The LGBT do’s and don’ts of Travel in Thailand are relatively simple, they are the same as those for everybody else. There are a few specific LGBT centred points we will mention below, but these are not that difficult to remember. The number one thing to realize is that Thailand is the LGBTQ travel paradise it is advertised to be. Following these simple rules will make your travel in Thailand an excellent experience. Thailand is a very unique culture in that they do things differently than other parts of Asia. There are many paradoxes to Thai culture that may not immediately make sense, but challenging these is not the goal. The goal is to be aware of them and work those into your attitude so there aren’t any problems. We try to tell them here in the spirit of setting expectations.
What are The Do’s and Don’ts of LGBT Travel in Thailand?
Thailand is safe and friendly for LGBT travellers. That said, keep in mind a few simple rules to help you get around without attracting unwanted attention. Thailand is a more conservative country than the freedom to be gay, bi, or transgender might lead you to believe. This is why lesbians seem to be a bit left out. Women are expected to be more modest than men, so there is not much special attention to them. Lesbians fly completely under the cultural radar just being themselves if respectful to society. Gays, on the other hand, are regarded as different. They are completely accepted by all, but there are businesses and areas especially for the entertainment of gay men. Male transgender travellers experience slightly more sexual attention because “ladyboys” are a fascinating part of the sex scene in Thailand. But for all, there are a few things to do and not do.
Five Cultural Do’s for LGBT and Every Traveller to Thailand
1 – Wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders when visiting temples.
Dressing appropriately is a big deal in Thailand. This does not mean you have to dress up all the time, but the respectable appearance is especially important in temples. Farang (western foreigners) are normally accepted for any way they choose to look. There is none of the class distinction of dress like in regular Thai society. Thais recognize you are tourists and know casual clothing is part of the relaxed experience of tourism in Thailand. But Thais also demand respect for their culture and underdressing in temples is taken as offensive to their religion.
2 – Return a “wai”.
This is the hand gesture that looks like praying and is presented upon greeting someone, particularly officials and someone’s elder. However, as a foreigner, you are not necessarily expected to give a wai to everyone. Do not wai to People in a staff or service role. To return one out of politeness quickly make the gesture, do not raise your hands to more than your middle. You should greet your partner’s or friends’ family members (except children) with a wai at chest level. Somebody’s mom or dad, and family elders should get one at face level with your head bowed. Incorporate settings always greet managers and above with a chest-high wai and a slight bow.
3 – Learn at least “nit noi”, or a little bit, of Thai.
This does not mean go and get an online language course, but rather just try to say some simple things. Learn the “Hello’ greeting sawadee krap (male) or sawadee ka (female). In the shops, asking “how much” in Thai helps. They will most likely answer you in English, or get out the calculator and show you the amount. A really good one is when you say “How are you” in Thai “Sabadee mai kap”, and if asked this, say “sabai, sabai”. This is a way of saying “fine”. Like going to France, or anywhere, just trying to say something in the local language makes people think you care.
4 – If you are going to be dining with Thai people, learn a little about Thai table etiquette.
Use a spoon in your right hand and load your spoon using the fork with your left. When served a communal dish to share, take small portions onto your plate instead of your entire portion at once. Pass things with your right hand. The left is considered “dirty” like in Arab cultures. In family settings, it is normal to eat out of the same bowl, and/or with your hands. If you are eating out in the countryside, don’t be surprised with a roll of toilet paper for napkins. And in people’s houses, be ready to sit on the floor for meals!
5 – There is only one do that will actually get a direct reaction if you don’t do it.
This is taking off your shoes when entering a home or a temple. This sounds simple, many people in the west take off their shoes in the house anyway. But it surprisingly hard to get used to, and if you are wearing shoes with laces it is sometimes tedious. And people will get offended if this is not an automatic action. Your partner will be especially sharp to remind you not to forget again. Other dos might get an eye-roll if you don’t, and at big temples, you might get turned away. But a Farang not taking off their shoes before entering somebody’s house can get a stiff rebuke. Especially if it is someone you know.
Five Don’ts When Traveling in Thailand
1 – Related to number 5 above, don’t show the bottom of your feet to other people in Thailand.
This is also a lot like the cultural rule in Arab countries. Just like there, the bottom of your feet is considered the lowest part of your body and also “dirty”. It is even considered impolite to point your feet at people or images of Buddha in temples. Paradoxically, all this is not so offence if you are sitting cross-legged on the floor. The main point is the intent. Sitting in that position makes it impossible to not show or point your feet. Offense is taken only when you do so negligently.
