Reader Question: When and Where Are Shorts Appropriate?

wearing shorts in Europe and around the world

We received a great question from Renate about packing and wearing shorts during your worldly travels. We decided to put the question to our followers on Facebook, and here is what we found out!

Any thoughts on shorts? I know that some countries are pretty conservative and wouldn’t want your legs exposed, but I have also heard that shorts are not really worn in Europe either. When/where are shorts appropriate, and what styles/lengths/etc would you recommend?

As an American living in India…

If you travel in conservative areas: please, please, please don’t wear shorts in places like Rajasthan as a woman. But! There are great solutions I have found like REI poplar roll up pants that are super light weight and great for hot climates, and when you are hiking and not likely to offend local sensibilities they can roll up and be a bit cooler. I adore these pants. My only regret is that I only bought two pairs (one in each color).

–Kelsey Jane

On our RTW trip I packed jean shorts and was so glad I did.

Perfect for throwing on for hikes and beach days. When we were somewhere more conservative and i was out of other clean clothes I wore my leggings underneath them for more coverage. If you’re worried about length, they are probably too short, but I also go with finger tip or longer in a sturdy fabric or jean. Hope that helps!

–Jade Broadus of Vagabond3

I wear denim hotpants in all countries…

It’s my travel staple. All over Europe is fine, my shorts have definitely been all over and I should know I hitchhiked through the middle and wore them everyday. In conservative countries put a pair of leggings underneath and voila appropriate. Also in Japan/Korea it’s all the shortest of short shorts and cleavage covering tops. Bare legs even in snow.

–Georgi’n’a Young of George on the Go

Wearing shorts in Europe is fine.

I would say that that the 30+ crowd in Europe is not as likely to wear shorts, but younger people do and besides, you won’t offend anyone there so you might as well be comfortable! As far as more conservative countries, I always prefer skirts and dresses, as I find leggings under shorts to be too hot in many places. Look for ones that go to the calf or longer.I wore skirts to the calf in Thailand, but I tried to make sure my legs were mostly covered in Egypt. For hiking, I love the idea of the roll-up pants listed above!

–Ali Sheets of The Foreign Traveler

I usually stick to capris when traveling all over.

Recently, wore orange shorts around parts of Central America and I felt more like a tourist/American. My husband also commented on it too – I just looked strange. In lots of the world, both men and women wear pants no matter how hot it is. Aside from the more conservative countries, I don’t think wearing shorts is rude and you won’t offend, but it may make you stick out a little more as a tourist (in some places, you will look like a tourist no matter what!).

–Amber Hoffman of With Husband in Tow

I prefer the kind of shorts that look like pants on the back and like skirt on the front.

Of course with many pockets, to be able to keep everything that is important on me!

–Marianne Roman

Living in the UK last year, shorts with leggings and boots were the look.

I did not wear shorts once in Japan, China or Ny of SE Asia this past spring (I tend to wear skirts and sundresses). In the middle east, parts of Africa and parts of Asia, I either wear a long skirt or sarong, covering the appropriate parts that might cause offense. In South and Central America, skirts and sundresses, mainly because you don’t see many women in shorts. My amusing shorts story was in Abu Dhabi on a desert safari and a girl (around 16 or so) in another group was wearing tiny shorts and a half shirt to the discomfort of all of our guides. Then a camel projectile unloaded (from the back side) all over her when she walked behind it and they stuck her in a burqa. Heh.

–Ashley Stanley

In Asia, if you aren’t also Asian you are going to stick out majorly anyway…

So you may as well be comfortable, to an extent. In big cities, mid-thigh length or longer is appropriate. The only exception is in rural areas with little foreign presence and temples. There, please cover yourself. I saw a girl in hotpants so short her ass was literally hanging out … in Angkor! (not to mention she was also wearing a strappy tank with no bra) Yes it was like 30 degrees but thats not even appropriate at home much less while temple-hopping.

–Kaylin E. Stephens of Kaylin Around the World

I reckon it depends on the country, the type of shorts and your age.

Here in Europe, there are plenty of shorts/hotpants with leggings or patterned tights underneath in the winter and legs out in our brief UK summer. I’ve very rarely seen anyone with athletic style shorts unless they are actually doing something sporty. I think you’d see athletic shorts at theme park type venues in the USA, but not in the UK/France/other parts of Europe. And for those of us *ahem* like myself and of slightly more mature years, I’d probably wear crops rather than shorts even in the summer. But then I’m a pale redhead, and a big expanse of white skin is just not a bright idea. And of course, it depends where you’re headed for the day; I wouldn’t want to have to go back to the hotel to change just because we’d decided to visit a cathedral.

