Top 14 Things Not To Do In Thailand - Updated 2024

What Not To Do In Thailand
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Pallavi Mandar Jadhav
Endorsed by a Bangkok Local Expert
Pallavi Mandar Jadhav

Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations, not only in Asia but in the world. Bangkok alone sees plenty of foot traffic, which is why there are so many Airbnbs booked up by tourists. The city also has various other options, including hotels by the river.

Besides the capital, Pattaya, Phuket, and Ko Samui also offer plenty of attractions and entertainment that guarantee an unforgettable vacation. The beaches, the temples, and the night shows are among the most attractive features of Thailand. But, you also need to be aware of Thai culture and traditions. You can’t just do as you wish. Just as the proverb says: “When in Rome do as the Romans do”. Therefore, be respectful all the time as you keep in mind the things to be careful of in Thailand. Continue reading to find out more about the top things not to do in Thailand.

1. Being disrespectful to the King and the Royal family

THAILAND - Royal Family - 2007
Source: Photo by Flickr user manhhai used under CC BY 2.0

This is extremely important: never ever do or say something negative or offensive about the King and the Royal family in Thailand. Speaking negatively about the Royal family is a criminal offense in the country and can lead to jail time and/or being deported from the country. It is quite common for offenders to have their passports blacklisted and are barred from ever returning to Thailand.

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The King is a reverential figure in the country, with the late King Rama IX having a almost God like presence in the country. The lese-majeste laws in the country are extremely strict and does not tolerate any negative mention of the King and the Royal family. It is jail and/or direct deportation if anyone is found guilty. Never step on Thai currency notes or coins either since they feature images of the Monarch. Make sure to always talk about the King is a respectful manner.

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2. Flying your drone without a permit

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

When you are visiting Thailand, there is plenty to keep in mind about the dos and don'ts here. Flying a drone in Thailand without a permit is not allowed due to strict regulations designed to ensure safety and protect the privacy of the public. The Thai authorities require drone operators to obtain a permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, to ensure that operators understand the rules and regulations currently in place.

This process also involves securing drone insurance to cover any potential accidents or incidents, which helps safeguard against any financial burdens in case of damages or liabilities. These measures are implemented to maintain safe skies, reduce the risk of accidents, and protect individuals and property from potential harm, thus promoting responsible drone usage throughout the country.

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3. Stepping on Thai currency

1k Baht bill BKK 10-18-16
Source: Photo by Flickr user Paul Sullivan used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Stepping on Thai currency, such as the baht, is prohibited in Thailand due to the cultural and legal significance attached to it. The Thai baht features an image of the current monarch, and in Thai culture, the king is held in the highest regard. Disrespecting the image of the king, even inadvertently by stepping on currency, is considered deeply offensive and can result in severe legal consequences.

Thai laws are explicit about the reverence and respect required for royal symbols, including currency, and anyone found violating these rules may face fines, imprisonment, or both.

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4. Making any forms of physical contact with the monks

500 Dhutanga Monk Procession
Source: Photo by Flickr user John Shedrick used under CC BY 2.0

In Thailand, monks are among the most respected figures. As such, the best thing you can do when you see a monk is to keep a distance. Though the rule of not making any form of physical contact applies particularly to women, it will be more respectful if men do not come in contact with the monks either. Moreover, remember to not place yourself in a position that looks higher than a monk. For example, you should not be in a standing position when there is a monk sitting down because you will be in a higher position if you are standing up.

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5. Showing romantic gestures in public

Source: Photo by Flickr user Wyatt Fisher used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Thailand is an Asian country and just like many other Asian countries, the people rarely show romantic gestures in public. So, respect the eastern culture and behave yourself in public. If you’re going on a theme park date or eating at a restaurant with your special someone, try your best to avoid making out or hugging - even when you are on the street. In Thailand, even a simple romantic gesture such as holding hands are rarely seen. There will be plenty of time to show how much you love your partner when you two are alone. The more private, the more romantic it will be.

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6. Wearing something sexy when visiting the temples

Source: Photo by Flickr user Miguel Discart used under CC BY-SA 2.0

You will find numerous temples in Thailand and you would want to visit them all. But, one thing that you have to remember is what not to wear in Thailand when you are visiting the temples. If you wear something sexy, it is considered impolite. As such, you cannot wear shorts, mini skirts, and tank tops. Instead, it would be best to wear pants and a top that covers your arms when you visit some of the holy places in Thailand.

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7. Touching other people’s heads

Another thing that you should not do when traveling in Thailand is touching other people’s heads. You may be used to touching someone’s head back in your home country to show affection, but in Thailand, it is considered rude. To the Thai people, the head is the holiest part of the body. Therefore, you should be careful not to touch someone’s head unless you have a close relationship with the person.

