How to NOT commit cultural faux pas in Bali

Sep 27, 2018
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We all travel for different reasons but there is one fact that remains the same – when you travel anywhere you become a guest in another person’s country. You are a visitor in someone’s home. Every country has its own culture and traditions that need to be respected and preserved.


BALI: Simple respect goes a long way in honouring this unique culture.


Unless you are at the beach, poolside or at a yoga class – cover up. Riding scooters shirtless, in a bikini or in tiny shorts is considered highly disrespectful to the locals and you can also be pulled over by the Polisi and fined.

Be respectful in local villages:  this is not the place to walk around baring midriffs or without a shirt on, the locals may be smiling – but it is considered rude and inappropriate to bare all in their culture. Remember each village also has pecalang (security) that keep their eye on things.


PDA’s are not welcome:  keep the touchie – feelies, kissy-  kissy for when you are somewhere more private.


Hands off: use both hands when you are handing something to someone and never use your left hand to touch someone or give something. Always extend your hand with palm down – don’t use your index finger to point or gesture. In Balinese culture the soul lives in a person’s head making this part of the body off limits. Touching people’s heads (this includes children) is a no go.


Keep your cool: Losing your temper, raising your voice, pointing or being confrontational in any way are all considered extremely offensive behaviours in Bali.


Temples are sacred:  Always remember these are holy sites. Just as you wouldn’t wear a bikini and strike a yoga pose in a church or a mosque – the same rules apply in temples. Don’t walk in front of anyone praying. Cover your shoulders, and legs to below the knees and wear a sarong and a sash. And as much as you may not understand why – you are not to enter any temple if you’re menstruating or have an open wound.


Shoes off before you enter a house or temple.


Ceremony is part of Balinese daily life which means all processions get right of way. Do not honk your horn or interrupt. Be patient and enjoy the spectacle.


Selamat Jalan.


Written By Fotini E Douglas