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What Should I Wear?

Afghanistan

I spent 10 days in Kabul and found the best clothing to be loose-fitting jeans or dark slacks, a sweater or long blouse and jacket to cover the area between the waist and knee and a head covering such as a scarf. Keep arms and legs covered. It's important to keep the groin area concealed, too. For clothing, think conservative colors; head scarves can be a bit more colorful. Sturdy shoes were useful and got dirty quickly. I visited in March when temperatures were cool to moderate.
Jennifer, Tallahassee, USA

I've been working in Afghanistan for over a year (2007). Dressing appropriately is very important and can save you from a lot of hassle and it will give you respect. Kabul is more moderate than the rest of the country (logical, as there are a lot of international people working in Kabul). You don't see the traditional burka here so often. In the countryside, things are far less relaxed. While in Kabul in a restaurant you can take off your headscarf, doing so on in the countryside depends a lot on where you are and with whom - women usually do not even go to restaurants, and if they do, there are special family and women rooms (guess that explains a lot).

You are on the safe side if you wear long trousers, a loose shirt with long sleeves and a scarf nicely tossed around your head. The Indian style is very much appreciated here, but you will score extra points if you get clothes with Afghan embroidery and get a shirt made for you. It won't cost you more than $20. The popular colours here are not as bright as those in India. It is more white, blue, green that are more popular here; but it is okay to wear bright colours. Just, well, you stand out.

However you stand out in any case, as outside of Kabul you don't (actually) see women on the street, you see burkas - the head to toe covering blue or green dress that does not allow one glimpse except for the feet and hands maybe. So you will be stared at no matter how you dress, because seeing a woman not totally covered is something men just aren't used to. You'll feel much better though if you are covered in loose clothing. You can wear any shoes you like, I mostly had flip flops for the office and sneakers on the street. The streets are bad, either muddy or dusty and full of cracks and holes, so don't try wearing heels.

Winter gets cold and wet or ice/snowy, and as electricity is not really working you might be freezing a lot. You can get a fur coat for $40 but you have to realise that then you stand out even more as somebody who has a lot of money. I hope this is of need! Afghanistan is not the most frequent destination, I know.
Christine, Kabul, Afganistan

Africa

I travelled to Tanzania. I went on safari at the Ngorongoro Crater. I recommend wearing leisure clothing and good walking shoes. You also must remember to bring a hat, sunglasses and bandana as it is quite dusty on safari. I was there in the winter months but it was still quite hot on the crater floor. I recommend a fleece or a vest for at night, since it tends to get quite cool due to the high altitude. As far as Zanzibar (part of Republic of Tanzania) goes, I would dress modestly. It is quite hot in Zanzibar, much hotter than mainland Tanzania so I naturally recommend dressing in light clothing. While I was there I wore knee-length skirts and short sleeve shirts. If you are walking around Stone Town, I would recommend wearing closed toe shoes.
Lauren, Bethesda, USA

I lived and volunteered in rural Uganda (East Africa) for 3 months. In Kampala and most of the big cities including Entebbe, Jinja and Lira, western clothes including jeans and t-shirts are completely acceptable. Tank tops are acceptable, but try to stay away from shorts. Most Ugandans don't wear them. Whenever possible, especially in the smaller cities, wear long skirts. Most of the women in Uganda wear skirts. Also try to stay modest as much as possible. Most places in Uganda are pretty laid back and most types of clothing are acceptable. I would stay away from jeans in the smaller cities though. You will get alot of stares. When traveling in the north, dress very conservatively. It is a highly Muslim area and can be quite dangerous.
Allison, Salt Lake City, Utah (2007)

Naturally relaxed jeans, naturally relaxed sweater - black. Naturally relaxed to me means fit for YOUR body, not thin model tight or the current baggy "androgynous" look, 1 to 1 1/2 inch black boots, invest in a nice tweed/wool jacket (black or charcoal), and carry a nice head scarf around, wherever you go. Being a Black American woman, who is an avid traveller, this ensemble has gotten me appreciative glances and nods from men and women, especially in France and Norway. In Africa/Saudi Arabia, ditch the jacket and opt for a white button down shirt, jeans and sandals (oh yeah, the scarf comes in real handy here). It's about being tasteful and respectful of oneself and others. Not looking too rich or poor. Just think Audrey Hepburn and you won't go wrong.
Ife, Washington, USA

When I was in the rural parts of Kenya, interacting with the community there, I was told that they prefer modest dress, i.e. shorts or skirts that go past the knee and no open sleeved tops. I think this has something to do with religious reasons. In saying this though, they are easygoing people and will not criticise you or be too offended if you don't follow the code.
Susan, Christchurch, New Zealand

My advice to women touring Kenya, is to leave your mini-skirts, tight jeans, short shorts and the like at home. You may resent having to dress like, what may seem to you, a "middle-aged woman." But most young Kenyan women, especially outside the large cities, will be dressed in loose-fitting, mid-calf length skirts or dresses. If you dress the same way, you will fit in and appear to be "at home."
Evelyn Staus, St. Paul, USA

