Learning Thai for your first trip

  • Posted onOctober 8th, 2013

Learn ThaiLet’s face it, most of us are far too busy, too impatient, or just not young and smart enough to learn a new language, at least not for the sake of a holiday. Try to cram in lots of phrases and words and chances are you’ll get stressed out, and either give up or just not remember much anyway.

The first thing that surprises most newcomers to Bangkok is how many Thais speak good or reasonable English (good enough to communicate, at least). It’s not only those in the service and tourist industries who speak English, you’ll find you’re able to communicate in English in most restaurants, taxis, and shops around the city. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no value in learning a few basic words and phrases.

If you do take the time to learn some basic Thai it can make such a big difference to your trip and change the way you are treated by Thai people. Even if you get it a bit wrong and your pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired, the fact you are making an effort to communicate in Thai will be well received.

The trick is to just learn a few keywords, starting with basic etiquette and introductions, and then perhaps concentrate on one part of your trip where Thai language would be most useful – whether that be ordering food, taking taxis, or flirting with an attractive local!

JM-champangeThe basics

Here are a few basics you should really try to nail. Even if you are only going to learn a few words, hello, yes, no, and thank you, will put you in good stead. (Please note that English spellings may vary, but I’ll try to write these phonetically)


Hello – Sawat-dee

Yes – Chai

No – Mai Chai

Thank you – Kap Kun Krup (or Kap Kun Ka for women)

Excuse Me/Sorry – Katort

I don’t understand – Mai Kaow Jai

It’s also seen as basic etiquette and polite to add Krup (by men) or Ka (by women), at the end of a sentence, as you can see with ‘Thank You’. You’ll hear Krup/Ka quite a lot, and people will often just use Krup and Ka to say thank you.

Bangkok TaxiIn the taxi

While many taxi drivers speak English, and some very keen to chat with you, not all of them understand it so well! If you find yourself with a taxi driver who doesn’t speak much English just try to keep things very simple.

Hotel – Rong Raem

Airport – Snam Bin

Turn left – Leo Sai

Turn Right – Leo Kwar

Stop – Jort

Bangkok shoppingShopping

When it comes to shopping you can often get away with just pointing and smiling, but there are a few useful words that will help you out here.





How much? – Tao Lie?

Can you discount? – Lot Noy Dai Mai?

1 – Nung

2 – Song

3 – Sam

4 – Cee

5 – Ha

thai FoodAt the restaurant

When order food there are a lot of useful words, and you may want to investigate further to learn the Thai word for your favourite meat, vegetable, fruit, or dish. Here are a few key words.

Can I have the menu please? – Kor Doo Menu Noy, Krup?

Spicy – Pet

Not spicy – Mai Pet

Vegetarian – Maaw Saat

Rice – Kao

Water – Nam

I’m Hungry – Pom Hew Kao

I’m Full – Im Laow

Delicious – Aroy

Toilet – Hong Nam

JN-furMeeting the girl of your dreams

When it comes to socializing a few key questions and phrases will soon help you breaking the ice!




How are you? – Sabai Dee Mai?

I’m fine – Pom Sabai-Dee

What is your name? – Khun Choo Aray?

I am.. – Pom …

I come from.. – Pom Mah Jak..

Can you speak English? – Put Angkrit Dai Mai?

You are very beautiful – Khun Doo Soo-ay

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