Thai language is considered among one of the hardest in the world for Westerners to learn; mainly due to the presence of tones. There are five tones in Thai, making it that slight bit more difficult than Chinese in terms of pronunciation. However, you’ll be encouraged to know, that just like English, Thai is an alphabetical language as the letters do not have a meaning by themselves; they are not characters.

When travelling to Thailand, learning simple phrases is an extremely important part of understanding Thai culture. Thai people are very humble and appreciate someone who attempts to try their hand and understanding the country itself. When a tourist offers one Thai phrases, the gratitude shown by a Thai person is often overbearing as they are fully aware of how difficult their language is to learn.

Additionally, once outside of Bangkok, finding an English speaker is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. With no cause of rural people to learn Thai, any tourist or backpacker attempting to try their hand at going ‘off the beaten track’ needs to have the odd Thai phrase up their sleeve in order to get around. If you do not heed this advice, you’ll soon find yourself, hungry, lost and without the notorious kindness of Thai people so often reported back by holiday-makers.

Being Polite

As Thai people are both humble and polite, it comes as no surprise that they have a special polite word to add to their speaking which has absolutely no translation to English. Placed mostly at the end of sentences, the word shows respect for the person you’re speaking to and an appreciation for what they’re saying.

For men, this word is ‘krap’ and for women ‘ka’. Although mostly placed at the end of a sentence of phrase such as karp koon ka (thank you), it can also be used a shortened version of substitute for polite words such ‘thanks’, ‘please’, ‘you’re welcome’.

Filling Your Belly

When you’re hiking through the depths of the jungle or sailing across the countryside of a motorbike, you may only be able to locate Thai speaking eateries. Often the front of someone’s home, these small establishments tend to offer similar foods, but without basic Thai, you won’t be able to access those delicious treats.

Although rather plain and perhaps the least adventurous of Thai dishes, ordering ‘pat khao kai’ can make sure you always find yourself well-fed. Chicken fried rice is available at nearly every food establishment in Thailand is usually offered at an extremely low price. Pronounced ‘pat cow kie (as in die)’ the phrase is easy to understand, even if your tones are slightly off kilter!

Alternatively, say you’re looking to be more adventurous with your food, leaving it in that hands of your host to determine what food they may want to whip up for you. This is always a great way to try new food and to understand the Thai culture a little better. However, Thai food is notoriously spicy. Not just spicy like a curry form your local Indian takeaway, but Thai burn-you-lips-off spicy. Due to this, it is always advisable to ask for your meal ‘mai pet’ (pronounced my pet) or ‘no spice’. In rural food establishments or anywhere not considered touristy, even ‘no spice’ is likely to come out with a kick. Don’t get over adventurous; your stomach lining won’t thank you for it!

Taxi, Taxi!

Finding your way around Bangkok can be difficult, but imagine trailing through miles of jungle where every tree looks the same as the last 1500. Of course, jungle trekking is an amazing experience, but getting lost can be terrifying and possibly life threatening. This also goes for taxi rides. Knowing your rough directions and being able to tell your taxi driver where to go will not only save you scammed money while they run you all round town, but can also prevent you from being taken to unknown places which could be dangerous.

Learning a little ‘taxi Thai’ isn’t difficult as you really only need three phrases: turn left, turn right and stop here. ‘Leow sy/kwah’ or ‘turn left/right’ is pronounced ‘leo sie (like die)/kwar (like car)’ and can save you the hassle of having to dispute your ridiculous taxi bill after an hour long journey to taking random back streets to bump up the meter price.

Secondly, as you learn to speak Thai, your vocabulary is likely to be limited, you may have to direct your taxi driver to the nearest landmark with a hope of stopping him at the actual destination. If that’s the case, you’ll want to learn the phrase ‘yoot tee nee’ which means ‘stop here’. This will be especially helpful if you’re caught in tropical rain and don’t want to have to walk any unnecessary distances!