Bali Manners: Essential Tips for Temple Visits & Dining

Traveling to Bali offers more than just breathtaking beaches and lush landscapes—it’s a cultural journey. As I’ve explored this enchanting island, I’ve learned that respecting local customs is key to a truly immersive experience.

In this article, I’ll share the essential etiquette tips for navigating Bali’s social nuances. From temple visits to daily interactions, you’ll learn how to honor the island’s traditions and connect more deeply with its people.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or planning your first trip, these insights will ensure you’re welcomed with open arms in the Island of the Gods. Let’s dive into the heart of Balinese culture together.

Manners and etiquette in BaliDressing Appropriately

When I set out to explore the picturesque landscapes of Bali, I knew being mindful of Bali cultural etiquette was crucial for an enriching experience. One key aspect of Bali customs that cannot be overstated is appropriate dress. While Bali’s tropical climate may tempt you to opt for less coverage, it’s important to balance comfort with respect for local sensibilities.

In most public spaces, casual wear is completely acceptable. However, when visiting sacred sites such as temples, specific dress requirements are non-negotiable. For men and women alike, it’s customary to wear a sarong—a traditional fabric wrapped around the lower body—and a sash around the waist. Many temples offer these at the entrance, but bringing your own shows an extra level of preparedness and respect.

Adhering to dress codes not only reflects your respect for Bali customs but also allows you to partake in ceremonies and community events—which are often impromptu and a highlight of respectful travel in Bali. Shoulders and knees should be covered at such times. It’s also respectful to wear more subdued colors instead of loud, flashy patterns when partaking in spiritual activities.

Patterns and fabrics in Bali often have cultural significance and choosing to wear local designs can be a sign of appreciation for the island’s rich cultural tapestry. Investing in local attire not only supports local artisans but also adds an authentic touch to your journey. Remember, while personal style is a form of expression, adapting to the cultural context is a sign of good manners and makes for a harmonious visit.

Building rapport with locals through appropriate dress has opened doors to many unique experiences for me; experiences that would have remained inaccessible had I not paid attention to the subtleties of Bali’s cultural norms. As you wander through Bali’s vibrant marketplaces, keep an eye out for handmade clothes that breathe elegance into modesty. Wearing them can enrich your travel experience and show your commitment to respectful travel in Bali.

Greeting and Politeness

In my travels to Bali, I’ve learned that Balinese greetings are a cornerstone of Bali cultural etiquette. A polite nod or a smile is always appreciated, but the traditional greeting, known as the ‘sembah’, is a subtle bow with hands pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. It’s not just about the gesture but the warmth and sincerity that come with it.

Embracing this aspect of Bali customs, I often use the Balinese word for hello, “Om Swastiastu,” which conveys peace and well-being. In my encounters, locals regularly express delight when I initiate interactions with this respectful greeting. Remembering names and using honorific titles like “Ibu” for women and “Pak” for men is also an integral part of respectful communication.

As you plan your journey, it’s vital to prepare for these interactions – they can drastically enhance your sense of connection to Bali’s people and culture. My experiences have taught me that:

  • Learning a few basic phrases in Balinese or Indonesian goes a long way
  • Patience and kindness are universally appreciated and reflect Respectful travel Bali

Body language plays a prominent role in Bali. Simple acts such as keeping your hands visible and not pointing with your foot are subtleties I take seriously. Respectful travel Bali means being mindful of these non-verbal cues as well. The Balinese consider the head sacred, so I avoid touching someone’s head, even children, who are often irresistible with their big smiles and twinkling eyes.

In the shops and markets, politeness is paramount. Haggling is common, but I always approach it with a smile and never show anger or frustration. This gentle form of bargaining is reflective of the overall calmness that Balinese hold dear.

Understanding and practicing these principles of politeness set the stage for genuine interactions and allow for a deeper appreciation of Bali’s customs. It’s not just about following rules—it’s about forming valuable connections and enriching my experience on this enchanting island.

Temple Visits

When visiting Bali’s temples, understanding and adhering to Bali cultural etiquette is deeply significant. These temples, known locally as pura, are more than just tourist spots; they’re sacred places where respect and mindfulness are paramount. At the entrance, I’m always mindful to don the required attire – a sarong and sash – which are often available for rent or purchase nearby.

It’s essential to walk through these spiritual grounds with reverence and calmness. So I make sure to observe the locals and follow suit, keeping my voice low and my movements unhurried. Inside a Balinese temple, the customs become even more pronounced. Here, the rules are clear: never sit higher than the priest or the temple offerings, as it’s seen as highly disrespectful. This is a nod to the Balinese belief in the cosmic order, where everything has its rightful place.

Photography in temples is a delicate subject. While it’s generally permitted, I always look out for signs or ask for permission before capturing images, ensuring that I’m not disrupting any ongoing ceremonies. It goes without saying that climbing on sacred structures for the perfect shot is a definite no-go.

Engaging with temple rituals can be an enriching experience. Participating in offerings or ceremonies necessitates a higher level of understanding of Bali customs. It’s crucial to observe these rituals with the utmost respect. I’ve learned that making an offering or praying requires one to follow the lead of the locals, using the same hand gestures and postures to show my sincerity and respect.

As for the temple schedule, it’s fascinating how the Balinese synchronize their spiritual activities with their unique Pawukon calendar. Visiting during one of their many ceremonies allows me to witness the vibrant and authentic expressions of their faith. However, it’s also during these times that being a respectful traveler in Bali means stepping back and giving devotees space to practice their rituals.

Balinese Language and Phrases

Learning some Balinese language is crucial in showing respect to local customs and contributes significantly to respectful travel in Bali. While Bahasa Indonesia is the national language, Balinese, or Bali, is spoken by most locals, and they deeply appreciate it when visitors take the time to learn a few phrases.

Starting with basic greetings can make a big difference. For example, saying “Om Swastiastu” (ohm swas-tee-as-too), a common greeting meaning “peace and greetings from God,” immediately shows respect for Bali customs. When it’s time to part ways, “Selamat tinggal” (sell-a-mat ting-gal) is the phrase you’d use.

Politeness goes a long way. Throwing in a “Suksma” (sooks-mah), which means “thank you,” after a service or a kind gesture helps foster good relations. When asking for permission or saying “excuse me,” the word is “Permisi” (per-mi-see). It’s polite and shows an understanding of Bali cultural etiquette.

In the context of food and dining, “Makan” means “to eat.” If you’re invited to someone’s home or at a local warung, a small family-owned business, saying “Makan makan” (mah-kahn mah-kahn) before a meal expresses eagerness and appreciation for the food.

When inquiring about prices or bargaining in markets, “Berapa harga ini?” translates to “How much is this?” This phrase can be handy as negotiating is often part of the shopping experience in Bali.

Here are some additional phrases to remember:

  • Good morning: “Selamat pagi” (sell-a-mat pah-gee)
  • Good afternoon: “Selamat siang” (sell-a-mat see-ang)
  • Good evening: “Selamat sore” (sell-a-mat sore-ray)
  • Good night: “Selamat malam” (sell-a-mat mah-lahm)
  • Yes: “Ya”
  • No: “Tidak” (tee-dahk)

Dining Customs

When I delve into the dining customs of Bali, it’s immediately clear that Bali cultural etiquette reflects a profound reverence for food and fellowship. Balinese meals are a ritual in and of themselves, with unique traditions that create a complete sensory experience. By honoring these practices, I partake in more than just a meal; I share in a piece of Bali’s soul.

One of the first things I’ve learned about Bali customs at the dining table is the use of the right hand for eating. The left hand is traditionally considered impure, as it’s used for personal hygiene. Therefore, it’s respectful to use the right hand when taking food, passing dishes, or receiving something from another person. While cutlery is common, especially in tourist areas, there’s something deeply authentic about connecting with the traditional way of eating with my hands.

Next, I found that saying ‘Selamat makan,’ which means ‘enjoy your meal,’ before beginning to eat is a friendly gesture that demonstrates appreciation for the food and company. It’s a simple phrase that goes a long way in showing respect for those around me. During the meal, maintaining respectful travel Bali habits is all about savoring the food in a calm and unhurried manner. Balinese people often take time to enjoy their food as a sign of respect for the effort and resources that went into preparing it.

Here are a few phrases I’ve found helpful while dining in Bali:

  • Selamat makan – Enjoy your meal
  • Terima kasih – Thank you
  • Ini enak sekali – This is very delicious
  • Tolong – Please

Also, it’s a sign of respect to wait until everyone is served before I start eating. Balinese hospitality is generous, and hosts usually encourage guests to eat to their heart’s content. However, I make it a point to avoid leaving too much uneaten food on my plate as it may suggest I didn’t enjoy the meal. It’s all about finding that balance—eating heartily to show my enjoyment but not wastefully.


Embracing Bali’s cultural etiquette is essential for any traveler seeking a truly immersive experience. By wearing appropriate attire to temples, engaging in rituals with respect, and using some Balinese language, I’ve found that the doors to authentic interaction swing wide open. Remembering to eat with my right hand and savor meals calmly has allowed me to enjoy Bali’s dining customs fully. These simple acts of respect are key to a harmonious visit, ensuring that both visitors and locals alike can appreciate the beauty and serenity of Bali’s rich culture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What attire is required for temple visits in Bali?

When visiting temples in Bali, it is essential to wear clothes that cover shoulders and knees. Sarongs and sashes are often required and can usually be rented at temple entrances.

How should one behave inside a Balinese temple?

One should walk with reverence and calmness, observe and follow the customs inside the temple, and avoid disrupting worshippers or ceremonies.

Is photography allowed in Balinese temples?

Photography is a sensitive subject in Balinese temples; it’s crucial to ask for permission before taking photos, and in some areas, photography may not be allowed.

Can tourists participate in temple rituals in Bali?

Tourists may participate in temple rituals if they do so with respect and by following the lead of the locals, ensuring they understand the significance of their actions.

Why is the Balinese Pawukon calendar important for temple visits?

The Balinese Pawukon calendar dictates the schedule of ceremonies and rituals, so being aware of it helps to respect and avoid intruding on significant religious events.

How can learning Balinese phrases improve your travel experience?

Knowing basic Balinese greetings and phrases demonstrates respect for local customs and helps create more meaningful interactions with residents.

What dining customs should one observe in Bali?

In Bali, it is customary to use the right hand for eating, to say ‘Selamat makan’ before meals, to eat in a leisurely fashion, and to avoid wasting food.