8 Etiquette Tips for Traveling in Thailand

When you go on a vacation in Thailand, you will understand why the country is known as the Land of Smiles. People are always so nice to each other, and they are more than willing to help farangs (foreigners) make their way in the busy streets of Bangkok. More than that, they are also very respectful of each other. Offending someone is almost impossible to do what with all the local customs being practices strictly by the locals.

But while they are forgiving when it comes to farang infractions, it would be a sign of respect if you know the dos and don’ts in Thailand. Here we list down etiquette tips you need to remember when you travel in Thailand.

Always return a wai greeting

A wai is a traditional greeting where they press their palms together at chest or nose level and bowing slightly. You will encounter this greeting many times during your trip, so make sure you return it by doing the same wai gesture. Do not forget to smile as you are doing it, too, and remember to put down what you are holding when you are doing the wai so you are not holding something in between your hands while you are doing it.

Do not touch the monks

While you are not allowed to get close to a monk in Thailand, if you ever get to see one and they greet you, make sure you bend from the waist. Keep your head bowed down and your hands pressed together. This is going to be a weird item on this list, because why would you touch a monk right? But there are temples that allow the public to have sessions with a monk, to consult and talk with them. They are allowed to do this so that the monks can learn English.

If you are given this chance, avoid asking personal questions about them, instead study what you can ask about Buddhism or if you can ask about life advice. It is allowed to give them something, a gift maybe, but do not hand it to them directly. Instead, put it down in front of them and wait for them to get it. Additionally, if you are a female, do not make physical contact with them. The monks are not allowed to touch, or even brush past, women.

Use your right hand when passing items to people

The left hand is considered dirty mainly because it is used to for cleaning a certain body part during a toilet break. So always use your right hand when you are passing items to locals, like payment for what you bought.


Use the spoon to eat

Unlike other countries where they eat with a fork and a knife, in Asia, spoons and forks are largely used. This is because the dishes are mainly rice. In Thailand, though, table etiquette says you need to eat with your spoon and not with your fork. That is, you are not to put the food in your mouth with your fork, you just use it to stab the food in place so that spoon can scoop it up. If you are eating noodles and spring rolls, though, you need to use chopsticks.

Avoid pointing

Pointing is considered to be an aggressive gesture. While some of us are used to calling cabs or getting the attention of someone by pointing, you should try to avoid doing this in Thailand. Instead, just raise your hand and keep your palms down, fingers pointing to the ground, when you are calling for someone. You can also just nod at someone to indicate that you need their full attention. Pointing at objects and animals is generally okay. But just to be sure, use your entire hand instead of just a finger.

Do not touch people’s heads

Sometimes, when we are being friendly, we tend to touch people’s heads. Not sure why someone would do this to strangers abroad, but in Thailand, touching people’s heads is considered insulting. While the feet are the dirtiest part of the body because it close to dirt all the time, the head is considered sacred. You should also avoid touching your companion’s heads, too, if you do not want people to give you side glances. Additionally, do not step over people who are sitting or sleeping on the ground because that means you would have to raise your feet above their head — another gesture considered insulting.

Cover up your elbows and knees in temples

When you visit the temples, make sure that wear something that covers up your elbows and knees. This would be a great time to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Thailand is a hot country, though, so if you did not bring any, that is understandable. Just make sure you have a long cover-up or a jacket when you start your temple tour. Anyway, some temples sell cover-ups and pants at the entrance. There are also temples who give it away for free.

Remove your shoes

There might be temples or restaurants that will ask you to remove your shoes. In certain Asian cultures, removing your shoes is not just to make sure the place is kept clean, but it is a sign of respect. If you are not sure whether a place is requiring it, see if the locals are leaving their footwear at the entrance or if there is a pile of shoes outside. As a tip, wear sandals when you are going around Thailand, It is easier to remove and retrieve.

Do not let a couple of mishaps ruin your Thailand trip. Keep these etiquette tips in mind so that you can show the locals that you respect their culture and are willing to learn more about it during the trip.

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