If you don’t want to get into any trouble while visiting Thailand, I suggest you follow the rules, laws, costume and culture of Thailand. You may actually get yourself into big trouble if you break any of these “rules” in front the wrong Thais. Here are the 20 things not to do in Thailand.
Public topless and nudity
Nudity or topless is actually illegal, and may result in some jail time, though very rarely implemented.
Most Thais find it offensive when they see half naked people walking around in public. Though, it’s ok to be wearing a bikini or swim trunks on the beach or swimming pools.
This is pretty much the same anywhere you go in South East Asia, not just Thailand.
Temple dress code
If you’re going to the temple, you must dress properly. Women shouldn’t wear miniskirts or a tank top inside the temples.
Avoid dressing like you’re going to a night club or out partying with friends.
If you want to go inside the temples, try to put on a t-shirt and pants or jeans. The general rule for women’s and men’s clothing inside a temple is – shoulders and legs need to be covered.
Generally speaking, no skirts and no tank tops; although many temples provide coverings for women to use temporarily.
Women need to give space to the monks
Once inside the temples, women are not allowed to touch the monks or the Buddha statues. Traditionally, women are not allowed touch monks unless it is an emergency situation.
Women cannot sit or stand right next to a monk. This also includes outside the temples, such as sitting on a bus or other public transportation.
Men are allowed to touch the Monks and Buddha statues, but if you don’t have a good reason to touch, just don’t do it.
Avoid touching, climbing and pointing fingers at the statues of monks or Buddha. Taking pictures and selfies are fine; just don’t touch or do any crazy postures.
Overall, give respect to the Buddha statues and monks.
You probably heard about this already, but this is very important and some people might not know this.
Don’t defame or disrespect the King, the Queen or the loyal family.
Thailand has the world’s strictest lese-majesty law. If convicted, you could go to a Thai jail for up to 15 years.
Writing negatively, drawing unflattering pictures or vandalizing the picture of the King, Queen or the loyal family is also illegal in Thailand. (Money, books, posters, bank statements, magazines, newspaper, Facebook, twitter, YouTube and so on.)
Just stay clear of this topic and you’ll be fine.
You’re not allowed to wear shoes, boots, sandals or any type of footwear inside temples and other religious buildings. This also includes people homes, some offices and other buildings. (Socks are ok)
Why you can’t wear footwear?
Your footwear collects filth from the street. Would you want someone stepping on some dog crap, gum, and chemicals, then go walking around your home or your bedroom in the same footwear?
I think not.
When not to wear your footwear?
You’ll see other Thais or tourists taking off their footwear before stepping inside a building. This usually happens at the entrance or bottom of the steps. That’s a sign for you to take off your footwear.
Public display of affection
Hugging, cuddling and kissing (lips or cheeks) in public, is kinda taboo here in Thailand.
Kissing kids and babies out in public is fine. Same with handshakes; if they offer their hand and holding hands as a couple, these are ok.
Just play safe and stick with a ‘wai’ when greeting or gesturing a farewell to a Thai.
You might even see younger Thais kissing inside a night club, but that’s because they’ve probably had too much to drink.
But the most common manner to greet, to give respect, to say good bye with a Thai is a wai.
What is a Wai?
A. Wai is a Thai greeting, a gesture of thanks and respect, or used when praying or during other religious ceremonies.
B. A Wai should be given from someone of “lower status”, like children or a “lower status person” and returned with a wai by the senior person. Generally, you don’t have to wai back to someone much younger than you, like small children.
To show respect, you should wai to people around your age or older than you.
How to do a Wai?
A Wai consists of a slight bow of the head, with your palms pressed together for about 1-2 seconds. If you’re at the temple praying or another type of ceremony, it may last much longer.
Don’t wear expensive jewelries
Don’t wear expensive gold or jewelry. Leave them at home or in a safe deposit.
Don’t brag or show off your wealth. No one needs to know you make 10x or 100x more than the average Thai, or how many cars you have back home. If you start show-boating and bragging about your wealth, you’ll end up rubbing the Thais the wrong way.
Don’t throw away your rules and values
Some people come to Thailand, meet someone and on the second week they want to get married. This example is a bit extreme, but it has happened before.
Why would you think about marriage when you just met someone? Would you marry someone that quick back home? So why are you throwing away your rules and values when you’re in a foreign country like Thailand?
Use common sense; use the same thought process as you do back home to protect yourself in Thailand and anywhere else.
Don’t be too trusting. Be on the guard
I know most folks come to Thailand for a holiday and looking for a good time. Being on the guard all the time is probably the last thing on your mind.
However, just keep in mind, if a stranger is being overly friendly and speaks very good English, just be cautious. Thais are generally shy people and they rarely walk up to a stranger for no reason.
Most times, it’s ok if someone is being friendly; this is how you meet new people and make new friends. Some people are just naturally very friendly.
Thais consider the head to be the most sacred, because it is the highest part of the body.
Your feet are the lowest part of the body and considered the filthiest.
If you’re playing with kids, touching their heads are fine, or if you’re playing with your Thai friends or family, and they’re ok with you touching their heads.
