I traveled in Eastern Europe. From October through April, a coat
is needed. I wear a black, wool, mid-thigh length coat. My camera
and a small purse which holds my passport, airline ticket and money
tuck nicely inside the coat around my neck. Black jeans or more
conservative style black pants and a black mid-calf skirt are all
that I pack along with assorted sweaters and blouses. No tennis
shoes, only a pair of black boots and walking shoes. No bright colors.
No jewelry, no hats, no scarfs, no t-shirts, no jogging suits. Though
of English background, I have been mistaken for a "local" in Moscow,
Bulgaria, and Hungary. I feel by dressing "nondescript" and low
key I avoid unwanted attention.
Penelope, Franklin Park, USA
Ecuador See also Latin
When I was in the Amazon lowlands in Ecuador, I wore grey long
tights to protect my legs from insect bites. These take no room
to pack, will not wrinkle, and double as sleepwear in the significantly
colder climate in Quito's high Andes. In the Amazon, count on getting
your clothes really dirty because of the daily rains and all that
mud. The mud was invisible on my heather-grey thighs. I took old
T-shirts and sneakers too and left all that behind. (It is a good
idea to pack old clothes and leave them behind or trade them for
crafts with the locals.) Also in the Amazon be sure you've got a
waterproof watch and Teva or other sandals that can get wet. For
protection against the rain, a poncho will always work better then
a raincoat because it covers up your daypack and luggage, also.
(By the way this same advice on clothing worked very well for me
in the Galapagos Islands).
Erika, Spokane, USA
I did take a few decent skirt outfits along, but overall I felt
way more comfortable in my field clothes -- khakis, safari jacket
or windbreaker, long sleeve T-shirt and a cotton cardigan underneath.
Of course our tour was very tomb - and temple - intensive, but even
shopping in Luxor, I felt like I attracted a lot less attention
in my desert gear. You will quickly find out that Egypt is littered
with shopfront vendors who are friendly, but who can also be quite
aggressive. Therefore it can be a bit of an advantage to blend into
the woodwork a bit. Also, for sun-protection as well as fun, I wore
a loosely woven cotton headscarf a lot in Egypt. The locals seemed
to appreciate this deference to their culture...
Jennifer, New Haven, USA (2007)
You may consider bringing a scarf to drape over your hair in addition
to covering your legs and shoulders. Also, if you have a female
child with blonde hair, you may consider buying her a hat to wear
in the street as the Egyptians like to (and find it acceptable)
to touch blonde hair.
Phyllis, Palm Desert, USA
Having spent the last three years living in Cairo, I'd like to
remind women to respect the local dress code. ie. no shorts. If
you do wear shorts, you will be seen as wearing your underwear on
the street, and will get attention you probably don't want. And
even if you are French or German and that is what you do at home,
topless sunbathing at hotels in Luxor is an absolute no-no. The
waiters and other employees around the pool are generally Muslim
and baring your breasts is disrespectful. This leads these men to
believe that all foreign women are "Pretty Babies" and
will pursue you relentlessly.
Heather, Ottawa, Canada
If you must wear t-shirts make sure they are baggy and the sleeves
come down at least to your elbows. Don't wear tight fitting anything.
Remember, long skirts past the knee, please. The less flesh showing
the more respect you will be shown. If you have long hair try and
keep it tied back. If you smoke try to refrain from doing it in
public (women smoking is still not accepted in some parts of the
Jennifer, Warriewood, Australia
For Egypt, I cannot emphasize that conservative clothing is better.
No Shorts, halters, tank-tops, even short sleeves will get too much
attention. You don't have to look like a nun on vacation, but don't
be stupid enough to think that you can dress like you do in the
U.S./Canada overseas. Also, being neat and clean (no raggedy jeans),
combed hair counts for a lot overseas. Many cultures, especially
the Egyptian and Bolivian (and many other Latin cultures) take much
more pride in dressing up than North American culture does.
Brooke, Cambridge, USA
I recently spent 10 days in Egypt, mostly Cairo and Luxor; best
advice is for women to bring mid calf cotton skirts and long sleeve
linen/cotton blouses to wear when venturing out in public- you'll
feel more at ease in the culture and still remain cool. You're going
to attract attention as a foreigner anyways, but at least it won't
be because of "provocative" dress. It will also show a degree of
respect for their culture. If you have allergies, bring your meds
- Cairo is extremely polluted - worse than anything I've experienced
from LA to New York - some days are worse than others but all days
were bad - my lungs and eyes burned! Luxor was a welcome relief
but the air was still bothersome.
