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Journey Doctor

What Should She Wear in Thailand...

Evelyn Hannon

No matter where in the world we travel women will generally be safer and more included in the culture if we dress appropriately. We asked Journey Women around the world to share their thoughts on culturally correct clothing in Thailand. These are some of the many pieces of advice we received. Thank you everybody!

Culturally correct clothing...

No matter how hot it is, don't wear sleeveless tops or short shorts when in public areas. The Thai's look on this as disrespectful and besides it certainly singles you out as a tourist. Neat, clean clothing makes you look good and is the best bet for good respect from the Thais'.
Meg, Melbourne, Australia

Wear shoes that can be easily removed because you cannot wear shoes in the Buddhist temples. Socks are considered poor form and tacky. Capri pants are fine because the young women have discovered western fashion. Shorts are not appreciated anywhere. Showing cleavage is also a bad idea and is thought to be in bad taste. The Thais are kind and tolerant of foreigners, but the only time you will really offend them is if you wear shoes in the presence of a statue of Buddha at a shrine, even if it is not a temple. I was in a shop where they were making Buddha statutes and I was told in a cold tone to take my shoes off in the shop. It was embarrassing.
Francesca, Steubenville, USA

If you are a woman over forty travelling to Thailand, please take a skirt or dresses along. It is incorrect to wear pants after 40. I wasn't told before I left so I only had one skirt and had to wear my slacks day after day. Also take something that you can wash out by hand that can be hung to dry quickly.
Kelly, Florida, USA

I went to school in Southern Thailand. My comrades and I spent many a weekend trip lecturing females who wore short-shorts, no bra's, strappy tank tops, etc. Local newspapers often contained articles about women tourists getting into trouble. Southern Thailand is not a tourist mecca and the population is primarily Muslim. Cover up or expect to be propositioned, followed around by men and/or put in potential danger. Save western dress codes for westernized resorts and beaches.
Michelle, Pullman, USA

I have some blue nylon long pants that my mom gave me years ago. They are very thin and feel like a parachute. But I can handwash them with shampoo and they are dry enough to wear in 30 minutes. They were great in Thailand in 95 degree weather. I also bought some Thai nylon trousers that are put on like a diaper. These and the wrapped Thai skirt are decent enough and cool for hot weather. It is important to dress decently so that the locals and/or families are not hesitant to approach you. I traveled alone in Thailand for a month and never felt threatened.
Karen, Ancorage, Alaska

If you are going to visit any temples wear shirts or blouses with sleeves and carry a sarong or wear a skirt. Also remember that you will have to take off your shoes.
Michele, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands

After escaping the Alaskan winter, I couldn't wait to strip down to spaghetti straps and backless dresses in the tropical paradise of southern Thailand. However, I found that it is very uncool to do so anywhere off of the beach. The Thais are quite modest dressers and it's an integral part of their culture, not a fashion statement. In the south, where much of the population is Muslim, scantily clad foreign women are especially offensive to the residents. So, my advice is that if you go to Thailand, dress modestly. Another safe bet is to buy a nifty long sarong and light cotton long sleeve or at least half armed-shirt and bring them with you in your bag everywhere, so that if you're out gallivanting in shorts and a tank top and you suddenly feel out of place, you can put them on. This is critical if you might visit a Wat (Buddhist temple) because wearing shorts or tank tops in the temples is really a big no-no. Ditto for topless sunbathing. Anywhere.
Bridget, Homer, Alaska

I traveled in Thailand. To prevent bug bites, my advice is to wear long cotton pants and a sleeveless t-shirt under a thin cotton long-sleeved shirt. Leave the shorts at home. It is culturally insulting to the Thais to have bare legs exhibited.
Lois, Newport Beach, USA

When travelling in Thailand, conservative clothes, like pants and a shirt are a must when going to the temples.
Weng, Manilla

Although the Thai people will never say anything about the way you are dressed (except when entering a temple) it is good manners to cover the top of your arms and not to wear very short skirts or shorts. An everyday T-Shirt is fine and long shorts are fine.
Linda, Melbourne, Australia

I traveled in Thailand. My advice is to wear a bra under t-shirts or any other thin fabrics.
Jessica, Singapore

I traveled in Thailand. Going to the royal palace in Bangkok, many people were turned back because of their clothing - shorts were not acceptable, nor halter tops, nor were Teva or Thong sandals. I was wearing long pants, a plain t-shirt, and Rockport-type sandals, and had no problem. In general, light-weight long pants seem far more acceptable in Thailand than shorts.
Clare, Rhode Island, USA

When travelling in Thailand always carry a couple of sarongs. You can use them as a sheet, a skirt, to bath in public, and they're also good for carrying your laundry.
Gail, Thailand

When travelling in southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines), wearing a long full skirt (cotton ) with a hip length top is cooler, more comfortable and much more culturally correct than pants.
Mary Ellen, San Diego, USA


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