Customs and Etiquette in Bali
Even though Bali presents itself as westernised and modern, the native culture and traditions are still very much a part of Balinese behaviour. Follow these tips to maintain smooth relationships wherever you go in Bali.
- If visiting a temple, you should always cover your shoulders and knees. Most temples will have sarongs available for a small donation.
- Respect religious customs. If you find yourself amongst a ceremony, feel free to take photos but from afar. If you’re dressed appropriately and show respect, there is no issue to watch.
- If you happen to get stuck behind a procession while travelling, stay calm and don’t offend by honking the horn. Enjoy the show. It really is a wonderful experience.
- Watch out for daily offerings placed on the streets and beaches, and be mindful not to step on them! These small trays are offered to the Gods by locals in the morning. Stepping on or over them will offend the Balinese, so if you happen to do so by accident, simply apologise and keep moving.
- You can bargain for many items and services in Bali, but do so respectfully and with a smile on your face. You’ll know when the vendor has reached their limit, and at that point don’t push it. When in doubt, walk away – if the seller doesn’t come after you, you can be sure they aren’t prepared to drop their price any lower. You shouldn’t commence bartering if you’re not prepared to purchase.
- Dress and act modestly. Bikinis and board-shorts are fine on the sand, but when shopping, eating or travelling, clothing should be worn. Even though the island vibe is strong, most restaurants and bars do require a dress standard.
- Only use your right hand to touch or give something to a Balinese person. The exception is when you use both hands to pass something over. This is considered a compliment.
- If you’re going to take a photo of a Balinese person or child, ask first. A lot of older people may say no, and are not meaning any disrespect to you. Others will give you their biggest smiles. Respect their wishes.
- You shouldn’t touch children’s or adult’s heads at any time. In Balinese culture, the soul is said to reside in one’s head, making it a no go zone.
- It is very common for a Balinese to want to know everything about you. “Where are you from?” “Where are you going?” “Where are your children?” They are not being imposing, just inquisitive. They love to find out more about you, and share their own stories too. Enjoy learning from and about each other.