Must-know Thai phrases that guarantee you a smooth trip in Thailand

Must-know Thai phrases that guarantee you a smooth trip in Thailand

Published: Aug 22, 2023 | By: Lucas Weaver

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Mastering Street Food Ordering in Thai
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Want to learn some easy Thai phrases that will help make your next trip to Thailand a success?

I've got you covered.

From the basic Thai phrases and words you'll need to make sure you don't die from spicy food to how you can tell your new favorite street food chef how delicious their food is...

Read this post and you'll have a few must-know Thai words and phrases in your pocket for all the most important situations you'll encounter traveling in Thailand.

Thailand is full of some of the happiest and most friendly locals in the world. But you haven't seen a Thai at their happiest until you've seen the joy they get from you trying to speak the Thai language with them.

Good news for you, learning Thai is not as hard as you might think. But for simplicity, let's keep our scope limited to these topics:

  • Greetings and Polite Phrases

  • Saying thank you

  • Ordering food and drinks

  • Asking for Directions

  • Shopping and bargaining

  • Emergency Situations

So, are you ready to impress locals and fellow travelers with your Thai speaking skills? Let's get started.

basic Thai words for travelers


Greetings: Phrases for saying hello and goodbye in Thai

Warm smiles and a friendly "hello" can open doors in any country, but in Thailand, it's a cultural essential.

Before you set foot in the Land of Smiles, get yourself equipped with some basic greetings. It's a surefire way to show respect and connect with locals on a deeper level.

Let's dive into some of the most common Thai phrases for greeting people. 

Saying Hello 

One of the most basic yet crucial phrases in any language is the greeting.

When you speak Thai, you will greet others with a phrase called "Sawasdee" (pronounced more like Sawat-dee). It's not just a typical 'hello' but a wish for your wellness and happiness.

Here's how you can use it: 

  • Sawasdee krap: This is how men say hello.
    (many times you'll hear mean just say "kap" instead of "krap")

  • Sawasdee ka: This is how women say hello.

Remember that Thai people appreciate it when you show respect for their culture. A small bow or "Wai", which involves pressing your palms together at chest level and bowing slightly, typically accompanies the greeting. 

"Sawasdee" is not only a hello but also be used as goodbye. So, you can use it when you depart as well, making it a versatile phrase to remember.

Phrase Pronunciation
Sawasdee Krap sah-wah-dee krap
Sawasdee Ka sah-wah-dee kah

Saying Goodbye

Whether you're leaving a bustling food market or saying farewell to a newfound friend, knowing how to say goodbye in Thai can be really handy. Not only does it show respect, but it also leaves a positive lasting impression. Check out these two common ways to say goodbye. 

  • wái jer gan - goodbye

  • láew póp gan mài - see you later

Bear in mind that the Thai language has formal and informal tones, depending on who you're talking to. It's always safe to lean towards the more polite phrase when you're unsure of which one to use. 

Thai phrases for travel

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Mastering Street Food Ordering in Thai
Mastering Street Food Ordering in Thai
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Thank you: Thai words for being polite in Thai

One of the fundamental elements of Thai culture is politeness. Understanding a few Thai words and key phrases can make your interactions smoother and more enjoyable. So, let's start with the most basic phrase that you'll undoubtedly use numerous times throughout your trip – 'Thank you'. 

  • Thank you (general): Khob Khun 

  • Thank you (for males): Khob Khun Krap

  • Thank you (for females): Khob Khun Ka 

Remember, gender matters in the Thai language. Males and females use slightly different terms, so make sure to use the correct one! 

Remember, a little politeness goes a long way. By using these basic Thai words, you'll not only show respect for Thai culture, but you'll also make your travel experience even more enriching.

Food and Drink: Ordering food and drinks like a local in Thailand

Exploring the culinary delights of Thailand is a highlight for many travelers.

But, how do you dive into this foodie paradise without getting lost in translation?

Here are some essential Thai phrases that will help you order food and beverages like a local. 

  • Chan/Pom yak gin ... - I want to eat ...

  • Aow ... - I want ...

  • Mai sai ... - Don’t put ...

  • Pet noi - A little spicy

  • Pet mak - Very spicy

It's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the names of common Thai dishes.

If you're interested, I teach all of the most common and delicious Thai dishes we have to eat here in my basic Thai course for travelers "All the Thai you need to know to travel in Thailand."

I teach you the names of the dishes, how to pronounce them correctly, and then how to customize your food to make it the most delicious version for you.

