Useful Thai Travel Phrases for Tourists and Expats Alike

We had to get away from Chiang Mai during this ridiculously hot spell and after the madness of Songkran (for which we stayed at home for four days).

When we were asked where we were going (ไปไหน /bpai năi/) we answered with the typical Thai response, ไปเที่ยว /bpai tîeow/ “Going to have some fun.”

You don’t find many foreign tourists on Thai travel words like these so the language was 100% Thai all the time. It’s a great way to be immersed in the Thai language.

เที่ยว /tîeow/ – “make a pleasure tour; promenade, wander, roam, stroll about”

This is a catch-all phrase that can mean just about anything from going to the mall, to going to a nightclub, to going on a vacation. You use it when you don’t want to elaborate on what you will really be doing.

But there is another meaning to the word เที่ยว. It means “to go back and forth”. It is often used when referring to a bus, train, or airplane schedule.

เที่ยวแรก /tîeow râek/ – “first trip of the day”, as in the first bus to leave the station, แรก = “first”.
เที่ยวสุดท้าย /tîeow sùt-​táai/ – “last trip of the day”, สุดท้าย = “last”
เที่ยวเช้า /tîeow cháao/ – “The morning bus (train, flight)”, เช้า = “morning”
เที่ยวค่ำ /tîeow kâm/ – “The evening bus (train, flight)”, ค่ำ = “evening”

And then there is:

เที่ยวบิน /tîeow-​bin/ – “flight number _”
… as in เที่ยวบิน TG001 – flight # TG001



When do you return?
kun glàp mêua rài

I’m taking the last flight, TG350.
เที่ยวสุดท้าย เที่ยวบิน TG360.
tîeow sùt-​táai tîeow-​bin TG360

Tour (sight-seeing): ทัศนาจร /tát-​sà~​naa-​jon/. This is one of those formal words. I like it because it has so many syllables. Below are the ones used more often.
Tour: ทัวร์ /tua/ (loan word, can be noun or a verb)
Tour: ท่องเที่ยว /tông-​tîeow/ (sometimes just shortened to เที่ยว)


Where are you going?
bpai năi

I’m taking a tour of Japan.
bpai tua yêe-​bpùn

or: ไปเที่ยวญี่ปุ่น
bpai tîeow yêe-​bpùn

Tourist: นักท่องเที่ยว /nák-​tông-​tîeow/ – นัก is the prefix meaning “a person who …” So a tourist is a person who “tieows”. If you are like me and love those multi-syllabic words there is นักทัศนาจร /nák-​tát-​sà~​naa-​jon/. Both work well and you won’t sound too fluty using the longer one.


Chiang Mai has lots of Chinese tourists.
chiang-​mài mee nák-​tông-​tîeow jeen yúh (mâak)

Up and Down

In English the difficulty is whether to use “getting on” or “getting in” or “getting off” or “getting out of” something. In Thai it is either “up” or “down”. But the rule is clearer for the Thai.

If you have to go up a bit to get in or on something (car, bus, truck, van, airplane) then you use ขึ้น /kêun/ which means “to go up”. If you have to go lower to get in or on something (boat, raft) then it is ลง /long/ which means “to go lower”.


He got in the car (on the bus, in the truck, on the airplane, in the van).
เขาขึ้นรถยนต์ (บัส, รถบรรทุก, เครื่องบิน, รถตู้) /kăo kêun rót yon (bàt, rót ban-túk, krêuang bin, rót-​dtôo)/

He got on/in the boat (raft).
เขาลงเรือ (แพ)
kăo long reua (pae)

And then the opposites:

He got out of the car.
เขาลง (จาก) รถยนต์
kăo long (jàak) rót yon

He got out of the boat.
เขาขึ้น (จาก) เรือ)
kăo kêun (jàak) reua

Note: Sometimes “airplane” can be เครื่องบิน /krêuang-bin/ – “flying machine”, ครื่อง = “machine”; and sometimes เรือบิน /reua-​bin/ – “flying boat”, เรือ = “boat”.

Historically the first airplanes to come to Thailand were flying boats which landed in the rivers here. That is how and when they created the word เรือบิน. Now it is sort of archaic just as the term aeroplane would be considered today.

It would be logical that if we used the above rule about up and down then “Get on the aeroplane” would be ลงเรือบิน /long reua-​bin/ and ขึ้นเครื่องบิน /kêun krêuang bin/. But NO! It would be nice if language was always logical, but it isn’t. In Thai you always use ขึ้น /kêun/ for getting on an airplane and ลง /long/ for getting off.

