Know all the ins and outs of Thai Temple Etiquette

Before planning a tour

Thai Temple Etiquette

Thailand is not just famous for being a vacation destination, but is very well known and visited for its sacredness, religious beliefs, great calming vibes, and an astonishing abundance of Buddhist Thai temples. Whether people visit Thailand for religious purposes, visiting relatives or for a getaway, touring Thai temples is part of the itinerary. 

Visitors often feel overwhelmed whether it is their first time visiting a Thai temple or not, so to ease the feel and impart some knowledge, this article will not only familiarize people with Thai temple Etiquette but help to make the visit more nuanced and mind-blowing.

All the questions that you may or may not have regarding Thai Temple visit, such as whether photography is allowed or not or what sort of clothing is appropriate or any other questions, Do not worry all and more questions regarding Thai temple Etiquettes will be answered.

And if you think you don't need to know any, trust us, understanding and following them will not only help you to be welcomed by the locals wholeheartedly but will make your Thai temple experience worth so much.


Temple in Thailand


Thai Temple and What to expect

Each temple has something unique to offer, whether it's reclining statues of the great Buddha or an emerald Buddha statue or any other sacred relic. All temples are considered sacred and hold the highest values in the Buddhist communities in Thailand and abroad.

With over 42,0000 temples all around the island, Thai temples are really the featuring element of the country. The Thai temples are also popularly known as the 'Wats,' houses various artifacts, relics, scriptures and Buddha Statues that not only pay homage to the history but help to enlighten people and give guidance.

And though making temples a popular touring spot may sound absurd for many religions and countries, but Thai Temple not only serve a religious purpose but are known to foster a sense of calmness and contentment in people regardless of their religious beliefs. Hence to respect other people's connections and feelings at the temple and also to respect the temple itself, it is expected by people to follow certain Thai Temple Etiquette to ensure everyone gets what they seek for at the premises quickly.


Visit the temple in Thailand


With that said, there are few things that need to be expected that may not be familiar to many;


Thai temples are a popular touring spot; therefore, there is no way people would miss the chance of seeing the remarkable architecture and the divine calming feeling Wat's foster. But what many people may not know is that there is a prevalent condition that plagues many Thai temple tourists, and it's commonly known as "Wat Burnout."

So what exactly is Wat Burnout? Well, it's exhaustion caused by visiting too many Thai temples in a week or so. In fact, some people have reported that just by thinking of visiting numerous temples has made them burned out.

The easy way to prevent Wat Burnout is to enjoy and cherish every temple, which is also a Thai temple Etiquette. Not rushing from one place temple to another helps to grab the essence and appreciate the place better but also shows the respect you have for that place, that you stay and experience everything the Thai temples has to offer, not just for the sake of seeing them all.


There have been many movies with Thai temples as backdrops, and though some parts do true many aren't. So the prime focus of you visiting Thai temples is to see a vogue version of them showcased by movies you might be a slight disappointment.

As a religious place, Thai Temples are meant to worship and pay respects. Sure, some temples, such as White Temple in Chiang Rai, may facilitate the vogue Thai temple feel, but the majority don't.

So if you are planning to see monks practicing Kung Fu, you either need to go to a Monk school to witness that or do your research to find temples that offer that, such as Shaolin Temple in China, because, in Thailand, it is not a common practice.

Another misconception movies have promoted is that many such temples are located at the top of the mountains or faraway places. Again with this thing, some temples are there which are located in faraway lands, but the majority aren't. The whole idea of having Temples is to make them accessible to the public so that they can carry out their rituals and prayers with ease. But if that is what you really want to see, Erawan Shrine in Bangkok or Wat Lan Khuat in Isaan may be your best bet.


The White Temple of Chiang Rai



Many people have this notion that Monks may not be as connected to the actual worth as others may be. It is assumed that for Monks, the real world may be an alien concept, but what people may not know is that in Thailand, it is expected of every male to spend some time (ideally three months) in Thai temples as a monk to learn humility and other essential traits.

So if you spot Monks outside the temple holding a cell phone, playing games or being goofy, it is totally normal. The reason they do not carry out the same activities inside the temple is that they adhere to Thai Temple Etiquettes to show their respect.

Another thing people assume regarding Monks is that they are backward and don’t engage with people. Well, that is not true with over 300 000 monks on the streets of Thailand who can be seen doing all sorts of things; the only thing is for a brief time frame, they need to be a part of that culture. So if you are afraid to initiate a conversation with them, don’t worry.  They are friendly people, many fluent in English or for sure will try to speak it to facilitate you further.

