Useful Thai phrases for travellers
Sà-wàt-dee! Travelling around Thailand is a piece of cake thanks to its simple transport systems and friendly locals, but communicating can sometimes be a headache – especially in smaller cities or towns with fewer tourists.
But don’t fret just yet, we’ll help you talk to the locals like a pro. Here are 35 must-know Thai phrases you can use while travelling around the land of smiles.
Image credit: Trung Thanh
In Thai: สวัสดี
How to pronounce: sà-wàt-dee
In Thai: ขอบคุณ
How to pronounce: kòp kun ka/krub
Note: “ka” should be used by the ladies, and “krub” for men
How are you?
In Thai: สบายดีไหม
How to pronounce: sà-baai dee măi
I’m sorry/Excuse me
In Thai: ขอโทษ
How to pronounce: kŏr tôht ka/krub
Unlike English, this phrase can be used both as an apology and a way to ask people for your attention. However, it can’t be used to express your condolences or to dismiss yourself from a setting.
No worries/It’s alright/No problem
In Thai: ไม่เป็นไร
How to pronounce: mâi bpen rai
This is one of the most popular phrases in Thai, and it also conveys Thai people’s worry-free characteristic. Hence, this is a common reply when someone apologises or thank you. This tells them that they’re not bothering you.
I don’t understand
In Thai: ฉันไม่เข้าใจ
How to pronounce: chăn mâi kâo jai
Can you speak English?
In Thai: คุณพูดภาษาอังกฤษได้ไหม
How to pronounce: kun pôot paa-săa ang-grìt dâai măi
I don’t speak Thai
In Thai: ฉันไม่พูดภาษาไทย
How to pronounce: chăn mâi pôot paa-săa tai
-Travelling & Directions-
Image credit: Socialgiver
Can you drive faster? I’m late
In Thai: ขับเร็วๆ ได้ไหม ฉันสายแล้ว
How to pronounce: kàp reo reo dâai măi, chăn săai láew
Turn left/Turn right/Go straight
In Thai: เลี้ยวซ้าย/เลี้ยวขวา/ตรงไป
How to pronounce: líeow sáai/líeow kwăa/dtrong bpai
Please drive slowly, I’m scared
In Thai: ขับช้าๆ หน่อย ฉันกลัว
How to pronounce: kàp cháa cháa nòi, chăn glua
Image credit: @paularangeldesa
How do I get to Wat Pho?
In Thai: วัดโพธิ์ไปยังไง
How to pronounce: wát poh bpai yang ngai
How much is a ticket to Ayutthaya?
In Thai: ตั๋วไปอยุธยาราคาเท่าไหร่
How to pronounce: dtŭa bpai à-yút-tá-yaa raa-kaa tâo rài
Where is the toilet?
In Thai: ห้องนํ้าอยู่ที่ไหน
How to pronounce: hông náam yòo têe năi
Is there a convenience store nearby?
In Thai: แถวนี้มีห้างฯ/ร้านสะดวกซื้อ ไหม
How to pronounce: tăew-née ráan sà-dùak séu măi
I want to go to Paragon.
In Thai: ฉันอยากไปพารากอน
How to pronounce: chăn yàak bpai paa-raa gon
You can replace the keywords with other destinations such as:
- Pier: ท่าเรือ (tâa reua)
- Train station: สถานีรถไฟ (sà-tăa-nee rót fai)
- Bus stop: ป้ายรถเมล์ (bpâai rót may)
- Parking lot: ลานจอดรถ (laan jòt rót)
- Police station: สถานีตำรวจ (sà-tăa-nee dtam-rùat)
- Hospital: โรงพยาบาล (rohng pá-yaa-baan)
- Shopping mall: แถวนี้มีห้างฯ (mee hâang)
I want an extra portion.
In Thai: พิเศษ
How to pronounce: pí-sàyt
If you want to upsize your meal at a local food stall, just add ‘pi-set’ after the dish’s name. It literally means ‘extra.’
For example, pàt grà prao gài-pí-sàyt (extra stir-fried basil chicken).
Not spicy/Less spicy/Medium spicy/Super spicy
In Thai: ไม่เผ็ด/เผ็ดน้อย/เผ็ดกลาง/เผ็ดมาก
How to pronounce: mâi pèt/pèt nói/pèt glaang/pèt mâak
This one is definitely a must-know phrase for folks who can’t stand spicy foods, because Thai dishes tend to have a lot of chilli in them. And if you love the flavour, you can now tell the cook to level it up even more.
In Thai: อร่อย/แซ่บ
How to pronounce: à-ròi/sâep
‘Aroy’ simply means ‘delicious’. But to describe how flavourful (especially in spicy and sour dishes) something is, we use the word ‘zap,’ which is the word from Thailand’s northeastern dialect.
You can easily use the word ‘zap’ to describe Som Tum (Papaya salad)
Image credit: Posttoday
Does this place have vegetarian food?
