Rules of conduct in Thailand, how to behave

Rules of conduct in Thailand 2022: the bans and the dress code.

To feel comfortable in Thai society, it is worth adhering to the rules of conduct. Prohibitions in Thailand apply to both locals and tourists.


Thais hospitably welcome those who come to them and do everything to make a tour to Thailand extremely pleasant and memorable. There are rules of conduct and traditions all over the world. Vacationers must follow them in order not to spoil your trip and to show respect for the values of local people.

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How to behave in Thailand, so as not to have problems with the law and not to have misunderstandings with the locals? A checklist of recommendations consists of the following points.

Respect for authority and religion

  • Thais are very fond of their monarch. Any show of disrespect or outright insult to the king, members of the royal family can change a vacationer’s status to a criminal charge. Respect even their images (including paper bills and coins).
  • It is necessary to be respectful of Thailand’s iconic buildings, monks, religious objects, Buddha statues.

Dress code rules in Thailand

  • In this country it is strictly forbidden to enter a temple or a house with shoes on. When entering a house, never step on the threshold.
  • Also, the rules of Thai dress code assumes that in the territory of religious sites shoulders, knees of men and women should be covered by clothing, you can not drive a car without outerwear. Tourist is recommended to walk in a bathing suit only on the beach. It is considered very offensive for Thais to sunbathe in the nude or topless.

Thai Dining Rules

  • If you dine with Thais, it is not customary to order something for yourself. In this country at the table food is supposed to be divided for all.
  • If you are offered a treat, you must try it and say thank you.
  • To call the attendant or waiter, you should raise your hand up with your fingers clenched into a fist. Raising your finger up is not considered polite in Thailand. The waiter may even refuse to serve such a customer.

Bans on emotional expressions and gestures

  • The rules of conduct for tourists in Thailand state that under no circumstances are allowed to touch the locals or hug them. Touching the head of a Thai is particularly disrespectful, as well as touching Buddhist monks and women. If it happened by accident, you should definitely apologize.
  • In public places you should not raise your voice, shout, violently express emotions, show annoyance and anger to others. Also, it is not customary for couples in love to openly demonstrate their intimacy and emotions.
  • When saying goodbye and meeting, locals resort to the traditional gesture called a wai. A handshake as a greeting is not used in Siam. If a tourist is given a wai, a smile and a slight bow of the head are enough.

Penal Code in Thai

  • In this Asian country, you cannot buy or possess drugs, gamble, or smoke electronic cigarettes. Unless you really want to supplement the Thai budget by paying a fine or learning Thai in the local prison.
  • If you do not like thrills, also try not to take out of the country prohibited items (shells, statues and images of Buddha, coral, stuffed animals, ivory, durian, turtles).

From the experience of personal travel, we note that when hiring a cab, renting a moped, a car, it is customary to negotiate the price right away. And later, be sure it will not change.

And of course, often give others a smile – it’s the surest way to win the people of the kingdom. As in every country in the world, it will smooth out a lot of conflicts and problems in the rest.

Seasons for holidays in Thailand by month, rainy season

What you can and can not in Thailand

Every country has its own laws and regulations that must be obeyed. Their ignorance does not exempt from liability. Thai laws are sometimes very strict. Thai behavior rules and etiquette are very different from European traditions. Sometimes there is a dissonance: like something officially prohibited, but the locals themselves do not comply with the rules. What remains only on the conscience of the Thais, they do not forgive foreigners. First I will tell you about the serious prohibitions that every tourist should know, and then I will reveal the secrets of Thai rules of conduct.


What we can and can't do in Thailand

Ban on electronic cigarettes

Thailand has a ban on the importation of e-cigarettes and hookahs. Also associated with it is the ban on possession and possession as contraband. By “e-cigarettes” the Thais mean any synonyms: vapor generators, vapes, Iqos, Ponds and other possible analogues. For violation of the law shall be fined and/or imprisoned up to 10 years. Every day e-cigarettes are taken away from tourists at airports in Thailand. The press is full of stories about violators and lengthy investigations. One high-profile case that hit the press in 2019 involved a tourist from France. She was detained for smoking an e-cigarette and arrested. The lengthy trial and deportation process cost the girl 286,000 baht.

Ban on Smoking on Beaches and in Public Places

Smoking regular cigarettes is allowed only in authorized places. All smoking rooms have been removed from airports, even in international terminals. There are separate smoking areas across the street from the airport entrance or somewhere nearby on the street. Some hotels have become smoking free and prohibit smoking not only on their premises, but even on room balconies. On popular public beaches, too, it is forbidden to smoke; special zones have been set up along the road. Similar zones have appeared in shopping malls, markets, and other public places. If you are not sure where you can smoke, ask the Thais.

