Indonesia: Local Customs & Culture Do’s & Don’ts In Bali

Bali Tourist admiring the scenic view

2.26min read

Published 6 January 2022


The Indonesian Island of Bali has long been a favourite destination for Aussies. A tropical party zone where the beers are cold, the waves are big, the bars are pumping and the weather is hot and sticky. But amid the clamour of westernisation, it’s easy to forget that Bali has a deeply religious culture that’s not only a world away from downtown Sydney or regional Queensland, but is unlike the rest of Indonesia.

If this is your first visit to Bali, a few starters about Bali local customs, culture and traditions will help you form a lasting bond with one of the coolest holiday destinations around. But before we get there … 

Here’s A Quick Covid Update

To enter Indonesia, you must: 

  • Show evidence of full COVID-19 vaccination completed at least 14 days before travel. Vaccination requirements apply to children between the ages 12-17. 
  • Have proof of COVID-19 medical insurance coverage of at least $US 100,000. 
  • Show evidence of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test result taken no more than 72 hours before travel. You’ll also need to undergo a further COVID-19 (PCR) test on arrival and during quarantine. 
  • Quarantine in a hotel for 10 days in the city of arrival.
Woman smiling on a brightly lit beach, holding a white surfboard
Woman smiling on a brightly lit beach, holding a white surfboard
Woman smiling on a brightly lit beach, holding a white surfboard

Do’s And Don’ts

While Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country, 90% of people in Bali practice a form of Hinduism (Balinese Hinduism) unique to the island. For many visitors, Balinese traditions in religious ceremonies, traditional music, traditional dance and countless temples are its main attraction.  


The Balinese Hindu Dharma (way of life) shares many beliefs and values of Indian Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism, such as samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth), nature’s balance of opposites, virtue, patience and self-restraint. Because these religious tenets shape Bali’s customs and culture, a few simple rules will ensure your interactions with Balinese locals remain friendly and free of misunderstandings.  



DO Dress Modestly 

As tempting as it is to bare as much as you dare in a hot and sunny locale, Balinese culture discourages immodest displays of skin from both men and women. This isn’t so much of an issue in the tourist throngs of Kuta or Seminyak Beach. But if you’re lodged near the island’s rural settlements or visiting a temple, slipping into clothes that cover shoulders, upper arms and legs to below the knee will ensure you’re warmly welcomed by locals.

DON'T Go Nude

Despite its hedonistic image, beach-life in Bali is tempered to some extent by Balinese modesty. So nude or topless sunbathing anywhere on the island is a strict no-no. 


DO Be Polite And Patient

The Balinese people value gentle, courteous and friendly behaviour, so it’s best to mirror this approach rather than shouting and making a scene. Raising your voice is considered vulgar. So, losing your rag in public, no matter how long you’ve been waiting for your Betutu Duck, is not going to get you better table service. 

DO Mind Your Step

“Canang sari” are holy offerings of square arrangements of palm leaves, flowers, and herbs that Balinese Hindu people leave out each morning to express gratitude and devotion to the gods. Most likely you’ll find them laid out in streets, on footpaths, on stairs, and in entrances to buildings. Stepping on or kicking canang sari is highly disrespectful.

Bali written in the sand with a palm tree for the "L", and a cartoon sun
Bali written in the sand with a palm tree for the "L", and a cartoon sun
Bali written in the sand with a palm tree for the "L", and a cartoon sun

DON’T Touch People’s Heads

The head is considered the most sacred part of the body and a pathway to the soul in Balinese culture. So, no touching. Even ruffling the hair of a child is considered disrespectful.  

DO Keep Smiling

Nothing connects people of varying backgrounds and cultures together more than smiling. You’ll notice that Balinese are open and at ease with each other and convey this by smiling at every given opportunity. Smile back and you’re instantly part of the community. It’s that easy.

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