Do They Speak English In Thailand? (2024)

Wondering whether they speak English in Thailand?

You’ve come to the right place as I visited Thailand and I only speak English – so I know how well the locals are able to speak it.

Thailand is one of the most popular countries to visit in Southeast Asia and for good reason, it’s an incredible destination and one of my favourite places in the world.

But do they speak English in Thailand? This is a question I found myself asking before visiting the country.

When you visit countries in Europe, the levels of English is usually pretty decent. But does it change when you venture further afield?

Let’s get into the answer!

Do They Speak English In Thailand?

The levels of English spoken in Thailand by locals vary. Some people will be fluent, some people won’t know a word.

From my experience, most people you will interact with on your trip will know English to a decent enough level. What I mean by this is people working in attractions, shops, restaurants, tour guides, etc. will all understand English.

If you try to speak to locals who have no reason to speak English, you might find that they don’t speak it as well.

What I did find is that people are very friendly in Thailand regardless of their level of English. Their mannerisms and body language were always friendly, even when they were struggling to understand what I was saying (my Northern Irish accent probably doesn’t help!)

Night market in full swing at a Thai temple fair, with crowds of people browsing food stalls under ornate temple rooftops illuminated at dusk. There are people selling street food speaking English to customers in Thailand.

Thailand has an EF EPI (English proficiency score) of 416. This ranks it as the 101st country in the world for speaking English where it isn’t the native tongue.

The data shows that each generation speaks English more widely, the younger it gets. In basic terms, younger people speak better English than older people.

And my experience backs this up. I had some really nice conversations with some younger Thai people and, although there are times when the communication does break down, we could understand each other pretty well.

On the other hand, when I was in Bangkok, I had a noodle dish from a street food vendor and I was sitting with an old lady. If you haven’t had street food before, you often get seated with other random people, for reference.

Her English wasn’t great, but we were able to use gestures and repetition to understand each other. It was in Chinatown and she was able to tell me that the street food stalls all come out at 5 pm and it gets very busy, for example.

Busy street scene in Bangkok's Chinatown with colorful signage in Thai and Chinese, as traffic and pedestrians navigate the bustling commercial area. Some of the signs are also in English, demonstrating how English is spoken throughout Thailand.

If you haven’t visited Asia before, it might take you a while to get used to the Thai accent when speaking English. Personally, I had no problems, but I have met a few people along the way while backpacking Thailand who have said it took them a few conversations to be able to adjust to the accent and understand what the locals are saying.

You might also find that locals will say something wrong every now and again. Make sure you are understanding and not rude, and remember that the English language is a second language for everyone in Thailand. Their English is a million times better than my Thai.

But you can definitely visit Thailand and get by with only speaking English, especially if you don’t go out of your way to speak to locals who aren’t working in the tourism/hospitality/retail industry.

To summarise, the answer to the question “Do they speak English in Thailand?” is yes, a good amount of people do, but across the whole population, the level of fluency varies.

Do They Speak English In Bangkok?

Yes, English is spoken pretty well in Bangkok, particularly in the tourism and hospitality industry.

As the capital city, it’s the most visited place in Thailand, and naturally, the English levels are higher than in any other part of the country. I would go as far as saying most people speak English in Bangkok to a certain extent. The levels of understanding get worse in the urban areas though, which makes sense as they experience fewer tourists.

But overall, you won’t have a problem visiting Bangkok in terms of speaking English.

Ornate spires of the Wat Pho temple against a clear blue sky in Bangkok, Thailand, with visitors strolling and admiring the intricate architecture and vibrant landscaping.

Do They Speak English In Phuket?

Yes, Phuket (poo-ket) is an incredibly popular destination in Thailand for Americans and British tourists in particular, so English is spoken well.

Just like with Bangkok, everyone who works in the tourism and hospitality industry will speak English to a good level.

Most of the Thai islands are the same, and there is at least a basic level of English spoken in tourist areas.

Do They Speak English In Chiang Mai?

When I was visiting Chiang Mai, I was surprised by how well English was spoken in by locals. I assumed because it is a bit further away from the most popular parts of Thailand, the levels of English would drop, but this is not the case.

English is spoken in Chiang Mai just as well as anywhere else in Thailand, from my experience. I had no problems with communication in the northern city.

Again, everyone you encounter as a tourist (hotels, tours, shops, etc.) will probably speak English.

Tourists walking around the golden stupa at Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with traditional Thai architecture and sculptures enhancing the temple's serene atmosphere.

Do They Speak English In Pattaya?

In Pattaya, one of Thailand’s most popular beach destinations, you’ll find English-speaking locals in hotels, restaurants, tour agencies, and other establishments catering to tourists.

While proficiency levels may vary, you’ll generally find it easy to communicate your needs and navigate your way around the city in English.