Say No to Drugs

Drugs in Thailand are illegal and illegal. Depending on the amount and severity of illegal substances found, you may face a large monetary fine, imprisonment or death penalty. For example, for marijuana the punishment is no more than 5 years in prison and a fine of up to 100 thousand baht. In Thailand, not only is it not allowed to use, but also to buy any drugs is very dangerous. The seller can easily turn the buyer in to the police.

Be wary of Russian-speaking strangers who come up to you in nightclubs with the offer: “Let’s blow, bro.” They are 100% working in tandem with the police or the security guard of the establishment. Reggae bars sometimes offer joints for sale. But it’s worth remembering that the police come there for routine checks. And they also like to arrange special checks on the roads, when you have to take a urine test.

Не берите вещи незнакомых и малознакомых людей. Такие схемы — типичный развод. Не спешите поднимать упавшие вещи незнакомых людей, в них могут быть наркотики. Если вы увидели, что кто-то обронил кошелёк или сумку, привлеките внимание общественности и этого человека. Ни в коем случае не берите предметы в руки. Даже если там нет наркотиков, вас могут обвинить в воровстве. Читайте про основные разводы Таиланда в отдельной статье >>>

Rules of conduct on marine excursions

Thai authorities prohibit harm to coral reefs and their inhabitants. You can not feed the fish and other animals with bread, stepping on coral or break it, catching and touching fish with your hands, take pictures with sea creatures in their hands, collecting dead coral and seashells. Every year there are several scandals with Russian, European and Chinese tourists who feed fish in the sea or take pictures with starfish in their hands. By the way, the fine for breaking the rules is up to 100 thousand baht and/or imprisonment up to 1 year. Take this information into account and tell your children.

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Rules for drones and quadcopters

In 2017, Thailand introduced mandatory registration of drones and quadcopters regardless of weight and size. Each gadget must be insured for one year, and the owner must have a permit to fly. Absence of one of the three points faces up to 5 years and/or a fine of 100 thousand baht. If it is easy to register the drone and arrange insurance is not difficult, then obtaining permission to operate it takes more than a month. It is necessary to send a request to the CAAT office in Bangkok. For tourists who vacation in Thailand for 2 weeks, the task is unrealistic.

Drone Prohibition

Driving a motorcycle without a license

No matter what they write on the internet, you can’t drive a motorcycle or car without a license. You can not find a bike for rent with an engine capacity of less than 125 cubic meters, and this is not a scooter or moped. The authorities have not yet begun to fine Thai rentals for not asking for a driver’s license. Ideally, you need an international license, but sometimes even a national one is sufficient.

Если при аренде мотобайка в Таиланде вас никто не спросит наличие водительского удостоверения категории А, то полиция, проверяя документы, оштрафует на 500 бат. Страховые компании отказывают в выплатах, если у пострадавшего нет прав нужной категории. Кроме этого, во всех дорожно-транспортных происшествиях априори виновником будет тот водитель, у которого отсутствует нужная категория в правах. Читайте другие правила для аренды мотобайка >>>

Gambling in Thailand

Casinos, poker, blackjack, betting, sweepstakes and other gambling are banned in Thailand. Of the legal, there is the state lottery. To play casinos, Thais travel to Myanmar via Ranong, Cambodia or Malaysia. Or they arrange clandestine gambling. By law, the owners of more than 120 playing cards are subject to arrest. The police occasionally crack down on underground casinos with poker on a blanket with Winnie the Pooh. With the development of Internet technology, illegal betting on sports games, FIFA World Cups and underground lotteries have become popular. Thousands of people are arrested every year for participating in such sweepstakes. Cockfighting and fighting fish fights are popular in the villages. They, too, are conducted illegally.

Dress code in public places

Remember the simple rules: swimsuits, swimming trunks, pareos and the like are for the beach and beach club only. No one wants to eat with their children in a restaurant when a stranger next to them is flashing a naked ass in a bikini. Women in swimsuits, walking to their hotel on the third street, shock the Thais. And men in swimsuits and T-shirts in shopping malls make Thais speechless.

Walking on the street, in stores, public transport or around the city without a T-shirt and showing your nipples is the height of indecency. Nudism and naturism in Thailand is prohibited. Tourists sunbathing topless on the beach are still covered, but there is a fine for bathing naked.

There is an ancient law about the prohibition of appearing in the street wearing clothes without underwear. True, such restrictions do not apply to sarong-wrapped grandparents walking around their village. You can’t drive a car or motorcycle topless – this applies to Thais and tourists alike. The fine for appearing in such a way in a public place is 500 baht. There have been cases with tourists.

