Do not – I repeat – DO NOT travel to Thailand WITHOUT knowing these 12 customs! You wouldn’t show up to a friend’s place and assume their house rules are identical to yours, right? That’s why your homework for today is to read and remember each of these so that 1) you can stay out of trouble as a traveler and 2) show some respect as a visitor.
Be sure to do these when you travel to Thailand!
1) Respect monks
As a foreigner, this one can be easy to forget. Monks are at the top of the social hierarchy in Thailand and are expected to be treated as such by everyone, local or not. In many public spaces, you’ll notice sitting areas reserved for them. If there’s nowhere else to sit then, by all means, go ahead and sit there, however, if a monk approaches, you need to give up that seat.
Especially as a traveler, you’re at the bottom of the hierarchy, so be sure to show them respect!
2) Stand at attention for the national anthem
Every day at 6:00 PM, the national anthem is broadcast in public areas. If you hear it, stop and stand with both arms placed at your side until the anthem is complete. As a solo traveler in Thailand, this is a very respectful gesture!
3) Keep your patience
Thai time is a REAL THING! Thai culture embodies a go-with-the-flow mindset, also referred to as a mai pen rai lifestyle. Plans may change at the very (and I mean VERY) last minute, and you are expected to be calm, whether it means a late airport shuttle, or a canceled event. Although this may be frustrating as a solo traveler, it’s something you need to be mentally prepared for.
4) Wai as a greeting
Read my previous blog post on how to wai properly. When greeting a person, offer a wai instead of a handshake. Giving a proper wai correlates to the social status of a person, so be sure to use the correct one! As a solo traveler, you’ll impress the locals with this knowledge!
5) Have temple etiquette
Dress conservatively covering the shoulders and knees, and remove footwear before entering a temple (feet are considered the lowest/dirtiest part of the body). When inside, be respectful by staying quiet – it is a space for meditation and prayer.
As solo travelers, we’re all about getting those perfect Instagram pictures! Just be mindful of your body language and composure when visiting temples.
6) Always have cash
Carry a wide range of baht at all times (cards are rarely accepted), especially when using taxis, tuk-tuks, or shopping at markets. Most places don’t carry much change, and workers will often have to run to nearby stores to collect some. Especially when traveling solo, you don’t want to be stuck somewhere without cash.
But don’t do these in Thailand!
1) Don’t disrespect the King or the royal family
Thais have a deep respect for their King; his authority and accomplishments are honored by all. As a solo traveler, it’s not only polite to honor the king, but it’s the law. Don’t defame or insult his name in any way (even in a Facebook post) – doing so could ultimately result in imprisonment.
2) Never touch a person’s head
In Thailand, the head is considered the cleanest and most sacred part of the body. Touching a person’s head is VERY disrespectful – even if it’s a statue. Remember this on your solo adventures!
3) Don’t point
When gesturing to something, use an open hand and direct with all fingers. Pointing is another habit that’s considered rude in Thailand. Although you may have leeway being a foreigner, it’s important as solo travelers to embody the most respect when visiting another’s homeland.
4) Don’t put your feet up
This is a hard one to remember. Contrary to the head, feet are believed to be the dirtiest and lowest part of the body. Pushing things with your feet or even showing the soles of your feet are extremely disrespectful in Thailand (especially to Buddhas). Keep them on the ground!
5) Don’t flush toilet paper
You’ll find that many places don’t have toilet paper (the “bum gun” is what’s commonly used). Those that have toilet paper will ask that you to throw it away in the provided trash cans since flushing clogs the drains. This is a common one many solo travelers tend to forget in Thailand!
6) Don’t overstay your visa
Overstaying your visa costs 500 baht a day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. Once you exceed 90 days, you risk deportation and a possible ban from returning to Thailand. So don’t overstay!
With these in mind, you’re just about ready for solo trip to Thailand! Be mindful of how your gestures and actions can be perceived in Thai culture, and of course … HAVE FUN!