If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, it’s essential to understand the local customs and traditions, including the way people greet each other. Saying hello in Thailand is more than just a simple greeting; it’s a way to show respect, politeness, and friendliness. Therefore, learning how to say hello in Thai will help you to better connect with locals and make your visit more engaging and enjoyable.

In this article, we will guide you through the different ways of saying hello in Thailand, including traditional greetings, common phrases, regional variations, and cultural considerations. Let’s dive in!

Traditional Greetings in Thailand

Thailand is known for its warm and welcoming culture, which is reflected in the traditional ways of greeting. The most common form of greeting in Thailand is the “Wai,” which involves placing your palms together in front of your chest and slightly bowing your head. The Wai is a gesture of respect and politeness and is used in various social settings, including when greeting elders, religious figures, and authority figures.

Another common greeting is “Sawasdee,” which means hello. Sawasdee is often used in more casual settings, such as when greeting friends or peers. In addition to the Wai and Sawasdee, there are other greetings that vary depending on the context of the situation and the relationship between the individuals involved. For example, “Sawasdee Krub/Ka” is a more formal way of saying hello, where Krub is used by men and Ka is used by women.

Other Traditional Gestures

Apart from words, gestures are also used in traditional greetings. For example, when greeting monks or religious figures, you are expected to perform the Wai while kneeling down. When greeting royalty or members of the royal family, people perform a more elaborate version of the Wai, with the head lowered to the ground. The “Hong” gesture is also used in certain situations, such as when apologizing or showing gratitude. The Hong involves placing your palms together in front of your face and bowing slightly.

It’s essential to understand the significance of these traditional greetings and gestures and use them appropriately in different social settings to show your respect and appreciation for Thai culture.

Common Hello Phrases in Thai Language

Learning a few basic Thai phrases can go a long way in showing respect and building rapport with locals. In this section, we’ll explore some common hello phrases in Thai language.

Formal Greetings

For a formal greeting, use “S̄wạs̄dii khaa” if you are a woman or “S̄wạs̄dii khrap” if you are a man. These phrases mean “hello” in Thai, and are often accompanied by a Wai – a prayer-like gesture made with the palms pressed together and a slight bow of the head.

Informal Greetings

For an informal greeting, you can use “S̄à-wàt-dii” or “S̄à-wàt-dii khrap” (if you are a man) and “S̄à-wàt-dii khaa” (if you are a woman). These phrases are similar to “hi” or “hey” in English and are commonly used among friends and acquaintances.

Another informal greeting is “S̄abai dee mai?”, which means “how are you?” in Thai.

Other Useful Phrases

When meeting someone for the first time, you can use “Phom chûu…” (if you are a man) or “Di-chan chûu…” (if you are a woman) followed by your name. For example, “Phom chûu John” or “Di-chan chûu Jane”.

When saying goodbye, a common phrase is “Laa gòn ná” which means “see you later”.

It’s important to note that Thai is a tonal language, meaning the inflection or tone of your voice can change the meaning of the word. Make sure to practice with a native speaker or language teacher to get the pronunciation right.

Using these basic hello phrases in Thai can help you connect with locals and show respect for their culture and language.

Regional Greetings and Dialects

Thailand is a country rich in diversity, with different regions and local dialects that give rise to a variety of greetings. Learning about these greetings and their usage is key to understanding and appreciating Thai culture.

North Thailand

People from North Thailand have a unique way of greeting each other. Instead of using the Wai gesture, they use a type of bow called the ‘Sai’. It’s a polite and respectful gesture, where the person bows their head with their hands clasped in front of them.

South Thailand

In South Thailand, people have their own dialect and way of greeting. They use the word ‘Salam’ to greet each other, which means ‘peace’. They also use the Wai gesture, but it’s a more relaxed version compared to the formal Wai.

Isaan Region

The Isaan region has its own way of greeting. They use ‘Suwadee’ as a way to say hello, which is similar to the traditional ‘Sawadee’ greeting. However, they have a unique way of performing the Wai gesture, where the hands are placed higher than usual to show more respect.

Central Thailand

In Central Thailand, people use the traditional Wai gesture, but they have a different way of saying hello. They use ‘Sawasdee’, which is also commonly used in other parts of Thailand.

As you can see, different regions in Thailand have their own distinct way of greeting each other. By learning and using these greetings, you can show respect for Thai culture and engage more meaningfully with locals.

Etiquette and Cultural Considerations

In Thailand, greeting someone is more than just a formality – it is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition. As a visitor to the country, showing respect and understanding of the local customs can go a long way in enhancing your experience. Here are some etiquette and cultural considerations when it comes to greetings in Thailand:

Respect for Elders

Respect for elders is deeply rooted in Thai culture. When greeting an older person, it is important to use the proper greeting and show respect. One way to do this is by performing the Wai, a formal gesture of respect. When performing the Wai, place your hands together in front of your chest and bow slightly.

Formal and Informal Greetings

Thai language has different greetings for formal and informal settings. For formal situations, such as meeting someone for the first time, use the phrase “Sawadee-krap” for males and “Sawadee-ka” for females. For informal situations, “Sawasdee” can be used as a shortened version of the formal greeting. Remember to use the appropriate greeting based on the context of the situation.

Body Language and Gestures

In Thailand, body language is just as important as verbal language. It is considered impolite to point your feet directly at someone, so be mindful of your sitting position when greeting someone. When performing the Wai, the higher your hands are placed, the more respect you are showing. Additionally, avoid touching someone’s head, as it is considered the most sacred part of the body.


When visiting temples or other sacred sites in Thailand, it is important to dress appropriately. This means covering your shoulders and knees and removing your shoes before entering. When greeting someone in a formal setting, it is also recommended to dress appropriately, such as wearing business attire or traditional Thai clothing.

By following these etiquette and cultural considerations, you can show respect and understanding to the locals in Thailand. Remember, a little effort can go a long way in enhancing your cultural experience during your visit.


Learning how to say hello in Thailand is an essential part of understanding the local culture and customs. By taking the time to learn traditional greetings and common phrases in the Thai language, visitors can show respect and build stronger connections with locals.

It’s important to remember that greetings can vary depending on the region and dialect, so travelers should stay open-minded and flexible when interacting with locals. By following proper etiquette and showing cultural sensitivity, visitors can create meaningful experiences and lifelong memories during their trip to Thailand.

So, whether you’re saying “Sawadee ka” to a shopkeeper in Bangkok or performing the Wai to a monk in Chiang Mai, remember to approach each greeting with a smile and an open heart. With these tips in mind, visitors can make the most of their visit to Thailand and forge lasting connections with the local community.