced. We can assure you that since this incident occurred, more than 5 years ago, Rustic Pathways has spoken to our in-country staff about the severity of this situation and has taken strong steps to ensure it has not occurred again. We have an intensive training process for all our Global Program Leaders, during which they learn they must head count each time a group leaves an excursion or community service site. Students are not permitted to wander off by themselves during these activities and must always be with at least one other student. Students are given emergency contact cards upon arriving in country. We also have a 24-hour Emergency Number you can call at any time, and our managers in the USA will be able to get in contact with our on the ground staff in Thailand.

No, I don't recommend this program
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Intro to Community Service Thailand

My trip to Thailand impacted my life forever, and made this summer the most memorable experience of my life yet! The Rustic Pathways staff, along with the students I met throughout my trip had the greatest impact on me. I've never laughed harder, or met so many great people in one place. In the program we did a whole variety of different things to greater the community, as well as meet many of the locals! We helped plant rice, (they don't call it the rice fields base for nothing!), helped deliver food to local Thai people, went to the local schools on many occasions to help teach english some "head, shoulders, knee's and toes!" is always a good one! We also helped teach swimming and also helped the school by doing some much needed painting! One of my favorite projects with the village health, we gave diabetes test to locals. I felt that our group made a big impact! Not only that but it had a great impact on me. I learned a lot about myself as well as others and a lot about Thailand, the land of smiles, and in my opinion one of the best countries to visit, and go make a difference! Awesome program I'd recommend it to anyone who's open to try a lot of new things!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Amazing Trip

I went with Rustic Pathways almost four years ago and I still value my experiences with them. This was actually the second year I had travelled with Rustic, but the first year was equally amazing. My first year I stayed in Thailand, partaking in the "Amazing Thailand" and "Elephant Conservation" programs. I made amazing friends and had amazing experiences on both programs. The second year was by far the best summer I've ever had. The friends I made on that trip are lifelong friends. Going from various villages everyday was so eye-opening, seeing how non-western countries live and how oppressive governments can effect them. Visiting Angkor Wat was definitely the highlight of this trip. The ruins are incredible. There are so many wonderful things about Rustic that I have to say I just don't have the time to write all of them. Rustic has impacted the way I view the world so much. It is an amazing experience!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Rustic Pathways- The Thai Elephant Conservation Centre

Who doesn't want the bragging rights of being a "Certified Elephant Trainer"?

Day to day life included waking up at 6am and trekking out into the jungle to grab your designated elephant and give him or her a morning bath in the nearby lake. As you scrub the caked on mud off of them, they squirt water all over you with their trunks and you can almost hear them giggling along with you. You and your mahout (elephant trainer) spend the rest of the day gathering food, cleaning, practicing thai commands, getting on and off the giant creatures, and building trust between you and your new best friend- your elephant. The mahouts are very very friendly and love to practice their english with you as well as help you with your thai! Each and every time we interacted, we were all sent into a fit of laughter, I miss each and everyone of them. They teach you how to make bamboo coffee mugs, harnesses for you elephant, and even how to make some traditional foods!

The atmosphere of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre is unlike any other place in the world. I loved it so much, I went back twice! And now because of my weeks in the jungles of thailand I have realized my passion for elephants and plan on working with them for the rest of my life. A piece of me was left here- go leave a piece of yourself alongside mine.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Sawat Dee, and Welcome to Thailand!

I am a very outgoing, personable and charismatic individual who loves being immersed in new and exciting cultures, and so embarking on a month-long trip to Lampang, Thailand to work directly with elephants was right up my alley! Landing in Bangkok after about 20+ hours in the air, and ready to board another plane for another unnecessary amount of hours up North to Lampang, I was immediately greeted with "Sawat dee, and welcome to Thailand" by the Thai staff leading my community service trip (The Thai Elephant Conservation Project). I was relieved at the sound of those words, and started to immerse myself in my new surroundings: the intoxicating smell of pad Thai and cashew chicken, the alluring sights of the natives and buildings, the familiar sounds of old Michael Jackson songs and plethora of 90’s music, and the overall sense that I was in an unquestionably beautiful and foreign country fully engrossed me. In every direction there was the perfect postcard and a smiling Thai: it was full of arrays of songbirds, stray cats and the occasional elephant, monks of various ages in their fluorescent orange robes roaming the streets, nestles of intertwining rivers and endless streets of temples. I wished that I could live there! The “Sensual City” and “Land of Smiles” far surpassed its reputations.

Throughout the extent of the trip, the weather fluctuated between beautiful and bright, sunny days to muggy and miserable days, and finally to days that were sweltering and difficult to bear. In Thailand, I would sweat my body weight on a daily basis. As the evenings progressed, the temperature became cooler, but the air was constantly fogged with mosquitoes. Spraying OFF! insect repellent and lighting citronella candles proved futile: I came home with countless bug bites from my legs down. (Note to self and to future travelers to Thailand: Bring bug spray.)

