Visiting a Thai Temple
Thai Buddhist temples are extraordinary masterpieces of architecture, art, and history. There are thousands all over the country, so there’s a good chance you’ll visit at least one during your travels. However, it’s important to know how to dress appropriately before visiting these holy places.
Men should not wear shorts, tank tops, or flip-flops. This especially true if you are visiting extremely important temples such as Wat Phra Kaew. Instead, you must wear long pants and a t-shirt, preferably one with a collar. If you want to wear sandals, with a back strap is okay.
Women are not allowed to wear shorts in Thai temples. A skirt is allowed if it is knee length or longer and of modest style. Shirts must cover the chest and shoulders, so spaghetti straps and tank tops are not allowed.
Most temples will have some cover-ups in case you are not properly dressed.
Leave Your Shoes Outside
As per Thai culture, you must take off your shoes before entering a holy place. Every temple has a shoe rack where you can safely leave your shoes while you visit. Being barefoot shows respect to Buddha.
Inside the Temple
Once you’ve entered the temple, please be respectful and quiet. Keep your head lower than the monks and the images of Buddha. Never:
- touch any images of Buddha, no matter how big or small they might be
- touch anything in the worship area, as it may be a sacred object
- point the soles of your feet toward statues of Buddha
Many temples have a Bo tree, which is usually recognizable by a saffron-colored cloth wrapped around its trunk. It is usually very large with many branches and is often in a special area of the temple grounds. It is a sacred tree because Buddha found enlightenment while sitting under a Bo tree. Do not touch or climb or pick leaves or branches from this tree.
Visitors are allowed to take photographs of the inside and outside of a temple as long as you don’t get in the way of those who are coming to worship or make donations to their temple.
Almost every temple will have a few donation boxes. As a foreign visitor, you are neither required nor expected to donate to the temple. However, if you took pictures, enjoyed the serenity of the area, or just want to help keep the temple running, why not drop a few baht into the donation box?