I'm a JourneyWoman from California where the sun shines. Just returned
from a two week winter journey to China. Yes - it was cold, but
clothing did make a difference. We wore thermal socks under hiking
boots, thermal underwear, and, on top - a cotton shell, polar fleece
jacket, and windbreaker - three layers make for absolute comfort.
A wool hat to cover ears as a must as is a hood on the jacket. Re
gloves - two layers worked best for me - the thinner under-layer
was a blessing as I kept pulling off the heavy outer glove to take
Ms.Golkin, California, USA
Velvet and sequins are everyday dress in China. The Chinese love
sparkly and anything festive. No one will tell you, but jeans are
looked down on. So is slouchy clothing. The Chinese will be thrilled
if you dress up.
Carolyn, an American in China
Ed. note: When I was in Beijing
I didn't see a soul in velvet at Starbucks.
Yes, there can be lots of rain when you're in China but that's
not why I'm suggesting you pack an umbrella. My reason is so much
better. If you're going to the outskirts of any Chinese cities,
you absolutely must bring along a collapsible umbrella. You see,
not all toilet doors close properly -- some don't even close at
all. So open that umbrella and shield your body -- it can save you
a lot of embarrassment.
If you are in Beijing in the summer or fall when heat and humidity
are high, pack a pretty handkerchief in your purse. I used one to
cover my mouth and nose because the air pollution can be intense
at times, especially when traveling by taxi. When in the countryside,
wear plain styles in darker colors. Believe me, you will attract
plenty of attention just by being you.
Brandi, Bowling Green, USA
I would highly recommend skirts over pants in much of undeveloped
Asia, not because of femininity or cultural mores, but because of
cleanliness. The bathrooms in this part of the world are pretty
tough by Western standards and the floors are usually quite wet
and nasty. Since many of these cultures use water to clean themselves
instead of toilet paper, the water tends to get all over the floor.
It is much easier to squat and hold your skirt over your waist then
it is to squat and hold up the bottom of your pants from touching
Durfee, Boston, USA
Clothes are very cheap in China, but the women are a lot smaller/tinier
there than in Europe... I couldn't buy hardly anything in the local/cheap
stores that fit me. And I'm just the average height and weight for
Caroline, Rotterdam, Holland
You would expect that trousers would be the ideal choice for China,
but you will find that it is much easier and more modest to wear
a skirt if you have to use the local toilet "facilities".
Marjorie, Ottawa, Canada
I traveled in China: Don't pack anything fancy --knits are best,
pants and tops and one coat. Flat shoes for walking on THE WALL.
Clothes are cheap there and it is best to only take what only will
fit in your carry on, and buy anything else you need, including
a collapsible suitcase.
Joanne, Mill Bay, USA
Ed. note: Wow!
You really travel light!
For women in China, a simple dress or slacks and a jacket are
adequate for anything short of an official state banquet in the
Great Hall of the People.
Kevin Sinclair, Iris Wong Po-yee, Culture Shock, China (Graphic
Arts Centre Publishing Company)
If you're in Beijing during the summer, expect lots of heat and
humidity. To keep as cool as possible, you'll want to pack cotton
short sleeve shirts, T-shirts, shorts and skirts. But, understand
that Chinese women consider shorts very casual. So, if you plan
to wear them, make sure that they are "the walking type" that reach
at least to your knee. Ditto for the length of skirts.
If you are going sightseeing, by all means be comfortable, but
going braless, wearing tank tops or anything low cut will be frowned
When it comes to formal wear, lightweight pantsuits, blazers and
skirts are the norm. If you're invited to dinner and aren't sure
about what is appropriate to wear, ask your host. She will consider
it a pleasure to offer advice.
Be sure to pack a pair of all purpose walking shoes. As for other
footwear, sandals are the easiest to pack and perfectly acceptable
in Beijing, especially since it's going to be so warm. But, be sure
to wear sandals with a heel strap. Those without are classified
shower sandals or bedroom slippers and the Chinese will consider
Jan Wong, Toronto, Canada
Ed. note: Jan
Wong is the author of Red China Blues, a book that JW heartily
recommends. Not only is it an excellent read in terms of Jan's personal
experiences as a student and, later, a foreign correspondent in
Beijing but readers will also painlessly learn enormous amounts
about the complicated history and culture of China.
Shanghai is *extremely* humid and hot in summer, with temperatures
often in the 90's (F) or 30's (C) and humidity averaging 70%. June
and July are also the rainiest months, so thunderstorms are pretty
common (and often welcome, since they clean the air and cool things
off a little). Shanghai is a fashionable city, and the women tend
to dress very nicely.
