How to Visit a Buddhist Temple

how to visit a temple

As a traveler, I find Buddhist temples fascinating because they serve as both sacred places of worship and intriguing tourist attractions. When visiting these temples, it’s important for to show proper respect and follow the appropriate etiquette. If you plan to visit a Buddhist temple on your next vacation, you need to be aware of some basic guidelines beforehand. This will not only make your visit more enjoyable, but it will also help you avoid any unintentional blunders or potential international incidents.

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Buddhist-Monk-donation-box How to Visit a Buddhist Temple

How to Visit Buddhist Temples

One of my favorite things while traveling is to experience the serenity in the Buddhist Temples. Buddhist temples are full of history, intrigue, awe-inspiring architecture, and intricately carved reliefs. Usually peaceful and reticent, I love the chanting and aroma of incense burning. Chatting with the monks who are happy to speak with you. And wandering the temple grounds being lost in your thoughts is a chance for self-reflection. No matter your religious preference, Buddhist temples evoke a sense of peace and tranquility.

Me-Dragon-White-Temple How to Visit a Buddhist Temple

Wear Appropriate Clothing

In many cases, it is inappropriate to wear clothing that leaves the shoulders and the knees uncovered. Unfortunately, it’s usually pretty hot in places like Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia, so I prefer to carry a sarong in my bag.  Many temples have loaner shirts and or sarongs for free or for a small donation. If you are concerned, they don’t match your outfit; there are always tons of shops near the temples where you can purchase a beautiful sarong.

https://duffelbagspouse.com/beauty-history-and-atmosphere-my-favorite-asian-temples

Don’t Be Rude

Remove your hats and sunglasses. Do not talk on your cell phones, run, eat, or drink. Feel free to ask questions. Many temples, especially in Thailand, have a program called Monk Chats. Be aware of your surroundings and act appropriately. Nothing screams ignorance more than inappropriate selfies.

Men-Only How to Visit a Buddhist Temple

 

Women and Temples

Please do not touch the monks unless you ask, or they touch you first. This is especially true for women. You should also be aware; some temples are not open to women. Do not be offended. Women were allowed in these temples at one time. Women were banned because they menstruate, soiling the mats. Unfortunately, the modern-day conveniences of tampons have not affected the prohibition. Women are still considered “unclean.”

Keep Your Voice Down

Be considerate of worshippers. Use your best judgment when taking photographs. Religion is very personal, and they are not there to help you get more followers for your Instagram feed.

touching-the-monks How to Visit a Buddhist Temple

 

Be Respectful

If you are not Buddhist, be respectful of the religion, the temple, and the protocols. Do not mock, laugh, or belittle what you see or hear. You are not required to pray or even pay your respects, but you are required to be respectful. As a non-believer, you may not have access to certain areas. Do not cross roped off areas or touch things that are marked “do not touch’.”

Photography

Make sure you check for photography signage at the temple entrance. Many of the artifacts are ancient, so turn off the flash on your camera. Flash photography is also inconsiderate for worshippers.

shoes-at-the-front-door How to Visit a Buddhist Temple

 

Shoes

Follow the shoes/ no shoe protocols. At the White Temple in Chiang Rai, the dossants hand you a plastic bag at the entrance. Once you get to the main temple entrance, you put your shoes in the bag and carry it with you. Other temples, you leave your shoes at the proverbial front door.

Don’t Turn Your Back.

Remember not to turn your back on Buddhist statues. Back away, instead, to give the proper respect.

Donations are Always Welcome

Many temples operate purely on donations. Monks are not permitted to work. They do have to sing for their supper. If you get a chance, you should get up early to participate in the morning offering.

how-to-visit-a-Buddhist-Temple-2-683x1024 How to Visit a Buddhist Temple

Comments

  1. blair villanueva

    Thanks for sharing these guide. As a guest, we must always observe proper etiquette in visiting these places. I always bear in my mind, that even i travel far away to visit ancient places, i always think that am lucky that I was given a chance to visit them, so huge respect is a must. We dont want to leave bad impressions, leading to totally closing these beauty to the world.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Lol. I highly doubt it. I havent seen anyone get kicked out. But I have seen a few make an ass of themselves.

