Standing out is a sure way to get yourself noticed as a tourist – although part of staying safe when you are in unfamiliar places is trying to blend in with the locals and actually stay unnoticed. Safety should always be a high priority wherever you travel and the way you dress can play a huge part in this.
Not to mention keeping in mind local customs, religious beliefs and attitudes because what is fine to wear while at home may not be OK overseas. Singlet top, flipflops, croptops, skimpy shorts or even swimwear may be fine in OZ (and yes, I have seen peeps in their bikini’s shopping in supermarket!), however you will stand out like a sore thumb in many of the more conservative countries.
So, what to do? Try a few of our below top tips to help you blend in with the locals and avoid causing offence and becoming a target for pickpockets.
As a rule of thumb, it is wise to stick with conservative clothing when visiting churches, temples or holy religious sites. That way you can avoid being denied entry, unwanted stares or worse in some countries, such as those in the Middle East or Asia. Keeping your shoulders and knees covered, even with a simple wrap or scarf, will show respect while there.
Revealing outfits, obvious cleavage and chest hair should be kept well under wraps – keep those for the dance party later on!
When in doubt simply stick to long sleeves and pants.
I know… what the…?? There are countries around the world who do not wear shorts as casual, everyday attire. Specifically, Indonesia and Vietnam cultures frown upon short shorts, no matter the weather or how humid it is. Unless you are at the beach, playing tennis or engaging in an appropriate sporting event it may be better to choose longer shorts, 3/4 pants or skirt instead.
Offensive Wording or Inflammatory Imagery
We are talking swear words, symbols or words in another language (especially if you don’t know what it says!), military wear & symbolism, national flags, overtly religious jewellery or clothing, death & destruction, the list could go on, but I think you get the gist by now. There is no need to start an international incident when you could simply stick to easy basic clothing that will not even cause an eyelid to flutter.
Diamonds and Pearls
Now I love, love, love my jewels, diamonds, pearls and those lovely big hoops of gold. Most of my “jewels” don’t cost a lot, but they look expensive… which can be a potential target for theft. When travelling only bring the pieces you are prepared to “lose”. Better yet, leave your favorites at home and purchase some cheap new trinkets from a local market that look great and double as souvenirs!
While we are talking about unwanted attention, let’s chat about bright, bold colors. You will standout and draw attention to yourself if you are wearing a vibrant orange T-shirt when all around you are in more subtle colors of navy, tan, greens and greys, or the ever classic black. The odd spot of color to brighten up an outfit is not going to cause major issues – a scarf, socks, handbag etc. However, find out what the locals are wearing, and try to match in and not look so much like a tourist – after all you are on holiday and who are you trying to impress?
While we are talking colors, think about inappropriate colors (who would have thought there was such a thing!) In central Africa, where the nasty, biting TseTse flies roam wild, you can be sure to be bitten if wearing black or dark colors (their fav’s) – just like an attraction for mozzies and people who eat bananas (OK I read that somewhere – I’m almost sure it’s true!).
In the west black is the color of wakes and funerals, whereas in Asia it is more appropriate to wear white. Similarly, a wedding in the west is usually white for the bride, whereas in many other countries red, yellow, even sky blue may be more appropriate.
OK, so it’s not an item of clothing, but for a tourist it is almost certainly attached to you in some way. There is nothing more eye-catching to a thief than a camera hanging around your neck, especially if it’s an expensive one. Can we suggest that you leave the fancy camera for those gorgeous well-planned shots – sunrise over Angkor Wat, the Eiffel Tower at sunset, Waikiki Beach… Keep a smartphone handy instead, that you can take on your daily tours for the fun, friendly, off the cuff snaps.
A Few More Tips to Ponder
Outside of paying attention to what you are wearing, there are a few more tips we can offer you…
Speaks Volumes – Nothing screams tourist like stopping in the middle of a street, unfolding a huge map and looking confused. If you are lost, go into a nearby shop and ask (even if you pull out the map to clarify the situation). Alternatively, your handy smartphone can hook up to Google Translate and away you go! (should you need it McD,s are renowned for free WiFi, and Starbucks too, if you buy a coffee – and they are almost everywhere!) Another option is to simply sit down at a coffee shop and chill for a minute, get your bearings, have a great coffee than go – easy.
Do some research – Before leaving home get on the web and do a little research. Look at images of where you are going, notice what the locals are wearing (and other tourists too). Find out what the temperature will be, how humid or cold – do you need a rain jacket or umbrella? There are so many tourist boards, consulates and websites for any destination discovery – and of course your travel specialist has a wealth of information and ideas at their fingertips.
Overall, just be yourself. There is only so much you can do to make yourself blend in to the local scene and culture. For example, I was recently in Hanoi, Vietnam – I dressed simply, blended in as much as possible and yet I was taller and wider than almost everyone, there was no way you could miss me in any given situation. By being myself and learning the Vietnamese for hello – xin ciao (sin chow) I had a fabulous experience, met a lot of great people and made a whole bunch of new friends that are looking forward to a return visit. I just love travel don’t you!?
By dressing in a relatively conservative fashion, that is appropriate to the country, culture and religious persuasion you are visiting, you are potentially safer from theft, should blend in with the locals, make new friends and have richer more authentic experiences. Don’t be surprised on your next trip if someone asks you for directions in a language you barely understand! Tourist, what tourist?
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