Thailand Tips

Language and Dialect

Thai is the official language in Thailand and is, for most visitors, a difficult language to learn and comprehend.  However, many locals and professionals in the Thai tourism industry do understand English, and a few other languages as well.  Particularly helpful are the road signs, which often show locations in both Thai and English.  If you learn a few Thai phrases, locals in Bangkok will be delighted with your efforts.

  • Hello - Sawat dii
  • Goodbye - La gon
  • My name is... - Phom (male)/ chan (female) cheu ___
  • Pleased to meet you - Yin dii thii dai ruu jak
  • I don't understand - Mai khao jai
  • Please speak slowly - Karunaa phuut chaa-chaa nawy
  • I don't speak Thai - Phoot Thai mai dai
  • Where is the toilet? - Hong nam yoo tee nai
  • Hotel - Rong-rem
  • Restaurant - Ran-ahaan
  • Excuse me - Khaw thoht
  • Many thanks - Khawp khun maak

*** Don't forget to say KHAP (male speaker) or KHA (female speaker) at the end of phrases to be more polite.

General Dos and Don'ts

Here are some useful tips about how to behave in public, and how to avoid uncomfortable situations.

  • Public Display of Affection - avoid kissing and cuddling in public, particularly in front of older members of the local Thai community or in and around the temple areas.
  • Alcohol - while it is acceptable to both buy and drink alcohol in Thailand, you will not be able to purchase alcohol between the hours of 14:00 and 17:00, nor on national holidays or during religious events.
  • Buddha Images - any image of Buddha is regarded as sacred.  You are not even permitted to take photographs of the most sacred.  You will be asked to remove your shoes when visiting temples where images of Buddha are on display.
  • Drugs - throughout Thailand, drug laws are extremely harsh and the penalties can include many years in prison, or in the worst case, execution.
  • Feet - never point at anything by using your feet, particularly images of Buddha.
  • Greetings - when greeting Thai locals, do not shake hands.  Instead, place the palms of your hands together close to your face and bow slightly - a custom known as "wai".
  • Head - as the highest point of the body, the head is regarded as untouchable and Thais do not appreciate their heads being touched or patted for any reason.
  • Hotel Touts - hotel touts often congregate at the train and bus stations and can be quite persuasive.  Most are simply only after the hefty commissions, which you will probably end up being included on your bill.  Updating now for ROYAL GUARD, GOVERNMENT STAFF, and many more that are not who they claim to be.  They will mostly be seen around shopping and temple areas.
  • Jewellery - be extremely wary when purchasing jewellery and gems since they are often sold at rather inflated prices.  Be sure to check the quality.
  • Littering - never drop litter in the street.  Large fines are enforced, regardless of what is actually dropped.
  • Monks - monks are not allowed to touch any woman or even accept anything from a woman's hand.  Some public transportation even features seats reserved for monks.
  • Religious Beliefs - always dress appropriately when visiting temples (wats) and do not wear shorts, bikinis and tops that do not cover your shoulder
  • Shoes - always remove your shoes before entering temples, Royal tourist sites, or local Thai residences.  Some business allow shoes to be worn inside, but you should check before entering.
  • Shouting - whatever the situation, try to avoid shouting or showing anger in any form.  This is frowned upon in Thai society.