  2. Ellie

    It’s so important to be respectful in places like this. We want respect in our sacred spaces then we have to show respect in other people’s sacred spaces.

    Ellie

    1. duffelbagspouse

      True that. Can you believe I actually overheard someone say the opposite because it wasnt THEIR religion.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      So true. It all starts with respect, something the world could definitely benefit more from these days.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I wanted to ask a local woman if they felt the same way, but I never got around to it. Steven said I didn’t miss much, and I only saw 2 temples with the signage.

  3. jen

    these are such great tips! we should always be respectful of other cultures
    xo
    jen
    effortlesseverydaystyle.com

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you. It rally does start with respect, regardless of whether we agree or understand. Its something the world could definitely benefit more from these days.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      They aren’t just located in Asia, there is probably one much closer, check out google and let me know.

  4. Carol Cassara

    It has been a long time since I visited a temple. There will always be different practices and rules and it’s not that difficult to follow them unless you’re in the place just to mess around. I think these are great tips.

  5. Elizabeth O.

    I think it’s a very enlightening experience and it’s important that you act appropriately. It’s really important to observe all the rules especially since it’s such a sacred place. This is a great guide!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you Elizabeth, sometimes its not clearly marked and no one is around to provide guidance. These tips are relevant no matter what country you are visiting. I always appreciate your comments.

  6. The Travel Ninjas

    It’s amazing just how different temple etiquette can be not only in different countries but also at different temples in the same country. You’re so right to stress respect and show how what’s respectful is flexible and it’s our responsibility to know and show the appropriate respect.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I agree to a certain degree, I think all of these tips are applicable to “active” temples all across Asia.

  7. Heather @ US Japan Fam

    Great tips!! I’ve been to so many temples during my time in Japan and Thailand – they’re so beautiful and all so different, but definitely a common etiquette to follow to not be “that guy” 😉

    1. duffelbagspouse

      There is a beautiful Buddhist temple in Oahu. My girlfriend took me to when I went to Hawaii a few years. So you may be surprised when you get there.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Yes, that can be said of visiting any religious site. I would try to conform no matter what religion. Its just the right thing to do.

  8. Author Brandi Kennedy

    here are so many temples on my bucket list – including the White Temple and also of course Angkor Wat. This was a great list of tips to keep handy … Now I’ll know to check shoe rules and dress codes (and whether or not I’m allowed in!) before setting plans.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I had a similar issue at the Vatican. Girl in front of me was not dressed appropriately and I tried to tell her. You have to cover your shoulders. She rolled her eyes at me and ignored me. We stood in line for over two hours and when she got up to the front they turned her away. I just looked at her as she walked away.

  9. Ruth

    Wow, I didn’t realise that in this day and age, women could be considered ‘unclean’. I thought Buddhism was all about acceptance and inclusion

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Yeah, Asia is a special place. Its a pretty patriarchal society still. Not saying they don;t exists, but the only country where, I’ve met female monks was in China.

  10. Raine C.S.

    This is a great write up. I think sometimes forget that these are real functioning institutions and not tourist created entertainment facilities. It’s great that people have been allowed in to take a peek, but it’s always helpful to be reminded of some of the proper etiquette.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Exactly, we need to be reminded we are guest and should act accordingly. It can be an amazing spiritual experience no matter what religion you practice if we don’t treat it like DisneyLand.

  11. robin masshole mommy

    I love this so much. There is actually a Buddhist temple near me. It’s the biggest one in the US and I have been wanting to visit since it’s been built.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you Mackenzie. I love the temples and I watched s many people embarrassing themselves or being “corrected” when it wasn’t necessary because they were ignorant to the etiquette.

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