What to Wear When Traveling the World: Dress Codes

(Last Updated On: September 20, 2022)

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.

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Washing Feet at a Mosque
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.

What to Wear Traveling in Thailand
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

What to Wear in a 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.

What to Wear in a Monastery
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.

What to Wear to the Vatican
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


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