Top 12 Must-Know Thai Phrases Every Tourist Should Learn

Top 12 Must-Know Thai Phrases Every Tourist Should Learn

When in Thailand, learn how to speak like the Thais do.

Learning a new language is no small feat: It takes years and years of constant practice to get the hang of it. The Thai language is no different, but hey, learning a few choice phrases like “hello” or “thank you” in Thai can be extremely useful before your next big trip to Thailand. Not only will it serve as an excellent ice-breaker with the locals, but you might even impress a few of them with your knowledge! Before you plan a trip to Thailand, check out these important Thai phrases and expressions to make the most of your travels.

Also read: 20 Basic Thai Phrases That Every Traveller Should Know

Thai phrases to while travelling in Thailand

Image credit: Alexandr Podvalny

Basic Thai language words and phrases for every traveller

1. Sawasdee (khap/ka) – “Hello”

To say “hello” in Thai, you say sawasdee (pronounced “sa-wah-dee”). If you’ve stepped into Thailand before, you definitely would have heard this phrase before. Countless times! It generally means hello, but it can also serve as good morning, good afternoon, and goodbye.

What makes this phrase so useful is that it can be used in almost any situation to greet a local. How great is that? For bonus points, remember to add khap (male), or ka (female) at the end to achieve maximum friendliness!

2. Khap / Ka

How to say thank you in Thai: Khaawp khun

Image credit: Vinoth Chandar

As mentioned above, these syllables are usually added after the end of each sentence and have no proper translation in English. For good manners in Thailand, make it a habit to add them at the end of your sentences to show the proper respect to the person you are talking to.

Another important thing to note also is that both syllables are gender-specific. Khap is usually used by male speakers, whereas ka is used by the ladies. To avoid embarrassment, don’t get them mixed up! 

3. Khaawp khun (khap/ka) – “Thank you”

If you ever want to show your appreciation to a local, this Thai phrase is the one you need to know. To say “thank you” in Thai politely, you tell them khaawp khun (“kohp koon”). Throw in a big, winning smile and khap or ka at the end, and you will most likely have made this person’s day a little brighter!

4. Khor thot (khap/ka) – “Sorry”

Accidentally stepped on someone’s foot? Or inconvenienced a local in any way? Try attempting to smooth things over with a solemn apology and say “sorry” in Thai, complete with khap or ka for an extra dose of politeness at the end. Not only would you have avoided an uncomfortable situation, but you might perhaps even succeed in turning the incident into a friendly encounter! 

5. Mai pen lai – “Never mind”

Basic Thai Phrases and Words: Yoo tee nai (Where is...?)

Image credit: Hanny Naibaho

Is the situation reversed? Are you faced with the unfortunate situation where the local is helplessly trying to convey their sincerest apologies? Calm them down with mai pen lai, a Thai phrase that means “never mind.” Just make sure not to get too angry or loud. Speaking in a forceful tone is often seen as impolite in Thai culture, and will often aggravate the issue on hand.

6. Yoo tee nai…? – “Where is…?”

Getting lost with no way of communicating with the locals around you is every traveller’s worst nightmare. If you find yourself in such a situation in Thailand, don’t fret! If you have a map (or an app on your mobile phone) with you, just spring it up and approach a local. Point to where you need to go and use this Thai phrase: Yoo tee nai…? (“Where is…?”) With a little luck, he or she might direct you on the right path. Eureka! 

7. Aroy – “Delicious”

One of the most important Thai phrases and expressions you need to know has to do with praising the mouth-watering food before you. While you’re enjoying the delicious cuisine in Thailand, always remember to convey your satisfaction to the cooks by saying aroy, which means “delicious” in the Thai language.

Food market in Thailand

Image credit: Lisheng Chang

Since Thai chefs take great pride in the food that they cook, they’re going to love it when polite customers show great appreciation for their culinary fare. Who knows? You might even get an extra helping or two when you come back for another round! 

8. Gee baht? – “How much?”

Suddenly find yourself curious to know if you can afford the hip elephant statue souvenir for your friends back home? Approach the salesperson and inquire with this Thai phrase: Gee baht? (“How much?”). You can now avoid the embarrassing scenario of walking away empty-handed in Thailand after spending 30 minutes trying to make the vendor understand you, only to eventually find out the price is out of your budget.

9. Phaeng maak pai – “Too expensive”

Basic Thai phrases and expressions: Gee baht? (How much?)

Image credit: Kittikorn via Canva Pro

Now, this is one of the most useful Thai phrases any tourist can have in their vocabulary, especially if you want to shop and haggle like a pro. If you get the hunch that one of the vendors has set the price of an object too high, show them you know what you’re talking about and say phaeng maak pai, which means “too expensive.”

The more adept you are at speaking the language in Thailand, the more you can score great deals for your Thai souvenirs!

10. Lot noi dai mai – “Can you give a little discount?”

Language in Thailand: Mai aow (I don't want it)

Image credit: Selda Eigler

Still intent on purchasing that elephant statue, despite it being a little too overpriced? Smile sweetly and use the Thai phrase lot noi dai mai  (“Can you give a little discount?”) to see if you can budge the shopkeeper into a bargain! But of course, don’t overdo it if he or she is set on the price. As much as Thailand is known for being the Land of Smiles, no one smiles when they’re met with a very pushy customer!

11. Mai aow (khap/ka) – “I don’t want it”

Not sure how to politely decline constant offers from persistent street peddlers or tuk tuk drivers without causing unnecessary commotion? One of the Thai phrases and expressions you need to know to say is mai aow, which means “I don’t want it.” This phrase can prove as a lifesaver to exasperated tourists! Remember to add khap or ka at the end, and you’ll successfully dissuade any more unwanted attention from the merchants.

12. Laagorn – “Goodbye” / “Farewell” 

To say “goodbye” or “farewell” in Thai, use laagorn if you’re not sure when you’ll see a person again. Knowing this Thai phrase will come in handy for the end of your trip, which is when you’ll need to bid farewell to your newfound travel buddies in Thailand.

Image credit: twinsterphoto via Canva Pro

How many of these words in the Thai language have you mastered so far? Arm yourself with these basic Thai phrases and expressions on your next trip to Thailand, and we promise you’ll have a much easier time navigating the country!

About Authors

Youliang Teo
Youliang Teo

When he’s not caught up with the real world, Teo Youliang dreams of simply grabbing a rucksack and setting off on an adventure of a lifetime. Whether it means venturing through unknown places, meeting new faces, or frustratingly figuring out a travel map for hours, you can be sure that there isn’t any other place he’d rather be. He’s also content with a hot cup of tea, and writing stories at the comfort of his home.

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Tiffany Conde
Tiffany Conde

Tiffany is a writer who covers travel, food, shopping, and pop culture. She has a soft spot for stories about Japan and Italy. While she waits patiently for her next adventure, she enjoys writing about the coolest places to stay around the world and where to find them.

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