While you always want to be comfortable during your travels, part of staying safe in an unfamiliar place is dressing to blend in—or, at least, not dressing to stand out. Keep in mind local customs and attitudes, as well as religious beliefs, when choosing what to wear while traveling, especially abroad. Whether it’s because you’ll stick out like a sore thumb overseas or you’ll be uncomfortable on a plane, here are 10 things you should avoid wearing while traveling, as well as ideas for what to wear instead.
Research your destination, opt for modest clothing in more conservative destinations, and cover up appropriately when you’re visiting religious sites. Tank tops and shorts—as well as shirts with distasteful logos or words—can be considered offensive in many Middle Eastern and Asian countries, and many churches in Europe have strict dress codes.
In some parts of the world, women should avoid miniskirts, tank tops, bra tops, and sometimes even shorts and capri pants. Revealing dresses and cleavage-bearing necklines may also make you stand out in conservative countries. Men should avoid shorts and sleeveless tops in many Middle Eastern countries, or when entering a church or other holy place.
What to wear: Pants and long skirts are a safe bet, and women may want to carry a shawl in their bag or purse just in case. As a general rule, travelers should cover their shoulders and knees when entering any church or holy site to avoid unwanted stares or being denied entry. It’s also wise to keep your feet and ankles covered. When in doubt, stick to long sleeves, and men, keep that chest hair concealed.
Never wear expensive, flashy jewelry when traveling abroad, unless you want your diamond ring, pearls, or pricey watch to be tagged for someone else’s collection. You may also be more likely to misplace your cherished jewelry while traveling. Instead, leave the valuables at home.
What to wear: If you must have a little adornment, bring one or two costume pieces that will go with your outfits. And if you choose to wear your engagement ring, turn the stone to the inside of your hand on public transportation and in large crowds.
“Impractical” covers a wide range of bad footwear choices, including flip-flops (unless you’re at the beach), high heels (unless you’re attending a formal event), and brand-new shoes (because wearing shoes that haven’t been broken in is just asking for blisters). While sneakers are supportive, it’s wise to stay away from all-white trainers that will just get dirty—and mark you as an American tourist.
What to wear: Consider the climate and the activities you’ll be doing on your trip. Generally speaking, the key is to pick comfortable, supportive shoes in neutral or darker colors—and don’t forget appropriate socks. If you’re traveling anywhere but a beach, stick with closed-toe shoes, which can help prevent insect bites or cuts on your toes from gravelly surfaces.
Need inspiration? Check out The Most Comfortable Shoes for Travel and The 8 Most Packable Shoes for Travel.
The Wrong Colors
We’re all for expressing yourself, but when you travel, bright colors aren’t always the way to do it. You’ll stick out more in many destinations, and if you spill your gelato, it’s going to be harder to hide that stain. You want to blend in, not draw unwanted attention to yourself (and nothing does the latter better than a neon green tank top).
Avoiding certain colors can even keep you safe. In sub-Saharan Africa, where tsetse flies transmit a potentially fatal disease known as trypanosomiasis, the CDC recommends wearing “neutral colors that blend with the background environment” because the flies are attracted to bright or dark colors.
What to wear: Unless loud colors or bold patterns are the norm in your destination, consider sticking with conservative hues like navy, blue, tan, and gray—and you’ll rarely go wrong with classic black.
The Wrong Pants
Jeans are always a reliable choice, right? Not necessarily. If you’re traveling to a warm and/or rainy climate, consider alternatives; jeans don’t breathe well and take a long time to dry, making them impractical for many itineraries involving the outdoors. Skinny jeans can be uncomfortably tight on long flights or train rides, while baggy or ripped jeans may look disrespectful if you wear them into churches, mosques, or other holy sites.
Meanwhile, you’ll probably look similarly out of place by wearing hiking pants or sweatpants on the streets of large cities.
What to wear: Research your destination’s weather and cultural norms before you start packing to make sure your choices will help you fit in and stay comfortable.