Traveling in a Buddhist Country

Here are some general tips for traveling in Buddhist countries such as Thailand.  The Thai people are very lenient and know that you might not mean offense, but it is still best to travel educated.

  • The head is considered the most sacred part of a person’s body and you should never touch anyone else on the head (including messing up a little kid’s hair)
  • The feet are the opposite of the head and are considered dirty.  Never touch someone with your food, point the bottom of your feet at them while you are sitting, or step over top of someone (raising your foot above their head is an offense.)
  • Get into the habit of always taking your shoes off before going inside businesses and homes.  This includes shops and restaurants.  The is part to keep the dirt outside and is partly symbolic and an important part of Buddhist culture.
  • Some shops in tourist places will allow you to wear your shoes because they understand that not all Westerners know.  Its best to look at what the shopkeeper or other customers are doing first.
  • Buddhists are very conservative in general, be careful about touching members of the opposite sex, especially outside of big cities or tourist areas.
  • Get used to the concept of “Saving Face” in Asia.  This means never loosing your cool, shouting at someone, or making a scene that would make yourself or the other person look lower.  This is highly frowned upon.
  • Women should know never to touch a monk – it will require them to perform a long cleansing ceremony.  If you need to hand something to a monk you must hand it to a man first.

These simple tips will help you respect the local culture in Thailand while you travel.  Remember, you represent all budget travelers when interacting with locals and it only takes one or two bad transactions for a local to become jaded at our presence.

We are guests when traveling Thailand, make sure to act that way!