As much as women should be treated equally while traveling, this just isn’t the case in some parts of the world. How you dress does matter, especially while visiting conservative countries.
It’s easy to think you’re not hurting anyone by wearing tank tops and cutoff shorts. Why should you? You wear them every day in your normal life. But, drawing attention to yourself in this way is seen as negative, disrespectful, and even dangerous in certain destinations.
A good point to keep in mind: Just because you don’t have the same conservative values doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adapt to your locale. Do your research in advance before visiting places like Malaysia, India or parts of Africa so that you aren’t offending the local customs (and you pack proper clothing).
We’ve put together some basic conservative packing tips, and don’t worry, you can still be fashionable while also being modest.
If you’re visiting mostly Muslim or Hindu countries, it’s respectful to cover your shoulders. This can be difficult in warmer climates, but leave the singlets and spaghetti straps at home, unless they are used for sleeping or layering. If nothing else, have at least one light shirt that covers your shoulders for days you’re visiting temples and holy sites. Also make sure you’re not showing too much cleavage. I always have a few cheap solid colored t-shirts from Target or Old Navy for trips like these, like the one pictured above.
Scarves and Sarongs
These two items are essentials for the female traveler, regardless of where you’re going. Use them to cover your shoulders or head before entering a holy site, or for added modesty if your top is a little low-cut. They’re easy to toss in your bag if it doesn’t need to be worn all day. It also makes for a versatile travel item since it can be used as an eye mask, towel, and so on.
Wearing shorts can attract unwanted attention, so pack a pair of bottoms that goes at least to your knees, but right below is better. I don’t usually pack jeans for conservative countries that are also humid, but instead bring leggings or yoga pants, which can be worn on long flights and at religious sites. I love my Lole Refresh pants for this purpose. Capri pants are also useful, as are hippie pants sold throughout Southeast Asia.
When it comes to skirts, you’ll want them to extend past the thighs and over the knees. Lightweight cotton works best, especially maxi skirts to be paired with tops and scarves. Brenna shares some cute and modest outfits she’s worn in her travels.
Dresses are easy items to lounge around in or add accessories to for a night out. But as with the other clothing items listed for traveling in conservative counties, make sure shoulders and knees are covered up. A standard black maxi dress can be worn many ways and fits into nearly every culture given the shoulders and cleavage are covered.