Basic Thai Phrases You Need to Know (Updated 2024)

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

Looking to pick up some basic Thai phrases for your travels?

You’ve come to the right place as in this article, I’m going to walk you through a few basic Thai phrases and words that will immensely help you when traveling around the country.

Learning a language, or at least trying to is a huge part of traveling. Whether it’s being able to say please and thank you or mastering essential phrases like how to order a beer. Learning basic words is showing effort, respect, and an open mind.

Even though my pronunciation isn’t the best, I personally do it because I love getting wide grins and chuckles from locals when I say something unexpected in their language.

I’ve spent time living on and off in Thailand for the last 8 years and although I can’t speak Thai fluently, knowing the basics is a huge plus and can help you when traveling around. During my time living in Thailand, the smile on the local’s faces whenever they see a foreigner try to speak Thai is honestly priceless.

When traveling in Thailand, although most people, especially those in the touristy areas speak English, here are a few basic Thai phrases that will help you get by.

So in this article, I will share with you a few essential phrases and words in Thai that will hopefully help you.

Cool and beautiful sceneries in Thailand

Essential Thai Phrases

In the Thai language, gender doesn’t affect how sentences are structured or how verbs are used, unlike some other languages where gender plays a significant role. Thai nouns and pronouns are generally neutral when it comes to gender.

However, there are specific words and polite forms you can use to show respect or politeness in sentences, but these additions don’t change the basic sentence structure.

For example, when speaking politely to someone, you can add “ครับ” (khrap) if you’re a male speaker or “ค่ะ” (kha) if you’re a female speaker at the end of your sentence. These words are like markers of politeness and don’t alter the sentence’s meaning:

  • If you’re a male: You can say “Hello” as (sawasdee khrap).
  • If you’re a female: You can say “Hello” as (sawasdee kha).

These added words are optional and depend on the context and your relationship with the person you’re speaking to. Among close friends and in informal settings, people often skip using them.

The Rule: If you are male, you end sentences with the word (khrup/krap) similarly if you are female, you end your sentences with the word (ka/kap).

This is used to make your sentence or question polite and respectful.

  • Hello – Sawadee khrup/ka
  • Yes – Chai (khrup/ka)
  • No – Mai (khrup/ka)
  • Maybe – Aaj ja (khrup/ka)
  • Thank you – khop khun (khrup/ka)
  • Sorry/excuse me – Khor thoad khrup/ka
  • Where is the restroom– Hong nam yoo tee nai khrup/ka?
  • I need a doctor- Phom dong gaan hai mor maa raak sa khrup/ka
  • No worries- Mai pen rai
  • Can you speak English? = Kun pood paasaa anggrit dai mai

In a nutshell, these Thai expressions cover the essentials to help you travel around the country.

Naturally, there are loads of other Thail words but the ones listed above are the basics!

thai phrases
Basic Thai Phrases to help you when traveling Thailand

Editor’s Note: Mai Pen Rai is one of my favorite Thai phrases as it’s just such a foreign concept. Often used as a way of saying, “oh well or never mind!”

If your bus broke down in the middle of the road, instead of complaining and worrying, Thai’s would just say “mai pen rai” which means, it’s okay, don’t worry, everything will be alright.

So next time a Thai person gets your order wrong or accidentally bumps you while you’re waking, just bust out these famed words, “Mai Pen Rai” and no doubt you will get a smile and a look of surprise.

Wondering how Thailand compares to other countries in Southeast Asia? Check out our comparison guides:

Indonesia vs Thailand
Thailand vs Vietnam
Thailand vs Philippines
Thailand vs Malaysia

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Basic Greetings in Thai

Out of all the essentials when speaking Thai, being able to say hello, how are yo and thank you are non-negotiable on my list. Master these three words and you will most likely make a friend or impress a local.

Thai language is a beautiful and complex language that is spoken by more than 60 million people worldwide. One of the most important aspects of Thai culture is the use of polite language and greetings.

