Basic Thai For Travelers: Essential Phrases You Need to Know

Looking to pick up some basic Thai 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.

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.

Basic Thai Phrases

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, the Thai phrases and 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.

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Basic Greetings in Thai

Out of all the essentials, 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.

  • Hello – Sawadee khrup/ka
  • 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

Basic Thai for Eating and Ordering Food

Nothing is worse than being ridiculously hungry only to find out that your 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.

Also, 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 its 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

Editor’s Note: Looking to discover more about Thai food? We recommend using Cookly to search for cooking classes while in the Thailand. They are like the Airbnb of cooking classes making it easy to book and find the perfect one for you!

Close up of a Pad Tai dish

Basic Thai 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?
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?
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 similar to this one below to help you practice the basic words.

Spend time with local Thais- 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.

Thai woman praying

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. When traveling the country, check out some of the tours listed below which we highly recommend.


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Anna Faustino

Editor In Chief

Anna is the Editor in Chief of this blog and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She is passionate about discovering incredible food spots, good travel gear, and outdoor adventures. When she isn't outdoors, you can find her eating her way around the world.

10 thoughts on “Basic Thai For Travelers: Essential Phrases You Need to Know”

  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.

    Reply
  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.

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

    Reply
  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. 🙂

    Reply
  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!

    Reply

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