When visiting foreign countries, it is essential to behave according to local etiquette to stay fun and safe. Be mindful of it while you're in Bali to avoid problems, though it can be a quite relaxing place to be. Here is the etiquette in Bali to help enjoy the most of your trip.
Place of worship
- Dress modestly in the temples covering the legs, shoulder, and upper arms. If you don’t bring one, you can buy or rent the sarong or scarf in front of most temples for a small fee.
- Do not climb, sit, step on the temples, altars, or statues. Respect the holy water and use only for drinking, or splashing face, head, and shoulders. Use your common sense to act accordingly in this religious venue as it is full of sacred statues, shrines, and features. The failure in following these temple etiquette in Bali may result in serious penalties or punishments.
- Ladies on their period are not allowed to enter the temples, including pregnant ladies and those who have given birth within the last six weeks.
- Do not stand higher than the priest during the ceremony.
- Avoid pointing your feet toward the shrines or altar.
- Do not walk or stand in front of the praying Balinese.
- Avoid using flash to photograph in the temples.
- Stay at the ceremony until the end when you are invited personally to the ceremony by someone you know. It is rude to leave before the ceremony ends.
- Do not step on the offerings (canang sari) consisting of flowers, incense, and some food usually placed in some areas of the shops or homes.
- Two-piece bikinis are acceptable in Bali, but not in other parts of Indonesia, which are more conservative.
- Nudity on the beach or public places is not acceptable though Bali is probably the most open society in Indonesia when it comes to dress-codes.
- For men, being topless in the street, malls, or public places are considered poor taste – though they rarely complain, frankly, they might laugh about you. So even it is very hot outsideas, or you just express the liberty you can’t do at home, putting just a singlet might be better.
- Public displays of affection are not generally approved in Indonesia, though Balinese might be more open and accustomed to this than any other part of Indonesia.
- Homosexuality is banned in most Indonesia – though some communities in Bali are quite gay-friendly, avoid public displays of affection.
- Use your right hands to shake hands with others, to point out something, to hand something over, to pick up something, and to wave – as the right hands are considered polite while the left hand is considered impolite and “dirty” (as it’s used to wipe yourself in the bathroom) for Indonesian people in general.
- Pointing with the thumb is considered more polite. If you are asking someone to come, use your palm instead of your fingers.
- Do not touch someone’s head, as it is rude.
- Don’t show the soles of your feet to others, it is impolite.
- Aggressive posture, including putting your hands on the hips and elbows turned outward (akimbo) or puffing out your chest, are considered poor taste.
- Don’t get offended by something like personal questions. When Indonesian or Balinese people ask you personal questions, they just mean to be friendly and open. So it is common to ask "Where are you heading to?", “What is your job?”, “Do you have any children?”, or “Are you married?” – if you don’t want to answer, just respond with a joke or redirect the question to other topics you feel comfortable discussing.
- Use the local social titles, particularly for older people, such as Bapak (means Mr.), Ibu, or Mbok (means Madam).
- Do not lose your temper. Balinese dislike any form of confrontation. So if you get upset about something, avoid raising your voice or making accusations in public as it does not get you anywhere. You can solve it in private and calmly discuss it, to avoid embarrassing someone and making an unnecessary conflict.
- Do not over-bargain. Some assumptions that locals always start with double prices are not always right. Sometimes they just make small profits to earn a living, so pay for the prices you are happy to pay – if not, just walk away politely. If you are not sure how and how much to bargain, here are some convenient shopping places in Bali at affordable prices.
If you have any doubts about the etiquette in Bali or how to behave, just smile politely and ask the people around you, then they would be happy to explain it to you.