Though I began most days waking up to nice and sunny, yet humid, ninety-five degree weather, the most memorable was only a few days into our journey. It was the first day completely full of exploring and the first day I felt completely independent from everything. After our lavish brunch, costing about seventy baht per person (a mere two dollars), and with my adrenaline rush still in effect, we encountered a radiant, natural waterfall in the heart of the northern Thai jungle. The sun brightly shined through the clumps of trees, illuminating the water, which looked incandescent, as if it was untouched and preserved for hundreds of years. Meeting atop the waterfall with the rest of my friends, we stood by the edge and enjoyed unbelievable views of the entire base, as well as miles upon miles of tree branches encircling the area. The pulsating sounds of the water against the rocks along the base of the falls mixed with frog calls, cricket chirps, and sporadic song bird tweets were serene and the only sounds in the distance. I had no intention of leaving.

Later that night, the staff arranged “interesting” transportation for us to a night bazaar, the epitome of Thai nightlife—elephants. Standing eleven feet tall and weighing over four tons of solid muscle, See dor Satit (“Demonstration”), as my elephant was called, reigned supreme. Embarking on this trek from the middle of the jungle and on elephant, highly respected and sacred in Thai culture, was absolutely exhilarating. Traveling with a group of mahouts (elephant caretakers), I observed firsthand the intense and almost spiritual relationship exhibited between them. To me, it felt as if they were one person: they knew each other’s thoughts almost. It was entrancing. And they were extremely friendly and more than willing to teach us their very respected craft. After one month of living and working with my mahout, Sak, I am happy to call him my friend.

What made that particular night memorable was that it started to torrentially rain while I was on my elephant: no surprise to me as it was the rainy season. (I learned before this trip that Thailand experiences only two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. I travelled during July, which is part of the rainy season so I was relieved to have packed a sturdy umbrella). Like at the top of the waterfall, I felt as if I was the king of the world while I was riding my elephant. I experienced this exact feeling every time I rode See dor Satit at the elephant conservatory I volunteered at for one month.

At the conservatory, I began each day waking up a 6AM, cutting down an entire branch of sugar cane along with a small batch of bananas and walking with Sak (also my mentor) about a mile from my hut, which I shared with one other person, to where my elephant was relaxing in the forest. I took care of this elephant with two other people, and the first task to complete each day with See dor Satit was to ride him down to the local lake,and to bathe him. We practiced the Thai commands our mahout had taught us, and it resulted in See dor Satit standing on his two back legs and knocking us all off his back into the warm water where we later encountered some “gifts” he and the other elephants had left us. We did our best to wash the parts of his back and head that he didn’t submerge into the water, and by the time we had finished, it was almost impossible to hoist ourselves back onto his back to exit the lake and return to our campsite.

Our next order of business was to feed them again, and clean up the feces they produced shortly after, which required that we use a large shovel and a wheelbarrow to carry it off! Then we trained with our elephant, which entailed each of us mounting our elephant in a kind of leapfrog approach, and then going to an obstacle course. After each of us completed the course, we took a 3-hour break to visit the infirmary and nursery on the premises. There we helped clean the buildings, we played with the younger elephants (under 1 years old) and then we met with the veterinarians on duty who elaborated on the injuries which some of their patients had experienced recently. We learned about an older, wild elephant, which was brought to the conservatory after receiving numerous bullet wounds to its legs. She was recovering by the time we met her. After this, we made a quick stop to another section of the conservatory where we helped produce elephant dung paper products! My friends and parents were not surprised when I brought sample products and souvenirs back home with me. After this outing, which we perform most days, we returned to the campsite to ride our elephants back to their respected places in the jungle and made the return trek back to our huts on foot. Performing this routine daily for 1 month seemed like it could be hard to maintain, but I loved every minute of it! It was even enjoyable when the weather was torrential downpours. In fact, riding our elephants in that weather was exhilarating!

Thailand is absolutely breathtaking—everywhere I looked there was such vivacity: the hustle and bustle of the armada of swerving motorcycles that took place in the streets, the liveliness of the street vendors and passersby, and the warped symphonies of music and conversation. The "Land of Smiles" seemed like a completely different world; I found every building, ancient ruin, and person there to be uniquely alluring.

I feel that this experience has made me a more worldly, erudite, and responsible person. I crossed many borders and survived without things at home that I took for granted, from toilet access to a bed not made of rock and television to those I left behind: my parents, my brother, and my three cats. I lived an extremely rustic lifestyle for thirty days, living in remote villages just as some of the natives do: waking up each day with a purpose and working in order to provide myself with both necessities and luxuries. This was the greatest, most rewarding, and most memorable experience of my life and, despite the awful jetlag, I am forever grateful for Rustic Pathways offering this trip.

Yes, I recommend this program

About Rustic Pathways

Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways to one of many exotic locations.

We take students on unique, rewarding, and safe programs to some of the world's friendliest and fascinating countries. Immerse yourself in a new culture, work on...