What Not to Wear on Your Overseas Vacation

By Nancy Parode
Senior Travel Expert ,

Every traveler worries about blending in with locals. Will your clothing make you a target? How can you fit in without looking like you're, well, desperate to fit in? What about cultural and religious differences?
Begin by eliminating the completely obvious. If you are traveling to a Muslim country, you will need to cover more body parts than you would if you joined a tour group in Hawaii, so you should leave short shorts and sleeveless tops at home.

Next, read about the countries you plan to visit so that you know something about their cultural norms.

Finally, don't worry if you read that white tennis shoes or other articles of clothing that you love are only worn by tourists. You'll probably see someone else wearing them while you're on your trip. Your main goal should be to respect the customs and traditions of your destination countries. Beyond that, you should choose a travel wardrobe that keeps you dry and comfortable from head to toe.

If you don't want to stick out in a crowd, consider leaving these items behind when you pack your suitcase.

Baseball Caps

Young people around the world wear baseball caps, but Baby Boomers and senior travelers will stand out in a crowd if they wear them, particularly caps embroidered with North American team logos or names of military duty stations. Consider other seasonally-appropriate hat styles, or buy a hat at an outdoor market or clothing store when you arrive at your vacation destination.

Plaid Shirts, Trousers and Shorts

Plaid fabric may have its roots in Scotland, but today it is associated with tourists from the United States. Madras plaid shirts and shorts, while comfortable in the summer heat, tell the locals that you are, well, not local. Plaid trousers send the same message. Leave your tartan favorites in your closet and pack solid-color alternatives instead.

Fanny Packs / Bum Bags

Fanny packs, called bum bags in the UK, are handy, but they immediately identify you as tourists and potential pickpocketing targets. Fanny packs have recently undergone a rehabilitation of sorts in the US, thanks to the advent of belt bags (leather versions of fanny packs) and Matthew McConaughey's staunch defense of the accessory. Unfortunately, pickpockets are skilled at unzipping fanny packs and extracting any valuables you may have stashed inside, so it's probably better to keep your valuables in a money belt or pouch and save the fanny pack for sports events at home.

T-Shirts With Slogans

T-shirts are very handy for travel; you can layer them under sweaters and jackets, they roll up nicely for easy packing and they are comfortable. They don't, however, help you fit in amongst the locals, particularly if your T-shirt has a slogan printed across the front. If you decide to pack a T-shirt for layering purposes, choose a plain one or avoid taking off your top layer of clothing.

Flashy Jewelry

There's no truly safe way to bring expensive jewelry with you on a trip. If you wear your jewelry, you advertise your wealth to everyone around you, and you may become the target of a robber or pickpocket. If you keep your jewelry items in your hotel safe, you aren't wearing them, which is why you brought them along in the first place, and you run the risk of having them disappear. Leave your expensive watches and jewelry at home and bring along some fun costume jewelry instead.

Immodest Clothing

Every culture defines the term "modest attire" differently. In Italy, for example, bare shoulders and knees are acceptable, except in churches, where they must be covered. In Thailand, women should leave short shorts at home, wear a skirt or dress when visiting temples and keep shoulders and knees covered. Men should also cover shoulders and knees when visiting temples. In Muslim countries, men and women should wear loose-fitting clothing that covers appropriate areas of the body and, for women, the head, according to the teachings of Islam and local customs.


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Travel Magazine: What Not to Wear on Your Overseas Vacation
What Not to Wear on Your Overseas Vacation
Travel Magazine
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