Advice for travellers to Thailand following the death of the King

By David Flynn, October 17 2016
Advice for travellers to Thailand following the death of the King

The passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej can present a challenge for business travellers to Bangkok and Thailand.

The Thai monarch ruled for 70 years, and was deeply loved by the Thai people in a way many Westerners can find hard to understand.

The public outpouring of grief leads into what has been declared as a full year of mourning for Thais.

It’s hard to predict exactly what shape this mourning will take and how it will flow onto the rest of Thai culture and business practices. But on the whole, be prepared for a subdued and even funereal mood in the ‘land of smiles’.

“It’s important to remember that the things to be aware here in terms of etiquette and customs in this unique time are often ‘bottom-up’ not ‘top-down’,” Grahame Lynch, Bangkok-based publisher of Communications Day, suggests to Australian Business Traveller. “They are about the culture not the law.”

“The situation is moving here very quickly so watch what is being said on Twitter, Facebook and the relevant newspaper websites, especially in their wire sections. Just relax and do your business. Thailand needs normality and business as usual during a time of grief.”

If you’re travelling to Thailand in the coming months, here are some practical tips on what to expect and how to deal with this situation.

Mindful behaviour

“Expats and foreign travellers should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thais at this time” advises Maevadi Rosenfeldt from the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

As always, indeed more than ever, visitors need to be respectful of the Thai people as they deal with their shared grief.

Also, be mindful of your own behaviour – even a lively, light-hearted manner could be frowned upon. If in doubt, dial it down.

What to wear

“Many Thai people will be wearing black or white clothing as a sign of mourning. While this is not required of visitors but if possible, they should wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public” Rosenfeldt suggests.

“In terms of dress, the rule is muted colours” Lynch concurs.

“A dark blue or grey suit will be OK but black or white is best. Thais cut slack for foreigners on this front, so as long as you don't wear anything stupid you should be okay.”

Impact on business dinners and launches

Planning a launch of your new product or service, or a dinner to celebrate a new business partnership in Thailand? Tone it down, Lynch suggests, and avoid anything which could be construed as a ‘lively celebration’.

“Business meetings or even somber dinners will still be okay” Lynch suggests, alongside similarly subdued business conferences, “but not a garish product launch with canned music and lights. Activities such as DJ and band performances or anything amplified are a no-no.”

After hours

By Government decree, entertainment in Thailand must be ‘toned down’ for a month.

While the decision rests with the owners of pubs, bars and nightclubs, many have already closed their doors during the evening.

However, Lynch tells Australian Business Traveller that “foreign-oriented hotels will operate normally with full service excepting entertainment.”

In conversation…

If it feels appropriate, offer your condolences on the passing of the King – but “discussion of issues around the succession and the politics of the situation are taboo,” Lynch warns.

“Do not embarrass Thais by asking them too many questions about it. Also take care not to over-empathise. The Thai King is not your king and ostentatious displays of sympathy look fake and trivialise what is something that only Thais can really innately understand.”

Travellers can keep up to date with advice from the Tourism Authority of Thailand website at


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 732

Sound advise to us all, whether we are traveling  to Thailand or not.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 145

A good piece. Am in BKK right now and the tone is most definitely a more sombre version of BAU.

I've noted many tourists trying their best to be respectful by keeping things low key, wearing muted tones and being understanding of many businesses being closed. 

That said, there's a lot of tourists taking a very 'me first' view by making a lot of noise and saying that their holidays are ruined by closures, non-serving of alcohol and cancellation of celebration events. I find this quite upsetting and can't imagine how insensitive and poorly us farungs look in the eyes of Thai nationals. So important we show respect at this time. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 550

I'm here now also and agree with you, the selfishness of the no doubt bogan-crowd who only care about being able to get a beer anytime they want in bar is astounding.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Advice for travellers to Thailand following the death of the King