A Traveler’s Guide To Speaking Thai
Sawatdee ka! (Hello!)
Planning a trip to the land of smiles? Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Thai language section of your guidebook? Fear not! Here are some simple Thai phrases that will help you enjoy your time in Thailand. Although most people working in the tourism industry will speak English, there is no better way to dive into a culture than through the language. There is also no better way to make a Thai person’s day then to speak Thai with them. Even just a couple of words and a Thai person will be honored that you’ve taken the time to learn their language.
Jot these down and you’ll make many new friends!
1. Thank you! – Kaub Khun Ka/Krop
Rhymes with: Mob Spoon La/Drop
Respect is huge in Thailand. You can never go wrong by saying thank you. For men speaking, you end the phrase with the polite particle “krap”. For women speaking Thai, the polite particle is “ka”. You can end everything you say with ka/krap to be respectful. If you feel comfortable with the person, you can drop the particle and just say “kaub khun” to express your gratitude.
2. No worries/ You’re welcome/ It’s okay – Mai Pen Rai
Rhymes with: Lie Pen Lie
The hakuna matata of Thailand, mai pen rai is not just a phrase; it’s a lifestyle. Thai people use this phrase as a response to nearly everything. Thank you! Mai pen rai. I’m so sorry. Mai pen rai. Can I help you? Mai pen rai.
3. Excuse Me/I’m Sorry – Kaw Toad Ka/Krop
Rhymes with: Raw Toad La/Drop
Going with the theme of respect, it is always a good thing to know how to apologize. Especially if you are as clumsy as I am.
4. Very Delicious! – Aroi Mak
Rhymes with: Toy Lock
Food is extremely important to Thai people, and you are going to want to know how to compliment it! Thai people take their food seriously and barely even bother with Western food since it is so bland compared to their cuisine. Be sure to tell your chefs “aroi mak” after eating to show your appreciation for their miraculous talents with a wok.
5. Don’t make it spicy – Kaaw Mai Phed
Rhymes with: Raw tie lead
While Thai food is extremely delicious, it is also extremely spicy. For anyone who doesn’t like spicy food, be sure to memorize this phrase when ordering. There is a common saying in Thai “mai phed, mai aroi” which directly translates to “not spicy not delicious”. And if you are a fan of spicy food, be careful. When they say spicy, they mean spicy. If you want some spice but don’t want to burn off your taste buds, request “phed nid noi” (a little spice) when you order.
6. Where is the bathroom? – Hong Nahm You Tee Nai?
Rhymes with: Long Tom You Tee Lie
When in Thailand, you will feel illiterate. Without being able to read signs, the bathroom is often a hard thing to come by. This phrase will help you out in the most desperate of situations. Hong Nahm translates to “water room” and you tee nai means “where is it?”
7. Beautiful – Soo-ay
Rhymes with: Blue-pie
In the land of smiles, beauty constantly surrounds you. From the mountains to the ocean, from the people to the food, you are going to want to compliment the breathtaking beauty of Thailand. Be sure to pronounce this with a rising tone; “soo” requires a low tone while “ay” goes back up high.
8. How much? – Tau Rai Ka/Krop?
Rhymes with: Cow Lie La/Drop
Local markets are just one of Thailand’s many charms. Bargaining is allowed at these markets. Use this phrase to gain some respect from sellers before bargaining. Learn the Thai numbers for even more respect!
9. I do not understand – Mai Kow Jai
Rhymes with: Now pie ma?
There will be times when communication creates a barrier between yourself and Thai people. Use this phrase to convey that.
10. May I take a picture? – Tie rup dai mai?
Rhymes with: Tie poop dye lie
Thai people are beautiful. Any photographer will have a blast exploring this diverse and breathtaking country. But do not forget, being a tourist doesn’t mean you can’t have common courtesy. Don’t treat Thailand like a human zoo, remember to ask permission before snapping a picture!
11. Good luck! – Chok dee Ka/Krop
Rhymes with: Chalk me La/Drop
In Thai, hello and goodbye are the same (sawatdee ka/krop). To mix it up a little bit, try using this phrase. A common thing to say when leaving someone is “chok dee ka/krap”, meaning “good luck!” Thai people are very superstitious, so wishing good luck is quite a compassionate act when parting ways.