Of course, you'll also learn all the basic phrases you need to know to actually order the dishes as well.

Thai language words for travel

Shopping: How to bargain and ask for prices in Thai markets

When you're visiting the lively markets of Thailand, understanding a few basic Thai phrases can make your shopping experience smoother and more enjoyable. Bargaining is a common practice, and knowing how to ask for prices will help you snag great deals. Here are some essential Thai phrases to use while shopping. 

  1. How much is this? - (Nee ra-kaa tao-rai?)

  2. Can you reduce the price a little? - (Lót raa-kaa hâi nòi dâai mǎi?)

Pro tip: Smiling and being polite will take you a long way in your bargaining journey. Remember, it's all part of the experience! 

Emergency Phrases: Staying safe and getting help when you need it

Thailand, the land of smiles, is generally a safe place to travel. However, it's always smart to have a few emergency phrases in your back pocket, just in case. After all, being prepared is half the battle. Here are some Thai phrases that could potentially come in handy in times of need. 

  • Sa-yaa-yaa : Doctor

  • Tong-karn : Hospital

  • Chuay duay : Help me

  • Pom tong gaan bpai : I need to go

  • Kor toht : Excuse m

  • Tamruat : Police

While these phrases are useful for extreme emergencies, you should know most Thai people will be able to understand words like "doctor, help, hospital, police" in English, and they might even understand you better if you use English in that situation. 

But in the case you're in a real jam and the person only speaks Thai, these words will be extremely helpful.

useful Thai phrases

Why learning some basic Thai phrases is essential for travelers

Picture this: You've just landed in the beautiful city of Bangkok. The hustle and bustle, the vibrant culture, and the utterly delightful street food await you.

But immediately realize you don't know any basic Thai words and can only speak English to people.

You want to speak just a few words of Thai at least to be polite. "How do I even say 'hello' in Thai?" "I want to be respectful. How can I at least say 'thank you' in Thai?"

Language is the key to breaking barriers. A simple 'hello' in the local tongue can bring about a warm smile, and before you know it, you're no longer just a tourist, but a friendly traveler.

That's the power of speaking a bit of Thai in Thailand! You can learn just the most basic Thai phrases and you'll automatically upgrade your experience.

Or, put in a little work and learn a bit more than just the most basic Thai words, and you can take it much farther than you've ever thought possible.

The power of speaking Thai in Thailand

If you learn some basic Thai phrases before you come here, you'll be amazed at how many opportunities will open up to you. 

Local places you'll be taken to that you never would have discovered. Delicious dishes you never would have tried. 

You don't have to be fluent. You don't even have to be conversational. You just need to speak some useful Thai phrases at the basic level.

That's where my course comes in...

A short online Thai course for travelers to teach you all the Thai phrases you need to know

I want travelers who come to Thailand to get the most out of their experience in my beautiful country.

I want you to see the smile on the face of a Thai person when you speak Thai to them when they're not expecting it.  

That's why worked with Lucas from the Weaver School to create the course "All the Thai you need to know to travel in Thailand."

We combined Lucas' experience of traveling in Thailand and the essential phrases and words in Thai he felt were most helpful to travelers with my knowledge of the best ways to say things so that locals will actually understand you. 

In the course, it's much more than you just seeing and reading all of the various Thai phrases and words like in this blog post. I teach you exactly how to pronounce all of the words and phrases slowly and clearly. 

basic Thai phrases for learning the Thai language

Actually learn the Thai phrases instead of just reading them

You'll also get easy-to-use online exercises that will help you actually learn and remember all of the phrases later when you actually want to use your new Thai language skills in real life.

We want you to actually learn Thai at a basic level so you can use it for yourself, so the course is built to help you process all the information, rather than just see it one time and forget it.

This is the difference between just watching some TikTok videos that introduce you to some new basic words, and actually learning Thai in a way that you can speak it when you come here.

On top of that, we've included digital flashcards for all 5 lessons so you can actually memorize all of the vocabulary words.

Don't get scared by the Thai alphabet, you won't need it at all for this course. The Thai script is beautiful and should be learned if you're serious about learning Thai, but you don't need it just to travel here.

Make your trip to Thailand unforgettable

If you want to really make your trip to Thailand unforgettable, don't miss out on this chance to learn some Thai with me. Our Thai course is only 5 lessons and about 1 hour of video lessons, and at the end, you'll be able to actually speak all the useful Thai phrases in the course. 

Future you will thank yourself when you're speaking Thai here in Thailand :)

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Lucas Weaver from the Weaver School

Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.

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