What not to do in Thailand – Customs and beliefs to respect

thailand krabiWhile there are many customs in Thailand, most Thai people are used to tourist and can be very tolerant of cultural errors providing it is not insulting towards the monarchy or religion. While the country is full of smiles and sunshine, it can also be a cultural minefield for unintentionally committing a social crime. Here are some definite DO NOTS.

1. Take your shoes off

By far the custom I kept unintentionally break while is Thailand was the No Shoes rule. Whether you are entering a temple or someone’s home, you must remove your shoes before going inside. This is even the case for shops and business. If you forget the reaction can range from an evil death stare to being chased out of the building. Yes I have had them both happen. It is unhygienic to wear shoes indoors and as Buddhists do a lot of kneeling and sitting in lotus position or cross legged, they need the floors to be clean.


2. No patting

The head is considered spiritually the highest part of the body, and the feet the lowest. Touching someone’s head is seen as disrespectful, even little children’s. Although I did not feel the need to go around patting people on the head, I did cringe every time I saw a westerner with their feet up on the table.


3. Respect the King

Disrespecting and even criticizing the king is a criminal offence in Thailand. The Thais love their monarchy. You will see their picture in every business and in every house. Thailand has some of the world’s toughest lese majeste (injured majesty) laws protecting its extremely popular monarch. The national anthem is played at 8am, 6pm and before a movie in the cinema and you are expected to stand. The first time I went to see a movie and everyone stood up, I was very confused. I did actually end up enjoying it. I was moved my the Thais sense of pride and loyalty to a monarchy they love so much and who clearly loves them. Standing on a coin or a note with the king’s face on it is seen as an insult to an image of the king. In 2011 a US citizen was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for writing a blog post seen as disrespectful and posting a link to an unauthorised biography of the king.

4. No PDA

Well everyone who knows me will know this is not a problem for me. Some drunk travellers though… Uhoh!

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5. Raise your voice

Generally Thais are usually mild mannered and softly spoken… Unlike us foreigners. Keep your voice down in stores and restaurants and stay calm if you get into a disagreement. Raising your voice causes everyone involved to become embarrassed.



6. Touch a monk

Monks are forbidden to touch women and often won’t even hand them something directly. While men are allowed to be in contact with monks they must keep a respectful distance. No one should stand over, or be positioned higher than, a monk and definitely do not touch their heads!



{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Drifter (So Kwa Pala) August 31, 2015 at 3:27 pm

It’s a very good post and travelers must read this before heading to Thailand. I have myself broken a few of these rules during my multiple visits to Thailand


Bobbi Gould September 5, 2015 at 8:12 am

I have not been to Thailand yet, but I was not aware of many of these customs. Thanks so much for this! It will come in handy in my future and it’s so cool to learn about customs.


sara September 5, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for the advice :) They will be very useful for my trip to Thailand!

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Grietje from TravelGretl September 6, 2015 at 9:12 am

Good list :) Great to always know the simple basics in a country, so you will not offend anyone! You’re always still a guest somewhere, right :)


Jolanta | Casual Traveler September 8, 2015 at 10:14 am

Thank you for sharing these! I had no idea patting children on the head might be disrespectful in Thailand! I’ll have to make sure to be respectful and keep our kids quiet if we ever make our way to Thailand.
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Nikoleta Míchalová September 10, 2015 at 2:08 pm

My father was recently in Thailand as well and he was also telling me about those traditions. I love to hear about it every time, cause such things really interest me and they teach me so much about how other people live. Thanks a lot for sharing those you came across (and as expected, you have slightly different ones than my father did :P)


Lindsay Nieminen September 10, 2015 at 8:33 pm

This is a great resource! We are headed to Thailand soon and a few of these i needed a reminder on (i didn’t know about the head / feet issue!)
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Leonie September 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Great tips. Ill keep these in mind for when im over there next year

Leonie ♥ Lo On The Go


Lauren September 16, 2015 at 8:33 pm

I have yet to visit Thailand, but it’s on my list! This is a great list of things to be aware of! I did not know all of these customs before reading your post! Thanks!
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Julius @ Traveltipy September 18, 2015 at 6:24 am

Good tips! Once there I’ll keep these rules in mind! :)
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Alice Teacake September 29, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Good job on pointing all of these out! I’ve seen foreigners breaking these rules and really cringed. It’s just a matter of knowing and learning :) I’m sure travellers just don’t even realise what they’re doing is taboo.
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Ella November 25, 2015 at 3:21 am

I think number 5 is one everyone could use in general. It can be quite disruptive to hear people talking very loudly. And I think that’s cool that the national anthem is played before a movie in the cinema… I’d love to experience that :)
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Events Panda February 21, 2016 at 7:16 am

When you look at those pictures, that’s when you know that paradise finally came to earth. Your photography always wakens up so much wanderlust in me!


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