Other Useful Traveling Words

Airport: สนามบิน /sà-năam bin/; ท่าอากาศ /tâa-​aa-​gàat/ ท่า = “landing”, อากาศ = ‘air”. ท่า /tâa/ is also used for ship and boat landings (warf).

Bus station: สถานีรถเมล์ /sà-tăa-nee rót may/; but more often heard are the initials บ.ข.ส. /bor-kŏr-sŏr/ which stands for บริษัทขนส่ง /bor-rí-sàt kŏn sòng/ – บริษัท = “company” and ขนส่ง = “transportation”. If you want a taxi or tuk tuk to take you to the bus station you can say บ.ข.ส. or simply ขนส่ง.

Train station: สถานีรถไฟ /sà-tăa-nee rót fai/

Guide: ไกด์ gái or the almost never heard มัคคุเทศก์ /mák-​kú-​tâyt/

Resort: ที่พักตากอากาศ /têe-​pák-​dtàak-​àak-​gàat/ which literally means “the place to stay where we can sit in the air” but today everybody would use the loan word รีสอร์ท /ree-​sòt/.

Vacation: หยุดพักร้อน /yùt-​pák-​rón/ – “taking a break from the heat”.

Hotel: โรงแรม /rohng-​raem/ although โฮเต็ล /hoh-​dten/ is an accepted loan word but be sure to pronounce it with a final ‘n’ and not a final ‘l’.

Guesthouse: เกสเฮาส์ /gáyt-​háo/

Guest: (at a hotel or guesthouse) แขก /kàek/ which also means “visitor”. แขก is also used to refer to the people of India, and there is also แขกขาว “white colored visitor” referring to Arab people. Have no comment on the political correctness of these terms.

Here are some actual questions that you usually need when booking a hotel:

Is breakfast included?
ruam aa hăan cháo măi

รวม /ruam/ – join together
อาหารเช้า /aa hăan cháo/ – breakfast

How much is a room for the night?
kít hông keun nèung tâo-​rài

คิด /kít/ – to reckon (as with money)
ห้อง /hông/ – room
คืนหนึ่ง/keun nèung/ – one night
เท่าไหร่ /tâo-​rài/ – how much?

Is there an airport Shuttle bus service?
mee bor-rí-gaan ráp sòng têe sà-năam bin măi

บริการ /bor-​rí~​gaan/ – service
รับ /ráp/ – pick up
ส่ง /sòng/ – send, deliver
รับส่ง /ráp sòng/ – to shuttle (take to and pick up from one place to another)
สนามบิน /sà-năam bin/ – airport

Asking for Directions

Note: They are often used with the Thai “be” word อยู่ /yùu/

Where: ที่ไหน /tîi-nǎi/

wát doi kam yùu tîi-nǎi
Where is the Doi Kham Temple?

Which way (direction): ตรงไหน /dtrong nǎi/

wát doi kam yùu dtrong nǎi
Which way to Doi Kham Temple?

Far: ไกล /glai/

wát doi kam yùu glai mái
Is the Doi Kham Temple far (from here)?

Close: ใกล้ glâi

wát doi kam yùu glâi mái
Is the Doi Kham Temple close (to here)?

How far: ไกลเท่าไหร่ /glai tâo-rài/

wát doi kam yùu glai tâo-rài
How far is Doi Kham Temple (from here)?

How many: กี่ /gèe/ (kilos – กิโล /gì-loh/); (meters – เมตร méet)

wát doi kam yùu gèe gì-loh (jàak têe-nêe)
How many kilos is Doi Kham Temple (from here)?

How long (will it take to get there from here): เท่าไร /tâo-rai/

jà chái naan tâo-rai
How long will it take (to get there)?

Giving Directions

dtrong bpai (kâang nâa)
Straight (ahead).

líeow sáai
Turn left.

líeow kwăa
Turn right.

อยู่ 10 กิโลเมตรจากที่นี่
yòo 10 gì-loh méet jàak têe nêe
It’s (10 kilos) from here.

yòo glâi
It is close.

yòo glai
It is far.

yòo kâang-kâang
Next to.

yòo kâang lăng

yòo dâan nâa
In front of.

pǒm jà paa kun bpai
I will take you there.

yùu tîi nîi eeng
It’s right here.

kâe rói méet
Only about 100 meters.

yùu kâang-kwǎa
On the right.