Even though it's rather cold in Iceland, Icelanders generally dress
fairly well. The younger crowd -- it's very trendy but you can get
away with a pair of nicely fitted dark jeans, a black turtleneck,
a dark coat, maybe one skirt for dressier occations and dark bowling
style sneakers or dark boots. You'll definitelly need good hiking
boots when you're outside of the towns, the terrain is rather rough.
Hulda, Reykjavik, Iceland
Remember this hint. Skirts are so much easier than pants if you
have to use squatting Indian toilets!
Megan, Vancouver, USA
When travelling in Bangladesh it is important to cover up. Showing
your legs, upper arms, or any cleavage is frowned upon and you may
have unwanted attentions from the local men. Your clothing should
also be loose. Not only is it important to be modest there, but
loose clothing is more comfortable in the tropical heat. Wear sandals
or slip-on shoes when you visit a local's house because most Bangladeshis
take off their shoes when entering a home. When I went out in public
I often wore sunglasses. Not only were they good for eye protection,
but they also stopped me from meeting men's eyes, an action that
can be interpreted as in invitation in Bangladesh.
Becky, Grand Rapids, USA
Buy a 'Salwar Kameez'. It's a dress-with-pants-and-shawl type of
thing, worn by Muslim women, but also by Hindu women. The shawl
can be draped around you shoulders and across your chest, saves
you some stares, or used as a headdress if you go into temples or
mosques. As almost all women in India wear either a Saree or a Salwar
Kameez you will be regarded well as you are dressing appropriately.
Wearing jeans and a shirt is okay for travelling, but only for that.
You can buy a Salwar almost anywhere but the best way to have one
that suits you is to buy some cloth at a store and then go to a
tailor and have it made for you.
Bloem, Huizen, Netherlands
Wear black because no matter how posh your accommodation, you will
get covered in dust. Wearing black requires fewer trips to the laundromat.
I'd recommend a long skirt ...ankle or calf length in a cool fabric
with a loose fitting long-sleeved top... that seems to please everyone.
Not very exciting but certainly handy. I also found a long piece
of dark viscose fabric very helpful - this was wound around my head
and shoulders. Even where it's not necessary to do this for cultural
reasons, it really is one of the best ways of keeping the sun off.
Katelyn, Auckland, New Zealand
My day-dress was a light khaki shirtwaist with plenty of pockets
from a popular travel outlet; worn for years when traveling in Asia.
In India, however, it seemed to attract unusual attention. Finally
someone explained that it was like the dress worn by Candice Bergen
when she portrayed a photojournalist in the movie "Gandhi" which
all Indians have practically memorized!
Eleanor, Sandwich, USA
I bring groups of American students to India every year, and always
ask my students to be respectful of local custom and dress modestly.
Several girls last year saw other foreign tourist women wearing
tank tops and/or shorts and followed suit. The difference in how
they were treated was dramatic. Wearing tank tops and shorts invited
countless more lewd comments and attempts to look down the girls'
shirts. While it won't entirely eliminate stares and cat calls,
wearing modest clothing, particularly wearing Indian clothing, almost
always brings you more respect and courtesy, anywhere in the country.
I have people commenting to me all the time how much they appreciate
that I wear so much Indian clothing and that they automatically
treated me differently.
Mary, Burlington, USA
When you're in India, please don't wear shorts. Wear ankle length
skirts and cotton blouses that can be washed out and quickly dried.
No tight tee shirts -- they are trashy and dry slowly. Wear sandals
that you can slip out of easily when visiting temples. If you are
trekking, a blue jean skirt and camp shirt is ideal. Bring running
shoes for around camp at night or in case you get a blister from
your boots. While in India carry a large scarf to make your own
hood and personal space while in crowds or on buses.
Margaret, Evanston, USA
Be culturally correct and know what you're wearing. Many western
women wear sari petticoats and blouses without the sari. This is
the equivalent to walking on the street with your underwear on and
is considered in very poor taste.
