For travelholics, Thailand has always been an intriguing destination. In the recent decade, the Land of Smiles managed to draw in over 30 million tourists every year. The capital city Bangkok even surpassed London and became the most visited city on the planet.
We don’t know about you, but we are eager to return to Thailand when it is safe to travel again. With beautiful landscapes, historic places, full moon parties, and unique cuisine, the country provides endless opportunities to make long-lasting memories and start enjoying life without regret. Not to mention their success at containing the epidemic is enough to offer any traveler a sense of security.
If you are preparing for your next trip, just like us, why not learn and practice some simple Thai phrases? Although the language barrier isn’t much of an issue in this kingdom, knowing how to say thank you in Thai will really enhance your experience there and lead to some exciting cultural interactions!
Thank You In Thai And Other Basic Phrases For Every Traveler
Before we get to the main point, there is one small catch: Thai is a tonal language. Words take on various meanings depending on which tone you used to pronounce. Fortunately, most of the time, context will help others understand what you are trying to say.
Aside from the tones, Thai also features its own script. Because of that, mastering the language will take years. But hey, don’t freak out just yet! It won’t be a challenge to learn a few basic phrases like ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ in Thai, and we will provide English-equivalent pronunciations below.
Now, let’s get started!
Sawasdee/Sawadee – Hello
It all starts with a greeting. To say ‘Hello’ in Thai, the most common way is ‘sawasdee’ (pronounced ‘sa-wah-dee’). If you have been to the country before, you definitely could hear this phrase everywhere. Although it generally means ‘hello’, the phrase also stands for ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’, and ‘goodbye’.
‘Sawasdee’ is the most common way to say ‘Hello’ – Source: On The Mark TEFL
In case you want to step out of your comfort zone and try something new, there are still other phrases to greet your Thai friends. ‘Sawasdee don chao’ means ‘good morning’ in Thai, while ‘good afternoon’ is ‘Sawasdee tohn bai’, and ‘ra tri sawat’ stands for ‘good night’.
Another thing to note is that you can add ‘krap’/‘ka’ at the end of each sentence to show proper respect to the person you are talking to. These syllables are gender-specific: ‘Krap’ is used by men, whereas women use ‘ka’. For example, if you are a lady and want to greet someone politely, you might say ‘Sawasdee ka’. To avoid embarrassment, make sure you don’t mix up the two!
Sabaaidii Mai – How Are You?
We are all familiar with the general flow of a conversation. After a greeting, we get to the ‘small talk’ phase. This is no different in Thai. Whether you are really interested in the response or just asking out of habit, ‘How are you?’ is still an important phrase to know.
‘Sabaaidii mai’ (‘sah-bai-dee mai’) stands for ‘How are you?’ in the Thai language. In response, simply say ‘Pom sabaaidii krap’ if you are male, and ‘Chan sabaaidii ka’ if you are female.
The correct way to respond to ‘Sabaaidii mai’
Interestingly, another way of saying ‘How are you?’ in Thailand is ‘Gin khao ruu yang?’ which can directly be translated as ‘Have you eaten yet?’. While it might sound funny to ask someone after saying hello, the phrase reflects the food culture in the Land of Smiles. Eating is the pivotal activity of the Thai way of life, as it brings people together.
You can respond ‘Gin laew’ which means ‘Eaten already’, or ‘Yang’ – ‘Not yet’. Either way, familiarizing yourself with this very local greeting is certain to bring a smile to someone’s face!
Khaawp Khun – Thank You
How to say ‘Thank you’ in Thai? – Source: This Life Of Travel
So, how do you say ‘Thank you’ in Thai? To express your appreciation to a local, you tell them ‘Khaawp khun’ (“kohp koon”).
Being polite and grateful to people you encounter – from vendors to cab drivers – will surely make your trip more pleasant. Say it with a wide, winning smile, and conclude the sentence with ‘krap’ or ‘ka’, you will most likely brighten up this person’s day!
‘Mai bpen rai’ (‘mai pen rai’) is a good way to respond when someone says ‘Thank you’ in Thai. This saying is not just an expression but has somehow become a cultural significance as well. The closest equivalent for the phrase in English should be ‘that’s okay’, ‘never mind’, or ‘don’t worry about it’. What they’re trying to convey here is a Thai value called ‘greng jai‘: The attitude of being thoughtful, considerate, and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Khor Thot – Sorry
So you accidentally step on someone’s foot? Unintentionally bother a local in any way? Or perhaps you just want to ask someone for directions? The phrase ‘Kho thot’ (‘Khaaw tawt’) will come in handy. In the Thai language, it stands for both ‘Sorry’ and ‘Excuse me’.