To find a good balance of style and comfort, I would recommend
packing lightweight skirts, dresses, or cropped pants (cooler than
long pants, and not many people wear shorts) and short-sleeved tops.
Though many local women wear high heels for walking around, I don't
know how they do it! The sidewalks are often cobblestones, are sometimes
wet and a little grimy, and you have to do a lot of walking. For
foot protection and comfort, some sturdy, stylish flats are a must.
Finally, bring sunscreen and buy an umbrella when you get there
-- they sell great SPF 30 umbrellas that are made of a more reflective
material than rain umbrellas. Lots of local people -- both men and
women -- carry them, and I found that an umbrella made all the difference
in the hot sun.
Finally, some local young women wear really sexy outfits -- hot
pants and platform heels, miniskirts and stilettos -- seemingly
without turning heads or causing any commotion. It doesn't seem
advisable for foreign visitors to do the same, though -- you will
attract enough attention as it is.
When traveling to Colombia you should take special consideration
in the way you dress. In Bogota as in the rest of the country you
want to look fashionable without drawing attention to yourself as
a "rich tourist." Women of all ages wear jeans (the tighter
the better) although more mature ladies (40 and up) wear mostly
slacks and blouses. In Bogota you should avoid revealing too much
skin unless you want to be honked at by all the male taxi drivers.
The city is quite chilly year round anyway so avoid miniskirts and
cleavage bearing tops and never use flipflops (the streets are very
dirty and it rains unexpectedly). The men here are not ashamed of
being caught staring at women in sexy clothes so if that is your
style be prepared for a lot of ogling. The same advice goes for
Medellin. In the warmer areas it's a lot more laid back. Cali, Cartagena,
San Andres, etc. think Miami style. If you're planning on doing
a lot of walking in the cities I would avoid wearing expensive earrings
and jewelry as some daring pickpockets could rip them from your
neck/ears and take off running.
Ashley, Chicago, USA
EDITOR'S NOTE: Be
careful in Colombia. Dress very conservatively. Wear expensive earrings
and you can be sure someone will take them.
In the Congo take a hat to protect you from the sun. And for hot
summer days a light-colored umbrella to use as a parasol is nice
and not unusual. You can give it away when you leave. Many travelers
give all their clothes away when they leavedue to the poverty in
this part of the world.
Delita, Chapel Hill, USA
Take the lightest cotton "sun veil" fabrics to wear
on or near the beaches. Sarongs over matching bathing suits can
double as evening dinner wear. Denim is much too hot near beach
areas. A light cashmere shawl is great to wear evenings in San Jose.
Arline, Burlington, Canada
The best thing I brought to Costa Rica was a pair of quick dry
pants (from Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada) that had zip-off
pant legs. When I wanted to be warmer, protect myself from the mud
in cloud forests, or avoid mosquitoes, I could zip on the pant legs.
When not wearing the leg part of the pants, they fit very compact
in a small daypack.
Jen, Calgary, Canada
When you are traveling in Costa Rica avoid revealing clothes. Try
to dress tastefully and elegantly. Pack light clothing made of cotton
which is perfect. You can wear jeans or shots too, but not too short.
But the best way is to dress simply and elegantly. While going shopping
or walking around (in San Jose, that is), avoid wearing any jewelry,
there are thieves. If traveling in the mountains, bring a warm jacket,
the higher the altitude the colder it is. Last, but not least, you
do get attention from men, just ignore and do not look their way,
or they will think you are interested.
Angelina, Tampa, USA
I traveled to Costa Rica in May. Take very casual summer separates--shorts,
tops. If you intend on being in Cloud Forests or volcano areas,
take rubber shoes--cheap ones that you can throw away at the end
of the trip (they will be very smelly). It is very wet and these
work great. Take a slicker or rain gear even during dry months.
They have very soft gentle rains. Go with neat, simple items--a
few skirts and long sleeve tops for night. People do clean up in
the evening but not fancy.
Jana, Cincinnati, USA
In San Jose during the rainy season (May-November), people usually
carry umbrellas--brightly colored "sombrillas" for women and black
"paraguas" for men. In the mountains, a lightweight rain poncho
is usually more convenient.
Beatrice Blake, Anne Becher, The New Key to Costa Rica (Ulysses
In 2003 I spent five months travelling in Central America -- Panama,
Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras-- a single woman travelling alone!