Anita, Toronto, Canada
I traveled in Southern India. My family is originally from a state
called Kerala in the southern part of India. We went for a short
visit two years ago. The South tends to be a bit more conservative
than other parts of India. I would advise women to leave their shorts
and halter tops at home. If you take skirts make sure they are at
least knee length. Not advisable to wear super clingy fabrics (loose
cotton and other natural fibers are best).
In more religious parts of the country, Hindus may take offense
if you are wearing clothing made out of leather (shoes are often
excusable).As a foreign woman you will undoubtedly fall victim to
catcalls, stares, physical advances etc. regardless of how you dress.
For this reason it is advisable to travel with one or more people.
Bindu, New York, USA
One nice thing about travelling in India is that you don't have
to worry about looking ultra-fashionable. In fact, the only way
to fit in with fashion in India is to wear a sari or a punjabi suit.
My favorite travelling item was a long, olive green skirt made from
a polyester micro-fiber. It looked like silk and wore like steel.
It also dried in about 1 hour in the sun, and did not need ironing.
Also good for travelling in India are very loose fitting light cotton
pants. If you are going to India, you need very few clothes because
if you need something along the way, a tailor can make it for you
in a few hours. Also make sure you take clothes that hide the dirt
well, it is very dusty there.
Krista, Vancouver, Canada
Blondes and Red Heads take note!
Indian men love to stare. As an Indian woman I find that foreign
travellers can lessen curious on-lookers by avoiding shorts, short
skirts and sleeveless shirts.
Archana, Seattle, USA
Blondes and Red Heads take note!
In India, if you have a fair complexion and have blonde or red hair,
you will be an object of great curiosity regardless of what you
wear (especially if you travel outside of the major cities where
tourists are a more familiar sight). Simply ignore the stares and
go about your business. Also travel as lightly as possible--both
clothing and laundry service are very inexpensive in India
Teresa, Annapolis, USA
Go to the local bazaar and buy a Selwar Kameez - that's a long,
dress-like top with pants. They are also known as "Punjabi Suits".
You can get really inexpensive ones or very fancy and elaborate
ones too with gold embroidery etc. Prices vary from $10 Can. to
more than $500 Can. These are traditional dresses and cover a woman's
body from head to toe. They are also very feminine and elegant.
Pants are accepted in the big cities in India but the smaller towns
are not accustomed to anything more than these beautiful clothes.
Sheila, Scarborough, India
I have found the Kurta or Salwarkameez -- a pair of baggy pants
and a long top to be the best dress for women traveling in India.
It's cool, it's comfortable to wear, and fits with Indian standards
of modesty and western ideas of modern design. You can buy them
ready made, or have them custom designed. Next to the Hotel Imperial
in Delhi there is a shop to get you started, or try along the tourist
streets and markets. Also, if you have a favorite dress at home,
Indian materials are beautiful, their tailors superb and inexpensive.
Bring your dress along, and see how many ways you can adapt your
Dr. Antonia Neubauer, Myths and Mountains, California
Women are encouraged to cover their heads with a scarf when visiting
a Sihk temple. Slip- on shoes and sandals are handy when visiting
religious sites. But, take note! Don't go out in your underwear!
Indian style skirts, available in plenty of ethnic shops, are actually
sari petticoats. So, wearing one in India is akin to going out in
your underwear in the West.
Lee Ronald, Tiger Travel, England
Dress conservatively in India. Foreign women who dress in a sari
seem to experience less harassment. Tempting as it is to defy custom
and to dress in sleeveless shirts and shorts, it's not worth the
hassle. I found a T-shirt (with sleeves) and light, cotton pants
kept me cool and respected Indian custom.
