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Dress Code Etiquette Around the World: A Guide for Solo Female Travelers Over 45

dress code etiquette

When you’re packing for an international trip, do you take into consideration proper dress etiquette for the destination you are visiting?

I always try to plan outfits to blend in with the locals. White athletic shoes were once the ultimate faux pas in Paris, now they are trendy. 

So how do you decide if what you are packing is appropriate?

In this second of a series of how to be a responsible cultural traveler we look at proper dress code etiquette

As a seasoned traveler, you understand that the joy of exploring new cultures comes with the responsibility of respecting local customs and norms, especially regarding dress codes. When traveling solo, adhering to these unspoken rules not only shows respect but also enhances your travel experience, making it smoother and more enriching. Here’s why planning your wardrobe according to the destination’s dress etiquette is crucial and how you can do it.

Why Should We Care About Dress Code Etiquette?

Building Connections: When you dress according to local customs, you send a message of respect and empathy. This isn’t just about clothes; it’s about expressing a willingness to engage with the culture on its own terms. This can lead to warmer interactions with locals, who often appreciate the effort, making your experience more authentic and welcoming.

Experiencing the Culture Fully: Many cultural experiences, from religious ceremonies in Bali to traditional tea ceremonies in Japan, require specific attire as a sign of respect and purity. By dressing appropriately, you not only gain access to these unique experiences but also enjoy them more deeply, knowing you are partaking in them respectfully.

Reflecting Maturity and Wisdom: Especially for women travelers over 45, there’s a beautiful intersection of travel and life experience. Dressing appropriately can reflect your wisdom and understanding of the world, showing that you’re not just passing through as a tourist, but truly appreciating the depth of the places you visit.

Enhancing Personal Safety: Blending in can also have practical benefits. It can make you less of a target for scams or undue attention, which is particularly reassuring when traveling solo. It’s about feeling secure and comfortable, allowing you to focus on the joy of your journey rather than worrying about sticking out.


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What Are Some Resources To Find Out What To Pack For Cultural Travel?

When preparing for international travel, especially solo journeys, it’s essential to research local dress codes to ensure respectful and attire. Here are some valuable resources that can help you navigate the complexities of global dress etiquette:

Travel Guides and Books: Traditional travel guides like Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and Rough Guides are treasure troves of information, often including sections on local customs and what to wear. Travel experts are familiar with the nuances of the destinations’ research and write these guides.

Cultural and Tourism Websites: Many countries have official tourism websites that offer advice for travelers, including dress codes. Websites like Travel Japan or Visit Dubai provide specific guidelines on what to wear in various settings, ensuring tourists are both comfortable and culturally sensitive.

Travel Blogs and Articles: Blogs specifically tailored to travel, like Nomadic Matt, Adventurous Kate, or The Blonde Abroad, often include personal insights and updates about dress codes based on firsthand experiences. These can be useful as they may also reflect recent changes in social norms or additional context not covered in traditional guides.

Local Embassies or Consulates: Contacting an embassy or consulate can provide official advice on a range of travel-related topics, including appropriate dress. This is useful for countries with strict dress codes, as these offices can offer the most current and comprehensive guidance.

Online Travel Forums: Websites like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum, and Reddit’s travel and country-specific subreddits can be excellent resources. These forums allow you to ask questions and read about other travelers’ experiences and recommendations on clothing and etiquette in specific areas.

Social Media: Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest can offer visual cues about typical attire in various locations. Following hashtags related to travel in specific countries or cities can give you a current picture of what locals and fellow travelers wear.

Using a combination of these resources can equip you with the knowledge needed to pack appropriately and show respect for the cultural norms of your destination. Remember, the goal is to blend in respectfully, enhancing your travel experience by being culturally aware and sensitive.

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What To Wear: Some Examples From Around The World

Middle East (Dubai, UAE):

In the shimmering city of Dubai, modesty wins the day. Whether you’re exploring lavish malls or ancient mosques, it’s wise to opt for clothing that covers from your shoulders to at least your knees. A flowy maxi dress paired with a lightweight cardigan can be both stylish and comfortable in the warm climate. Don’t forget a scarf in your bag—it’s a versatile accessory that can be draped over your head or shoulders when required.

Japan (Kyoto and Tokyo):

Japan offers a striking contrast between the ultra-modern Tokyo and the historically rich Kyoto. In both cities, though, modesty and neatness play crucial roles. Avoid sleeveless tops and short skirts. Instead, choose elegant, understated outfits like a blouse paired with a midi skirt or trousers. Shoes should be easy to slip off, as many traditional places require you to remove footwear. Embrace the local aesthetic with simple, refined clothes that allow you to explore with grace.

India (New Delhi, Varanasi):

India is a tapestry of colors, scents, and sounds. Dressing conservatively, however, is essential, particularly in spiritually significant cities like Varanasi. A kurta (a long tunic) paired with leggings or a long skirt can be both culturally respectful and suitably chic. Scarves are indispensable here, providing coverage for your head in temples and protection from the sun.

Italy (Vatican City):

In the heart of Catholicism, Vatican City, people show reverence through their attire. When visiting St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums, shoulders should be covered and shorts are a no-go. A knee-length or longer skirt with a lightweight blouse makes for an appropriate and stylish choice. Carrying a shawl or scarf can also offer a quick cover-up as needed.

France (Paris):

The fashion capital of the world, Paris, is all about understated elegance. In upscale neighborhoods or dining venues, people typically frown upon athletic wear, flip-flops, and shorts. Opt for chic, well-fitted clothes—think of a tailored blazer with trousers or a charming sundress paired with comfortable walking shoes. Parisians favor a neutral palette, so when in doubt, lean towards blacks, whites, and beiges.

Peru (Machu Picchu):

When visiting the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, practicality meets respect. The terrain is rugged and the weather can be unpredictable. Opt for breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics that cover your legs and arms to protect against both the sun and insects. Hats and sunglasses are essential for sun protection, but remember to remove your hat in any religious or sacred spaces as a sign of respect.

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If you follow these guidelines and do a bit of pre-trip research, you’ll be fine. I usually keep it pretty simple and always pack a scarf or sarong in case I need to cover my shoulders or head. I usually have a below the knee dress and pair of pants along too. It doesn’t need to be complicated. So as you pack, think of your clothes as a bridge to new friendships, experiences, and insights. Happy travels!


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Who are our Sisters? Well, we’re you! We value old friendships but love making new ones. We’re intellectually curious and love a unique adventure to parts unknown. We may be single, divorced, widowed, or simply have a partner who doesn’t want to travel. Most of all, We’re kind, compassionate women who look forward to cultural immersion, exclusive adventures, lots of laughs, and the magic of Sisterhood.