What not to do when visiting Thailand

Thailand is a pretty easy-going place most of the time, but that’s not to say the travel taboos of Thailand are any less serious than those of any other country. Thailand is one of the very few places in the world where you can end up in jail for making a stupid mistake (e.g. defacing the Thai currency). So here are a few tips about the travel taboos of Thailand to help you on your holiday.

FriskoDude / Foter

Don’t be rude to the royal family!

This is a big one, people, so pay attention. Tourists have ended up in jail for messing with the King and his family! The Thai people have a deep traditional reverence for the Royal Family, and visitors should also show respect for the King and the Queen, and the Royal Children. When attending a public event where a member of the Royal Family is present, the best guide on how to behave is to watch the crowd and do as it does.

Don’t touch people on the head!

In Thailand, the head is sacred and inviolable. The only people who are allowed to touch a child’s head are the king, high-order monks and parents. Even the barber will say “sorry” to the group after giving a haircut. When passing something to another person, do not pass it over the heads of others.

Don’t eat with your left hand!

Thai people eat with their right hand as the left hand is considered unclean. When passing something to another person, only pass with the right hand to show respect. If forced to use the left hand, you should say “the left, please forgive me.”

Dress up to visit a temple!

Check what you are wearing before you head off to visit a temple. Don’t go bare-chested and wearing shorts, or even with your shirt hanging out of your pants or your sleeves rolled up, or you may not be allowed to enter a temple. Visitors must remove their shoes before entering a Buddhist temple, otherwise, or it will be treated as contaminated. Do not touch statues, or climb on any outside statues. All statues, regardless of size, should be respected. If you buy a souvenir statue, Do not put it in your pocket – the Thai people believe that physical contact with the lower part of Buddha statues is blasphemy.

Stand for the national anthem!

As a visitor, when you hear the national anthem played in Thailand, you should immediately stop your activities and stand.

Don’t take photos of monks without permission!

It’s OK to take photos of monks but please ask first and thank them politely afterwards. Like the king, the social status of monks in Thailand is high. Women must not touch the monk’s body under any circumstances, otherwise it will be seen as blasphemy.

Watch your topics of conversation!

Avoid talking about politics, corruption and royal family members. Even among friends, do not talk about personal problems. If you offend someone, smile and say “sorry” to show regret, but also keep your hands clasped together.

Be polite when visiting a Thai home!

Before entering any home in Thailand it is polite to take off your shoes. If the owner is sitting on the floor, the guests should do the same. Do not cross your feet, and do not expose the soles of the feet as they are considered unclean. 

Do you know some more travel taboos of Thailand?

Let us know using the comments box below and we’ll add them here, with a credit to you.

  • Audé

    When ever someone is position lower than you, for example, sitting either a chair or on the floor, always lower your upper body and head when ever needing to pass through them. It’s polite and show of respect.

    • Yes, so true. Many tourists would never realise these taboos exist because at the resorts and tourist attractions they are overlooked. But they are important if you go to someone’s home, or to a business function or an official ceremony. Thanks for commenting Aude!