Also, avoid eye contact, because in their culture, contact signals
to Indian men that you are both available and approachable. A useful
Indian phrase to add to your armory is chale jao, pronounced chelo,
which means "go away". Match this with a cool, sharp look and you've
got yourself a lethal weapon. I also began to allude to a husband
who was close by or who I was meeting shortly. (One woman I met
even wore a fake wedding ring to keep men at bay). In India, the
fact that you are connected to a man commands respect for a woman.
Mei-Yin Teo, Toronto, Canada
On a recent visit to Kerala I saw tourists in all manner of dress.
Along the beaches, anything goes, really, but during a home visit
I recommend having upper arms and most of the leg covered. I wore
very loose pants that I could zip into shorts when I was in my hotel
or on the beach. I'm tall for a woman, 5'10" and blond, so
I didn't blend in well, but I still had no trouble with inappropriate
attention. I followed another woman's advice on this page about
always wearing sunglasses in public and I think that was a big help,
also walking with my eyes down in crowded areas helped.
Heidi, Kenosha, USA
Have some salwar kameezes made up at a local shop as soon as you
get to India. I'd taken long shirt dresses with long sleeves to
wear over pants but they were too fitted and the silk they were
made of was too thin and therefore you could see the outline of
my legs underneath -- totally unacceptable. Drape the dupatta (scarf)--
usually comes with the salwar kameez -- over your chest to hide
your curves. Wear sunglasses to avoid making eye contact with men.
Always wear a bra.
Brigid, Toronto, Canada
I went bike riding in India recently. I packed some loose fitting
(mens actually!) zip off trousers. When zipped off, they came to
about my knees. While bike riding, I got a bit warm so I risked
taking the bottom part off and revealing my knees. BAD MOVE. We
were riding through rural villages that don't get to see white folk
too often (about 2 or 3 times a year I was told) let alone white
female knees. I had cars driving really close to me, almost knocking
me off, just to cop an eyeful of my lily white legs!!! I found it
better to be a little warm than risk being knocked over! I found
as soon as I had them full length again, they left me alone.
Annie, Adelaide, Australia
Pagodas, temples, etc. are other religion's equivalents of church,
synagogue, etc. Wear clothing that minimizes leg/arm exposure. No
'loud' clothing. Some temples require you remove your shoes; carry
heavy socks to cover your shoes (if permitted) or feet (when demanded)
but carry your shoes in a bag with you. Why leave them outside and
give someone a footwear upgrade!
Jay, Buon Me Thuot, VietNam
Wear breathable clothes since it is always humid in this destination.
Tailored or fitted style clothes are the best, especially in big
cities like Jakarta (people generally treat you better if you dress
up). I think it�s okay to wear shorter skirts (not too short), but
I would recommend covering your chest. Some Indonesian men think
that a cleavage is meant to be touched.
Katherine, San Francisco, USA
Even though it is not as strict here as in the Middle East, it's
best to cover your shoulders and upper arms as well as your legs
to below the knees. In Jakarta they are quite used to foreigners.
However, outside of Jakarta it is more important to be modest in
Pierrette, Calgary, Canada
I traveled in Malaysia and Indonesia. The cities are very hot (and
smoggy), so the best clothes both culturally and for comfort are
big loose long sleeved light cotton or linen shirts and equally
loose long trousers - nothing exposed for the locals to stare at
(even though miniskirts are common - why attract unwanted attention?)
and great for the hot sweaty days. Much cooler than a tight singlet
or T-shirt and shorts which end up sweaty and sticky and attract
too much attention, especially if you have a large bust!
Gillian, Sydney, Australia
In Indonesia wear a long skirt (sarong is good,which is a local
"wrap skirt") or long cotton trousers (fishermen's trousers are
a good local option) with a long shirt. This is especially true
in big cities in order to avoid nasty comments ( not that important
in jungle villages, it's much more free there). Remember, too, that
Indonesia is a Muslim country (at least Sumatra is) so you don't
go sunbathing topless.
Krista, Helsinki, Finland
You can really have fun dressing up in Indonesia. Silk wrap skirts
and long, fitted or loose silk tunics with three-quarter sleeve
plus a matching scarf will ensure you are comfortable in the heat.
