Basic Thai Phrases That Every Traveller Should Know

20 Basic Thai Phrases That Every Traveller Should Know

Fancy a trip to the Land of Smiles?

We don’t know about you, but we’re definitely looking to go back to Thailand once it’s safe to travel again. Not only do we miss the food, sights, and culture there, but also, their success at containing the coronavirus outbreak is enough to give any traveller lots of reassurance. In the meantime, how about learning and practising some basic Thai phrases for your future trip? Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think! 

Oh, and you might have already heard the news that Thailand is offering special nine-month tourist visas. If this is something you’re considering, well then, all the more reason to brush up on these Thai phrases and expressions that’ll make your stay easier! So, shall we get started?

First things first

Most Asian countries have their own ways of showing respect through language. In Thailand, this involves adding a specific word at the end of your sentence or phrase: khrup or krap if you are male; ka or kap if you are female. Adding either of these words to your lines will make you sound more polite among locals and their customs (therefore easily getting on their good side).

Thai phrases for day-to-day interactions

Thai phrases

1. Sawasdee / Sawadee

This is perhaps the first among Thai expressions that any traveller should learn. In a nutshell, it’s the most common way to say ‘hello’ in Thai. You’ll likely hear this from different people throughout your trip, so make sure to return this friendly greeting every time!

Proper pronunciation: Sa-wah-dee

2. Sabaaidii mai

Next to hi’s and hello’s, we usually tend to go for ‘How are you?’ if we want a warmer-sounding greeting. Doesn’t really matter if you’re actually interested in the answer or simply asking out of habit! At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts. So, if you’re looking for another way to to say ‘hello’ in Thai, then this phrase should do!

Proper pronunciation: Sa-bai-dee mai?

3. Sabaaidii

This is the standard ‘I’m fine’ answer for whenever one asks about how we are doing. 

Proper pronunciation: Sa-bai-dee

4. Laagorn

This Thai phrase means to bid ‘farewell’ or ‘goodbye’ to either someone leaving for a long time or someone whom you might not ever see again. So, in the case of travellers, this is often the apt one to use when in Thailand. 

Proper pronunciation: La-gon

5. Chai / Mai

These two simple Thai phrases mean ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively. 

Proper pronunciation: Chai / Mai

6. Kho thot

This Thai expression for ‘Excuse me’ comes in handy when you’re in crowded places, especially those in the city. Alternatively, it also works as a preface for when you’re approaching someone to ask for directions and such. 

Proper pronunciation: Khaaw tawt

How to say thank you in Thai and what to say back

7. Khaawp khun

Being polite and grateful will go a long way when it comes to the locals you’ll meet; from vendors and cab drivers to your hotel concierge. That’s why it’s important to say ‘thank you’ in Thai whenever you can. It’s also one of those Thai phrases that are best accompanied by a deep bow (wai). 

Proper pronunciation: Kohp koon

8. Mai bpen rai

This is one of the most commonly used Thai phrases, both among locals and Thais abroad. It also makes for an apt response whenever someone tells you ‘thank you’ in Thai. 

More than just an expression, though, it has become somewhat of a cultural symbol as well. There’s no direct translation for it, but the closest ones would be ‘that’s okay,’ ‘never mind,’ ‘don’t worry about it,’ and ‘I’m good, thanks.’ In essence, it’s meant to demonstrate their greng jai culture: a Thai concept of being thoughtful, considerate, and not wanting to inconvenience anyone. 

Proper pronunciation: Mai pen rai

Also read: 7 Destinations in Thailand That You’ve Probably Never Heard of Before

Common Thai expressions for navigating

Thai phrases

9. Haawng naam yuu thee nai

Asking ‘Where is the bathroom?’ might not be the first line that comes to mind when you’re learning Thai phrases. But when you find yourself in a panic because there’s no loo in sight, then you’ll definitely thank yourself for learning this one. 

Proper pronunciation: Hong nam you tee nye?

10. Chai metre mai

When exploring cities in Thailand, you’ll probably be taking a cab at least once. When doing so, keep in mind that all taxis are mandated by law to use a metre. However, there are some who don’t abide by this in an attempt to rip off unsuspecting tourists! That said, knowing how to say ‘Do you use a metre?’ is a must. 

Proper pronunciation: Chai mee-tah mai?

11. Liao sai / Liao kwaa

Speaking of taxis, anticipate the possibility of drivers taking a longer route just to increase the fare you’ll be paying. So, make sure to check your map (whether an app or an actual one) during the ride and know the local way to give directions. These Thai phrases translate to ‘Turn left’ and ‘Turn right.’ 