In Thai: ที่นี่มีอาหารมังสวิรัติไหม
How to pronounce: têe nêe mee aa-hăan mang-sà-wí-rát măi
In Thai: กลับบ้าน
How to pronounce: glàp bâan
The Thai meaning of ‘takeaway’ literally means ‘go home.’ Hence, you can also use this phrase when you’re heading home and someone asks where you’re going.
In Thai: ฉันหิว
How to pronounce: chăn hĭw
Have you eaten yet?
In Thai: กินข้าวหรือยัง
How to pronounce: gin kâao rĕu yang
Because Thai folks are huge foodies, we sometimes greet one another with this phrase, which is equivalent to ‘how are you?’. This is more common than the actual phrase itself – “sà-baai dee măi.”
In Thai: ชานมไข่มุก
How to pronounce: chaa nom kài múk
Here’s how to order your favourite drink in Thai:
- First, start with your base drinks: Milk tea/Brown Sugar milk (chaa nom/nom braao choo gâa)
- Then, pick your sugar level: Not/Less/Medium/More sweet (mâi wăan/wăan nói/wăan glaang/wăan mâak)
- Finally, decide whether you want extra or no toppings: No/Extra toppings (mâi ao tóp bpîng/pêrng tóp bpîng)
How much is this item?
In Thai: อันนี้เท่าไหร่
How to pronounce: an née tâo rài
Do you have it in different colours?
In Thai: มีสีอื่นไหม
How to pronounce: mee sĕe èun măi
Do you have smaller/bigger sizes?
In Thai: มีไซส์เล็ก/ใหญ่กว่านี้ไหม
How to pronounce: mee sai lék/yài gwàa née măi
Can you give me a discount?
In Thai: ลดหน่อยได้ไหม
How to pronounce: lót nòi dâai măi
Negotiating for a discount is always the #1 rule when it comes to shopping in Thailand. This way, you’ll get to practice your Thai and score cheaper prices at the same time – perfect!
No plastic bag please
In Thai: ไม่เอาถุงพลาสติก
How to pronounce: mâi ao tŭng pláat-dtìk
Though the plastic bag ban has been rolled out in Thailand, you might still get them at other shopping spots like night markets – regardless of how tiny your items are. So you can join the green movement by saying no to them.
– General phrases –
In Thai: ค่ะ (คะ)/ครับ
How to pronounce: kâ (ká)/kráp
Do you want to sound polite? Use these suffixes. If you’re a woman, go by ‘ka.’ For men, ‘krub.’
However, there’s a little twist for the female suffix. When said at the end of interrogative sentences, you’ll give it a higher pitch to denote a question.
Yes/No (Both can’t/Isn’t)
In Thai: ใช่/ไม่ใช่ – ได้/ไม่ได้
How to pronounce: châi/mâi châi – dâai/mâi dâai
Just when you think ‘yes and no’ hold the simplest meaning in every language, they turn out to be quite confusing in Thai.
These words are said differently in different contexts. If the question wants you to confirm whether the statement is true or false, you use ‘châi/mâi châi.’ But if it’s questioning one’s ability to do something, go with ‘dâai/mâi dâai.’
You can definitely call him ‘lung’
In Thai: ป้า/ลุง
How to pronounce: bpâa/lung
Thais love using the endearment “aunty/uncle” for older women and men, even if they’re a food vendor along the street. So, don’t hesitate to use these words to call people who are much older than you.
In case they’re a tad older than the speaker, use the word ‘พี่ (pêe)’, a gender-neutral term for older siblings, instead.
It might sound a bit strange at first, especially if you’re from the West. But this prefix is a way to show respect to the person you’re talking to as well and is common around other Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia too.
In Thai: สวย/หล่อ
How to pronounce: sŭay/lòr
Flirty people, take note. Of course, these phrases are perfect as compliments, especially to show admiration for someone. And like in English, the word ‘sŭay’ can also be used to describe things or places.
It’s so hot
In Thai: ร้อนมาก
How to pronounce: rón mâak
In Thai: ฉันเมา
How to pronounce: chăn mao
Speak like a local in Thailand
Travelling is more than just sightseeing and enjoying delicious food – it’s also about opening yourself up to new cultures and experiences, including trying to speak another language.
Most importantly, it’ll make your trip much more convenient. Happy practising!
Practice your Thai in real life at these places:
- Moma’s Bubble Tea Bar In Bangkok Sells The Cheapest BBT With Drinks Less Than $1.20
- 8 Bangkok Markets Super Popular With Locals That Most Tourists Haven’t Discovered Yet
- Bangkok’s New Ekkamai Market Is Right Next To The BTS With Cheap Clothes, Street Food, And Live Music
- Talad Werng Pratu Kiew – Bangkok’s Cheapest Secondhand Market For Clothes And Accessories