These outfits will take you from day to evening. They clean and
dry quickly. During the day subtle makeup will be easiest, but in
the evening you can go full on glamour, sparkle with pretend diamonds
or other costume jewels from your own country. In Indonesia always
think feminine, elegant and glamorous.
Robin, Wellington, New Zealand
When you're in touristy beach areas (like Bali), bikinis, tank
tops, boardshorts, sundresses all are comfortable and acceptable.
However, the less touristy it is, the more conservative it gets
and I would recommend wearing Ts and long sleeve tunics instead
of tanks, and longer skirts or cargos instead of shorts. Tunics,
scarves (for head and neck coverage) and long skirts are also the
most acceptable for visiting temples and mosques.
Rina, Vancouver, Canada
Having just returned from two weeks in Iran, I would like to offer
some comments about appropriate attire for women. Iranian law requires
that heads and necks be covered and female bodies must be modestly
covered to at least mid-thigh. All the women on our tour purchased
a manteau (resembles a lab coat and comes in different fabrics and
colours) and hijab (or scarf) on arrival. We found that we could
wear anything - or nothing - on our upper bodies under the manteau.
Loose pants or ankle-length skirts with no bare skin showing meant
no critical looks from passersby. Bobby pins or safety pins ensured
that scarves would stay draped. It was interesting to note that
local women, especially the young ones, often showed a lot of hair
and had their headscarves artfully wrapped around their heads. Their
coats were often quite form-fitting. Their liberal use of makeup
made us foreigners all look like frumps.
Pam, Toronto, Canada
When travelling within Iran women should wear loose fitting cotton
trousers and loose fitting long sleeved shirts with a headscarf
at hand. This clothing is very cool and comfortable and does not
Gina, Wellington, New Zealand
I bought a black coverall that women wear over their clothes and
a black scarf when I got to Tehran: that way, I did not stand out
in the crowd and it helped me a great deal. Usually tourists wear
a raincoat or a long shirt but it makes you stand out in the crowd
like a sore thumb! Buying clothes in the country you are visiting
is usually a good thing. In Iran, it is better to wear black. Never
wear bright colors, or white, other women seldom do and you will
attract unwanted attention.
Maryan, Paris, France
When visiting Iran, women must wear the hijab (headscarf and modest
dress) in public at all times. At a hotel in Tehran a sign in the
lobby of the Homa hotel reads as follows: "In the name of God, respectful
ladies are asked to observe the Islamic hijab and not to use cosmetics
in public. Please use a scarf to cover your hair and neck. A long
loose dress and dark stockings (or trousers). We wish you a nice
The hijab warning shouldn't come as a surprise to visitors. To
obtain a tourist visa from the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, Canadian
women must first submit two photographs showing them wearing a headscarf.
And they must be wearing it when the plane touches down in Tehran.
Martin Regg Cohn, chief of the Toronto Star's Middle East bureau
I am an Iranian woman who read your Journeywoman article about
how to wear [dress] in Iran. That was amazing to find this article
on [the] net. Now, everything changes in our country. You do not
need to wear socks, and coats are not so long, they can be printed
in designs and short but with long sleeves to reach your wrists.
Coats can be fitted now but not tight. You still should wear a scarf
but not as before. Now they are long rectangular pieces of cloth
that are used to cover your hair but not completely.
Sibora, Iran (2007)
I found this Reuters news item about culturally correct clothing
and behaviour in Iran in our local paper (October 12, 2007). I thought
it would be helpful for women travelling to Iran to understand this.
' Iranian police have warned 122,000 people, mostly women, about
flouting strict Islamic dress codes since April and nearly 7,000
of those attended classes on respecting the rules. Such crackdowns
... are an annual event and usually last a few weeks. But this year's
measures have been longer and more severe than in recent years...