And if you are curious to know more about their lifestyle, you can always attend the ‘Monk Chat session’ in Chiang Mai, which is a great way to learn more about Monks and their particular lifestyles, Thai temples and Buddhism as a whole.

And remember, though, it is a Thai temple Etiquette but can be followed anywhere in the presence of a monk. When greeting a monk or Thanking them, always remember to give them a higher wai; it is a famous prayer-like gesture with a slight bow, done to show respect and gratitude.


Monk Chat in Chiang Mai



Thai temples are not only sacred to people for religious reasons, but the grounds of the temple’s courtyard are peaceful and foster good vibes. Thai temples also function as much more than that with designated sections such as ordination hall (bot), prayer hall (viharn), stupas (chedi), living residences (kuti), a kitchen, and classrooms, administrative buildings. Hence it is considered to be an essential Thai temple Etiquette not to wander off anywhere in the temple without proper permission.

For example, the ‘Bot’ area is particularly reserved for the monks and contains Buddha statues. The Viharn (Prayer hall) is the area permitted for tourists to visit where they can pray and see images of the great Buddha. 

However, though it is suggested that the general public should not access the Bot area, but Bot and Viharn both the areas look pretty similar in their décor and architecture. Therefore to differentiate between them and honour Thai temple Etiquettes, the smart thing would be to make sure that the following things are available at the area, if so, then you are in the Vigarn area; if not, ideally, you should apologize and make your way out. The things to look for are:

  • A sign of taking shoes off
  • Donation boxes
  • Worshippers other than Monks
  • Eight Sema Stones (if you spot them, you are in the wrong place)


Praying in Thai Temple


The Do’s and Don’ts of Thai Temple Etiquettes

So we have covered until now what to and what not to expect at Thai temples, including some of the dos and don'ts. But providing a designated section for it, here's some of the Thai temple Etiquette that is expected by the visitors, whether local and international and are very easy to follow through.


In a Thai Temple, it is common to see many Buddha statues and Images. The more of these elements are there, the more scared the place becomes, making it vital for visitors to follow a few Thai temple Etiquettes and rules in their presence, and especially at the main worship area. Following are some of the rules that must be followed:

  • Removing Shoes before entering Vihran (worship area)
  • Do not stand or step on the door threshold going inside.
  • Avoid getting in the way of people worshiping or seeking to worship.
  • Before going back, take a couple of steps backwards before turning your back against Bussha Statue.
  • Do not take selfies especially turning your back against the Statue.
  • Do not touch sacred objects.
  • Avoid making jokes, laughing and being loud.
  • Do not point fingers at the Buddha statue for any reason.
  • Do not jump or raise yourself higher than the Buddha Statues for any reason.
  • Avoid bringing children to the worship area if they are cranky, unhappy or are disruptive.
  • In the case of pillars or statues in the room, it is advised to walk around them in a clockwise manner only.
  • If you want to hang out in the worship area, sit properly, with legs tucked underneath and sir at the side to not interfere in other people's worships.
  • While sitting, make sure that your feet are not pointing at the Buddha statue or images.
  • If a monk enters the room, stand up until they finish their prostrations as part of respecting and honoring them.
  • It is common for tourists to take pictures of the places they visit, however taking pictures in Thai temple or temples on general are considered to be rude and offensive, especially taking photographs with poses or back turned against Buddha statues.
  • Taking pictures of Thai temples architecture from outside or in the open ground is permitted but not in designated areas.
  • Unlike japan, it is okay to click pictures of Buddha in certain Thai temples.
  • Avoid taking pictures of other worshippers while they are praying.
  • Taking pictures of Monks without their permission is also considered offensive.


Take pictures of Thai temple in the open ground


  • Dressing modestly may be the most common and popular Thai temple Etiquette that needs no explanation. As a sacred religious place, it is advised to be dress in a modest manner to show respect. Here are some do’s and don’ts for dressing;
  • Do remove hats, sunglasses and shoes before entering the worship areas
  • Do silence mobile phones and remove headphones
  • Do cover tattoos before entering the premise
  • Do not wear tight clothes, stretchy clothes, party clothes, sleeveless clothes, short clothes (covered knees is advised)
  • DO not wear sports attire or revealing clothes
  • Do not wear things relating to other religions
  • Do not smoke, spit or chew gum.

Many Thai women already know rules circulating around the temple and monks which are expected to be followed no matter what, such as;

  • Women, irrespective of their relationship with the monks, are not allowed to touch them or hug them while they are in monkhood. (In case of being touched, monks have to perform an extensive cleaning process).
  • In case of wanting to give something to the monk, it is advised not to do it directly, instead to put the object down and let them pick it.