If nothing else, Google Translate never fails me. I recommend downloading the Thai language so you can use it even without a mobile connection. Google Translate is one of my apps for Thailand travel which I recommend everyone has.

Do They Speak English In Krabi?

As a hotspot for travellers from around the globe, Krabi has adapted wonderfully to cater to the needs of its international visitors. English, in particular, plays a pivotal role in this adaptation, serving as a bridge between locals and tourists.

In Krabi, you’ll find that English is widely spoken, especially in areas that frequently see foreign visitors. This includes hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, and markets.

Staff in these places often have a good level of English proficiency, ensuring that communication is smooth and your experience is as comfortable as possible.

What Languages Do They Speak In Thailand?

The official language in Thailand is Thai.

It’s a tonal language, which means the meaning of a word can change based on the tone used to pronounce it. This unique feature adds a layer of complexity and beauty to the language, making it fascinating to learn and listen to.

But the linguistic landscape of Thailand is as diverse as its natural beauty. You’ll also find an array of regional languages and dialects spoken throughout the country, including Lanna in the North, Isaan (a dialect closely related to the Lao language) in the Northeast, and Pak Tai in the South.

Additionally, various ethnic communities within Thailand speak their own languages, contributing to the country’s rich culture of linguistic diversity. So it’s fair to say, Thailand definitely isn’t short of languages! In fact, there are 51 living languages in the country.

Visitors walking towards a rural hill tribe village market in Thailand, with thatched-roof stalls and a backdrop of lush greenery under a cloudy sky

Should You Learn Thai Before Visiting Thailand?

While Thai is the heartbeat of communication in Thailand, the question of whether you should learn Thai before visiting depends on the depth of experience you’re seeking.

For short visits or stays within tourist-friendly areas, a basic grasp of English and a handful of Thai phrases — such as greetings, thank you, and please — will be enough. These simple words can open doors to warmer interactions and show respect for the local culture.

However, if you’re planning a longer stay or wish to venture off the beaten path, investing time in learning Thai can be incredibly rewarding. For example, if you’re backpacking for months on end, taking some Thai classes along the way is a really fun and practical thing to do. Although it is pretty hard, to be honest.

But I recommend for everyone to learn some basic phrases, no matter how long you are staying.

Basic Thai Phrases To Learn Before Visiting Thailand

When I’m travelling, I always try to learn some phrases in the local language. For example, if I am in Spain, I will say “gracias” in shops and restaurants. Thailand is no different, it’s just a little more difficult if you are not used to Asian languages, as it’s very different from the likes of English. Here are some phrases I learnt before visiting Thailand.

ThaiEnglish
sa-wat-dii (khrap/khaa)Hello (Male/Female)
kop-khun (khrap/khaa)Thank you (Male/Female)
chaiYes
mai chaiNo
pordPlease
jur ganGoodbye
sabai dee maiHow are you?
kho thot khaExcuse me
chan mai khao jaiI don’t understand
raa-ka tao-raiHow much does it cost?

FAQs

Below are some common questions related to “Do they speak English in Thailand?” along with my answers to each question.

How widely is English spoken in Thailand?

While levels of English in Thailand are lower than in parts of the world, most people you will meet as a tourist will speak English. There is also English signage, including street signs, information boards at historical sites, and menus in restaurants catering to tourists. For kids in Thailand, English is a compulsory subject in schools, so the younger generations speak especially good English.

Can you survive in Thailand with English?

Yes, you can survive in Thailand with English. Most people in the tourism industry speak English well, and many locals speak English to a relatively good level too. It’s only amongst the older Thai generations and in rural areas where English is not as well spoken.

Is Bangkok English friendly?

Yes, Bangkok is English-friendly. Anyone who works in the hospitality and tourism industry (hotel staff, tour guides, etc.) all speak English well. You should still learn some phrases in Thai to be polite, like hello and thank you.

Do locals speak English in Bangkok?

While English isn’t spoken as well in Thailand as it is in Europe, for example, many locals in Bangkok do speak English. Particularly those who are part of the younger generations and those who encounter English speakers, such as hotel workers, shopkeepers, etc.

Can You Visit Thailand Only Speaking English?

Yes, you can visit Thailand only speaking English. As a tourist, most people you encounter will understand and speak English as they are speaking with tourists on a daily basis. This includes the likes of hotel staff, tour guides, etc. It’s still recommended to learn some basic phrases in Thai as a sign of courtesy.

Final Thoughts: English in Thailand

And there you have it, an in-depth answer to “Do they speak English in Thailand?”

The answer is within the tourism industry, English is well-spoken in Thailand.

Outside of the tourism industry, the levels of English vary, with the younger generations speaking English more than the older generations.

You can definitely enjoy your trip to Thailand by only speaking English. And while you’re there, make sure you don’t overspend. Thailand isn’t expensive to visit, you can have a really affordable trip!

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