Do’s, Dont’s, and customs

Do’s, Don’ts and customs in Thailand

Thais are known for their tolerance and hospitality, and the average tourist, or fishing in Thailand angler will have no difficulty in adjusting to local customs. As in any unfamiliar society, a visitor should, nevertheless, be aware of certain do’s and don’ts to avoid offending people unintentionally. Basically, getting along involves good common sense and how one should behave at home. Still, there are a few special tips for travelers to Thailand.

The Monarchy

Thais revere the Royal Family, and visitors should be careful to show respect for His Majesty the King, the Queen and their children. For example, in a movie theater, movie-goers are required to stand up while the royal anthem is played. When attending a public event, at which a member of the Royal Family is present, watch the crowd and do what it does.


Thai law has special sections on religious offenses covering not only Buddhism, the religion of most Thais, but also other faiths in the Kingdom. Sacriligious comments, acts and vandalism of religious objects or place of worship are unlawful. It is also unlawful to cause any disturbances at religious congregations or ceremonies.

Here are a few tips on what to do and what not to do when visiting a religious place:

  • All Buddha images, large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred. Do not climb on or do anything that would show lack of respect.
  • Dress politely and appropriately. Do not go to a temple shirtless or in shorts. Pants are considered unsuitable attire for women visiting a temple. If you have any questions, guides or officials at each temple will provide instructions for appropriate dress and behavior.
  • It is acceptable to wear shoes while walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the Buddha statue is kept.
  • In a Muslim mosque, men should wear hats and women should be well covered with slacks or a long skirt, a long sleeved buttoned-up blouse, and a scarf over the head. Everyone should remove her/his shoes before entering the mosque and should not be present during a religious gathering.
  • Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman or to directly accept anything from a woman. If a woman wishes to offer something to a monk or novice, she must first hand it to a man who will then present it to the monk. In case a woman wants to present something herself, the monk or novice will spread out a piece of saffron robe or a handkerchief for the woman to place the object on before it can be picked up or handled.

Social Customs: Do’s and Don’ts

The don’ts of everyday Thai social behavior are less clearly defined than those concerning the monarchy or religion, especially in Bangkok where western customs are widely accepted. However, what is acceptable in Bangkok may not be the same in the countryside where traditions remain strong and are strictly adhered. Here are few examples:

  • Thais do not normally shake hands when they greet each other, but instead press the palms of their hands in a prayer-like gesture called “wai”. Generally, a younger person should wai an older person, who will then return it.
  • It is considered rude to use your foot for pointing, especially when pointing at a person. Thais regard their head as the highest part of the body.
  • They do not approve of touching anyone’s head, even in a friendly gesture. At social gatherings, young Thais go to considerable length to keep their head lower than those of their elders’ in order to avoid giving the impression of looking down on them. This is not always possible, of course, but it is the effort that counts.
  • Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. You may see some young Thai couple holding hands but never kissing in public Losing your temper, especially in public, will most likely get you nowhere. Thais see such displays as poor mannerism. You have a greater chance of getting what you want if you keep a cool head and remain polite.
  • Do not be surprised if you are addressed by your first name, e.g. Mr. Bob or Ms. Mary, instead of your last name. This is because Thais refer to one another in this manner, usually with the title Khun (Mr., Mrs., or Ms.) in front.

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