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8. Going to a ping pong show

Ping pong shows in Thailand are known for being shady. A lot of Thai people already know that it is a scam. You will be forced to pay a huge amount of money in your bill before you are allowed to leave the show. How does the scam work? You are free to enter the club. And, the drinks you buy are not that expensive. But, what you don’t know is that you are the one to pay for the drinks for the girls who perform for you. That’s why you will see a huge bill when you are about to leave.

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9. Shaking hands

Source: Photo by Flickr user Broad Bean Media used under CC BY-SA 2.0

It is interesting to learn that it is not common in Thailand to shake hands to greet people. It’s just not how the Thai people do it. Instead of shaking hands, you can do the traditional Thai greeting called ‘wai’. All you have to do is put your palms together in front of your body and you just did a wai.

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10. Being careless about the Buddha

Source: Photo by Flickr user ironypoisoning used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The majority of the Thai people practice Buddhism and they highly respect the Buddha. By showing respect to the Buddha, you show respect to the Thai culture and religion, and this is what everyone traveling to Thailand should be doing. So, when taking pictures with the Buddha, do not stand or rely on the Buddha statue or imitate the pose of the Buddha. Also, do not point your feet towards the Buddha.

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11. Bargaining too low when shopping

Thailand 2015 - Bangkok
Source: Photo by Flickr user Evo Flash used under CC BY 2.0

The Thai people will be offended and angry if you are bargaining too low when shopping. Before you start bargaining on what to buy, it will be nice to first decide how much you want to pay for the item you want to buy. You can bargain, but not to a level where it is too low from the offered price (50% at the most). If you don’t think the price is worth it, maybe it is better if you just leave the shop and find another shop that offers a lower price.

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12. Pointing with your index finger or foot

Index finger front
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Pogrebnoj-Alexand... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Last but not least, remember not to point with your index finger or foot. It does not matter whom or what you are pointing at. Just like patting someone on the head is not polite, pointing with your index finger or even worse, your foot, is truly unacceptable. Head is the holiest part of the body, whereas feet are the dirtiest part, at least to the Thai people. Furthermore, there are many things you should not do with your feet. You are not allowed to hold a door with your feet, step on Thai money, etc.

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13. Do not take photos with captured animals / Do not ride the elephants

Elephant Ride
Source: Photo by Flickr user K Tao used under CC BY-ND 2.0

In Thai culture, respecting animals is a great practice manifested in various parts of people’s beliefs. Thailand’s national animal, the elephant, is portrayed throughout the country as a mascot, often objectifying them, endangering their safety and welfare as a consequence. The Elephant Nature Park in the northern part of Thailand rehabilitates and takes care of those elephants who were harmed from the tourism and logging industries. The tourism industry in Thailand often put these creatures in grave danger using them as props during circus tricks when presenting in front of tourists or audiences. Thus, the incessant need to avoid riding elephants for photo opportunities and instead, take part in conserving and taking care of these animals by visiting rehab centers like the Elephant Nature Park when in Thailand.

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14. Do not overstay your visa period

Visa Passport Internship
Source: Photo by Flickr user Tim Griffin used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Tourists and travelers who fly to Thailand for vacation sometimes don’t know that the procedure for visa extension is not lax in contrast to other third world countries and is utmost mandatory to continue visiting the country. According to the 2019 updated laws on visa extension procedures, overstaying your visa for just a couple of hours can still be waived but for those who have stayed past a day will have to pay the penalty fine of 16 USD up to a maximum fine of 627 USD. Those who have overstayed their visit for 90days will merit a temporary re-entry ban for at least one year. So, the next time you book a trip to Thailand, be sure to have a solid itinerary and travel with valid documentation.

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Enjoy Thailand by respecting the people and their culture

what not to do in thailand | enjoy thailand by respecting the people and their culture

Stick to all the above-mentioned tips regarding travel safety in Thailand and you can enjoy the country at its best. Every country has its own culture and traditions. Remember to respect the people, their culture, and customs and you will be free from troubles. Enjoy a visit to Thailand by staying at the best neighborhoods, booking a fun boat tour, and remembering these simple customs for a hassle-free stay.

Frequently asked questions about things not to do in Thailand

  • What culture and religion-related gestures should tourist avoid doing when in Thailand?

    If you are vacationing in Thailand, you must be mindful of some of the culture and religion-related gestures to avoid doing here. For example, making any form of physical contact with the monks, showing romantic gestures in public, wearing something sexy when visiting the temples, or shaking hands are some of the don'ts in Thailand.

  • What are some common tourist scams in Thailand?

    Those holidaying in Thailand should be careful to avoid the common tourist scams that are prevalent in the country. For instance, going to a ping pong show is not encouraged as this one is considered a scam. Tourists are forced to pay a huge amount of money in the bill before they are allowed to leave the show.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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This article has been endorsed by Bangkok local expert Pallavi Mandar Jadhav

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