Are You Following Your Destination’s Dress Code?

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Photo credit: Fadzly Mubin
Photo credit: Fadzly Mubin

Dress codes in North America are usually reserved for edgy high school students, but dress codes have a much more serious meaning in other parts of the world. Whether it’s a ban on women showing bare skin or demanding that men wear closed-toed shoes, different regions of the world require different types of clothing.

Before you board the plane for the following destinations, make sure you’ve packed the proper attire to show your respect for the local culture (and to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb).

Morocco

Photo credit: mwanasimba
Photo credit: mwanasimba

What to wear: Morocco’s cities are more relaxed about their dress codes than the rural areas. It’s recommended that visitors (both men and women) to contemporary parts of Morocco cover their body from the elbows to the knees with skirts, long shorts, pants and short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirts. Visitors in rural areas should dress a bit more conservatively in long skirts or pants and long-sleeved shirts.

Israel

Photo credit: BC Fasion
Photo credit: BC Fashion

What to wear: Israel is a diverse country with large Jewish, Christian and Muslim populations, which is why casual dress is accepted in the bigger cities like Tel Aviv. Jeans and t-shirts are common dress for men and women in the cities, but many religious or conservative areas throughout the country — like the Meah Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem — demand that a dress code be followed. It’s best to play it safe in these areas; women should wear long, loose-fitting dresses or skirts and men should always wear long pants.

Latin America

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What to wear: Skimpy beachwear and tight-fitting clothing won’t make you look out of place in most Latin American cities and beach towns, but rural areas are much different. When traveling in indigenous areas of Latin America, dress conservatively by avoiding tight-fitting clothing and short shorts or skirts. Sleeved t-shirts are recommended for both men and women over sleeveless shirts or tank tops. If you’ll be attending any type of church in Latin America, it’s considered respectful (and in many places necessary) to dress nicely in a long skirt or long pants, sleeved blouses or dress shirts and closed-toed shoes (no sandals).

Egypt

Photo credit: Farrukh
Photo credit: Farrukh

What to wear: You’ll see roughly 90-percent of the women in Egypt covering their heads, but the country is slightly less conservative than similar predominately Muslim destinations. Neither men nor women should wear shorts or sleeveless tops when visiting Egypt. Loose pants, long skirts and blouses with sleeves are suggested for women in most instances, but some mosques will require that females use a cover-up.

North Korea

Photo credit: John Pavelka
Photo credit: John Pavelka

What to wear: Although North Korea is rarely a travel destination, their dress code is particularly interesting (and strict). North Korean men are expected to keep their hair shorter than 2 inches in length. Men 50 years and older are allowed to let their hair grow an additional 3/4 inch to cover their bald spots. And although North Korean women are now permitted to wear pants in public, skirts that cover the knees are ideal when visiting.

India

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What to wear: Light, comfortable cotton or linen clothing is accepted in most parts of India, and men will fit right in with loose-fitting pants and a button-down shirt. Women are expected to keep their cleavage, shoulders and knees covered at all times. Skimpy clothing is only reserved for the beaches frequented by Westerners, and it shouldn’t be worn anywhere except on the sand. Research any temples or religious sites you’ll be visiting ahead of time to find out about site-specific dress codes like sashes or head covers.

Southeast Asia

Photo credit: Morton1905
Photo credit: Morton1905

What to wear: Many resort areas of Southeast Asia are frequented by Westerners, and bathing suits and causal dress have become acceptable. But if you find yourself in areas of Indonesia and Malaysia with higher Muslim populations, it’s important to respect the local culture by dressing conservatively in long pants or skirts and t-shirts with sleeves. Closed-toed shoes are necessary in most temples and high-class establishments in Thailand and many other Southeast Asian countries.

China

Photo credit: Brian Yap
Photo credit: Brian Yap

What to wear: Younger generations wear just about anything (including short shorts and skimpy dresses) in China. But because older Chinese men and women tend to dress more conservatively, visitors are expected to as well.  While it’s okay to dress comfortably, it’s important to wear shirts and blouses that cover the shoulders and chest and long pants or skirts that extend below the knees.

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About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves.

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