In addition to the dress crackdown, the newspaper quoted a Tehran
police commander as saying 482 people were arrested for taking part
in mixed parties. Men and women are not allowed to mix at close
quarters in Iran, unless they are family members.'
Beverly, Winnipeg, Canada (2007)
Tehran, Iran is enforcing a stricter Islamic dress code for universities,
including a ban on female students wearing long nails, bright clothes
and tattoos. The new 2011 rules ban women from wearing caps or hats
without scarves, tight and short jeans, and body piercing, except
earrings. Tattoos, long nails, tooth gems, tight overcoats, and
bright clothes are also forbidden.
If you're a guy, male students are banned from dying their hair,
plucking eyebrows, wearing tight clothes, shirts with very tight
sleeves and jewellery. Iran has been waging a country-wide campaign
against Western cultural influences since 1979.
National Post, 2010, Canada
I traveled mostly in the West of Ireland (Galway, Mayo, Clare)
in early fall. In that part of the country, most women in their
40's and older wear skirts and blouses (or dresses), stockings,
and shoes with a bit of a heel, and have short "done" hair. I wore
corduroy pants, clogs, and pullovers, and have au naturel, shoulder-length
hair; so, although I never felt that I was inappropriately dressed,
I didn't blend in as much as I thought I would, given that I'm related
to a lot of the locals!
Paula, Santa Fe, USA
The rainiest months in Ireland are August and December with 2.9
inches of rain.
Dan Richardson, Dublin, Mini Rough Guide
Editor's Note: Wait until you get to Ireland
to buy your rainwear and umbrella. Styling is unique and...oh-so-effective!
Sightseeing in Dublin is wonderful however many of the old streets
built with cobblestones still remain. While this adds to the delightful
ambience of the city, it is extremely hard on your feet. Be prepared
and pack good solid walking shoes. You'll be glad you did!
Caroline C., Alberta, Canada
When travelling in Ireland keep in mind that you can easily experience
"four seasons in any one day." To say that the weather is changeable
is an understatement. But don't let this deter you. Plan to dress
in layers so that you can peel as necessary. Pack both a lightweight
raincoat (that can be carried easily in a backpack or shoulder bag)
and try to locate a umbrella with a handle made from aluminum. These
are ultra light and fold down to practically nothing. If you are
properly prepared for the passing showers, you can carry on with
your "fun" plans just as the locals do. P.S. While sandals are nice
to wear during the summer, the changeable weather here means that
your feet could be wet much of the time. Closed shoes make much
Evelyn Hannon, Journeywoman Editor
I visited Ireland in January, when it is cold and very rainy. Layers
were great for keeping me warm but not so great when going into
pubs, restaurants etc. They take up a lot of room, can make a mess
if you've been out in the rain for awhile, and are a pain to take
on and off. A much better idea is to go with a pea coat (or something
similar) with a hood or a longer, waterproof jacket. Invest in some
good gloves, you'll need them. Not having to take layers on and
off at each place makes it much easier to socialize, which I believe
is what travel should be about.
Shannon, Trumbull, USA
If you want to blend in with the Irish, a nice dark pea coat, wool
scarf, and leather shoes will do the trick. A cute hat is a lifesaver
for rainy-day frizzy hair and will help to keep your head warm.
Comfy shoes are a must; you'll be walking a lot. Leave baseball
caps, fanny packs, bright rain slickers, and running shoes at home
unless you want everybody to know immediately you're a North American
tourist. People will tell you to 'layer', but I found that stores
and pubs tend to be a bit toasty at this time of the year. You'll
quickly tire of peeling off those layers each time you head indoors.
I did just fine with a long-sleeved top under my coat. Remember
that the weather changes abruptly in Ireland so bring an umbrella
and enjoy the showers without feeling damp all the time.
P.S. Enjoy my favorite place on earth and drink lots of Barry's
tea. It's fabulous. Ditto for the Irish butter.
Chelsea, California, USA
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