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9 Thai Customs to Know Before Traveling to Thailand

Thai Monk Thai Customs and Traditions to Know Before Traveling to Thailand

When traveling to a foreign country, it is always a good idea to read up on the country’s customs, culture, and traditions ahead of time in order to avoid doing anything that would be viewed as disrespectful.  When we were doing our research before traveling to Thailand, we found there were a number of Thai customs we needed to remember.  Since nine is a lucky number in Thailand, hopefully knowledge of these nine customs you should know before traveling to Thailand will keep you out of any uncomfortable situations. 

Avoid Public Displays of Affection

While you may see couples holding hands, it is best for traveling couples to avoid holding hands, and especially kissing or hugging in public.  Public displays of affection are not the norm in Thailand.

Don’t Touch Someone’s Head

The head is the most valued part of the body.  It is offensive to touch someone’s head.  What we did witness, however, was adults patting children on the head.  However, travelers should not take such liberties.

Keep Your Feet to Yourself

While the head is the most valued part of the body, the feet are the lowest, least revered part of the body.  Whatever you do, don’t point your feet towards statues of Buddha.  When entering a temple, be sure to kneel with your feet pointing backward away from the Buddha.  In fact, don’t point your feet at anything.

Respect the Royal Family

Thai Money Thai Customs and Traditions to Know Before Traveling to Thailand

Thailand’s King recently passed away.  He and the rest of the royal family are highly revered in Thailand.  It is important to never, ever say anything against the royal family.  Do not step on money, as the recently deceased King’s image is found on money.  For instance, if you drop a coin and it starts rolling or spinning, do not step on it to make it stop.

Take Your Shoes Off

Outside of Buddhist temples, you will usually see many pairs of shoes.  This is because you must take your shoes off before entering a temple.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to wear shoes that are easy to take on and off.  You may also be required to take off your shoes before entering a home or a house museum.  You may want to carry socks with you if you are wearing flip-flops or sandals.

Related: Bangkok's Wat Saket (The Golden Mount) and Jim Thompson House

Avoid Buddha Selfies

Buddha Selfie Thai Customs and Traditions to Know Before Traveling to Thailand

The image of Buddha is a very sacred thing.  Therefore, it is to be respected greatly.  Some places prohibit taking a picture with a statue of Buddha.  However, some of the more touristy temples will allow it.  When in doubt don’t take selfies with the Buddha.  However, if your guide offers to take a picture of you with the Buddha in the background, it must be okay.

Related: A Day Trip from Bangkok to Bang Pa-In Summer Palace and Ayutthaya

Dress Temple Appropriate

Most Buddhist temples in Thailand adhere to a strict dress code.  This means no short skirts, no shorts, and no sleeveless tops.  These rules are sometimes more relaxed in extremely touristy places, like Phuket, but are adhered to in places like Bangkok.  Some places will provide a sarong, like the Grand Palace.  However, others will not.  It can get very hot and humid in Thailand so, if you must wear shorts or tank tops, carry a sarong with you for visiting temples.

Related: A Day in Historic Bangkok, Thailand

Don’t Touch a Monk

This Thai custom only applies to females.  Females must not touch monks or pass items directly to monks.  Once, while following a path where a monk was coming from the other direction, our guide suggested I move off the path to let the monk pass.  It is okay for females to greet monks.

Keep Calm

It is very bad manners to lose your cool or have loud outbursts in Thailand.  An important part of Thai culture is the concept of face.  Losing face is to be avoided at all costs.  One way to lose face is to be loud in public or lose your temper.

Travel the World: 9 Thai customs and traditions all travelers should know before they travel to Thailand.
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