Balinese temple etiquette: Everything you need to know

Tirta Empul Temple in Bali, Indonesia on a post about temple etiquette

Bali is known for its temples, but did you know there are in fact over 10,000 of them on the island? Many of them welcome tourists, with some being free and others charging an entrance fee. All of them deserve your respect, and with instances of bad tourists showing disrespect on the rise it’s important you know about Balinese temple etiquette before you visit. 

1. Dress appropriately for Balinese temple

Wear a sarong and cover your shoulders and back when entering temples. The easiest way to show respect is to dress modestly. Tank tops are definitely a no go. Many of the bigger temples, such as the Panglukatan Pura Tirta Empul will include rental of a sarong in the ticket entrance. But if it’s going to be particularly hot pack a light shirt made of breathable fabrics to keep you cool and still be allowed entry. Not all temples will provide a sarong so to prevent being turned away you can grab them from any market.

2. Canang Sari

Canang Sari, an offering to the gods in Bali, Indonesia on a post about temple etiquette

Across Bali you’ll see small parcels made of palm leaves filled with fragrant flowers and incense. These are called “Canang sari” and are gifts to appease the gods. You can often see them in doorways in the mornings and adorned around temples. Stepping on them is seen as incredibly disrespectful and they will often adorn the entrance to Balinese Temples. 

3. Watch your feet

More specifically, you should pay attention to your positioning. You should never have your feet pointing directly at the temple. You’ll often see men sit with their legs crossed to prevent this from happening, whilst women will kneel.

It’s disrespectful to raise your feet up too high. For some reason tourists in the past have considered a temple the perfect opportunity to get a photo for Instagram with them  doing a yoga pose. Feet are considered dirty in Balinese culture so doing either of these actions is poor form. 

4. Be respectful

The Temples are places of worship for locals, being respectful is all about common sense. Don’t climb on statues or walls to get a selfie for instagram. If a religious ceremony is taking place, keep your presence to a minimum by staying out of the way and being aware when taking photos. Public displays of affection are also something that should be avoided. It’s not the time nor the place and will be frowned upon.

Tourists bathing in the waters of Tirta Empul Temple in Bali, Indonesia on a post about temple etiquette

5. Clean body and minds only in Balinese temples

Hindus and Buddhists religion revolves strongly around Karma, the belief that the positive attitudes and actions you give will be returned to you. Temples are places of calm and worship. Do not bring your bad mood inside and certainly do not raise your voice and argue inside a Balinese Temple.

6. Women specific rules

There are some rules for entering specifically for women. When you are menstruating you are forbidden to enter. Similarly women who have recently given birth are forbidden to enter. Balinese temple etiquette is all about having a clean body and mind. Women who are menstruating are considered “impure” nd so are forbidden. Many Balinese people will be respectful of your privacy, but don’t be surprised if you’re a woman and someone asks you directly. 

5. Respect the animals

Koi Carpe Fish in a Balinese Temple Panglukatan Pura Tirta Empul Water temple in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

A lot of the temples that I visited had more than human visitors. Take for example the Monkey Forest which is home to three temples and macaques. Now for the monkeys these temples and trees are their home. Give them space and show them respect. Not all animals are going to be so demanding for your attention. Many such as Panglukatan Pura Tirta Empul have much more tranquil fish swimming. One of the Balinese temples I visited sold trays of food pellets to feed them, so make sure this is the only food they receive, and don’t litter in their home. 

Booking a tour of the Balinese Temples

The easiest way to explore Balinese Temples are with a guide. If you want to book a tour you can do so with Get Your Guide. Not only will you have an expert take you but they can teach you all about the history of the temples. By booking through the link you won’t be charged any extra, but I may earn a small commission which helps to support the blog.

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