What to Wear When Traveling the World: Dress Codes

While “No shirt, no shoes, no problem!” may be the unofficial motto of many beach towns across the world, there are some places where that attire is simply unacceptable.

As a world traveler, you will encounter situations requiring you to dress in certain ways, and they will make sure you know it, one way or another.

Keep reading for stories about how to dress when traveling in Costa Rica, Italy, and Greece.

This post contains affiliate links.

This image shows a row of marble columns supporting an overhead structure, with several men performing ablution rituals at washing stations. The scene is likely part of a mosque or similar religious building, where individuals clean themselves before prayer. The setting features traditional architecture with a serene, historical atmosphere.
Feet washing area at Blue Mosque in Istanbul

So, What Do Tourists Wear When They Travel?

Generally speaking, the style in much of the world is similar to where you live. Don’t worry about bringing the wrong clothes and not fitting in.

You will notice differences in shoes or fashion choices once you arrive, but bring the clothes that make you feel good and are comfortable for traveling.

In cities, you can expect more high fashion, and on the beaches or in the countryside you can expect more laid-back clothing such as linens, shorts, and tank tops.

You’ll be fine if you pack the particular clothes needed at cathedrals, mosques, monasteries, etc.

This image shows a man and a woman sitting inside a tuk-tuk, a type of motorized rickshaw commonly used in Southeast Asia. Both are wearing sunglasses and casual clothing; the woman is holding a drink with a straw, and the man is holding a coconut. They are smiling and appear to be enjoying their ride, with a bustling market scene visible in the background. The sign above them reads "WELCOME."
T-shirts, shorts, tanks, A-OK in Thailand

Where to Cover Your Legs & Shoulders

In San Jose, Costa Rica, the capital city of a country bustling with tourism and boasting some incredibly beautiful beaches, daisy dukes and bikinis are more than enough clothing for some beach towns. However, ladies, if you wear anything above the knee in downtown San Jose, you ask for attention you may not want.

It is not socially acceptable for women to wear skirts and shorts in the city, and if you do, you will find out why if you pay attention. You won’t see local women dressed like that.

You will see the eyes of every guy looking you up and down from all angles and offering you catcalls. Even on the hottest days, the ladies still wear jeans.

As a general rule, I will not wear short skirts or shorts in a city until I’m certain everyone else is doing it and it’s socially acceptable like it is in Bangkok (pictured above).

Related: 12 Things Americans Should Know Before Traveling Overseas

This image shows a group of people inside a mosque, standing on a large red and patterned carpet. Some individuals have their heads covered with scarves, respecting the local customs. The interior is dimly lit with hanging lights, and stained glass windows are visible in the background, adding to the ambiance of the sacred space. The scene suggests a tour group visiting the mosque.
Shawls, scarves, long pants, and skirts in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Take Rome, Italy, for example. In Rome, wearing short shorts or skirts and tank tops is okay until you enter the Vatican.

You must wear a skirt or pants that go past the knees, and your shoulders must be covered to be allowed entry into St. Peter’s Basilica or the Sistine Chapel (basically, the entire Vatican).

Guys, you are fine to wear shorts, but remove your hats. Ladies, if it’s hot out and you want to wear a tank top, bring a scarf that you can wrap around your shoulders last minute, or plan to wear a t-shirt or long sleeves.

This image shows a woman standing on a stone staircase at a monastery next to an open wooden door. She is smiling and wearing glasses, a gray t-shirt, and sandals, with a long blue wrap skirt tied around her waist. Inside the doorway, various scarves and fabrics are visible, suggesting a cozy and rustic interior setting. The stone walls and wooden elements add to the charming, historical atmosphere.
Putting on the obligatory wrap at a monastery in Meteora, Greece

What to Wear at Monasteries and Mosques

I once visited the monasteries in Meteora, Greece, and they gave out wraps at the door to any woman without a long skirt (yes, even if we had long pants) and to men wearing shorts.

Ladies: If you go to Meteora, wear your maxi skirt that day.

This image shows a smiling couple standing in front of the iconic dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. The woman is wearing sunglasses, a white dress with a black wrap, and sandals, while the man is dressed in a green t-shirt, black shorts, and sandals. The sunny day highlights the grandeur of the basilica's architecture, and a few other people are seen in the background, enjoying the historic site.
Scarf over my tank top and skirt longer than the knees at the Vatican

Similarly, be prepared with a scarf if you plan to go into a mosque, as many of them will make you cover up with one.

Some may ask you to remove your shoes or even wash your feet before entering. It is a part of their culture, and that is something that we as travelers must respect.

Related: Ninja Packing Tips: Packing List for 2 Weeks in Europe with Just a 30L Backpack

Suggested Items to Pack For World Travel

Ready to Book Your Trip?

Some of these links are affiliate links.

Use these BMT-approved travel resources to plan your best budget-friendly trip yet!

Flights – Learn our tried and true strategies for finding the cheapest flights.

Accommodations – Using Booking.com to search for hostels and budget hotels has many benefits, including free cancelation and member upgrades.

Travel Insurance – Now more than ever, we encourage the purchase of travel insurance for every trip. Insurance protects you against cancellations, lost luggage, theft, injury, and illness. Compare plans at:

Activities – Find amazing things to do that won’t break the bank in destinations worldwide on Viator.

Need an international SIM card? We suggest pre-ordering from SimOptions.

2 replies on “What to Wear When Traveling the World: Dress Codes”

Comments are closed.