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The Thais do not forbid, but will look down on a girl in a too transparent or lacy dress, when you can see the underwear. Or in shorts, when the loin parts of the body stick out. Or tops with an overly open belly or very deep cleavage. “What about half-naked Thai women in the hot spots?” – you ask. The locals themselves have a low opinion of them. Of course, such appearance is excluded in temples and public institutions. They only have an official dress code: shoulders, knees, stomach and cleavage are covered. Tops and shorts just won’t let you in at the immigration office doorstep.

How to behave with the monks.

Rules of conduct in temples

When visiting temple complexes, you must be appropriately dressed: covered shoulders, stomach, cleavage and knees. You can take a pareo or shawl on the tour with you. When entering the temple premises be sure to remove your shoes. Socks may be left on. At the entrance to private stores and pharmacies is also customary to remove shoes. If you see a lot of slippers, slippers and shoes in front of the entrance, then you need to take off your shoes.

Monks have a special status in Thailand. Thais respect and honor them. When you talk to a monk, your head should be lower than his. Therefore, it is customary to sit on your knees. When a monk ties a sai sin – a protective rope – on your arm, don’t immediately stand up. Take a couple of steps on your knees and then stand with your head down. Women are forbidden to touch monks and their clothes and are not allowed to sit next to them in transport. If you want to hand something to a monk, put it on the ground first or give it to a man.

Respect the religion of the people of Thailand. When taking photos, do not copy the poses of Buddha statues or monks. It is a great insult to be photographed hugging a statue, no matter whether the Buddha is in a temple or on the hotel grounds. When sitting in front of a statue or monk, make sure your feet do not point in their direction.

The King and Royal Family

The king and royal family are the most important people in Thailand. They are highly respected and worshipped by Thais. Rama IX’s birthday is also called Father’s Day and Queen Sirikit’s is called Mother’s Day. The Thais not only treat them as parents, but also expect a similar respect from tourists. Every day at 8 am and 6 pm the national anthem is played on the radio, at this time all life on the streets slows down. Pedestrians in a hurry stop and those sitting must stand up to show their respect for the country and the monarchy. If you catch the anthem walking down the street, you should stop and listen to it until it’s over. In movie theaters they show a video about the King before the show and the royal anthem is played, during which you must stand up. Any disrespect is punishable by law by 3 to 15 years. Do not speak negatively about monarchs. It is better to avoid talking about the King and his family with Thais. Be careful with your money, it has the King’s portrait on it.

Portrait of the King on Money

Is it okay to touch Thais by the head?

To begin with, in Russian culture it is not customary to touch people you do not know on the head. A pat on the shoulder or a pat on the head is rather familiar and inconsiderate. Remember about personal space. It is not forbidden to pat your child’s or loved one’s head in Thailand. The Thais have a different attitude to the head and its hierarchy in the body, which you can read about in a separate article. According to Thais, the human spirit lives in the head. Touching a Thai’s head can disturb him. Before getting your hair cut, hairdressers fold their hands in a boat gesture of wai, greeting the spirit. The same goes for Thai children. But Europeans are not part of the hierarchy of Thai society. For Thais it is absolutely normal to pat a white child on the cheek or touch your white hand on occasion. It all depends on how educated people are. Some of them have only seen Farangs on TV.

Traditions and Customs of Thailand, detailed description

Head and legs – the hierarchy in the Thai body

If the head is considered to be the holy place in the body of a Thai, then the feet are the lowest and “dirty” part of the body. You should not point your foot at objects or people, open a door with it, or point your feet at a person or revered objects. Do not step over food or people. Do not put your feet on a table, chair or chair in public places. In the temple, sit with your feet pointed away from the statue or monk.

Is it okay to point?

Lately articles have appeared on the Internet in Russian that “on no account is it permitted to point a finger at people or objects – it is a great insult”. Thais and I read them with amazement. Hands and fingers have no sacred meaning in the body. Unless it is disrespectful to point a finger at monks, Buddha statues, and the king. In other cases, it’s all about upbringing. Thai parents do not slap their children for pointing fingers. Police reports routinely publish pictures of criminals being pointed at by either the victim or the officers themselves, or all at once.

