Knowing how to say hello in Thailand will get a few smiles, and shows that you have an interest in the local culture beyond what the other tourists show.
To say hello when you first enter a place, put both of your hands together into a prayer gesture with the tips of your fingers just below chin level. The Thai wai is higher in front of your face depending on the age and status of the person you are saying hello to. If the person is older than you, give a higher wai. Monks receive the highest wai which consists of having your thumbs about eyebrow level.
How to say hello in Thailand
While your hands are together in a Thai wai, say “Sah-wah-dee” (as spelled) and then either “khrap” (sounds like kap because they rarely pronounce the “r”) if you are male or “kha” if you are female.
“Khrap” is spoken fast and sharp with an up tone, while “kha” can be drawn out and drops in tone.
If you are male:
Sah-wah-dee khrap (while your hands are in wai position)
If you are female:
Sah-wah-dee kha (while your hands are in wai positon)
The words above are written as they sound. Spellings vary, but “sawas dee” is the most common.
If someone does offer you a wai, return the gesture. Only monks and royalty are not expected to return the gesture — so unless you are wearing robes, be polite!
If you happen to have food, a drink, a cigarette, or something else in your hands when someone gives you a wai, bow your head slightly in acknowledgment; don’t attempt a “half-wai” with rubbish sticking out of your fingers.