Thailand dos and donts

A basic guide to tourist do’s and dont’s in Thailand

Thailand is nicknamed as the land of the smile – that could give some ideas to all the vacationers how the country is like. Friendly and helpful hosts are some of the very first things that you will come across in this country. Although Thailand is so welcoming, there are some social etiquettes that you should follow for your own good as well as to impress people.

These basic guides to do’s and dont’s when in Thailand will help you to be aware and understand the locals better.

The Do’s

1. Do smile

Smile genuinely

Smile genuinely

One of the easiest ways to make friends is to smile and here in Thailand people love to smile even when they don’t know what you are talking about. Locals are friendly and so you should do the same. You will find it is easier to start the conversation or even ask for help if you simply smile.

Be genuine and make a proper eye contact – don’t stare too long into their eyes like you want their soul – Thais are not keen with the direct eye contact so spare it wisely

2. Do say Sawadee


Sawadee is a Thai way of saying Hi and it is often used in most of the occasions. In English and many other western languages there are many ways to greet people according to the time of the day – Thais also have, but they rarely use it.

It is more popular to say Sawadee as a way of greeting than say greeting phrases according to the time of the day. So it is very simple to greet the locals, all you have to say is Sawadee and it can be used in any time of the day – quite convenient!

3. Do Wai

Wai gesture

Wai gesture

Like in other cultures that greeting comes with gestures such as a handshake or a kiss on both cheeks, in Thailand locals greet each other by saying Sawadee while performing Wai altogether.

However, be informed that you don’t Wai everyone on the street, there are certain rules for Wai to follow. But basically you only Wai people who are older than you but you can say Sawadee without Wai to people of all ages.

4. Do respect the monk

Monk blessing with holy water

Monk blessing with holy water

Thailand is a Buddhist country where over 90% of the population practices Buddhism. So it is understandable why Thais have strong faith and respect in monkshood.

Even if you are not one of the Buddhists, you still have to show respect to the monk when in Thailand. The most common and easiest way that you can do is to not point or touch any monk, especially if you are a lady. It is forbidden for any women to touch or make a direct contact with monks.

5. Do respect the king

King and Queen of Thailand

King and Queen of Thailand

The faith and respect in the Royal family have been rooting in Thai society for over a century. The land of the smile once governed by the monarchy and they have done great things and contributed to the country for as long as anyone can remember.

When in Thailand, try to be respectful with the topic. It might be difficult to suppress Westerners not criticize or talk about the Royal family, but you should think about this as to respect their belief and culture.

6. Do take off your shoes when you enter any Thai people’s house


In Thailand, people do not wear shoes inside their house so when you are here you should be aware that wearing shoes into someone else’s house is considered to be very rude.

Next time you visit anyone’s property in this country, take off your shoes before going into your friend’s house.

The Don’ts

1. Don’t wear shorts or revealing clothes to the temple

The Grand Palace is more strict regarding modest clothes

The Grand Palace is more strict regarding modest clothes

Temples are sacred places in Thailand and that means that when you visit this holy ground you should dress properly. The royal temples, such as Wat Phra Kaew (The Emerald Buddha) are more strict than other temples.

If you fail to follow this rule, you will end up wearing some funny sarong over your outfit in order to enter the temple. Although these sarongs are free, you still have to queue and pay for a deposit and that’s time-consuming. So better prepare and enjoy the most of it.

2. Don’t touch Thai people’s head

Thais consider head as a sacred thing that shouldn’t be touched by strangers or someone younger or lower than them.

If you have Thai friends that you consider them your pals, smacking them in the head as a joke shouldn’t do any harm, but trust me it does. The best way to go is to avoid the head area because it is quite sensitive for Thais.

3. Don’t point things with your feet


Unlike head, feet are considered a low thing and shouldn’t be used for pointing or touching. This also applies to when you rest your feet on a coffee table, sofa or somewhere in the public place: locals will think that you are ill-mannered or with poor education. Keep this in mind and you won’t feel the awkwardness in the air.

4. Don’t PDA in public

Hugging is ok but don't get too carried away

Hugging is ok, but don’t get too carried away

Public Display of Affection is not forbidden in Thailand by law but probably by the social norms. Thai people are discrete when it comes to showing the affection in the public.

Even these days, that Thai society has opened up more to the western ways, it can be awkward if you are kissing in the middle of the road. However, holding hands and hugging are fine and will not shock the locals like smooching.

5. Don’t drink tap water

Don't drink tap water. Bottled water is cheap and easy to find

Don’t drink tap water. Bottled water is cheap and easy to find

Even though the waterworks in Thailand promises that the quality of water is up to the drinking standard, this doesn’t include the pipe system in the country.

Therefore, the tap water is not drinkable and should be avoided at any cost. You can easily buy drinking water at all convenience stores which is very cheap and safe, so stick with that option.

6. Don’t throw tissue paper in the toilet bowl

Standard toilet at Paragon Thailand

Like it or not, you must not drop anything on the toilet bow, or else it will clog

This is like a little thing, but it is not for the toilet owner. Thailand has small sewer pipe system so you cannot throw anything into the toilet as it will totally clog the way and result in the most unspeakable way… so be nice and stick to this rule.

And the list goes on. What do you think about the Do’s and Don’ts in Thailand, do you have anything that we miss in this article? Share it with us!

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