In fact, greeting someone in Thai can often set the tone for the entire conversation, as it reflects respect which is highly valued in their culture. Thai people are extremely polite and soft spoken so using the proper greetings is a must.

Thai people use different greetings depending on the time of day, the social status of the person they are addressing, and the context of the situation.

Additionally, the use of different tones and inflections can completely change the meaning of a word, making Thai a challenging but rewarding language to learn.

  • Hello – Sawadee khrup/ka
  • Good Morning- sawatdee tohn chao
  • Good Afternoon- sawatdee tohn bai
  • Good Evening- sawatdee tohn yen
  • Good Day- chohk dee
  • Good Night- ra tree sawat
  • How are you? – Sa bai dee mai khrup/ka
  • Goodbye! – La gorn khrup/ka

Editor’s Note: Check out our ultimate guide on Thailand Travel Tips which features the best things to do, where to stay, and what to eat.

Local woman selling bananas from a boat

Thai Phrases for Eating and Ordering Food

Nothing is worse than being ridiculously hungry only to find out that your Thai food is way too spicy to eat. Trust me, it happens more often than you think. With that in mind, here are a few Thai words essential for eating and ordering food.

If you’re planning to travel to Thailand or dine at a Thai restaurant, it’s helpful to learn some Thai phrases for ordering and eating out.

Knowing a few simple expressions can make your dining experience more enjoyable and allow you to communicate more effectively with the servers and chefs.

In this introduction, we’ll cover some of the most commonly used Thai words and phrases for ordering food, asking for recommendations, and making special requests.

Whether you’re a foodie looking to explore Thailand’s vibrant culinary scene or just looking for a quick and delicious meal, these words and phrases will come in handy. So, let’s get started and learn some basic Thai words for dining out and ordering food!

On a side note, when eating in a restaurant, it pays to compliment them by saying “aroy” for the food as you’re about to pay. I do this all the time regardless if it’s a nice restaurant or some hole in the wall street food joint. Trust me, a small compliment goes a long way!

  • Not Spicy – Mai phet
  • A little Spicy- phet nit nawy
  • Really Spicy – phet mak
  • I would like to order- sang aa-haan
  • Delicious- Aroy
  • I’m full – Khen laeo
  • Can I have the menu, please? – Kor toong naan a-rai ka/krub?
  • I would like to order… – Chan yaak ork…
  • Check, please – Check bin ka/krub
  • Fork – Kor-yaht
  • Spoon – Chor
  • Water – Naam
  • Rice – Kao
  • Noodles – Guay-ti-ow
  • Soup – Gaeng
  • Meat – Neua (beef), Moo (pork), Gai (chicken)
Close up of a Pad Tai dish

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Important Thai Words and Phrases Used for Traveling

When it comes to traveling around Thailand, there are a few basic phrases that you would need to know.

As mentioned, most Thai people, especially those who live in the touristy places speak English. However, you may encounter a couple who don’t so it’s best to get all your bases covered.

  • Hotel – rong raem
  • Bed – tee non
  • Airport – sa-naam bin
  • Bathroom – horng nam
  • What time? – gee mong
  • Can you help? – hai chuay leua
  • Passport – bat pra jam dtua
  • Help, I am lost – Chuay, chan tua khon
  • Where is the toilet? – Horng nam yoo tee nai?
  • Can you help me find my hotel? – Chuay, chuay chan haa roong raem chan
  • Do you know where this is? – Khun rao yoo tee nai mai?

Thai Words for Shopping

If you’re planning to visit Bangkok, shopping is likely to be on your to-do list. From bustling street markets to high-end shopping malls, Thailand has a lot to offer to the shopping enthusiast.

Knowing some basic Thai words and phrases can make your shopping experience more enjoyable and help you communicate with the locals. In this introduction, we’ll cover some of the most commonly used Thai words and phrases for shopping.

I love wandering around the many Bangkok night markets and shocking the locals with some Thai words!

You’ll learn how to ask for the price, negotiate, and make purchases. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs, clothing, or other items, these words and phrases will come in handy. So, let’s get started and learn some basic Thai words for shopping!