–Bernadette Jackson of The Travelling Travelator

When we went to Guatemala, we had the issue of not wearing shorts above the knee.

So we all opted out for capris. It worked great.

–Kim Telfer Lohman

Packing a pair of lightweight shorts should be fine…

Just being aware of where you are and the local customs is half the battle … skirts are wonderful and always appropriate (well not always not the shorty ones but the flowy cotton ones that are knee length or the jersey ones that roll up small as well) … the zip off or roll up pants are awesome cause that way you have BOTH lol … flowy pants as well are nice – I wore those in Paris a lot. Again being aware of the country you are going to, doing the research beforehand and the area you are in will all help you not stick out as an American! (personally I would not do hotpants anywhere and who wants leggings under denim if it’s hot? not this chick! )

–Holly Massie of Household Six

If you want to blend in, don’t wear shorts.

If you do not care if you are seen as a tourist, wear them. I never wear them.

–Elizabeth Porter

If I do I try to wear more conservative lengths.

This is because I don’t want unwanted attention from men. I try not to bring attention to myself especially if traveling alone.

–Christina Zweig

I wear capris or lightweight slacks.

Women in Europe tend to dress “up” more than we do and I like to blend in more. Conservative is never wrong.

–Kaye Holt

I was in Germany this past summer and lots of women in their 20s and 30s were wearing shorts with tights under them.

I saw very few with bare legs.

–Lacey Dudley

Well I’ve seen shorts all over Europe so no issues there.

I don’t really wear shorts because I’d rather wear leggings or something like that. I do wear them to the beach though.

–Bethany Salvon of Beers and Beans

I usually wear long shorts anyway.

I bought Uniqlo ones and J Crew has great ones in different lengths 3″, 5″, 7″. So whatever length you’re comfortable with, you can find one. In hotter tropical climates I wore jean cut offs. I had different lengths as well but in places like Bali and the Philippines in the beachy areas this is fine. In Malaysia which is Muslim I wore khakis rolled up and just dealt with sweating a lot.

RTWgirl.com

You don’t really need to wear shorts if you buy the cheap flowy skirts from Old Navy.

Conservative, comfy, and cool! I feel like I fit in much better that way anyways.

–Susan of Travel Junkette

I am from Germany, lived in the UK for 7 years and have travelled in Europe extensively.

Shorts in Europe are absolutely fine. The only time it is not appropriate is if you visit churches in southern European countries, such as Italy or Spain (i.e. The Vatican). Knees and shoulders need to be covered then, so leggings would be fine for example.

–Tammy of Tammy and Chris on the Move

I found the European dress-code to be very similar to what is worn generally in North America.

I wore shorts all the time. The only time you wouldn’t really is if you’re entering a very religious building where knees and shoulders must be covered. Otherwise, I had no issues wearing shorts in Europe.

Whirlwind Travel

What are your thoughts on wearing shorts in Europe and around the world? Do you pack them, or just leave them at home? Comment below to help out!

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

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Comments

  1. Rhonda says

    I never wear shorts only because I am comfortable in flowing skirts and feel more relaxed and covered up appropriately in them. But if you are going to wear them then be courteous of the culture you are visiting. Happy travels!!

  2. Amber says

    Great summary of the posts Brooke! Looks like lots of different views. I am in Myanmar now, and it has been hot, but I have still not broken out the infamous orange shorts – perhaps when on the beach. I have been sticking to my trusty capris, and some skirts and dresses.

  3. Malia says

    In all honesty as much as I love the comfort of a pair of jean shorts, they were just not worth the discomfort I felt as the only person wearing them in Cambodia. In Angkor I’d see girl wearing shorts and bikini tops to the temples and it just seemed disrespectful to me. And in Phnom Penh you cannot enter the palace if you are wearing shorts or a tank top. Ended up buying those Princess Jasmine harem pants to keep cool.

  4. Jo says

    In Europe I’ve always felt comfortable walking around in shorts, apart from in religious places (eg Vatican) where I follow the shoulder and knee rule. In more religious countries such as Israel I tended to avoid it, but still saw local people often wearing shorts above the knee in some more relaxed cities.

  5. Selina says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’m going to Germany to visit my long distance boyfriend and his family for about 6 weeks from May-June. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that shorts are fine, as long as they’re not too short 🙂

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