Etiquette when visiting a Thai Monk and Temple

April 19, 2016 nanaboonkoom

Etiquette when visiting a Thai Monk and Temple


Learn how to show the correct respect to a Thai Monk when you visit them at a Temple, and the procedure for getting a Sak Yant Tattoo

Etiquette when visiting a Thai Monk and Temple

Thailand is a 95% Buddhist country, with the local people having a special reverence to the Monks and Temples that they use for worship.  Because of the very special relationship the Thai people have with their Monks and Temples (called Wat's) there is elaborate rules, regulations and etiquette that ensure proper respect is shown.  Some of these rules are common sense and others might seem odd to the foreigner visitor.  Never the less, being disrespectful to the Thailand Temples and Monks is an indiscretion you do not want to make.


Always keep in Mind, no matter how liberal the country is where you come from - there is a class system in Thailand - You are NOT EQUAL to a Monk. Think about how you would act towards a judge in a court of law, who looks as if they might let you off with a warning for some indiscretion, and is just waiting for you to give them any reason to throw the book at you. 

Thai Temple Etiquette

The Worship Area

Thai temples are usually comprised of a courtyard with the Temple itself, sometimes some housing (in bigger Temples) and small worship areas scattered around. The sheltered areas that contain Buddha statues are known as Bots. These areas are more sacred than other places in the temple, and a few rules of etiquette should be followed.

  • Remove your shoes before entering if you haven't already.
  • Don't get in the way of local people who are actually there to worship.
  • Back away from the Buddha statue rather than turning your back.
  • Don't touch sacred objects in the worship area.
  • Do not raise yourself higher than the image of Buddha (e.g., sitting on the raised platform for a photo).


The General Rules when Visiting a Thai Temple.


Dress Modestly:  Everywhere between the elbows and ankles should be covered, no low necklines for women,  long skirts or long trousers in plain colors are recommended.  Black is a funeral color so best to not wear black clothing. 


Remove Hats, Shoes, Sunglasses etc:  Leave these at the entrance of the Temple. 

Thai Temple Dress Code

Turn Off Phones, Remove Headphones:  Self explanatory, you are at a place of worship, texting your friends is NOT appropriate


Do not Touch or Point or Raise yourself Higher to Buddha Statutes: Never touch, sit near, or climb on a Buddha statue or the raised platform. Get permission before taking photographs and never do so during worship. When exiting, back away from the Buddha before turning your back.  Pointing at things or people around the temple is considered extremely rude. To indicate something, use your right hand with the palm facing upwards. When sitting, never point your feet at a person or image of Buddha.


Women Don't Touch Monks:  Not in Thai Culture, including his own mother. Even doing so on accident (i.e., brushing against the robes in a crowded place) requires the monk to perform a lengthy cleansing process.  At some temples women are not allowed to enter, there will be signs indicating this.

Sak Yant Tattoo Etiquette

Before you get a Sak Yant Tattoo


Do not drink alcohol the night before. Thai people have exceptional sense of smell and your body will be unpleasant to be around. Not to mention the lack of respect doing this shows to the Monk.


Dress appropriately: You are going to a Temple and addressing a Monk. Wear clothing that covers the knees. Have a look around at Thai people and how they dress, you will very seldom see a man without a shirt (or wearing a wife beater) and you will never see a female wearing the loose and short skirts or pants tourists feel comfortable with in Thailand's heat.


Shower before you go: Thailand is hot and most Thai people shower at least twice a day. It is well known among Thai people that westerners are used to showering once a day and never seem to consider changing this in the hot and tropical conditions. In other words, Thai people notice our body smells, so make sure you are clean, especially where the Sak Yant will be applied.


When you are in the presence of a Monk or Ajarn

Once you arrive at the Temple, you will most likely find that you are not alone. This is a 100% real experience and not a tourist attraction, it is a working temple with a working Monk who serves the needs of his community like any holy man in the western world.


You will take off your shoes and sit on the floor along with the other people there to see the Monk. While your Sak Yant is a special and unique experience for you – other locals will have a range of problems ranging from serious health issues to wanting a good luck blessing. Some will have a serious demeanor, and some will be the typical Thai’s with a big smile and be talking away to you in Thai.


When it is your turn follow the following etiquette


When you greet a monk, you “Wai” and keep your body lower, it is polite to be the first to wai as is a sign of respect to the monk or elder.


You do not stand above a monk as a matter of politeness. Try not to stand while the monks are seated.



You will present your small “offering to the spirits” before the Sak Yant ceremony begins. The Offering is showing respect to the monk (Ajan) that is going to do Sak Yant for you. Its a way to show them that you believe in their magic power and trust their skills.


First thing you have to do is bow 3 times to respect as Buddhism way;

1 for Buddha

2 for Buddhism and

3 for Monks


This offering should be arranged on a tray which is included flowers, incense and a candle and the money offing. If the amount of money is end with 9 number like 299 baht is good number because 9 or “ Kaow” in Thai means Being successful but its not necessary or not a must.


The monk will have a small accepting ceremony of the offering on behalf of the spirits.


Then after the offering has been accepted the Monk will ask what kind of Sak Yant you desire.


The Monk will prepare for your tattoo, mixing the ink and sterilizing the needle. The Monk will sit in his chair and motion you to come over and begin your Tattoo

Cambodian Sak Yant3


After the Sak Yant Tattoo is Finished


After the Tattoo it is completed, you the receiver should turn and bow 3 times to thank the monk.

sak yant blessing

Now is time for the blessing. Usually you will take your offering and both you and the monk will hold onto it for a few minutes while the Monk recites the blessing incantation. This is the magical part of the Sak Yant experience.


The Sak Yant process is now over. You put your shoes back on, and if needed go outside and take a few moments for it all to sink in.