Cultural differences – what not to wear to a temple

I’m actually not sure whether this falls under cultural differences or just under common understanding. In any way, the Thai news was filled lately with people dressing inappropriately while visiting a temple. The last one dated back to August, when a tourist visited a temple here in Phuket in a see-through dress. She most probably just walked off the beach and thought she would be able to go to the into the temple dressed like she did. However, after photos appeared on Social media, she was invited to the police station to get a lesson on Thai culture, and she had to apologise for her actions.


So here is a quick overview for anyone who wants to visit a temple in Thailand, and doesn’t want to be schooled by the police afterwards.

The basic rules:

  • Cover your shoulders and knees – for both men and women
  • Cover up your knees – for both men and women
  • Closed shoes are more appropriate for walking around the temple sites, however, flips flops are allowed. When you do decide to wear shoes, try to wear slip-on shoes as you will need to take them off every time you enter a temple.


In the worship area:

  • Always remove your shoes, hats and sunglasses
  • Don’t get in the way of people who are actually there to worship
  • Don’t turn your back on the Buddha statue
  • Don’t touch sacred objects in the worship area
  • Don’t raise yourself higher than the image of Buddha.
  • Do find people in the temple who can explain to you what the right way of worshipping is. There are usually monks or people around who would love to explain this to you.
  • Step over the wooden threshold instead of stepping on top of it
  • If you’re sitting, make sure you don’t point your feet at the Buddha


Around the Temple Grounds:

  • Women are never allowed to touch a monk or his robe. Even if you do this by accident, the monk will need to perform a lengthy cleansing process… If you do want to hand a monk something, hand it to a male or place the object on the ground for the monk to pick it up.
  • Never point at a monk of a Buddha statue – either with your fingers or feet
  • Don’t smoke, chew gum or eat snacks while on the temple grounds
  • Don’t photograph or disturb monks or others who are worshipping

Now it seems like a horrible experience to visit a temple in Thailand. But the rules are truly very simple. And by following these rules you’re able to enjoy loads of lovely and inspiring sites!

xxx Frei

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