Temple Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts
Thailand has the largest proportion of Buddhists in the world. Over 93% of the country is Buddhist. As a result, there are over 40,000 Buddhist temples. Visiting some of the countries beautiful temples is one of my favorite memories of Thailand. If you plan to go to a temple, it is important to be aware of temple etiquette.
1) Wear modest clothing
This is one of the most important rules of temple etiquette. As a rule of thumb, you should always have your knees and shoulders covered when visiting a temple. Some temples will have stricter enforcement than others. For example, The Grand Palace is known for having a strict dress code and you will be turned away if you are not dressed properly. However, many temples are known for having shawls available for rent if you are out of dress code. This is not the case at every temple, so it is best to just come prepared.
2) Remove your shoes before entering
Before entering a temple, you will remove your shoes and place them by the door. It is ok to leave your socks on. In Thai culture, shoes are removed before entering temples, homes, and even some establishments. Sunglasses and hats should also be removed before entering.
3) Keep the Peace
It is important to remain respectful of those who are coming to pray and worship. Be sure to silence your phone before entering to ensure you do not disturb others. Additionally, speak quietly when in a temple. Keep your distance and do not get in the way of people there to worship. It is not obligatory, but recommended to leave a small donation when visiting a temple.
4) Take Photos When Permitted
Photography is often allowed at many temples in Thailand. However, be sure to check the rules of the temple you are visiting before taking any photos. For instance, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok is very sacred, and photography is not permitted here. When taking photos, ensure they are always respectful.
5) Attend a Monk Chat
Some temples in Thailand offer Monk Chats, where you have the opportunity to speak with a monk and ask any questions you may have. If get the chance to do this, I highly recommend it! I was a little nervous to go talk to them, but soon realized some of them were just as nervous to talk to me! Most of the time they are very willing to open up about their experiences with you, and really appreciate tourists who take the time to go speak with them. Keep in mind that monks cannot have any contact with women, so be sure to keep appropriate distance.
1) Point your Feet
Do not point your feet at Buddha or other people. Feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body, so this can be considered as very rude or offensive. When sitting in a temple, sit with your knees to one side and feet pointed behind you. Do not sit crossed legged. If you are unsure, I suggest looking how other people in temple are sitting as a guidance.
2) Turn your back to Buddha
Do not turn your back to buddha when you are in close proximity. If you are up close, take a few steps back before your turning you back. Additionally, Buddha should always be the highest point in the room. Avoid sitting on a platform that will make you a higher point than Buddha.
3) Climb on statues
This should be a given, but you should never touch or climb on statues. One tourist received criticism for doing yoga poses at many sacred temples and sites in Thailand, and was asked to take down her photos.
4) Eat Food or Drink
Do not bring food or drink inside a temple. Additionally, refrain from chewing gun or smoking while on temple grounds.
5) Engage in PDA
In general, public display of affection is very taboo in Thai culture. You should especially refrain from PDA in temples and other sacred sites around Thailand.
Read More: Buddhism in Thailand — A Beginner’s Guide
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