Mara T. Harrington,
Fox Point, WI, USA
Travelling in the Middle East, I found my two most useful clothing
choices were: a puffy, white, long-sleeved cotton blouse, and a
full, calf-length, black cotton skirt. Both were cut generously
enough that I was cool and comfortable, sober enough that no one
could confront me, and formal enough that I could wear them to Shabbat
dinner (Israel)and to mosques (Egypt) alike.
Miranda, Victoria, Canada
When I arrived in Cairo and saw what women were wearing, I felt
relieved. I was expecting more veils and coverings on women. (It
is true that acceptable attire ranges with who is in political power).
I was fine -- I wore light (not see through) long skirts, a cotton
long-sleeved button down shirt, and my hair pulled back. Outside
of Cairo, a light colored patterned scarf tied or wrapped below
the chin with no jewelry was more appropriate. If you are going
to be outside most of the time, a wide rimmed hat with a scarf around
your neck will keep you cooler. Carry a fan. It's ve-r-r-ry hot
Jody, Boulder, USA
Living in Cairo, I've found that sarongs (cotton) are absolutely
invaluable for roaming around, touring, shopping, etc. You can adjust
the length according to taste and surroundings (i.e., to your ankles
for mosques, mid-calf while shopping, above the knee in Hurghada),
they are cool in the hot weather, and can also serve as towel, scarf,
or blanket while traveling. I use safety pins to fasten them. Also,
wear sunglasses dark enough to hide your eyes. Making eye contact
is considered flirtatious, even if it's unintentional. When touring,
a silk chiffon scarf is also useful when going into mosques, etc.
but also to protect your bare head from the sun. The chiffon isn't
bulky to stuff or tie somewhere when you don't need it.
Susan, Cairo, Egypt
I travelled in Egypt and I wore a loose, midcalf length cotton
skirt and long-sleeved white blouse with a big, square white cotton
scarf. I was as cool as I would have been in shorts, I was ready
to visit a mosque whenever we stumbled upon one, and I could "hide"
under the headscarf anytime I felt uncomfortable. I had no unpleasant
interactions with men - one shopkeeper even made a very favourable
comment about my mode of dress--i.e.that I looked like an Egyptian
woman. My whole experience of Egypt was very different from many
women travellers I met who had been there -- I attribute this to
the message my clothes sent. And, unlike one woman I met, I didn't
have to go to the extreme of dying my naturally blonde hair to avoid
Jolie, Toronto, Canada
While travelling with a group in Egypt, we came across one situation
quite often and at first unexpected. Women MUST cover up any bare
skin when entering most mosques. The first time (when we were unprepared)
we ended up tying the men's sweaters and coats around our legs so
we could get into these sites. This was definitely frowned upon
by the locals and the employees. I suggest travelling prepared with
a skirt or pants that you can slip on before entry if you find them
uncomfortable to wear as you're travelling.
Jennifer, Toronto, Canada
Editor's note: A long skirt
in a "cool" fabric is invaluable for day and evening wear. They
are far less constricting in hot temperatures and a blessing when
using toilets in some countries.
While walking shorts are all right for touring in Egypt, I would
not recommend mini skirts or short-shorts. Not only is this culturally
not acceptable, it can be dangerous (due to religious extremism
outside of the large cities of Cairo and Alexandria). I wore long
skirts or those casual, comfortable elastic waist, drawstring pants.
A woman,( and a man for that fact), should be very considerate of
religious "dress" while in mosques. While no one may prevent your
entrance, it is considerate not to enter mosques in shorts (men
& women) or with bare shoulders. You should also remove your shoes
before entering. You will find that if you respect this culture's
"semi-conservative" dress code, you will be harassed less and accorded
more respect by men as well as women.
Lori, San Francisco, USA
I traveled in Egypt. My advice is as follows: skirts are cooler
than jeans in a desert climate. For women, shorts are just not an
option in a Muslim country, unless you want tons of whistles, stares,
and very high "tourist" prices for cab fares and souvenirs. I like
wearing "broom" skirts, as they are long (past your knees), cool,
inexpensive, and pack well in a backpack (or suitcase). T-shirts
are fine to wear in public. You'll almost never need to wear sleeves
to your wrists, unless going into a mosque.
