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Some do's and don'ts for Thailand

Many people have asked me by e-mail what are some do's and dont's for Thailand.
On this page I offer you my selection.


- always be respectful about Buddhism. Dress correctly in Temples (wear sleeves, do not wear short pants etc.). Don't sit on Buddha images if you want to be photographed. Sit before the image then. That is perfectly all right. You will insult Thai people deeply if you offend Buddhism in these ways.

- always speak respectfully about HM The King and HM The Queen. They are respected deeply by the Thai people and not without reason! The King is the initiator of many programs to replace opium culture by vegetable culture and you find "Royal Projects" all over the Country (especially in the North) where you can see the results of this work.

- always be respectful to the elderly, in every situation. If you are bargaining at the market with a seller who is obviously older than you are, or if you are bargaining with a tuk-tuk driver who is older than you, do this in a polite way, with a smile on your face and don't be rude. (Apart from being considered to be a polite person, as a bonus you will see the result in the price!)

- take your shoes off before entering a Thai house, if you are invited to visit somebody in his/her home. Do the same at other places where the Thai people do so too (for instance before entering beauty salons, hair dressers etc.). It is very common to see something like shown on the picture below when you enter a Thai house.

Shoes before a Thai shop

- have some patience when you have to do business in an bank or in a post office. Sometimes you will have to wait for a long time, but the Thais are accustomed to that and will find your behavior quite badly if you become impatient. Just relax and wait for your turn! The picture below was taken in a Post Office. If you just have to buy some stamps, you may have to wait like the people on the photograph!

Waiting in a post office


- point at people or things with your feet. This is considered as highly impolite, as the feet are considered as the most inferior parts of the human body. And do not sit on the floor of a Temple with your feet pointing at the Buddha Image!

- touch the heads of children, even if you may see this as a form of caressing. The head is considered as the most superior part of the body, and touching this part is not a privilege for foreigners!

- be too familiar in public, even if you are married. So don't kiss in public, don't walk with your arms around each other. These things are considered very impolite in Thailand.

- shout in public (to anybody). If you want to argue with your wife or with your children, do this in the privacy of your hotel room and not in public! You will loose much of your respect if you do things like this in public. You will -for the same reason- loose much of your respect if you find you should punish your children in public.

- think that Thai women are "easily available". Though around 1% of the female population is working in the sex industry, this also means that 99% is not working there! You can get yourself in big trouble if you offend a woman in this way. Her husband may find he should take revenge, which could be very unpleasant for you.

- take any packages through Thai customs for anybody! If you are caught carrying drugs, you risk the death penalty or life in prison. And prisons in Thailand are not exactly like the Hilton. Apart from that, you can hardly expect a milder punishment than life in prison. So be warned!

- buy any precious stones on the streets. If you are familiar with prices you can buy them in (large) shops. That will normally be safe, but -again- be sure you don't pay too much. If you buy precious stones in the street against this advice and regret it afterwards (which will be the case in 99% of the cases), go to the Tourist Police! They know how to handle this and they do it well. (Or call 1155 for the Tourist Police)

- accept any offers from strangers to assist you in finding the right places to do your shopping. They will get a commission from the shops they take you to and you will be the person who pays for that commission (in the price you pay).

- accept any introduction to participate in any form of gambling. Gambling is against the law in Thailand and penalties are severe!

- get involved in prostitution in Thailand. You do not only put your health at serious risk, but the chance of getting robbed is very real. And apart from these dangers for yourself, give it a thought that having "budget" sex in a developing country like Thailand is very unfair towards the people involved.

- buy bus, tickets from anyone, except from an official at a bus terminal. The bus you buy your ticket for elsewhere might never be leaving or in the best case you will pay too much. If you use a Travel Agency for tickets (or other services), make sure they are licensed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Of course the Travel Agencies in hotels can be trusted and are licensed.

- call a waiter or waitress with the fingers of your hand pointing upward. This is considered to be very impolite. (It will make a similar impression as if you put your middle finger up to somebody at home). Put your hand up, but with your fingers pointing downward (or make a fist, if you prefer that or if you don't understand what I mean here).

- finish the dishes when you are having dinner with Thai friends in a restaurant. Your Thai friends will keep ordering more, until you leave something on your dish, so that they can clearly see that you have had enough!

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This page was last uploaded: April 15, 2011 at 16:04