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What Should I Wear?

Tunisia

A large scarf that can double as a shawl. The scarf is respectful in Islamic cultures and also is more comfortable in desert regions where the sun is harsh and the shade is cool.
JA, Canton, China

I found a skirt to be really comfortable in the heat of summer in North Africa during my Peace Corps days. A skirt was more culturally acceptable, more sun protective than shorts and cooler than pants. It also made using squat toilets a little easier and was definitely more modest when no bathroom facilities were available.
Carol Carol, USA

I suggest packing cotton slacks and plain (no writing on them) cotton T-shirts which cover your upper arms as well as a lightweight mid-calf cotton skirt(which kept me just as cool as if I'd been wearing shorts) are good choices. Although European women can and do wear shorts and bathe topless on the beaches, I didn't so as to show respect for the Tunisian women in this Muslim country. This North African country has a desert climate so a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are a must! Headscarves aren't necessary as the Mosques are off limits to women -- only men who practice Islam can enter.
Sharon, Anchorage, Alaska

I was recently in Tunis and did not have any problems other than the usual intimidation of being one of the few women amongst lots of men. I wore baggy jeans and a mid-thigh length nylon jacket all the time. This seemed acceptable as I was allowed into the Great Mosque without having to put on one of the "coverings" provided at the entrance. For the most part, Tunisian women do not wear the haik and dress more like Europeans. (However, old women still wear the haik.)
Stacy Nyholt, Edmonton, Canada

Turkey

I'm Turkish, but have been living in the States for some years. When visiting big cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, pretend you're visiting New York City. Would you walk Park Ave wearing short shorts and a tight tank top? If you would feel uncomfortable doing that, don't do so in Istanbul. Feel free to wear jeans, tight skirts, capris, short-sleeved, form-fitting shirts. Take care of your hair and make up, and get a pedicure. Turkish women love shoes, and they like to go for pedicures. If visiting resorts on the Aegean and the Mediterranean, you can wear just about anything but again, use your common sense. In Central Turkey or the Black Sea coast, wear a long, loose, at least mid-calf skirt and a long, loose top that has sleeves at least down to your elbows. Also invest in a pretty Turkish scarf. They are light-weight cotton, come in many colors, and are decorated with lovely 'oya' or embroidery. Hang it over your shoulder, use it to cover your hair when you enter a mosque anywhere in the country. I take mine everywhere--it's light, attractive and practical.
Jale, United States

On the street, wear very modest clothing. Turkey is predominantly Muslim, so cover up. Even in warm weather when you're wearing sleeveless tops, carry a lightweight shawl or scarf or sweater to put over your bare shoulders in those places where you'll suddenly feel all eyes are upon you. In the evenings, Turkish women really dress up, but again bare arms and plunging necklines are seldom seen as they're covered in public (even in the dining rooms of the grandest 5-star hotels) with lightweight evening scarves or shawls. Istanbul is a wonderful city to wear all those gorgeous silk shawls and pashminas you've collected in your other travels (or buy them there). Fabulous shopping!
Patricia, Singapore

In the winter months slacks with silk long johns (top & bottom) along with a lightweight pullover top and a jacket will carry you everywhere in Turkey.
Bridget, Houston, USA

We wore long-sleeved shirts and khaki pants all through Turkey. Anything that shows cleavage and skirts will garner you more attention than you want, even if the outfit would be tame for the states. The long-sleeved outfits were also good for touring. We had no troubles other than the typical attention paid to women travellers in this outfit. Also, ankle-length skirts are another modest choice that didn't seem to cause difficulties.
Shannon, Arlington, USA

When I went to Turkey (travelling largely along the Aegean Coast), I took the conservative approach in my packing. But I ended up buying tank tops in towns like Cesme and Bodrum because I didn't feel like I fit in dressed so conservatively. I seemed to draw more attention by covering up than I did by wearing tank tops. But I always carried a button-down to throw over my tanks, just in case.
Kyle, San Francisco, USA

When in Turkey and you start off the beaten track of the east coast be prepared for many stares and unwanted behaviour. Dark coloured big head scarves are a must and darker coloured long skirts and long sleeve shirts, covering up as much of the body will help to no end.
Sharon, Australia

