Buddhist temples in Thailand follow very strict rules. If you don’t wear the proper clothes, you’ll be denied access. So you’d better make sure to pack appropriately – better safe than sorry!
In this post, I’ll explain what to wear when visiting temples in Thailand and will give you some tips so you know exactly what to pack.
Temples in Thailand: Dress Code
Most Thai temples follow the same dress code (I’ll elaborate a bit more further on). Women are often more restricted than men in terms of the clothes they’re allowed to wear.
First of all, everyone must cover their shoulders, regardless of sex. Tank tops and sleeveless t-shirts are not allowed inside. A basic t-shirt will just do, but you might also want to know that it’s possible to cover your shoulders and chest with a scarf as you enter the temple. This will allow you to wear just whatever you want underneath (this is something to consider, given the usual high temperatures in the country). Even so, I’d still recommend wearing just a basic t-shirt to avoid potential misunderstandings.
As for the visible part of legs, there are some differences between male and female visitors. Women must fully hide their knees. Ankles can be left uncovered, but you won’t be allowed in if you’re wearing shorts or a miniskirt. I recommend putting on a long skirt or ‘hippie’ pants, since wearing jeans will sentence you to die by heat. On the contrary, men are not required to cover their knees, although many still prefer to wear ‘hippie’ pants, adapting to the Thai dress style.
There are no specific rules for footwear, but bear in mind that you’ll be asked to walk barefoot in many temples. So if you’re a bit squeamish, you’d better remember to carry some socks with you and put them on when accessing a temple.
This dress code applies to the following temples in Thailand:
- Wat Mahathat (Bangkok)
- Wat Pho (Bangkok)
- Wat Arun (Bangkok)
- Wat Ratchaburana (Bangkok)
- Wat Saket (Bangkok)
- Wat Benchamabophit (Bangkok)
- Wat Samphran (on the outskirts of Bangkok)
- White Temple (Chiang Rai)
- Blue Temple (Chiang Rai), although no one is really checking at the entrance
- Wat Phra Kaew (Chiang Rai)
- Wat Phra Singh (Chiang Rai)
- Wat Klang Wiang (Chiang Rai)
- Wat Buppharam (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Phan Tao (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Chedi Luang (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Sri Suphan (Chiang Mai), although only men are allowed inside this temple
- Wat Phra Singh (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Chiang Man (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Lok Molee (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (Chiang Mai)
Please note that this list only includes some of the most popular temples in Thailand. However, this is the dress code you should follow in pretty much any other temple.
What if I’m not dressed appropriately?
You will simply be denied access. On top of that, most temples have supervisory staff that make sure you don’t take off your scarf during your visit and that all rules are complied with at all times. They can get really upset, so please be respectful.
If – for whatever reason – you didn’t bring the appropriate clothes, worry not. You’ll find countless stores around every single temple where you can buy t-shirts and pants, with prices ranging from THB 100-300.
What to wear to visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok
The Grand Palace in Bangkok follows an even stricter dress code. Both men and women are treated equally here and one must fully cover their knees and shoulders. In other words, men are not allowed in the palace in their shorts. My recommendation: go for ‘hippie’ pants to make the heat more bearable.
Scarfs are not permitted inside the palace either. Women must completely cover their shoulders and chest. If that’s not the case, they won’t let you in and you’ll have to waste money on an appropriate t-shirt (I speak from experience).
Needless to say – clothing stores are abundant around the palace, so buying new clothes on the spot is always an option. However, I do recommend you make sure you’re dressing appropriately before you stand in line. The Grand Palace is one of the most popular attractions in Bangkok and lines are always long. First, you’ll have to go through a security check and then keep waiting in line until you reach the entrance gate. This is where you’ll find out whether or not you’re allowed inside (based on your outfit). So if you’re not wearing the right clothes, you’ll have to leave, buy proper ones and then wait in line again (trust me, it happened to me and it makes you feel like an idiot). In a nutshell, you’d better wear the right clothes from the start to avoid wasting time (and money).
What to wear to visit Ayutthaya
The dress code in Ayutthaya is not nearly as strict as those at most temples in Thailand. Men are allowed to wear shorts and women are not required to cover their knees. You can basically wear anything you want.
Nevertheless, there is one temple that follows different rules. If Wat Ratchaburana is on your list, you might want to know that women need to cover their knees. Again, there’s a store conveniently located right across from the temple, but prices are higher than those in Bangkok (around THB 300 per person). Men, on the contrary, are welcome to wear shorts.
So even if most temples in Ayutthaya give visitors the freedom to wear what they want, you will still need to respect certain rules if you’re planning to visit Wat Ratchaburana.
I hope this post helped you avoid some misunderstanding and – most importantly – saved you time and money. Drop a comment if you still have questions and I’ll be happy to help.
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