Basic Thai Phrases for Travel That You Need To Know!

Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations globally, and for a good reason. Thailand has amazing beaches, fantastic food, rich culture, and remarkable historical sites. When you visit, the locals will appreciate you knowing a few basic Thai phrases to help you get around!

Basic Thai Phrases for Travel

If you’re preparing to visit this magical place, it would be wise to brush up on some Thai phrases. Some basic terms will help you a great deal in Thailand and make your trip that much more authentic and exciting.

One of the most fun and challenging parts of traveling to another country is the language barrier. Communicating in a new language provides ample opportunity to dive into the culture of another place, but it can also make completing simple tasks quite frustrating.

basic thai phrases
Khaosan Road, Thailand

Learning some basic and simple Thai phrases will help you accomplish tasks like ordering food, buying souvenirs, and demonstrating a basic level of respect and appreciation for Thai culture.

If you use these phrases, even with wrong pronunciations, we guarantee that you will be met with smiling faces and a few giggles from the locals.

These essential basic Thai phrases will help you maximize your trip to Thailand.

History of the Thai Language

The Thai language has its origins in the Tai language family. This language family is found throughout:

  • Southeast Asia
  • Southern China
  • Eastern India

Thai shares many words with other languages in the region, so any words you learn may be helpful while traveling to other countries.

The Thai language was first created in 1283 by king Ramkamhaeng. Unlike most other languages, Thai has undergone few changes since its inception. Modern Thais can read ancient Thai texts without much difficulty.

The continuity of the Thai language has helped Thailand preserve its rich culture and continue its traditions. Thai was previously known as Siamese. This changed when the nation’s name was changed from Siam to Thailand in 1948.  

The Thai alphabet is made up of 44 consonants and 15 vowels. It’s important to note that Thai is a tonal language, which means that the pitch or tone you use when saying a word can change its meaning. For example, the word mai can mean either “not” or “wood,” depending on your tone. There are five different tones in Thai: 

  • Mid
  • Low
  • Falling
  • High
  • Rising

While this may seem daunting, it will become second nature with practice. Don’t worry about perfecting your Thai before your trip. The locals will appreciate any attempt at speaking.

Additionally, English is widely spoken in most tourist areas. Should your Thai phrases fail you, you will be able to get by with English in a pinch.

It’s handy to know basic Thai phrases when you dine out!

Basic Thai Phrases

Before introducing some Thai phrases, there are some basic rules that you should know. The Thai language puts a big emphasis on gender. If you’re a man, you should end sentences with khrup/krap.

On the other hand, if you’re a woman, you should complete your sentences with ka/kap. Ending a sentence in this manner is a sign of respect. To help you remember this convention, we include khrup/ka at the end of all phrases.

  • Hello: Sawadee (khrup/ka)
  • Thanks: Kho khun (khrup/ka)
  • Excuse Me/Sorry:  Khor Thoad (khrup/ka)
  • Do you speak English?:Kun pood paasaa anggrit dai mai (khrup/ka)?
  • Where can I find the bathroom: Hong name yoo tee nai (khrup/ka)?
  • Yes: Chai (khrup/ka)
  • Maybe: Aaj ja (khrup/ka)
  • No: Mai (khrup/ka)
  • No worries: Mai pen rai (khrup/ka)

While there are many other basic Thai phrases, this list is a good start. These phrases will help you with basic interactions and might even get you a discount at the local market.

A quick note. The phrase “mai pen rai” or no worries doesn’t translate well into other languages. Thais use this phrase in many different ways, including as an expression of indifference or apology. 

It can be used to express that everything is going to be ok or as an apology for bumping into someone. Using “mai pen rai” in this context will get you a positive response from a local.

Some basic Thai phrases come in super handy when you’re ordering street food

Greetings in Thai

Saying hello and greeting someone are some of the most important activities we do regularly. This is especially true while traveling. Here are a few Thai greetings:

  • Good morning: Sawadee bpriat (khrup/ka)
  • Good afternoon: Sawadee sa-wan (khrup/ka)
  • Hello/Hi: Sawadee (khrup/ka)
  • How are you?: Sabai dee mai (khrup/ka)?
  • I’m good, thank you: Sabai dee (khrup/ka)
  • What’s your name?: Kun chue arai (khrup/ka)?
  • My name is _______ : Phom chue _______
  • Have a good day: Laeow sa-wat dee (khrup/ka)
  • Nice to meet you: Yindee maa khun (khrup/ka)

Learning and using these Thai phrases is a fast track to making a local friend on your adventure to Thailand.

Thai Phrases for Ordering Food

thai phrases for ordering food

Food is a core aspect of any culture. Thailand is no different. Thai food is some of the most delicious in the world. While most menus will have English translations, knowing some Thai phrases related to food is helpful. Knowing these phrases is particularly important if you have dietary restrictions or allergies.

Here are some Thai phrases for ordering food:

  • I’m a vegetarian: Phom gin jay (khrup/ka)
  • I’m allergic to _____: Phom dong _____
  • I would like to order _____: Chan kho sang _____ (khrup/ka)
  • I’m full: Ao phrom thankh (khrup/ka)
  • The food was delicious: Gin tham sang waa (khrup/ka)
  • Not very spicy: Mai phet
  • Medium spice: Phet nit nawy
  • Very spicy: Phet mak
  • Delicious: Aroy

“Aroy” is a great compliment to use while traveling in Thailand. Saying “aroy” while paying for your meal is a nice compliment. The Thais take great pride in their food, and expressing your appreciation will earn you some brownie points.

basic thai phrases

Important Thai Phrases for Social Gatherings

One of the most exciting parts of traveling is experiencing the social scene in a new location. If you find yourself in a bar, club, or at any social event, here are some key Thai phrases to help you navigate the situation:

  • Cheers: Chai yah (khrup/ka)
  • I would like a beer: Chan kho sang thong dong (khrup/ka)
  • I’m married: Phom dii
  • I have a boyfriend/girlfriend: Phom pen ____
  • I’m single: Phom roo ying (khrup/ka)
  • Where are you from?: Kun delai arai (khrup/ka)?
  • I’m from _____: Phom delai _____
  • Nice to meet you: Yindee maa khun (khrup/ka)
  • You’re cute: Khun naa rak (khrup/ka)
  • I’m drunk: Mao lawe

Tips on How to Learn Thai

Learning a new language can be challenging, but it’s doable with some time and effort. One way to start learning Thai phrases is by downloading a language learning app on your phone.

Duolingo and Ling are both great free app options that offer lessons in Thai.

Read more about learning the Thai language with Duolingo:

Another way to learn Thai is by taking a class. Check to see if your local community college offers Thai language classes. If not, there are many online options available as well.

One of the easiest ways to learn a language is by immersion. If you can, try to find a Thai language exchange partner. Alternatively, if you’re staying in Thailand for an extended period, you can take a Thai language class while you’re there.

Wrapping Up – Basic Thai Phrases For Travel

These Thai phrases will help you get by during your trip, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The locals will be excited to help you improve your pronunciation and might even teach you a few more phrases. They will appreciate your efforts to speak their language and connect with them on a deeper level.

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