I read a lot of travel information on the area and they all said
that women should cover up, i.e. skirts or pants -- no shorts, to
avoid being harrassed by the local men. I found this to be absolutely
true. Some women I met complained about being followed, called names,
etc my local men, but they were wearing shorts! I never had any
run ins like that thanks to being properly attired while on the
street or travelling by bus.
Christine, Campbelton, New Brunswick, Canada
Do not wear a hat in Catholic churches in Croatia. Growing up Catholic,
I remember it was mandatory for ladies to cover their heads when
in church. But times have changed, and it is (apparently) an insult
to do so now, at least in Croatia.
Jackie, San Francisco, USA
I traveled in Croatia in October. In the coastal resort areas,
casual wear was the norm for visitors and locals alike, even at
the tail end of the season -- but churches and other public buildings
usually forbid shorts, swimsuits, and skimpy tops, so save your
beach wear for the beach. In rural areas less visited by tourists,
you'll be less conspicuous if you dress in dark colors and simple
styles: I wore black and maroon, and was constantly being mistaken
for a local. Medium-weight clothes (cotton/polyester stretch pants,
3/4 or long-sleeved knit tops, a cotton knit jacket) were fine most
of the time. But when the bura (a nasty cold northeast wind) blows,
as it often does in the fall, you'll need something windproof --
not necessarily heavy (I wore a nylon rain jacket over a fleece
vest, and that was adequate). If you're over 30, don't wear white
running shoes; invest in a good pair of leather walking shoes instead.
In general, especially in the cities, Croatians set great store
on looking neat and "put together," so bring well-made,
color-coordinated clothes in good condition, and a scarf or two
to pull your outfit together (October 2007).
Paula, Santa Fe, NM, USA
I suggest not wearing tight or revealing clothing. I wore modest
shorts, long pants, and long cotton dresses. I tried to keep a shirt
on over the dresses and avoided tank tops on their own and always
carried a shirt or cardigan. Being an American female, and walking
alone or even in small groups supplies more than enough attention.
I also suggest wearing closed toe shoes or sandals. One day there
was city wide fumigation and the streets were flooded with dead
and dying cockroaches. Not to mention if you step into a puddle.
I know it is hard to walk in heat with your feet fully covered,
but pack light sneakers in addition to sandals just to be safe.
Mary, Quincy, USA
Careful! Don't wear anything too expensive looking as the locals
will pester you for money. You need a visor or straw hat for the
sun as it gets very hot. Pack low heeled or preferably flat shoes
as the sidewalks are very uneven or not there at all.
Carol, Milton Keynes, UK
I've been to 4 places in Cuba: Guardalavaca, Mananillo, Cayo Coco,
and Santa Lucia. There's no way to avoid looking like a tourist
there. Cubans are very poor by North American standards and dress
accordingly. The tourist breakdown in Cuba is about 1/3 Germans,
1/3 Canadians, and 1/3 other countries (mostly European nations).
You can go topless on the beaches without a problem, most Europeans,
and some Canadians go topless. I'd say about 50% of the women on
beaches are topless. Dinner is casual, although most women at the
resorts 'dress up' for dinner, even if its an all inclusive buffet
dinner. Some (Europeans) dress a bit provacatively, as short skirts
and cleavage are commonplace. Most don't wear bras and that's fine
at the resorts. A black sundress, and heeled sandals would fit right
in. If venturing off the resorts, I would suggest dressing very
casually (jean shorts, runners, tee shirt) and do not dress in a
revealling way. (No show of cleavage, no minis, and definitely wear
Samara, Calgary, Canada
I traveled in Cuba. Whether its meetings, touring or going out
for dinner, you'll notice that women in Cuba wear makeup, nailpolish,
and at least earrings. Without them its like going out with you
hair in curlers and a bathrobe on.
Kate, Regina, Canada
Try to avoid really fancy-looking running shoes when you're in
the Czech Republic; they make it easier to identify you as a foreigner.
Do bring some solid shoes - hiking boots, Doc Martens or Rockports
- many sidewalks in the Czech Republic are not paved; they still
use cobblestones, which can shift and heave over time and can be
unsafe to walk on.
If you want to keep hands out of your purse, and your purse compartments
are double-zippered, use a small mountain climbing carabiner to
keep the zippers close together.
Also, if you're visiting Czechs at home, be sure to wear clean
socks! Wearing shoes in a flat or house is frowned upon. Your host
might offer you a pair of slippers -- if not, you might find yourself
going to great lengths not to expose the soles of your socks.
Dawn Severenuk, Prague, Czech Republic