Good news for you since you can speak English: It’s widely used in Bangkok.
You’ll be able to get around, get food, and visit tourist attractions pretty easily.
The thing is, if you can speak even a little Thai, it’ll go a long way to getting you some perks.
The Thai people are renowned for their hospitality, so putting in the effort to speak their language shows respect for their country and culture.
They’ll repay you for that!
So, here are some conversational phrases, things you can say if you’re in an emergency, and even a bit of slang so you sound like a natural.
As with any language, there are some basic phrases that are indispensable in daily conversation. Here are some essentials that will prevent awkward situations when accosted in the streets of Bangkok.
1. Hello – สวัสดี (Sawasdee)
Initiate conversations with confidence by saying hello correctly. Say, “Sawasdee krapp” if you’re a male speaker, say “Sawasdee khaa,” if you’re a female speaker. Thai’s an extremely polite and systematized language that comes with variation in gender use.
2. Thank You – ขอบคุณ (khàawp-khun)
There are two ways to say thank you in Thai. This is the first way: khàawp-khun. This is thank you in its most widely used form. Similarly to saying hello in Thai, the suffix krapp and khaa apply to indicate politeness. Use krapp if you’re male, khaa if you’re female. For a culturally immersive experience, speak it with a bow – a national Thai gesture of courtesy and goodwill.
3. Thank You Very Much – ขอบคุณมาก (khàawp khun mâak)
The second way to say thank you is used in situations where a simple thank you may not suffice. This could be used to express gratitude to an AirBNB host for their hospitality or among Thai friends. The term loosely translates to thank you very much, in English.
4. Yes/Correct – ใช่ (Chai)
Contrary to popular belief, chai is not the Thai version of yes. In fact, there are no literal translations of the word “yes.” However chai does come close. The word is used in situations where the speaker is supporting or affirming a statement, somewhat similar to saying “correct” in English. In Thai, saying yes is a matter of mirroring the subject of a question. For example, if someone asks you if a meal was delicious, you reply with the Thai word “delicious.”
5. No (general use) – ไม่ใช่ (Mai chai)
Similar to how yes is used in the Thai language, mai chai is strictly context-based and does not serve as a catch-all term. Mai chai is used when disagreeing with a statement. You might say this when you’re provided with the wrong hotel room or direction by a local.
6. No (as a rejection) -ไม่เอา (Mai ao)
Mai ao is another term used in saying no, which is applied when you are rejecting something. Examples are when you’re approached by a salesperson at a tourist souvenir shop or when a server at a restaurant offers to top up your meal with a combo set. Mai ao, in its barest meaning, is a courteous rejection.
7. You’re welcome – ไม่เป็นไร (Mi penri)
There’s not much to say about why knowing how to say you’re welcome is important. The main point, really, is that you’re doing things so people thank you and you have a reason to say it to them.
Here are some words you might hear thrown around. Use ’em yourself to sound like a natural. It’s funny to see the look on people’s faces when you drop a colloquial term they don’t expect to hear from a tourist.
8. To pee – ชิ้งฉ่อง (Ching-chawng)
Don’t use this in polite company. But, if those beers you had on a night out have finally worked their way through you, go for a ching-chawng and take care of business.
9. Money – ตังค์ (Tang)
This is a cool way to talk about all the bills you’re making as an affiliate.
10. To gossip – เม้าท์มอย (Mao moi)
Wanna get the inside scoop on the latest trends, industry secrets, dirt on affiliate networks? Then you want mao moi, my friend!
11. Playboy – เจ้าชู้ (Jaow Chew)
If you hear some Thai women calling you a jaow chew, watch out! They’re not taking you seriously. Looks like you better put some substance behind your style if you want to impress them.
Asking for Directions
Although GPS makes it incredibly easy to get anywhere in the world, what happens when there’s no internet connection or your device goes flat?
Good thing you’ll know how to find your way with these phrases.
12. Where is the toilet/restroom? – ห้องน้ำอยู่ที่ไหน (Hong nam yoo tee nai)
This is a bona fide lifesaver when nature calls, and nature often calls at the most inopportune moments… especially when street food is concerned.
13. Where is the Doctor? – Phom dong gaan hai mor maa raak sa
You can never be sure when you’d need to rush to the nearest medical facility in the case of an emergency. It is good to always store this phrase at the back of your head during time-sensitive situations.
14. Where is the Police Station? – Sataanii dtamruat yoo tee nai?
It is best to keep your ear to the ground regarding security in a foreign land. With this phrase, law enforcement will be having your back in no time.
15. Where is? – Yoo Tee Nai
This is a mega useful phrase, which means “where is…?”. Just insert the name of the place you’re searching for at the start of the sentence. For example, Novotel Bangkok yoo tee nai? With this line, you’ll get where you need to go with a lot less stress.
Here are some other useful phrases that you can use to enjoy a more interactive and memorable trip to Bangkok. Always remember, speaking in a foreign tongue (or at least attempting to… ) will offer greater insight into the rich culture of a country.
16. I need an ambulance – Dahm rot pa-ya-bahn
This is the phrase you’ll need if you’re rushing someone to the nearest hospital or if you require urgent medical assistance. If you don’t trust your memory, add this to the notepad on your phone as a precautionary measure.
17. How Much? – Tao Rai?
Whether you’re shopping for branded items in Siam Paragon Mall or purchasing knockoff goods in Chatuchak Market, tao rai will allow you to assess if something is worth your coin. Although most language schools and courses focus on the importance of memorizing foreign numbers, we feel that such knowledge may be redundant to the globetrotting traveler.
The use of finger gestures and a built-in phone calculator is a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy as far as numerals go – try it on any merchant.
18. Would You Like A Drink? – Ja deum arai mai
Bangkok has one of the most amazing nightlife scenes in the world. You’re bound to use this phrase on a fun night out.
19. Do You Speak in English? – koon poot pah-sah un-grit dai mai
This is a lifeline if you feel insecure about your command of the Thai language. Pick your targets carefully, English is still not widely spoken in the nation… the good news is that after a drink or two, many people are loosened up and they’ll forgettheir inhibitions in speaking English to you.
20. Do You Have Wifi? – mee wifi mai?
We would be cruel to exclude this from the list. Think about it, how else would you be posting those pretty vacation pics and IG stories without bursting your data?
21. I don’t need a Plastic Bag – mai ao toong
This is perfect for the Eco-friendly traveler who refuses to be deterred by language barriers. Also, this will certainly impress some local cashiers compared to a shake of the head.
22. May I get a discount? – loht dai mai?
Use this phrase in weekend markets for the best results. Creating an impression of Thai literacy might improve the chances of receiving decent bargains.
23. The Bill Please – kohr check bin na
Settle the payment for a meal with convenience at the restaurant with this useful phrase. This might be a golden opportunity to show off to your travel buddies. “Kohr” is a Thai term that emphasizes respect.
24. ครับ / ค่ะ (khrap/(kha)
As specified in some examples above, these are added to a statement for gender specificity and improved formality.
25. I don’t understand – mâi khâo jai
Lastly, here is a phrase for when you’ve decided that you’re going to throw in the towel.
Bangkok is a fascinating place with wondrous attractions, at the end of the day, it is all about having a good time and trying your best no matter what you might feel. After all, the hospitable Thai people are definitely not going to judge you for it!