Whenever traveling to a new country, there are rules and customs that visitors should follow and respect, and the same principle applies to your upcoming trip to Phuket, Thailand. Some rules may be casual, while others should be seriously followed because any violation could lead to unwanted trouble.
As a country with rich culture, values, and religions, many of the customs in Thailand require little to no effort to understand and follow. Unfortunately, some tourists remain ignorant about respecting these customs and rules, especially first-time travelers. As you prepare for your trip to Phuket, prepare yourself with the right knowledge on some of the most crucial rules and customs that need to be respected at all times:
The Royal Family in Thailand is treated with the utmost respect, and any sign of lack of respect can lead to severe consequences. As you go through your Thailand vacation, you’ll be surprised as to how deep the respect is rooted. Did you know that people will stand up during the national anthem at the cinema before the start of the film? Although the anthem lasts for only a minute, be sure to stand up.
In Bangkok and Chiang Mai, the national anthem plays in the streets at 8 AM and 6 PM daily. As soon as the national anthem starts playing, locals will immediately stop their current activities and stand still in reverence for the anthem.
This is quite easy to spot and the most apparent of all the customs listed here. When you visit houses and temples, you’ll see shoes left outside, which is probably an unfamiliar sight, especially if you come from a western.
Taking off shoes is necessary for Thai people, as they tend to sit and even eat on the floor. In fact, over a decade ago, most shops and offices even require people to remove their shoes before entering. The rule became less stringent over time, however, and it only applies to temples and private homes today. When in doubt, just look in front of the establishment for clues. If there are shoes lying around, then it’s best to leave yours outside as well!
Temples are more than just tourist attractions. To the locals, they are highly revered religious places, which is why it is important to dress appropriately. Unfortunately, most tourists casually walk around sacred places in short clothes and sleeveless tops and are considered as disrespectful to the locals.
If you’re planning to visit temples, remember to wear shirts with sleeves to cover your arms and bottoms that reach at least your knee level. Moreover, remember to remove caps and hats before entering. The Grand Palace in Bangkok, for example, enforces these dress codes firmly, and the same is applied at every temple in Thailand.
It may have been the norm to purchase a Buddha image, statue, and carving to bring home. Unfortunately, these are religious items and are not meant to be souvenirs and home decorations. This practice has garnered the attention and concern of many locals, which then made way for the launching of national campaigns to educate travelers on the necessity of upholding this ethic. While the situation seems to be improving, some shops still sell attractive carved stone items, where tourists are most often swayed into buying them.
Be wary of buying religious items. Know that if they are found in your luggage at the airport, those items will be confiscated unless proven that these items are registered.
If you ever come across a monk when walking in the street, do not hesitate to give way and let them pass. This has always been the norm because monks are highly revered individuals.
If other people around you step aside, you should follow suit. If you’re a woman, treat this custom with utmost importance. Monks are strictly forbidden to have any contact with the opposite gender, and even an accidental brush can be problematic.
Thailand is a beautiful country that is teeming with rich culture and customs. In an attempt to preserve that, locals uphold their traditions by following rules. As a visitor, it is only rightful that you pay attention to their rules and customs and respect them. Whenever in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask around!
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