Turkey's modest standard of dressing is often ignored in the 'touristy' areas, where simply a bikini and sarong is worn by sunbathers doing a bit of shopping. These women are subjected to the usual whistles and unwanted attention. Long sleeveless cotton dresses are perfect as they are cool, while respecting the local culture. Outside the tourist regions, it is advisable to cover up as much as possible. A fake wedding ring can work wonders for getting rid of any attention, even for girls of 15/16 like myself.
Layla, Blackpool, England

While there, I wore nothing shorter than capri pants and only sleeveless shirts that are not tank style. Although you may see young Turkish girls wearing tight pants and tank tops, they are local and you are not. No sense drawing extra attention to yourself when there are so many people out there ready to take advantage of you or distract your attention so they can pick your pocket. Leave the jewelry and watches in the hotel or on the cruise ship. Wear a travel wallet under your clothing. P.S. Never go into any mosques uninvited or that are not open to the public.
Anne, San Clemente, USA

In Turkey you will need a sarong or long pants to enter the mosques. This is required out of respect.
Marilyn M, Vancouver, Canada

In Turkey, always bring a couple of large scarves along with you. In more conservative villages, covering your hair may be a smart move. Or if you are wearing a skimpy top, you can use a scarf to compensate. (I once wore a muscle-shirt T-shirt before I realized what was going on, and I raised a ruckus in a small town market one day.)
Nancy, Oakland, USA

When travelling in Turkey, do not flaunt your obvious womanly attributes as this is insulting to them. In rural (particularly eastern) turkey it is advisable to be soberly clad. In the hot weather avoid the temptation to go bra-less under a sleeveless top.
Christine, Melbourne, Australia

When visiting a mosque in Turkey, you might gain entrance without covering your head with a scarf or veil, but do it anyway as a sign of respect.
Susan, New York, USA

If you travel in the heavily touristy areas of Turkey - just about anything goes. I've seen everything from mini skirts to completely covered. As you travel farther east (past Pamukale or Cappadocia) the more conservative the area. I would recommend longer skirts and/or pants.
Carol, Winterville, USA
Editor's note: Even if you believe anything goes in "touristic" Turkey, you might want to avoid provocative clothing wherever you travel in the world. Don't take chances on offending the locals or perhaps compromising your safety.

In Istanbul, anything goes from mini-skirts to platform shoes. However, in rural Turkey, women tend to dress much more modestly. They wear long skirts, salvar (baggy trousers) and cotton headscarves. In the more religious towns, many women wear long overcoats (regardless of the weather) in order to hide every aspect of the female figure. It makes sense, then, that women travellers who try to adapt their own wardrobe to suit the customs, will be less conspicuous. There are plenty of opportunities to buy modest, cool cotton clothing in the Turkish markets.
Megan Durford, Montreal, Canada

Trousers! Yes Turkey can be very modern in Istanbul and some of the resort towns. But all things considered, it's best to remember it is a muslim country. Turkish women in the hinterlands wear trousers. I didn't pack a skirt or dress and never felt the lack of one.
Elaine, London, UK

I am a Turkish woman, living and working in Istanbul. I've lived in and been to many different countries, including the US and I can easily say that anywhere in the world there are places where you need to be careful with your clothing. But it'd be wrong to generalize these types of ideas as a whole. I, as a Turkish woman, never wear those so called ankle long skirts or scarves to cover up my shoulders. Especially if you're traveling to the summer spots like Bodum, Cesme, Antalya etc, you would look really weird wearing those things. The only time you will need the scarf is for when you want to enter a mosque, and that's only for respect to the religion. Turkish people are very friendy and hospitable. And of course, in very touristic spots you'll get attention because they want to sell souvenir sorts of things to tourists. My last remark will be about the male approach in Turkey... Believe me you'll get hit on wherever you go if you are attractive. That doesn't have anything to do with the country you are in or whether you're wearing a tank top. I hope you'll enjoy Turkey and get rid of the stereotypes in your head!
Deren, Istanbul
Editor's note: While I appreciate this writer's sentiments, I still must emphasize appropriate dress. Men are much more apt to 'hit on you' and approach you if you are showing a lot of skin. Inappropriate dress is an invitation. You don't have to cover up entirely. Just don't dress to attract attention.

 

 

 

 
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