I have just read in my local paper that according to Travel Holiday
Magazine,it is illegal for women to expose their arms in mosques
Evelyn, Toronto, Canada
Bikini bathers beware in Egypt.. On public beaches there are few
foreign tourists, and almost all Egyptian women swim in their clothes.
On private beaches, you'll feel far less self-conscious as you'll
be amongst other women (both Egyptian and tourists) who will be
wearing swimming gear.
Natania Jansz, Miranda Davies, More Women Travel, Rough Guide
Though Egyptian cities are very modern and local women may appear
in public with makeup, jewelry and flowing black hair, they always
dress conservatively. They do not show their shoulders or wear tight
shirts. Their skirts are always just past their knees, or they wear
slacks. It is rare to see an Egyptian woman or man in shorts. In
the smaller towns of Egypt, many females will wear the traditional
galabiyya (loose gowns) and most will cover their hair.
In Egypt, my philosophy is to dress as the local women do. Bring
shirts that cover your shoulders; T-shirts are fine. I always cover
my legs with long, cool, cotton Indian skirts. And, in the evening,
I wear long culottes that look like a skirt. If you follow this
formula, it indicates a respect for the culture and, you won't be
approached or stared at as often by the local men.
Johanna Sinclair, Toronto, Canada
My experience has been that at worst, women without their heads
covered in Egypt may get whistled at or hissed at (to get your attention).
If you're choosing to cover your head make sure no hair is showing.
As most women cover their heads in Egypt, hair is seen as very sexual.
It may sound obvious and/or odd, but there's absolutely no point
in covering your head if your hair is flowing out. More so if your
neck and chest are showing with lower cut tops. And before you go
away, why not visit the Asian or Arabic shops in your area that
sell material and saris to ask for advice about how to attach your
headscarf securely and comfortably? Most people will be only to
happy to help knowing that you are trying to be respectful.
Johanna, Manchester, England
Living in Egypt I found the parts of your body important to cover
are: shoulders, chest, belly and knees. Egyptians find it very inappropriate
to show even the tiniest bit of your belly or hip (try to avoid
short t-shirts in combination with hipster trousers), or too much
of your chest (beware of low-cut t-shirts, see-through fabric, or
the gaps between buttons when wearing blouses). However I think
it is only necessary to cover your head when visiting a mosque,
otherwise people will be confused thinking you are Muslim - and
Egyptian Christians don´t do it either.
Eva-Maria, Cairo, Egypt
Wardrobe depends on the place of your visit. If you'll be in a
city, light skirts will do. Salvadoran women wear both tight-fitted
tops as well as conservative dress, however keep in mind that men
are very forward and if you do not want too much attention, dress
somewhat modestly. In the capital and more touristed areas, the
dress is very trendy and is usually the same as in the US. I saw
lots of jeans and well fitted tanks, halter tops, etc. You are free
to dress as you wish just keep in mind the message you send to locals.
Sandra, Houston, USA
Ed. note: While you don't have to
wear loose, loose clothing I would resist wearing clothing that
is too form fitting. Keep a happy medium and stay out of trouble.
Being a traveller means learning about a different culture -- not
necessarily drawing attention to yourself.
When travelling in El Salvador wear skirts -- preferably long ones,
and avoid revealing shirts. Culturally as well as for safety's sake
it's a better call. Many of the friends I made in Salvador explained
that some Salvadoran men assume that all North American women are
"easy". There's really no need to invite trouble by dressing to
get the wrong kind of attention! Even with my long skirts and (fake)
wedding band, I was still hassled by aggressive men whenever I was
Christine, Calgary, Canada
I've seen two posts here that say to wear long skirts and shirts
that are not too revealing in El Salvador. However, I somewhat disagree.
It most definitely depends where in El Salvador you are. You must
first keep in mind that it is really hot in El Salvador. Yes, one
needs to cover up in the Capital but for example one of the most
tropical places in El Salvador 'El Puerto La Libertad' you won't
be able to walk around in jeans and long conservative clothes there.
Believe me you won't. Every time I go there I have shorts and a
tanktop on and my bikini on under. The people there are really nice
and like anywhere else if you have self respect others will respect
Nohemy, San Francisco, USA
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