Ubud is a pious town where daily life is centred around Balinese Hinduism and it’s ceremonies. The town is considered to be one of the holiest places in Bali, in particular Pura Gunung Lebah which remains to be one Ubud’s most iconic temple. Unlike beach towns in Bali, Ubud is more conservative and less accustomed to bikini-clad/topless tourists. Following the basic tips below can help you respect and preserve the culture of the hood:
Indonesia is not a confrontational society. Outward displays of anger aren’t acceptable and are embarrassing for all involved. The lack of confrontation also means that you won’t be told if you are being disrespectful (so best to follow these etiquette tips!).
A few basic points to dressing in public:
- Wear clothes: walking or driving around shirtless in Ubud is considered extremely disrespectful.
- Cover your belly: even if you’ve been working hard for those rock hard abs, men and women should cover their belly, crop tops aren’t daywear in the hood.
- Hide those butt cheeks: wearing shorts in Ubud is totally fine. Check out the locals and what kind of length they are wearing: above the knee is fine, above the butt cheek is not.
These rules don’t apply when lounging poolside or in a yoga class. However as soon as you leave the pool area or yoga studio you should throw something light on to cover your swimsuit/sports bra.
If you want to take some snaps, check in with a local to make sure it’s okay. Some temples forbid photography, but most in Ubud are okay with it. Don’t sit or climb on the monuments and best to take those yoga selfies elsewhere. Wear a sarong and cover your shoulders.
Ladies aren’t permitted into temples when menstruating. This has been misconstrued as a sexist rule, however it applies to anyone who is bleeding including people with cuts and wounds. There are varying theories and opinions about this, it is best to discuss it with a local if you have questions.
Generally, tipping is not customary in Bali. Most restaurants add on a 10-15% service charge, if they don’t it is nice to offer a tip. You can offer a tip to tour guides, drivers, cleaners etc. if you wish to thank them for good service, however it isn’t required. We often give a tip to GoJek drivers for food deliveries as the fee is so low to begin with.
HEAD, HANDS & FEET
When offering something to a local, use your right hand. In Indonesia the left is reserved for ‘hygiene purposes’.
Don’t touch people’s heads or point with your feet. As the highest point on the body the head is revered, and the lowest point, the feet, can be considered disrespectful.
When talking to persons older than you it is respectful to address them with the title ‘Pak’ for a man and ‘Ibu’ for a woman. This can precede their actual name e.g. ‘Pak Wayan’ or ‘Ibu Nyoman’.
Ceremonies are the first priority in Bali. People will take days off work, stop traffic and spend days, weeks and even months preparing for ceremonies. As foreigners, it is not necessary to understand all of the ceremonies but it is important to respect the importance of them. When you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam due to a ceremony there’s no need to get frustrated, sit back and take-in the experience we are all on Bali-time anyway.
If you’re attending a ceremony, you will need to wear the appropriate attire. Women need to wear a sarong, sash and preferably a kabaya. And men wear a white collared shirt, a sarong, a belt & saput. Check out the video below for the details: