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Know before you go - A guide to Thai customs

Part of the fun of visiting new places is immersing yourself in the culture and doing as the locals do. Thailand is a destination whose heritage runs deep, and whose daily activity is surrounded with a vast range of customs and traditions that visitors may not normally consider.

As you would when visiting any unfamiliar destination, when heading to Thailand it's important to acquaint yourself with Thai customs so that you don't accidentally offend the locals or find yourself in a blush-inducing situation. Here are a few insider tips on Thai customs to help you avoid committing any faux pas.

The Wai

The wai is a gesture you're probably already familiar with, but just didn't know it, and are almost guaranteed to see it in Thailand on a regular basis.

t's the practice of pressing your palms and fingers together in prayer fashion, and bowing. Used as a means of showing respect, the wai is done to say hello, goodbye and thank you.

Removing shoes before entering a home

For spiritual as well as the obvious physical reasons, the feet are regarded as the lowest form of the body in Thailand, so raising or showing your feet to another person is seen as incredibly offensive. It's a general rule of thumb to remove your shoes when entering someone's home or a religious structure in Thailand. This isn't always the case for the former, but if you see a line of shoes at the door, that's a pretty good indication that you should remove your shoes immediately without having to ask.

Temple etiquette

Buddhism is practised by over 90% of Thai people, so respecting the Buddhist culture is imperative in Thailand. This means it's expected that visitors to temples dress appropriately – no sleeveless shirts, short skirts, shorts or flip-flops are allowed. You shouldn't ever climb on a Buddha statue or touch someone's display of religious figures, either.

It goes without saying that Buddhist monks are especially revered in Thailand. It's considered offensive for anyone to touch them, especially women. Buddhist monks aren't even allowed to sit next to women, while sometimes in public transportation or public areas there will be seating specially allocated for monks.


Appearances are especially important in Thai culture, so people are always expected to look their best. This means shined shoes, regular washing and conservative clothing. It's also seen as very important in Thai culture to always maintain your cool in difficult situations. Getting outwardly angry or frustrated is very frowned upon, as is raising your voice.

Basic do's and don'ts


Stand when the King's anthem is played. This can happen before films and sporting events. The Thai people are very devoted to the Thai monarchy, and any disparaging remarks about the royal family are seen as incredibly offensive.

Wear colour-coordinated outfits on specific days throughout the week. On Monday, many Thai people wear yellow in honour of the King, while Friday's light blue is for the Queen.

Ensure your shoulders and legs are covered if you're entering a place of worship.

Address someone with 'Khun', and then their first name. It's appropriate to do so for men and women.


Take pictures of Buddha statues if you aren't sure it's permitted. Always ask first.

Touch somebody's head – just as feet are spiritually seen as the lowest form of the body in Thai culture, the head is seen as the highest and most sacred part. If you accidentally touch someone's head, you should apologise.

Engage in public displays of affection. Some younger people in Thai culture will hold hands, but kissing in public is out of the question.

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