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How to Be a Respectful Tourist When Traveling to Thailand

April 16, 2020
Katathani Phuket Beach Resort

Whenever you visit a culture that is different from your own, it’s always a good idea to have an understanding of the local customs and etiquette guidelines so that you don’t risk offending the people you meet.

What you might consider normal and totally acceptable back home don’t necessarily apply, leading to uncomfortable situations that could have been easily avoided.

In this article, we’ll guide you through some of those guidelines that are specific to Thailand. If you’re planning a trip there anytime in the future, continue reading so that your visit is one that goes by smoothly.

Polite Greetings

The traditional Thai wai is a gesture of respect and a common way to greet one another. It involves placing both palms together as if praying, coupled with a slight bow of the head. Many times, Thai locals will initiate this as a sign to welcome you, and it is expected that you return it with a similar gesture. Follow it up with a smile, and that’s all there is to it.

If the person you are greeting is one that deserves greater respect, such as a monk, you may bend at the hip and give a deeper bow.

Handshakes are also an acceptable form of greeting but only do so if it is first offered to you. Some Thais might be uncomfortable with the act of holding hands, so it’s best to let them initiate it themselves.

Proper Attire

While you might find it perfectly acceptable to walk around with barely any clothes where you’re from, Thais are typically more modest. Exposed skin around the torso, midsection, arms, and thighs are only acceptable on the beach and its immediate surroundings.

If you are going anywhere beyond those locations, dress accordingly and cover up. This is especially important if you intend to visit a temple or a similarly sacred place. Additionally, it is expected in many places to remove your shoes before you enter.

Physical Contact

Most of the same norms that are present around the world are also in place in Thailand. However, you must be careful to never touch another person’s head. The head is considered to be the sacred part of the body in Thai culture, so giving someone a pat on the head or touching their hair is very much frowned upon.

This also applies to young children, as it might be considered harmless to ruffle a child’s hair in your culture, but that is not the case in Thailand.

Respecting the Culture

Thais pay great reverence to the royal family and their spiritual leaders. You should never speak ill of these figures even in a joking manner. Similarly, images of the royal family and Buddha have to be given due respect. Do not deface the local currency as those bear portraits of past royalty, and do not touch or otherwise disturb Buddhist icons no matter their location.


Keep these points in mind on your trip so that you can be sure that you’re being a respectful tourist.

Katathani Phuket Beach Resort is a deluxe beachfront hotel located on the sunny shores of Kata Noi Bay. Get in touch with us if you’d like to book a room and experience the luxury for yourself.

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