Young backpacker visiting Bangkok, Thailand

Learning a language, or at least trying to is a huge part of travelling. Whether its being able to say please and thank you or mastering essential phrases like how to order a beer. Learning basic words is showing effort, respect, and an open mind. I personally do it because I love getting wide grins and chuckles from locals when I say something unexpected in their language. When travelling in Thailand, although most people, especially those in the touristy areas speak English, here are a few basic Thai phrases that will help you get by.

Young backpacker visiting Bangkok, Thailand

Young backpacker visiting Bangkok, Thailand © Twinsterphoto / Shutterstock


Thai 101: Basic Thai Phrases

The Rule: If you are male, you end sentences with the word (khrup/krap) similarly if you are female, you end your sentences with the word (ka/kap). This is used to make your sentence or question polite and respectful.

Yes – Chai (khrup/ka)

No – Mai (khrup/ka)

Maybe – Aaj ja (khrup/ka)

Thank you – khop khun (khrup/ka)

Sorry/excuse me – Khor thoad khrup/ka

Where is the restroom – Hong nam yoo tee nai khrup/ka?

I need a doctor – Phom dong gaan hai mor maa raak sa khrup/ka

Never mind – Mai pen rai

Often used as a way of saying, oh well! If your bus broke down in the middle of the road, instead of complaining and worrying, Thai’s would just say “mai pen rai” which means, it’s okay, don’t worry, everything will be alright. So next time a Thai person gets your order wrong or accidentally bumps you while you’re waking, just bust out these famed words, “Mai Pen Rai” and no doubt you will get a smile and a look of surprise.


Basic Greetings in Thai

Child sat on a boat, holding a fruit basket in a traditional floating market, Thailand

Child sat on a boat, holding a fruit basket in a traditional floating market, Thailand © anekoho / Shutterstock

Out of all the essentials, being able to say hello, how are yo and thank you are non-negotiable on my list. Master these three words and you will most likely make a friend or impress a local.

Hello – Sawadee khrup/ka

How are you? – Sa bai dee mai khrup/ka

Goodbye! – La gorn khrup/ka


Basic Thai for Eating and Ordering Food

Panang chicken curry, Thailand famous food

Panang chicken curry, Thailand famous food © Alphonsine Sabine / Shutterstock

Nothing is worse than being ridiculously hungry only to find out that your food is way too spicy to eat. Trust me, it happens more often than you think. With that in mind, here are a few Thai words essential for eating and ordering food. Also, when eating in a restaurant, it pays to compliment them by saying “aroy” for the food as you’re about to pay. I do this all the time regardless if its a nice restaurant or some hole in the wall street food joint. Trust me, a small compliment goes a long way!

Not Spicy – Mai phet

A little Spicy – phet nit nawy

Really Spicy – phet mak

I would like to order – sang aa-haan

Delicious – Aroy


Basic Thai for Shopping

Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, Thailand © joyfull / Shutterstock

That’s expensive! – Paeng mak khrup/ka!

How much does this cost? – Ra ka tao rai khrup/ka?

Can you give me a discount please? – Ga ru na lot ra ka hai noi khrup/ka?


Basic Thai to Impress and Gain Street Cred

Asian couple drinking coconut juice at a floating market, Thailand

Asian couple drinking coconut juice at a floating market, Thailand © Glowonconcept / Shutterstock

Neung, song, saam, see, haa, hook, jet, baat, gow, sip (one to ten)

You are cute – Khun naa rak khrup/ka

I’m drunk – Mao Laew

Having fun? – sanuk mai?


If you’re REALLY serious about learning Thai, here are a few tips:

Invest in Thai lessons – If you’re serious about learning Thai while you are in the country, invest in lessons. Practicing the basics and start it off with proper knowledge on the languages phonemes and accents.

Spend time with local Thais – Making friends and regularly hanging out with Thais is the best and easiest way to pick up the language. That way, you can also improve your textbook based learning into a more relaxed tone. Conversational Thai is the way to go!

Practice – Practice with locals, practice by watching music videos, game shows, or cartoons. Practice by downloading useful apps to help you practice.


Book with Holiday Hamster and you could visit Thailand to try out these phrases with the locals for yourself.
Call 08000 988 955 and have a travel advisor tailor make your itinerary at the best possible price.

The above article first appeared here, in August 2016.