2 – Don’t ever say anything negative about the king or the monarchy.
Thailand has some of the strictest lese majeste laws in the world. To do so in public will get you in legal trouble not just have eyes roll or get told off. It is probably a good idea to avoid the subject in public entirely. But even if it comes up in family discussions, don’t say anything that could even remotely be considered disrespectful.
3 – Don’t touch anybody else’s head, especially the top of the head.
In the west it can be seen as a gesture of endearment to pat someone on the head. But that is a big no-no in Thailand. The head, conversely of the feet, is thought of as the highest point of one’s body and by extension also the soul. So, touching the head of other people is looked at as highly disrespectful to that person. This will not get you in any legal trouble but others will be offended to see it even if you mean well.
4 – Do not show excessive affection in public.
This one can affect LGBT travellers more than others because there is a lot of love between us to show. LGBT people are free and accepted in Thailand, but goodwill wears off if there is a perception of disrespect. Thais get offended If two people engage in an affectionate or sexually expressive manner with no regard to others around. This is seen as negligent behaviour toward society and is not limited to LGBT love. LGBT people might get more than the same negative reaction because we do stand out more when doing it. This is the classic definition of unwanted attention.
5 – Just as taking off your shoes is the biggest do, the biggest don’t is don’t ever lose your temper.
This is a hard one. Many things are frustrating in Thailand. Airport delays, unexpected fees, disrupted schedules, and sometimes obvious cheats. But raising your voice or shouting, using bad language and rude gestures, is not going to work with anybody. Even if you are completely right about something, when you start yelling and expressing anger you become wrong. This can actually lead to you being taken to the police station along with the actual or alleged wrongdoer. They will take you there just to see that you calm down. This is also wise to remember in private arguments with your partner at home.
Do’s for LGBT Travelers in Thailand
1 – Be Yourself!
You have the freedom to be yourself as an LGBTQ in Thailand like nowhere else in the world. There is freedom and acceptance you won’t find travelling anywhere. The whole country is safe and friendly to LGBT. All the above items are for your awareness to help make your visit perfect. You don’t have to restrain yourself; you just need to respect Thai culture and society. That is not much to ask. This is no imposition on you having a good time. In fact, it is the opposite. You will have a much better time if you remember these simple things.
2 – Visit the Gay areas of Bangkok, Chaing Mai, and the Islands.
Indulge in the freedom to be gay in Thailand at men’s resorts and the hedonistic clubs in Silom (Bangkok). Go on LGBT exclusive tours and campouts. We are very sorry to say to the Lesbian Community that there are not many special clubs or lesbian areas. But there are many activities to check out online. Different monthly lesbian only parties in Bangkok are at clubs on a variable schedule that you have to search out. The “Be Yourself” message is especially perfect of you. Lesbians are free to do anything anywhere. For men and Transgenders there are more identity-specific options.
3 – For Gay and bisexual men, or males with a female identity, the do is to go with a ladyboy (Kathoey) while you are in Thailand.
This is a unique experience that is best in Thailand because the kathoey themselves enjoy a special place here. Kathoey in Thailand are beautiful and open people. Worldly wise and full of the joy for life. They can be your best friend or your most exciting sex partner. Go to a cabaret show or meet them in a sit-down bar and see their personality on display.
Don’ts for LGBT Travelers
1 – Don’t carry on and make a crazy spectacle of yourself as LGBT.
You are totally free to go wild in Thailand but do so with respect to Thai culture and society. It is never cool to go over the top in public anywhere, but it can have serious consequences in Thailand. Don’t drink (or drug yourself) so much that you end up dead in an alley somewhere. Thais are very accepting of LGBTQ people but there are no laws protecting you from hate crimes. Something like that might happen if somebody thinks you disrespect Thai people because you are negligent in your actions.
2 – Don’t be overly promiscuous, especially in rural areas.
Directly soliciting sex for money is illegal in Thailand, be discreet. Don’t think because you are free from persecution you are free to do anything you want. When you meet somebody you are attracted to, don’t start making out like crazy in public, go somewhere private. Making a sexual display is plain sight disrespect in the eyes of Thai people. The unwanted attention could be real trouble.
3 – Don’t let your guard down. For instance, ladyboys are fun and friendly but don’t always have good intentions.
One classic is while talking to a few of them at the same time, one goes for your wallet. Watch out for your drink being tampered with in a Thai gay bar just like you would wherever else you go. It comes down to common sense. LGBT travellers in Thailand have a better time than others anywhere but can have bad things happen just like everywhere.