(Some) Sage Sartorial Advice for Visiting Sacred Places
Perhaps the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, said it best when she sang those iconic lyrics: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!” Indeed, as travellers, we are continually trying to find out what is considered respectful— mindful not to put our proverbial foot in our mouths or inadvertently offend locals when galavanting around the globe.
Is it Rude If I…?
We know it can be a daunting experience when travelling to countries whose cultural etiquette is different from our own. We often find ourselves burdened with questions like: Is it polite to shake hands? Should I bow, and if so, how low? Is it considered rude to tip?
Clearly, most of us want to be respectful when visiting a foreign country, and some of the most frequent questions from travellers concern proper and appropriate attire when visiting places of worship. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips for your next trip to places of worship in Southeast Asia!
What Not to Wear when Visiting Temples
- Tank tops
- See-through clothes
- Short skirts
- Backless dresses
- Strapless dresses
- Revealing clothes (crop tops/low cut tops)
Skip the Bare Essentials!
The most important thing to remember is that bare shoulders and knees are not allowed in most temples. Be sure to bring clothes that will adequately cover these areas of your body.
What to Bring when Visiting Temples For Men:
- Long pants
- Long-sleeve shirts
- Ankle-length skirts
- Tops that cover shoulders
- Long pants
- Dresses that cover shoulders and knees
- Long scarf to use to cover shoulders
- Sarong to cover over shorts/skirts
Helpful Temple Hacks!
If you come upon a temple or place of worship and are not properly dressed, it’s a great idea to keep a long scarf or two in your bag or purse, so you can wrap it around your legs (like a sarong) or cover your shoulders . Some temples will allow you to rent these coverings for a small fee but, like the Boy Scouts say, it’s always better to be prepared!
Modesty is Key
When visiting temples in Southeast Asia, the key word is modesty . A recent article in the Telegraph notes that Apsara Authority , which manages the Angkor Wat site, explains that, “ Wearing revealing clothes disrespects the temple’s sanctity…we will not allow [tourists] to buy a temple pass if they wear revealing clothes . Our officials will inform them what they should wear to be able to visit our ancient temples, so they can come back to buy a ticket later after they change their clothes.”
Some further Code of Conduct information
Certain temples, such as Angkor Wat, have a strict code of conduct. Before venturing out, it’s worth taking note of the following rules:
- No littering
- No smoking
- No touching of artifacts and Temple reliefs
- No taking pictures with monks without asking permission
Watch the Video!
For more information on Angkor Wat’s code of conduct, please click here for an informative and entertaining video!
Read the Code of Conduct!
Please see this handy chart for further code of conduct instructions when Travelling to Angkor Wat:
Through the act of travelling we come to the profound realization that we are more alike than unalike, but we also come to appreciate our diversity in meaningful ways. One of the most wonderful aspects of travel is that it allows us to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of these diverse cultures and their respective customs . We hope this information will be useful to you as you plan your next adventure. As always, have fun and travel safe!