This post was most recently updated on October 24th, 2023
[A collaboration post with Day Translations – all thoughts are my own.]
Planning your holiday in Bali but confused about what things not to do in Bali? These tips from me will help you find your best trip ever!
Bali is known as the Land of Gods, and it is one of those places of destination that everyone has to visit at least once in their lifetime. This small island is the only Indonesian island to be almost completely Hindu which makes it extremely different from the rest of the country, which is mostly Muslim.
Bali is home to an incredible culture, rice terraces, wild beaches, volcanoes, and some of the friendliest locals you could hope to meet. The Balinese people are some of the nicest, most pleasant, and most tolerant people in the world. Some people also have very specific behaviors, which is something that basically any tourist who visits Bali needs. Find out here when is the best time to visit Bali.
Of course, there’s a difference between the culture in the country those tourists came from and the culture on Bali Island. They may be very different from each other. If you don’t know what those things are, you should know first before visiting Bali. Here’s a list of the things you should never do in Bali. Get to know real Balinese, and your trip to this intriguing island will be an enriching one.
Things Not To Do in Bali
There have been many cases in Bali where people who come to Bali violate the rules, especially when it comes to Balinese culture. And this thing went viral and got a lot of criticism from the Balinese people. We’re very sensitive when it comes to culture, which we’ve always kept for generations.
So, it would be better if people who come to Bali found out in advance what things they should not do in Bali to have a pleasant vacation and amazing memories. Actually, when local people (me, of course) see visitors coming to Bali, we always welcome everyone with pleasure!
Do not touch people’s head
Of course, this thing is very unacceptable, both in Bali and in Indonesia in general. If you usually find that touching this part of the body to show love or warmth to other people is not okay in Bali. There’s only one reason for this: the head is the most sacred part of their body.
Even touching the heads of the kids in Bali is not suitable for their culture. Touching any part, like hands, legs, or even the body accidentally is more okay than touching the head. You can show it in other kinds of activity like a hug, shaking hands, etc.
Do not step on or move the offerings
The next important thing in Bali you can commonly see when enjoying your daily activities is the offerings. You will see beautiful offerings (known as canang) refreshed daily outside Balinese homes, shops, and temples – and it’s one of those sights that always makes me smile.
The offerings are usually right in the middle of the pavement, and it’s easy to step on them by mistake. You can see some of them, placed carefully preserved for them, or just lying on the ground. Even though they just lay there, you shouldn’t put your foot on them or pass right above them.
Avoid walking on the ceremonial offerings in the street. Dogs walk over them, but if you can, and they are everywhere, try to pay extra attention not to them as this is deeply offensive to the Balinese.
The offerings are considered to be the most sacred thing for the Balinese. They are also included as part of Balinese culture that should be respected. People are starting to prepare the offerings during the morning for only one purpose: to show their gratitude to God. So, we should also respect their way of praying and showing gratitude.
Avoid drinking tap water
Let’s get to the fact that Indonesia is still a developing country. Indonesia doesn’t have the best filtration systems in place, so the water flowing from taps may not be recycled and may still have some germs or bacteria that might cause stomach upsets.
Even if there are no bacteria, the minerals will definitely be absent, so it is best to buy packaged mineral water or bring your own Tumblr.
Do not visit temples wearing revealing clothes, shoes, or during menstruation
Being a Hindu-majority province in Indonesia, you are bound to come across a lot of temples in Bali. You should be aware that when you’re entering a sacred place such as a temple, it is best to wear appropriate clothes. This is applicable to both men and women.
However, you don’t need to wear thick clothing to be able to enter the temples. You only need to cover some parts of your body like your torso and legs. You can wear long pants, a shirt, or any clothes you want to wear, as long as they can cover your body. And it’s not a hard thing to do, right? To properly dress.
If you don’t know about this and are wearing a skirt or shorts, people around the temples will give you the cloth that will be put around your waist as a cover. Don’t expose too much of your upper body out of respect.
Additionally, it is customary to not wear shoes when inside, so remember to leave your shoes outside, or you might risk offending locals who will ask you to leave or return after taking your shoes off. Do take your shoes off when entering a temple or a person’s house. You will know because there will be shoes everywhere outside.
And there’s one restriction: for the girls, they shouldn’t enter the temples during menstruation. That’s why, before entering the temples, they will usually be asked first if they are “clean” or not. This thing should be remembered among the other things you should never do in Bali.
Avoid using the left hand for giving or accepting things
In Indonesia, the left hand is considered a not-good part of the body. Therefore it is the right hand that the locals use most of the time to do something important, such as giving or gifting somebody, pointing, eating, and so on. When in Bali, it is best to use your right hand to do the above-mentioned activities.
We only use our left hand for several occasions, like cleaning our body parts or taking the trash out. So that’s why we never use our left hand to eat, do handshakes, or show ways. Of course, it should be included as one of many things you should never do in Bali.
Do not point your toes toward A God statue or symbol
Do not ever point your feet at someone; if you do so by mistake, do not forget to apologize, as such behavior is considered extremely rude. Also, never sit with your feet pointing towards the shrine of a god in a temple since you might end up offending the locals, who consider it a sign of mockery or disrespect.
Do not mock religious processions
It is advisable to maintain decorum when religious processions are organized on the streets, especially if it is a funeral procession. A Hindu funeral procession is called Ngaben in Bali. If you happen to come by a Ngaben it is best to not make any noise and maintain silence till it passes, or you will definitely end up being confronted for your behavior.
Besides those things I mentioned above as things not to do in Bali, I also have several tips for you that you can find in the small list below:
- Don’t do drugs! This is all of Indonesia and Bali, where the death penalty exists, and there is little tolerance for drugs, and rightly so.
- Don’t haggle too much with the market owners. If you can afford to go to Bali, then you are a lot better off than many of the local Balinese people.
- Don’t forget to wear your helmet when you rent a scooter. You will more than likely get booked by the police if you don’t.
- Don’t use the horn of your vehicle excessively.
Some foreigners may not understand things they should avoid during their visit to Bali because it may be a little complicated to understand a certain culture of an area, especially Bali which has a very thick hereditary culture. Therefore, I always advise my friends who come to Bali to have reliable help or guidance.
Sometimes the guide itself isn’t enough if you plan to stay in Bali for months. My previous boss hired a Russian-Indonesian translator to help him better communicate with locals. So, I highly recommend hiring a professional translator, or at least an over-the-phone interpreter for all languages to avoid any misunderstandings during your stay.
Let’s say you want to visit some places or ask questions, but the locals do not speak English. That’s where you need over-the-phone interpreters. Day Translations provides you with a professional interpreter—in a quick and efficient way, at a low cost, and available 24/7 via phone. This will make all translation processes run quickly—only a call away, right?!
Bali is an extremely beautiful place to visit. It would be a pity if you couldn’t enjoy your trip because you were unaware of the things not to do in Bali. As a local, you should respect the culture that exists in Bali, because I will do exactly the same when visiting other places. With that, you can travel with ease without having problems, especially with the Balinese people around you. Make sure to keep these suggestions in mind for a pleasant journey!