Whether you are visiting Thailand for a month or just a few days learning a few basic Thai phrases can help you enjoy your trip. While English is widely spoken in the tourist areas, having a few Thai words ready in your hip pocket can surely help.
Thai can be a difficult language to learn as it is a tonal language and one word can have multiple meanings depending on how it is pronounced. You are most certainly going to make mistakes, but don’t let that put you off. Most locals will appreciate the effort and may even have a friendly laugh at your pronunciation.
I usually travel with a good pocket Thai phrase book and dictionary. They are filled with all kinds of words for the most common situations. It's helpful to try new words on the locals, don't be shy.
Another fun thing to try is using the google translate on your phone if communication proves difficult. Put it on speaker and you can recite your sentence into the phone and it will 'speak' Thai for you. I've gotten a number or surprised looks and smiles from this approach. I wouldn't use it in every situation, but can work in a pinch.
We’ve included in our list some of the most useful Thai phrases for a variety of situations you may find yourself in. Before we get into the details, there are some thai language basics we should cover first.
Khap and Ka
These words as a polite way to end sentences when you are conversing with someone in Thai. There is no direct correlation to English. One is used by males, Khap and one by females Ka. The male version (Khap) will also sometimes be pronounced as Khrap – though rarer.
For example, if you wanted to say hello in Thai, you would say sawatdee khap if you are male or sawatdee ka if you are female. It’s based on the gender of the person speaking, not the gender of who you are speaking to.
Khun is another polite Thai expression used before a person’s name when addressing them. Similar to using a Mr. or Mrs. In English – but once again no direct translation.
One phrase you’ll use a lot is sawatdee. It is how to say hi in Thai. Don’t forget to add Khap or Ka at the end. If you put all these basic phrases together you have a full greeting.
Sawatdee khap khun John.
Basic Thai Greetings and Interactions
Now that you've got the a basic hello in Thai in your vocabulary, we can move on to some other common Thai phrases. This first batch covers some interactions you'll regularly encounter. A few polite greetings to help connect you a little more with the Thai people you meet.
Simple Thai Phrases
You don't need to be fluent in Thai to get your point across or to understand some basic answers. These one and two word sayings will come in very handy in a number of everyday situations.
Thai Phrases For Restaurants and Bars
You are going to want to eat and maybe head out for a few drinks on your trip. Here are some helpful phrases for visiting bars and restaurants. Two that are most useful are how to ask where the bathroom is and if you don't like spicy food - remember 'mai phet' (not spicy). If you really enjoyed the food, make sure you tell your waiter 'Aroy mak' (very delicious). And if someone tells you you're 'mao' it's probably time to go home and sleep it off.
Thai Shopping Phrases
Shopping is a popular past time for many travelers in Thailand. Here are a few useful Thai phrases to help the experience along. If you're in a market (vs. a shopping mall) the vendor expects you to bargain. They also expect that if they agree to your price that you are going to buy, it's good manners.