Proper pronunciation: Lee-yo sigh / Lee-yo kwa

12. Yut / Bpai

Knowing how to say ‘stop’ and ‘go’ in Thai will definitely come in handy when taking modes of transport like tuk-tuk, boats, and taxis.

Proper pronunciation: Yoot / Pie

13. Dtrong bpai

On the other hand, this one means ‘Go straight.’ 

Proper pronunciation: Troong pie

Also read: Top 5 Ways to Get Scammed in Bangkok

Basic Thai phrases for shopping

Thai phrases

14. Tao rai

When in Thailand, shopping is definitely a must-add to your itinerary! And of course, the first phrase that comes to mind would be asking ‘How much?’ especially when you’re at a market. 

Proper pronunciation: Tao rai?

15. Phaeng maak pai

This one means ‘too expensive,’ which you can say if you feel like you’re being ripped off. In such cases, feel free to speak your mind and bargain away. Pro tip: Start haggling for half of the originally mentioned price, then work your way from there! 

Proper pronunciation: Feng mak pie

16. Lot dai mai

Alternatively, you can also opt for the Thai way of saying ‘Can I get a discount?’ instead. 

Proper pronunciation: Loht dai mai?

Also read: 12 Shopping Destinations Around The World You Have To Visit In Your Lifetime!

Basic Thai expressions for food and dining

Thai phrases

17. Aroi mak

Can’t get enough of the yummy food you just had? Go ahead and express your compliments by using the Thai phrase for “This is delicious!” Doesn’t matter if it’s a street food stall or a crowd fave restaurant — you’re sure to bring a smile to the cook’s face. 

Proper pronunciation: A-roy mak!

18. Nam-bplao gaw neung

It’s no secret that it gets quite hot in Thailand all year ‘round, so it’s definitely good to know how to say “May I have a glass of water?” to locals. This will also come in handy when you’re eating some spicy and your tastebuds need some backup! 

Proper pronunciation: Nam-plahw gehw neeng?

19. Mai phet / Phet nit noi / Phet mak

Everyone knows that Thais like their dishes nice and spicy — sometimes to a certain intensity that most foreigners can’t handle! So, if you’d rather not set your taste buds on fire, it’s best to memorise these Thai phrases that indicate the level of spicy for your chosen dish: Mai phet is ‘not spicy’, phet nit noi is ‘mildly spicy’, and phet mak is ‘very spicy.’ 

Proper pronunciation: Mai pet / Pet nit noy / Pet mak

20. Mai sai nam dtaan

In contrast to their spicy dishes, Thais like their drinks sweet and sugary. They tend to add condensed milk to most drinks, as well as sugar in stir-fried delicacies. That said, make sure to say the Thai expression for ‘Do not add sugar’ if you’d rather forego the extra calories. 

Proper pronunciation: Mai sigh nam tahn

Summary

Here’s a quick rundown of the basic Thai phrases you should learn before travelling to the Land of Smiles!

1 Sawasdee / Sawadee Hello!
2 Sabaaidii mai How are you?
3 Sabaaidii I’m fine
4 Laagorn Farewell; Goodbye
5 Chai / Mai Yes / No
6 Kho thot Excuse me
7 Khaawp khun Thank you
8 Mai bpen rai That’s okay; never mind; don’t worry about it; I’m good, thanks
9 Haawng naam yuu thee nai Where is the bathroom?
10 Chai metre mai Do you use a metre?
11 Liao sai / Liao kwaa Turn left / Turn right
12 Yut / Bpai Stop / Go
13 Dtrong bpai Go straight
14 Tao rai How much?
15 Phaeng maak pai Too expensive!
16 Lot dai mai Can I get a discount?
17 Aroi mak This is delicious!
18 Nam-bplao gaw neung May I have a glass of water?
19 Mai phet / Phet nit noi / Phet mak Not spicy / Mildly spicy / Very spicy
20 Mai sai nam dtaan Do not add sugar

Also read: 10 Delicious Food Everybody Should Try When in Thailand

Are there any more Thai phrases and expressions you’d like to learn and memorise for future travels? Feel free to tell us about it in the comments! 

About Author

Marcy Miniano
Marcy Miniano

A fast-talking caffeine-dependent wordsmith, Marcy has never been one to shy away from sharing a good story or two. If she’s not in a quiet coffee shop somewhere, she enjoys spending afternoons in a museum or art gallery — whether it’s around Metro Manila or a foreign city she’s visiting. She wishes to retire in a winter village someday, so she can fulfil her lifelong dream of wearing turtlenecks all year round and owning a pet penguin.

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