Have you booked your plane ticket to Thailand yet? Chances are you have, and now you are looking around the internet for information you might find useful while you’re there. Let me say first off that Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country. About 95% of Thailand’s population is comprised of Buddhists from the Theravada school. Those orange robed males you see in photos everywhere (like the ones above) are of Buddhist Monks. You will see lots of them on the streets of Thailand, going about their daily business. This religious aspect of the country does mean there’s a few more things to consider in your visit than just having a good time. We’re here to help. Let us guide you through some potential trouble spots. A couple are not religion-based, but really good things to know before you arrive. Plenty of people are traveling to Thailand, respecting these cultural differences and having a great experience.
1. There is a Dress Code for Temples
Thais take great care of their temples and staunchly adhere to their traditions and rituals. You are a visitor in their country, so you will be expected to conform to their rules when visiting temples. This is a small price to pay when traveling to Thailand.
For women, this means wearing skirts or pants that cover the knees, and a top that covers the shoulders and is not transparent. Alternatively, ladies can also wear a scarf or sarong for a temple visit.
For men, long pants and a shirt that covers the shoulders are necessary.
Footwear – you will be expected to remove your shoes before entering a temple. You will leave them outside the door and collect them when you are finished. At some temples where shoes are allowed, there’s no flip flops or sandals – must have heels enclosed.
If you don’t want to borrow or hire clothes at the temple – and yes, they are readily available at most temples – then you can carry a couple of light sarongs with you. Wear one as a skirt and the other one as a wrap around your shoulders.
And for the boys….my husband came up with a fabulous idea. He bought a pair of long cargo pants (or khakis as known in the US). They were the type of pants with button/zip on/off longer legs. He could wear them as shorts or long pants – just take off the long parts to make shorts. Brilliant idea. The guys can just wear a t-shirt on top and they will be fine in temples. It pays to be prepared when you are traveling to Thailand.
2. Be Careful When Touching Any Thai Person
The Thai culture is very sensitive about certain parts of the body. The feet are considered dirty and as they are at the lowest part of the body, the Thais do not take kindly to pointing feet or toes at them. You should never point your feet towards Buddha images, or hold doors open with your feet.
Just as the feet are the lowest part of the body, the head is the highest part. The Thai culture does not appreciate touching of the head. It is considered disrespectful. Avoid touching anyone’s head, even a child. Apologize right away if you accidentally do this.
3. Never Disrespect the Royal Family
Thailand lost it’s beloved King in October 2016. The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as Rama IX, ruled for seven decades and was widely regarded as the nation’s moral compass. Thais adore the Royal Family and you will see their images everywhere. Mother’s Day is actually the Queen of Thailand’s birthday – August 12. The country was plunged into mourning after the King passed away. It was like the people lost a close family member. The population dressed in black and banned aspects of entertainment for quite a long time.
It is a good idea to remember that Thailand has laws against disrespecting the Royal Family. You can be arrested and jailed for these behaviours. Again, you are in their country and this is their way of life. Respect the fact that they love their Royal Family and want to celebrate them as much as possible.
4. Losing Your Temper
This is something the Thai people do not approve of. It is a sign of loss of self control. It makes the Thais feel uncomfortable and they will sometimes start laughing or smiling to break the tension and diffuse the situation. If you are not aware of this, it can escalate quickly as someone laughing at you can be inflammatory. The best scenario is to not lose your temper in the first place. Keep a level head when you are traveling to Thailand.
5. Different Prices for Different People
Thailand is a very patriotic country and the Thai people are not afraid of putting themselves first over other cultures. You will find at a lot of entertainment attractions that there’s 2 prices listed: one for the Thai people and one for “farangs” – the term they use to describe people from western countries. It exists and there is nothing you can do about it. I like to think that we tourists pay less for other things like the wonderful street food, so we save money that way.
If you keep these things in mind and try to respect the Thai ways, you’ll have a fabulous time in this amazing country. It is certainly the Land of Smiles and for the most part, the Thai people are gentle and humble people. I hope you enjoy your trip traveling to Thailand!