Don’t use drugs
Drug possession and other drug trafficking is illegal, and is punishable by death in the Thai law. If not, a very long jail sentence inside an overcrowded Thai jail.
This is pretty much the same rule in all countries.
Alcohol in vehicles
It is illegal for the driver and the passengers to drink alcohol inside a vehicle.
Although it is unlikely that a passenger in a private transport would be stopped and searched for drinking alcohol; however, you should be aware of the risk of a heavy fine and potential jail time if you get caught.
Don’t overstay your visa
If you overstay, the fine is 500 baht per day. Maximum is 20,000 baht with possible jail time if you don’t pay.
Furthermore, your passport will be marked and noted by Thai Immigration. Repeated violations of overstaying 3 times may result in your passport marked as “undesirable alien”, declaring you violated the immigration laws of Thailand.
After you are marked as an “undesirable alien”, it would make it harder for you to continue traveling internationally, and being barred (up to 5 or 10 years) from re-entry to Thailand.
If you overstay more than 60 days and are caught by police, you will be transferred to the immigration Detention Centre and deported.
Penalties also vary depending on whether the overstaying foreigner voluntarily turns himself/herself in or is arrested.
It is illegal to work without a proper business visa and work permit.
It’s considered insulting to be pointing your fingers or feet at someone, so please avoid this at all costs.
It’s ok to point at animals, objects directions or other foreigners, but avoid pointing fingers at another Thai.
Thai Nation Anthem and Royal Anthem
To show respect, you need to stand still when the Thai National Anthem and the Royal Anthem is played, but don’t worry, the anthems last for a minute or two.
Thai National Anthem is played throughout Thailand in all sorts of public places such as the bus or train terminals, BTS (sky train), MRT (subway) at 8am and 6pm.
If you see everyone around you stop doing whatever they’re doing and standing still. That’s a hint for you to do the same.
The Royal Anthem is played in the movie theater before the start of each movie.
You’ll see the writing on the screen asking you to stand or just watch everyone else in the theater standing. If you don’t stand up, it’s considered disrespectful to the King and royal family.
Don’t call a Thai out
You don’t want to call out a Thai person, because you’ll disrespect them or make them lose face.
If you’re in an argument with a Thai, and a fight breaks out, there is a good chance that other Thais will come in aid of the Thai person you’re fighting; even if they don’t know each other – simply because you’re the foreigner.
At the end, no matter how physically bigger you are, you’re more likely to lose when other Thais join in the fight.
Best to be the bigger man or woman and walk away.
However, if you believe you were cheated or scammed, contact the Tourist Police at 1155 to file your complaint.
Don’t always use tuk tuk
Tuk tuks are great for first timers; I’ll admit they can be fun and they’re great for a few times, but today, there are better ways to get around a big city like Bangkok.
Use a meter taxi when in doubt or use the local mass transportation systems like the MRT (aka subway) or the BTS (aka sky train). They all have air condition and are a lot safer and more affordable than tuk tuks.
Tuk tuks are fixed price; `you’ll need to get the price up front and haggle before going to your destination, or the tuk tuk driver can charge you whatever they want.
I’m not saying tuk tuk drivers will rip you off or they’re bad, but you would probably get a better deal with a meter taxi or using the MRT/BTS.
Tuk-tuks should be your very last option when inside a city like Bangkok.
If you travel outside of Bangkok and in a smaller city or town, tuk tuks are probably your only option, but make sure you agree on the price first before boarding.
Avoid non-meter taxi
If you want to save some money, avoid non-meter taxis like a plague.
I can almost guarantee you’ll end up paying more when negotiating your taxi fare with a non-meter taxi vs a meter taxi. You can easily pay double, triple or quadruple when paying a fixed price with a non-meter taxi.
If you don’t care about how much it costs to get to your destination or if you are in a hurry and cannot find a meter taxi, then this doesn’t apply to you. This is not about being a “Cheap Charlie”; it’s about making the most of our money living and traveling anywhere around the world.
Also, don’t get into an argument with these tuk tuks or non-meter taxi drivers, because it may turn violent. It’s not worth your health arguing over a few bahts or a few hundred bahts. That’s why you need to agree on the price first before boarding a tuk tuk or non-meter taxi.
On the other hand, you do not need to negotiate or haggle the fare with a meter taxi, because the price is based on the distance and it’s clearly displayed on the screen at the top of the dashboard.
Don’t drink hot beverages
This shouldn’t be on my list at all, but a few weeks ago, I was watching a YouTube channel by a couple from Europe vlogging about living in Thailand. They were filming themselves drinking hot coffee in the middle of the day outside.
While drinking their hot beverages outside, they started complaining about how hot it is…
It’s not a good idea to be drinking hot beverages outdoors when the temperature in Thailand can reach 30c or 100f.
Try ice beverages and stay indoors away from the heat; stay in an air conditioned location to keep cool.
To summed this up
“Don’t be stupid, don’t be disrespectful, use common sense”
This pretty much goes to all countries.