Thailand’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens. Despite this, the over-riding religion in the country is Theravada Buddhism though, with the most recent census (2000) stating that 94.6% of the country follows this religion. Therefore, it is fair to say that Thailand is very much a Buddhist country. This is especially true in rural areas, as cities have more diverse populations with a greater spread of beliefs.
Buddhism is an extremely welcoming religion and therefore the country as a whole exhibits a friendliness towards every single visitor. Unlike some other religions, sacred sites are open to tourists and visitors to the country will have the chance to visit a number of temples and other religious centres. There are even meditation schools and other educational experiences to take part in, should you really want to immerse yourself in Thai life.
It is incredibly important to remember that monks are almost revered in this country, so they must be respected at all times. Monks should always be allowed to eat first, and your seat should be given to them when on public transport. Female travellers should remember that they should never touch a monk, or even hand anything to him. In terms of etiquette in temples, you should never touch a statue of Buddha, nor should you ever wear a hat or shoes inside the temple.
As already stated, there are other religions in this country too though, with the next most practised being Islam. This is primarily found near to the Malaysian border. Muslim visitors to the country will be able to find food that meets their religious needs in large cities, however rural areas will not generally cater to these needs. This is also the same for Jewish visitors – kosher food is found in places like Bangkok (if you look hard enough), but not in many areas away from the capital.
You will also find religions such as Christianity, Sikhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Taoism in Thailand, although only a very small percentage of people practice these religions. Followers of these religions are generally immigrants to the country.
There are many gap years that allow travellers to experience religion in Thailand, ranging from meditation retreats through to trips encompassing tours of famous temples. Why not take a look at all our Thailand gap year ideas?