Again, add ‘krap’ or ‘ka’ at the end for extra politeness. A sincere apology in the local language will not only help you escape an awkward scenario but might also turn the incident into a welcoming encounter.
In a reversed situation, when a local is trying to express their apologies to you, you can calm them down with a ‘mai bpen rai’. Just be careful with your tone, so you don’t come across as angry or loud.
Chai/Mai – Yes/No
Simple as they are, ‘Chai’ and ‘Mai’ stand for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ respectively.
Yoo Tee Nai… – Where Is…?
If you travel to the most popular tourist places, such as Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you can expect the locals to know English. In general, though, English is not widely spoken in the country. Statistics show that only around a quarter of the Thai population speak English and many of these are to a very basic level.
That being said, getting lost with no way to communicate with the locals is every traveler’s biggest dread. In case you find yourself in this scenario, don’t panic! As long as you have a map (both a paper one or on your phone), you can ask a local for directions. Just use ‘Yoo tee nai…?’ and point to your destination, he or she can show you where to go. Good luck!
How to ask and give directions in Thai?
Gee Baht – How Many Baht?
Knowing how to ask for price in Thai will benefit you greatly – Source: Unsplash
When you visit Thailand, shopping is definitely one of the most exciting parts. So, what to say if you want to get some souvenirs for your friends and family? Approach the salesman and ask the price using the phrase: ‘Gee baht?’.
This question literally means ‘How many baht?’. Now you know how to avoid the embarrassment of leaving empty-handed after spending half an hour trying to explain to the vendor, only to know that the price exceeds your budget.
Another way is to say ‘Tao rai?’ which means ‘How much?’. Also, don’t worry if you don’t know the numbers in Thai yet. Most vendors have calculators, they will enter the price and show it to you. Bargaining is common in most markets, so you can type in a counteroffer and show it to them.
Phaeeng Maak Pai – Too Expensive
Speaking of bargaining, one of the most useful phrases for you while strolling around Thai markets is ‘Phaeeng maak pai’ (‘feng mak pie’). This one stands for ‘too expensive’. If you feel like the price is too high, use this one to let the vendor know that you can shop and haggle like a pro.
This is when knowing the language benefits you: The more fluent you are, the better deals you may get. Still want to purchase that souvenir, despite it being a bit overpriced? Give them a sweet smile and say ‘Lot noi dai mai?’, which means ‘Can you give a little discount?’.
As mentioned, you can also give your counteroffer. One pro tip is to begin your haggling for half of the original cost, then work your way from there. Still, don’t go overboard if the seller is set on the price. Even though Thailand is entitled to ‘the Land of Smiles’, no one smiles when they encounter a pushy customer!
How to bargain in Thai? – thank you in Thai
Mai Aow – I Don’t Want It
Have trouble declining offers from persistent street peddlers or tuk-tuk drivers without making them upset? ‘Mai aow’, which means ‘I don’t want it’, is one of the phrases and expressions you need to know.
This sentence will save the day of any disturbed traveler! Don’t forget to finish the phrase with ‘krap’ or ‘ka’, and you can avoid any unwanted attention from the vendors.
Jur Gan – Goodbye
There are a few ways of saying goodbye in Thai, but the best ones are ‘Sawasdee’ or ‘Jer gan’ (‘See you’). These sentences are commonly used by the locals and will work in just any situation.
Some Quora users recommend using ‘laagorn’, which also stands for ‘goodbye’. However, this saying gives an impression of never seeing each other again. You might use it to bid your newfound travel buddies farewell, but in reality, you can hardly hear someone in Thailand say ‘laagorn’. You can find this expression in dramas, movies, and songs, but not in daily conversation.
Other options for saying bye in Thai include ‘Wai jer gan’ (‘Take care’), ‘Jer gan mai’ (‘See you again’/’Until next time’), and ‘prung nii jer gan’ (‘See you tomorrow’). All of them are sufficiently polite, friendly, and natural at the same time.
Other Things To Note Before Visiting Thailand
So you have brushed up on some useful Thai phrases, what else can you do to make the most of your travels? Here are the things you should take note of:
After 18 months of COVID restrictions, Thailand has opened for tourists – thank you in Thai. Source: Unsplash
If you are planning for a trip to Thailand, you might be glad to know that the country is now easing out of its worst wave since the outbreak began, with the number of cases on the decline.
Starting November 1, Thailand is reopening for vaccinated international tourists. If you have spent at least 21 days in one of 63 countries and territories, you can enter without undergoing quarantine. You will, however, be required to stay at a government-approved hotel for one night while waiting for the COVID-19 test result.
Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, the UK, the US, and Hong Kong are among the approved countries and territories. Check out the whole list here.
In case you are fully vaccinated but have not seen your country on the list, you need to enter Thailand through a ‘sandbox’ scheme that requires you to stay in a government-approved hotel or resort within 17 ‘blue zones’ for seven nights. After that period, you can travel freely in the country. Visitors who have not been fully vaccinated are eligible to quarantine in an approved hotel for 10 days.
Pick The Right Time To Visit
When is the best time to visit Thailand? – Source: Unsplash
For the best weather, visit the Land of Smiles in the dry season, which begins in November and lasts until March. With average temperatures being around 80°F, crystal blue sky, low chance of rain, and beautiful landscape that has been lushed up by the previous monsoon season, your trip will be nothing short of spectacular. In addition, major Thai festivals occur around this time, so you will have more chances to explore the culture.
However, November till March is also the holiday season. Hence, it is the busiest and most costly time to travel. If you are on a budget, you might want to consider the low/monsoon season (July through September). Traveling during the rainy season is a gamble in general. Depending on the weather, it may disrupt island access and boat service for days. In exchange, flexible and well-prepared tourists can take advantage of the best deals on hotels, flights, and tours.
Prepare Your Cash
It is not usual for flexible travelers to carry a large amount of cash when most services can be paid using a credit or debit card. Unfortunately, card payment is not that popular in Thailand. You will almost always need to pay in cash to order food or beverages at a restaurant or bar (even when you see a POS card machine).
Of course, you can always find the nearest ATM. However, there is a catch here: When withdrawing money from a local bank, tourists are charged a fee of 350 Baht (about $11). This fee is arranged in a way that will appear on your bank statement as a withdrawal; thus you may be charged the second transaction fee along with the exchange rate on top of that. By the time you complete the transaction, you can end up losing $30 for a medium withdrawal. If you use the ATM every day during your trip, these fees can accumulate to a considerable amount.
The best way is to exchange money before your trip. How much cash you want to bring depends on your budget and the length of your visit, but the minimum funds required to enter the country is 10,000 Baht. Don’t forget to bring some cash in your home currency with you since currency exchange offices are available in almost any Thai street. They will give you a better rate than the one you get at the airport.
Where to exchange money in Thailand?
Watch Out For The Price
Slick negotiators are everywhere, and Thai is no exception. On my first motorbike ride in Thailand, the driver charged me ten times the general rate. Instead of paying 50 Baht, I paid 500 Baht.
Well, you can consider it a tourist tax, but you can also do your wallet a favor and negotiate the price before indulging yourself in any service. Doing some research to know the regular price of taxi rides or massages can save you a lot of money.
Also, Watch Out For The Road Ahead
Thailand’s transportation infrastructure is among the most chaotic in the world. It is not uncommon to see folks driving their cars from any direction or doing zig-zags around other vehicles in crowded lanes. Traffic lights serve as street lights – they don’t matter that much. What’s more, the Thai drive on the left side of the road.
Driving in Thailand might be tricky for tourists – thank you in Thai. Source: Unsplash
The good news? There aren’t many traffic accidents among the locals. The bad news? It is tourists that often get in trouble. You might be tempted to rent a bike and drive around the town: It is a cheap and fun way to explore the surrounding area. But, such hectic driving conditions, along with your American habit of driving on the right side will pose risks. Take extra precautions when driving in Thailand. Sharpen your reflexes, always wear your helmet, and keep an eye on the road ahead of you.
Dress Properly When Sightseeing
Make sure to dress properly when you visit spiritual places – thank you in Thai. Source: Unsplash
The weather can get really hot in Thailand. If you visit it during summer, you might want to fill your bags with flip-flops, shorts, and camisoles. However, keep in mind that Buddhist temples have a strict clothing code, and those who don’t meet it are barred from entering. They don’t require anything extraordinary: A pair of shoes, trousers, a T-shirt, and you are good to go.
What Do You Call People From Thailand?
Okay, this doesn’t seem so related, but I was shocked to know that some Americans actually call Thai people Taiwanese. So, just in case you are still confused, a person from Thailand is called Thai. You can use ‘Thai’ to refer to a citizen of Thailand and the language they use.
‘Jer Gan Mai’ – Until Next Time!
The Land of Smiles is magical heaven on earth. The stunning nature, amazing cuisine, and friendly locals will be sure to captivate you. With these useful phrases such as ‘Thank you’ in Thai and tips from former travelers, you can turn your vacation into a lifetime memory.
Are there any Thai phrases and expressions you’d like to learn and memorize for future travels? Feel free to let us know in the comments!