What is Thai Time?

Most of us think everyone tells time the same way. Sure, the military and some parts of the world may use the 24 hour clock instead of the 12 hour time we’re used to but it’s simply enough to figure out using a little math.  What many people don’t know is that Thais have their own system of telling time. Thais still use the 12 and 24 hour clocks for many things but Thais generally think about time in Thai time.

And contrary to what some might be expecting, that’s not an attempt to say that Thais are not punctual (though that may also be true for some). In Thailand they actually use a different system of time telling and it is the one that most Thais use.

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Thai time is based on a six hour clock rather than 12 or 24. A day is divided into four parts. Thai time has a Dtii (dawn), Chao (morning), Bai (afternoon), and Thum (evening). And much like other time formats, Thais recognize midnight (Thiang Kheun) and noon (Thiang).

As you can see below, this can become a little confusing for people not use to dealing with Thai time or a six hour clock.

Thai Numbers

But before we get into that, let’s just review the Thai numbers.

1 = Neung
2 = Song
3 = Saam
4 = Sii
5 = Haa (if you ever text with a Thai and they respond 555, you now know that means ha ha ha).
6 = Hok
7 = Jet
8 = Bpet
9 = Gao
10 = Sip
11 = Sip-Et
12 = Sip Song

How Thai Time Works

Now, let’s look at how Thai time works.

Midnight – Thiang Kheun

1am – Dtii Neung
2am – Dtii Song
3am – Dtii Saam
4am – Dtii Sii
5am – Dtii Haa

6am – Hok Mohng Chao

7am – Jet Mohng Chao
8am – Bpet Mohng Chao
9am – Gao Mohng Chao
10am – Sip Mohng Chao
11am – Sip-Et Mohng Chao

12.00 (Noon) – Thiang

1pm – Bai Mohng
2pm – Bai Song Mohng
3pm – Bai Saam Mohng
4pm – Bai Sii Mohng
5pm – Bai Haa Mohng

6pm – Hok Mohng Yen

7pm – Neung Thum
8pm – Song Thum
9pm – Saam Thum
10pm – Sii Thum
11 pm – Haa Thum

thai time can be confusing

Seems pretty easy (or maybe it doesn’t) until you get to Neung Thum which is 7pm. Neung is the number “One” in Thai. For westerners learning Thai, it’s easy to hear Neung and have your brain try to associate it with either 1am or 1pm. And for Thais, when they hear the English word “Four” their brains might race to associate it with either 4am (Dtii Sii), 4pm (Bai Sii), or 10pm (Sii Thum).

It can take some getting used to. But you can also cheat a little bit. If military time is easier for you to process, you can always specify time in military time by adding “Naa-Li-Ga” after the 24 hour time.

More Thai Numbers to Tell Thai Time

To get there, we’ll have to use expand our Thai vocabulary to 24 numbers.

13 = Sip Saam
14 = Sip Sii
15 = Sip Haa
16 = Sip Hok
17 = Sip Jet
18 = Sip Bpet
19 = Sip Gao
20 = Yee Sip
21 = Yee Sip-Et
22 = Yee Sip Song
23 = Yee Sip Saam
24 = Yee Sip Sii

So if you wanted to meet someone at 3pm you would ask to meet at Sip Haa Naa-Li-Ga.

Thai Time On the Half Hour and Everywhere Else

That’s all well and good if everything happens on the hour. If you need to specify Thai time between hours, half hours are designated by the word “kreung” which means “half.” So Bai Saam Mohng Kreung would be 3:30pm.

Thai time doesn’t really use quarter hours so there’s no quarter past or quarter to. In those cases, as well as any other time that does not fall on the hour or the half, one would use the time in minutes in Thai.

So 3:33pm in Thai would be Bai Saam Mohng Saam Sip Saam.

Rather than list out all of the numbers between 1 and 60, here’s a little tip on Thai numbers (more info about the Thai numbering system can be found here). We’ve already covered the numbers 1 – 10 above. Like most languages, that gets you a good chunk of the way of knowing most of the rest of the numbers since they’re all based on the first 10.

Everything other than the numbers in the 20s, is simply the number plus the word 10.

Saam Sip = 30
Sii Sip = 40

Twenty is the only odd-ball. You don’t say Song Sip. Instead, Thais say Yee Sip for 20.

After you’ve got the multiples of 10, you just add on the remainder.

Samm Sip Saam = 33
Saam Sip Sii = 34
Sii Sip Sii = 44
Sii Sip Haa = 45

And Yee Sip works the same way.

Yee Sip Song = 22
Yee Sip Haa = 25

Confused by Thai Time?

Does Thai time sound confusing? Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Many people struggle with Thai time. So don’t feel too embarrassed the first few times it leads to some confusion and certainly don’t by shy about clarifying with military time if you have any doubts.

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