Wai Greeting and Prayer

Touching and Gestures

Раньше любые прикосновения к незнакомым людям были табуированы. Поэтому в наше время тайцы здороваются не рукопожатием, а уважительным жестом вай, складывая руки лодочкой на уровне груди или лица. Некоторые жители Таиланда стремятся быть европеизированными и сами протягивают руку в знак приветствия. Разный вай делают тайцы разным людям. Начиная от вая на уровне груди для равных, заканчивая ваем на уровне лба — королю. Если вы приходите в ресторан и официант делает вам вай, следует ответить на него кивком головы. Не советую делать вай, не зная всех тонкостей. Тот же официант видит в вас вышестоящего, ответить ему таким же жестом будет воспринято, как насмешка над его нижестоящим положением. Читайте подробнее про тайский вай >>>

Manifestations of love and relationships on the streets

Physical displays of affection are considered indecent in Thai society. Restraint in all things is an important virtue. A couple kissing in the middle of the street will be met with disapproval. The Thais may even come up and say that kissing is inappropriate. Sex on the beach or in a public place – 100% fine. If you can not find the offenders, the police will find out their identity and put their passports on the “black list”. A friendly hug or a pat on the shoulder from someone you do not know well will be met with incomprehension by Thais.

Yelling and losing face

Никогда не повышайте голос на тайца, даже если произошёл какой-то конфликт. Это считается большой грубостью и проявлением неуважения, что может повлечь негативную реакцию и агрессию со стороны оппонента. Крик или повышение голоса — однозначная потеря лица, что равносильно потере уважения или даже унижению. Потерять лицо и уважение в глазах тайцев можно, ругая или наказывая своего ребёнка прилюдно или громко ссорясь со спутником. Считается, что в таких людях нет внутренней силы, которой учит Будда, чтобы держать негативные эмоции при себе. Самообладание и самообузданность важнее выставленных напоказ эмоций. Жалобы на тайцев и на Таиланд — это потеря лица, так вы выставляете в дурном свете не объект, а себя. Скупость и швыряние деньгами — тоже потеря лица, например, оставить чаевые 1-2 бата. Читайте подробнее, как сохранить лицо в Таиланде >>>

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Thais do not like conflicts. Especially when tourists speak their own language and raise their voice. You should not try to pronounce a Russian word louder and in syllables. It will not become clearer to Thais. They are more likely to dismiss you with a typical “Solly, nohave” or ignore you. If you don’t speak English well, read my article on how to explain yourself to Thais. And to understand Thais’ everyday life and behavior, read my article about typical Thai values “sanuk” and “sabai”.

A smile will help you

Улыбка, сдержанность и терпение — то, чему вас могут научить тайцы и что вам в жизни ещё не раз пригодится. Следует быть осторожными с молодёжью, особенно в алкогольном опьянении. Не нужно конфликтовать с пьяными тайцами. Потеря лица чревата не только потерей уважения, но и местью. Позор, по мнению некоторых тайцев, должен смываться кровью. Так, публичная ссора с одним местным жителем может привести к ситуации, что он уйдёт, потеряв лицо, но потом вернётся либо с оружием, либо с друзьями. Все тайцы — одна большая семья, где нет места европейцам. Любая драка в ночном клубе или баре для иностранца вообще невыигрышна: к ней подключатся окружающие тайцы. Если сомневаетесь, как поступить, молча выдайте знаменитую тайскую улыбку и забудьте о раздражителе, погрузившись в собственный спокойный внутренний мир. Почитайте статью про тайскую улыбку и её значения >>>

Smile in Thailand

Don’t be photographed with a lori

On the beaches of Thailand, you can often find Thais offering to take pictures with loris, gibbons, and other animals. “What cute animals,” you think. Behind the amusing photo with the slow lori is the suffering of wild animals. Poachers capture them in the jungle, remove their tusks in unsanitary conditions, and keep them in small cages without food or water. The bright light hurts the eyes of an elk who is used to being awake by the moon. And funny videos of animals stretching out their paws supposedly from tickling is a protective reflex of an animal not used to being touched. Slow moose are on the verge of extinction. Police occasionally arrest illegal owners. But the demand for them hasn’t waned. Each photo with the cute animal generates a new round of illegal trade.

Importing and Exporting

I think we should write a separate article about customs regulations in Thailand. I will only focus on a few points. Above I have already written about the ban on the import of electronic cigarettes and hookahs. An adult may bring 1 liter of alcohol and 200 cigarettes (or 250 grams of tobacco).

Without a permit you can take out body amulets and figurines of Buddha less than 12 cm in height if they are not antiques. However, the Thais do not approve when statues and images of the great teacher used as a decoration or part of the interior. The export of fruit is regulated more by the airlines than by the Kingdom. Durians, jackfruit, and mangosteens are not allowed on the plane. Coconuts and watermelons can only be carried in luggage, the rest can be carried in hand luggage. Unprocessed corals and seashells are prohibited for exportation. They may be taken only as a souvenir or a decoration with the receipt from the store. Orchids may be taken out only with a permit.

Observing these simple rules, you will open the way to the Thai hearts. Have a nice vacation in Thailand!

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