  • That’s expensive! – Paeng mak khrup/ka!
  • How much does this cost? – Ra ka tao rai khrup/ka?
  • Can you give me a discount please?– Ga ru na lot ra ka hai noi khrup/ka?
  • How much is this? – ra-ka thao rai
  • What color is this? – ni pen see arai
  • What sizes do you have? – mee size arai baa-ng
  • Is there a discount? – mee sua-lot mai
  • No – mai chai
  • Yes – chai
  • This is the item I want. – ni keu sin ka tee chan dtong gaan
  • Where do I pay? – jai ngern tee nai
  • Do you accept credit cards? – mee bat kred rab mai
  • Do you have bags? – pua kun mee tung sai mai
  • Do you offer discounts for tourists? – mee sua-lot sam-rap nak tong tiaow mai
  • This is too expensive. – ni paeng goen pai
  • Can I try it on? – khob se-biang
  • I’m not sure. – chan mai nae chai
  • Do you have more? – mee eek mai
  • This is very beautiful. – ni suay maak
  • I will come back again. – chan ja glap maa eek
People in a market

Basic Thai to Impress and Gain Street Cred

  • Neung, song, saam, see, haa, hook, jet, baat, gow, sip (one to ten)
  • You are cute – Khun naa rak khrup/ka
  • I’m drunk- Mao Laew
  • Having fun? – sanuk mai?

Love Thailand? Check out our guide on a few fun facts about Thailand and prepare to be amazed by these fun little tidbits!

Two local boys

If you’re really serious about learning Thai, here are a few tips:

Invest in Thai lessons- If you’re serious about learning Thai while you are in the country, invest in lessons. Practicing the basics and starting it off with proper knowledge on the languages’ phonemes and accents will help you in mastering this language.

Thai Books- You can even pick up books to help you practice the basic words.

Spend time with Thai People – Making friends and regularly hanging out with locals is the best and easiest way to pick up the language. That way, you can also improve your textbook-based learning into a more relaxed tone. Conversational Thai is the way to go!

Practice- Practice with locals, practice by watching music videos, game shows, or cartoons. Practice by downloading useful apps to help you practice.

So that’s it for the basics!

If you’re worried about the level of English spoken in the country- don’t! It’s a very tourist friendly country and if someone doesn’t understand the language, they will usually point you in the direction of someone who can speak.

Hopefully, this article has given you a brief overview of the various Thai phrases which will definitely come to use when traveling around.

Remember, learning these basic Thai phrases can truly enhance your travel experience in Thailand.

In this guide, we’ve given you some key words and expressions that can make your journey smoother and more enjoyable.

Whether you’re exploring Thai cuisine, asking for directions, or seeking assistance, using even a few local phrases can make a big difference.

So, as you set off on your adventure, remember that saying ‘sawasdee’ or ‘khob khun’ can open doors to memorable experiences and deeper connections with the locals.

Looking for More Guides for Thailand? Check these Articles Out:

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10 thoughts on “Basic Thai Phrases You Need to Know (Updated 2024)”

  1. This is so great! I could’ve used this last year before my trip lol. And like you said, most locals in touristy areas speak English, but I really do think they appreciate it when visitors at least make an effort to speak Thai.

  2. What a useful guide. Learning the basics in the native language makes travel a little more fun and engaging. You may make a fool of yourself sometimes, but also immersing yourself into a different culture with even a little language skills goes a long way.

  3. What terrific tips! I especially like the food ordering tips. I’ll bookmark this for my next trip to Thailand. Thanks!

  4. Great tips, especially for the Thai language which can sound very difficult to learn and speak. It can definitely go a long way in making friends. Love your photos, especially the one of the Thai woman! I’d like to use some of the phrases to say hello. She looks so friendly. 🙂

  5. This is such a good idea for a post! Getting to know the basic phrases when travelling is such a nice thing, not only to show respect, but to also feel more in touch with the culture! I remember learning the Thai basics when we were over there, but this is very useful! Khop khun ka!


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