14 Essential Cultural Tips for Traveling Thailand

Jan 29, 2019

Thailand, the land of a thousand smiles. Islands dotted with palm trees overhanging white beaches, long tail boat filling the hot tropical waters and spice infused cuisine; Thailand is one of the greatest, most memorable travel destinations you’re ever likely to experience.

Stunning scenery, captivating temples, ancient villages, soaring mountains, mouth-watering food and incredible hospitality, Thailand magically traps its visitors for month or years on end. 

This exotic land is rich with tropical beauty, lively cities, and cultural history just waiting to be explored by adventurous travellers. 

However, Thailand is also a place that is far different from any Western country, and home to many different practices and social norms. So to avoid an embarrassing encounter or getting yourself in trouble, here is a list of things you should know about Thailand:

1. Don’t talk about the King

Once in Thailand, you’ll very quickly realise that the old and new King are both highly regarded – as made clear by the pictures displayed just about everywhere. Thai people are very sensitive to anything that could be taken as a sign of disrespect to their culture or respected figures – so avoid this. In fact, it is best not to mention the King at all.  

Oh, and never step on a coin rolling away or a banknote blowing down the road in the wind – it has the Kings face on it and stomping on either of them with your feet is considered highly offensive and could even result in a fine or prison time.

2. Cover Up When Visiting Temples

When visiting any temples, monasteries, palaces or other religious places, it’s super important to cover up your knees and wear sleeves that cover both your shoulders and elbows as a sign of respect. Long sleeves and pants are the safest bet to avoid any cultural ignorance.  Due to the culture, woman have stricter rules than men so make sure all woman are well covered.

Just as we want visitors respecting the traditions of our own countries, it’s important you do the same here.

3. Shoes Off

When visiting homes, some restaurants, temples and other religious places require your shoes to be removed. It is important you follow their rules as a sign of cultural respect. You will be kicked out if you do not comply.

4. Hands Off the Head and don’t point your feet

Never ever touch anyone in Thailand on the head. The head is considered sacred in this country and should not be touched. Similarly, try to avoid pointing the top of your feet at other Thai people when sat down. This is also considered disrespectful, especially when visiting temples or talking to a monk. Although you will more than likely be forgiven, just try to point your feet just off to the side a little bit.

5. Enjoy a Massage (but know what you’re getting yourself into)

Getting a message in Thailand is wonderfully cheap and there are dozens of treatments to choose from.

You should put this one high up on your list, you’ll walk out feeling like a new person. However, beware of any massage parlours that post signs saying ‘happy girls’, “full body oil massage” or anything mentioning girls or women specifically, you don’t want to find yourself accidentally walking into a brothel. Or maybe you do…

6. When to Wai (bow)

The Wai/ deep bow is an important part of social behaviour and customs among Thai people and is used to express gratitude, apologise, greet someone as well as many other situations. Basically, if you are talking to a Thai local, make sure you include it in your conversation. Although, if you find this uncomfortable, a smile or nod of the head will suffice as an acceptable greeting for tourists. 

How do i Wai?

It consists of a slight bow with hands pressed together in a prayer-like fashion in front of your chest. Good luck.


7. Thai Monks

There are several rules for contact with Thai monks, and it’s very possible that you encounter such a situation as monks are very open in Thailand and it’s common to see them out and about socialising with the community.

Note: Women must never touch a monk or their robe, even outside of temples. If contact is made, the monk must go through a cleansing ritual. If a woman must give something to a monk, the best practice is to either set it on the floor or give it to a man first to give to the monk. Sorry ladies, but just like you wish your ex did, they swore an oath.

8. Never Lose Your Cool

Thailand isn’t called “The Land of Smiles” for nothing, Thai people are normally very friendly and will try to avoid conflict as much as possible – well, unless you piss them off. Showing signs of anger or initiating confrontation, especially in public, is considered very disrespectful.

Simply, the Thai locals won’t take any shit! If they feel threatened or miss treated they are not shy about letting you know about it. Stay street smart, respect the locals and do no come across aggressive. You don’t want to find yourself in trouble.

Goko’s Top Tips:

1. Hostels over Hotels! We promise you’ll love it! Hostel prices range from around ฿100THB/฿800THB per night! It’s here where you will save most of your money


2. Buy your alcohol from 7/11! Cheap and cheerful! Beer is between ฿35 THB-60 THB rather than ฿100 THB/150 THB plus in bars or restaurants.


3.Street stalls, not Restaurants! It’s here where you will eat some of the best food in Thailand. And dinner can be eaten for as cheap as ฿50 THB!

4.Motorbike taxis over a tuk-tuk or metered cab! It’s cheap, quick and they are always friendly. Journeys can be as cheap as ฿30 THB/40 THB


5. Taxi drivers are notoriously reluctant to use their meter, as they see you as a walking ATM. Be defiant and stand your ground, they will try and overcharge you!

If they refuse the meter…get out and find another


6. Although most people avoid scams during their travels, they are still out there; so stay street smart.


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