Visiting Thailand Cliff-Notes
What are the "Do's and Don'ts" when visiting Thailand? If you are asking this question then you are off to a great start. Thailand's etiquette can be very different than what is expected in the West, and a seemingly innocuous gesture or comment can create an unwanted and unforeseen incident.
Do smile! Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles (LOS) for a reason.
Do return a Wai. Press your hands together, raise them to mouth level, and offering a slight head-bow is a sign of respect and good nature. You will be forgiven if you aren't perfect.
Do take your shoes off before entering a Temple, a home, or sometimes shops/stores.
Do keep Calm. Thais are generally very reserved, and "keeping your cool" when misunderstandings occur is the best course of action.
Do dress appropriately. If you are not at the beach, then wear shorts, a shirt, and shoes/sandals.
Do tip! Not everyone you come into contact with, but 20+ baht at restaurants is appreciated.
Do stand for the National Anthem. Twice a day the Anthem is played. If those around you stop what they are doing and freeze, do that. If you visit a cinema and watch a movie, you will be expected to stand for a brief tribute to the King prior to the film starting.
Do follow the general etiquette when visiting a Temple.
Don't forget that this isn't your home country. Many things in Thailand can operate either slightly to astonishingly different, including everything from the driving culture to conflict resolution. Take a deep breath, open your eyes and ears, and enjoy the contrariness of Thailand's culture.
Don't raise your voice or lose your temper. This only creates cause for alarm and concern and brings unnecessary attention to yourself. Losing your temper, elevating your voice, and/or becoming aggressive will almost always create more problems rather than solve them.
Don't touch a Thai on the head. The head is considered clean and sacred, and it is offensive to touch someone's head.
Don't talk Thai politics. Many countries around the world encourage political discussion and debate, but as a general rule while visiting Thailand, simply avoid these conversations.
Don't insult the King or the Royal Institution. Laws forbids defamatory language directed at the Royal family.
Don't touch a monk. In line with their traditions, it is impolite to touch a monk.
Don't purchase Buddha images. Souvenirs of Buddha statues and images are sold all over Thailand, but they cannot be legally transported out of the country. Also, avoid getting a tattoo of Buddha while in Thailand.