Basic Thai phrases for your first visit
There’s no doubt that learning the basics of a language can really enhance your time in a country. Not only will a few useful words and phrases help you to get along, it will also often lead to locals being more willing to engage with you as they know you’re willing to put the effort in to dissolve cultural boundaries – and this is definitely true when it comes to your trip to Thailand. Getting to grips with basic Thai phrases will be a huge help when it comes to making the most of your time in the country, as will expressing yourself to the Thai people you encounter, whether you’re there for the long haul or just for a quick trip to Thailand.
Now, we’re not saying you should be looking up obscure grammar, reading classical Thai books, or trying to decipher the winding Thai script – especially if you’re only travelling there for a short period of time (although there are only 32 consonants and 11 vowels in the Thai alphabet, so you could potentially learn to read it!). However, even if your trip to Thailand is just a week or two, these essential Thai phrases will certainly come in handy!
So, don’t just rely on the fact that many of the people you meet will be able to speak English. Check out these basic Thai phrases, and you’ll end up with a much richer experience for your effort.
Some quick notes…
The Thai language is a tonal one, which means that the same word can have multiple meanings depending on how it’s said. The most common example of this is probably the word “kow,” which can mean “white,” “knee,” “elbow,” “rice,” “entrance,” or “news,” depending on the tone it’s spoken in. However, as this article is for basic starter phrases, we won’t be going into all of that, especially because native speakers will be able to understand your intention in spite of an incorrect tone.
Reading Thai can also be confusing, even if you dedicate yourself to being able to understand the script. This is because Thai sentences appear without any gaps between words, and the placement of vowels and punctuation can vary.
Finally, khrup/ka refers to the gender of the person speaking, so a male saying “hello” would say “sawadee khrup,” whereas a female would say “sawadee ka.” This is always in reference to the person speaking, not the person being spoken to.
Useful phrases for day-to-day life
These basic Thai phrases and words are simple to learn, but using them in your day-to-day travels means that no matter where in Thailand you visit you’ll likely get an impressed grin from the locals.
- Hello – Sawadee (khrup/ka)
- Yes – Chai (khrup/ka)
- No – Mai (khrup/ka)
- Maybe – Aaj ja (khrup/ka)
- Thank you – khop khun (khrup/ka)
- Sorry/excuse me – Khor thoad (khrup/ka)
- Where is…? – Homg nam
- Where is the bathroom? – Hong nam yoo tee nai (khrup/ka)?
- No worries – Mai pen rai
- Mai Dai – I can’t…
- Mai khao jai – I don’t understand
Other greetings in Thai
If you’re visiting the Land of Smiles it’s likely that you’ll be going from place to place, whether you’re island hopping around Thailand, or just staying in one spot but trying to cram in all the cultural highlights it has to offer. Regardless of where you go, you can always greet people like a local!
- How are you? – Sa bai dee mai khrup/ka
- Goodbye! – La gorn (khrup/ka)
- Good Morning – sawatdee tohn chao
- Good Afternoon – sawatdee tohn bai
- Good Evening – sawatdee tohn yen
- Good Day – chohk dee
- Good Night – ra tree sawat
Useful Thai for restaurants and food stalls
Few countries have a food culture as impressive as Thailand’s. The street stalls, restaurants, and night markets are just some of the incredible things to check out in Thailand while visiting. Even the most basic setups deliver mouthwatering versions of the best dishes that Thailand has to offer. If you’re a foodie who’s travelled to Southeast Asia to indulge in a flavour explosion, or are simply looking to expand your culinary horizons, then use these basic Thai phrases to impress your server.
- I would like to order – sang aa-haan
- Delicious – Aroy
- Not Spicy – Mai phet
- A little Spicy – phet nit nawy
- Really Spicy – phet mak
Useful Thai for socialising
Although Thailand has an incredible amount to offer in terms of natural highlights and stunning cultural attractions, one of the best parts of a visit here is interacting with the locals. If you like learning about a country through its population, then have a quick look at these basic Thai Phrases to impress any Thai people you end up spending time with.
- Numbers (one to ten) – Neung, song, saam, see, haa, hook, jet, baat, gow, sip
- You are cute – Khun naa rak khrup/ka
- Having fun? – sanuk mai?
- I’m drunk – Mao Laew