I travelled in West Africa and I'm glad I brought a good pair of hiking boots to keep my feet happy in the rugged West African terrain. This footwear saved me from lots of sprains and pains during my stay there. In this part of the world, remember two things about your boots, please--making them water-resistant is a plus during the rainy season, and to avoid any nasty surprises, remember to shake them out before putting them on! There are lots of interesting creepy-crawlies ready to take refuge in your boots.
Sharon, Montreal, Canada

In Mali, West Africa, most women use only short pants for sports and play. These are tolerated for casual wear, but sometimes not appreciated. Exposing your breasts is generally more accepted than exposing your thighs.
Sharon, Montreal, Canada

Learned my lesson! I brought lots of white with me to dusty West Africa and found that it got too dirty too fast!
Michelle, San Francisco, USA

Cover yourself with light weight neutral fabric and colors. In Muslim countries they treat you with respect if you honor their culture while visiting. Modesty is not usually a strong North American trait and in these countries it needs to be considered important. Bright colors, uncovered arms and legs scream tourist. The natural fabrics are, believe it or not, cooler in the heat. They breath and hold moisture which is a good thing.
Phyllis, Santa Barbara, USA

Sudanese society is a very conservative one but at the same time a very hospitable one. Revealing clothes in public places would invite severe critism. Dress very conservatively whilst in public - longer skirts to at least mid shin or loose trousers and tops with sleeves at the very minimum up to the elbows. Should you have the pleasure of being invited to a family home, do check whether is it a more 'traditional' or more 'modern' family you will be visiting. In either case, I would suggest dressing on the conservative side for your first visit. Sudan is very hot and dusty in the northern provinces, and light-weight, light coloured clothing would be more comfortable. A hat is not a bad idea too. Hope you have an enjoyable visit.
Elsudaniya, DRCongo, Africa

Mauritania, in northwest Africa is a Muslim country but it is tolerant. Dress modestly and very understated. Even the cheapest watch that you own will seem amazing to a nomad child. The women wear brightly colored dresses or long skirts, their heads are covered but usually you can partially see their hair. I bought some cotton skirts before my trip. The heat here is a hot dry heat, so the long skirt kept me surprisingly cool by reflecting the intense heat from the sand and sun. I covered my head with a lightweight scarf to protect myself from sun, but it was also useful to avoid curious stares, as I have blonde hair. Forget about contact lens, there is often blowing sand.
Patricia, France

While it may not seem to matter what you wear on first glance, please know that only prostitutes and school boys wear shorts in Cameroun. It is important to keep your knees covered here. The Kaba (muu-muu) is really the perfect outfit to wear. Simply modify it to have many pockets to hide things in. A local tailor can do this for you. Wearing a muu-muu you'll be glad when you disembark from the bush taxi desperate to pee with no cover in sight that you don't have to pull down any pants.
Coral, Canada


Argentina

In some places in Buenos Aires it's safer for a woman not to wear skirts. They're considered to be provocative and men (mostly low class men) could tease us, say embarrassing things when we pass by.
Griselda, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentine women, in business situations, dress in a way that would be considered too provocative in the US. However, as a US business woman working in that country, I want to appear professionally "nun-like." Here are my two personal basic rules of dress. Stick with tailored suits with above-the-knee skirts or pant suits. Add one more accessory than you normally would in the US. For example, in the US you might only wear a pin on a blazer. In Argentina wear a pin and a necklace.
P.S. Plan to dress in layers. It can be cool in Buenos Aires especially in the evenings. (And down to the 40s in the winter June-August). Wear a blazer or bring a sweater that you can take off when it warms up.
Lori, USA

Argentina is as varied as the United States when it comes to climate and landscape. However, when you visit Buenos Aires, you will soon realize it's nothing like the rest of the country. The standard attire is neat, fitted clothing, black leather coats, smart boots with heels, small jewelry. You will feel out of place wearing baggy jeans and flannel. Solid, sober colors and earthtones fit in better than bright flashy prints. The key is to be neat and sleek. Outside of Buenos Aires, stick to jeans, khakis, more casual (but conservative in color and cut) clothing, especially if traveling with women only. When traveling the countryside, wear comfortable clothing, layer when possible. Avoid the miniskirt/short shorts, although you will see it occasionally. For dressier occasions, stick to the Buenos Aires look.
Holly, Fargo, USA

 

Australia

In Melbourne, the weather is very changable - you can have a nice, sunny morning and by afternoon it's overcast and cloudy. Bring along a range of clothing - jeans, t-shirts/blouses and long sleeved tops. (Some skirts and/or shorts if you feel comfortable in them.) It would be a good idea to pack a jacket - preferably a waterproof one with a hood (or an umbrella), as it tends to rain quite often.

And, please avoid calling that bag that fits on your waist a 'fanny pack' - you'll get lots of strange looks. Call them a 'bum bag' instead!
Caroline, Melbourne, Australia

Travelling to Australia? It's best you to pack 1 or 2 formal dresses, in case you might want to go to a posh restaurant. Otherwise jeans, shorts and lots and lots of t-shirts are good. As for footwear- track shoes and a pair of nice shoes are perfect
Sharon, Singapore, South Asia

When traveling in Australia, you could encounter several different climates in one trip as I did when I visited. I went to Sydney, Melbourne where it was winter, Ayers Rock which has a desert climate, Cairns and an Island on the Reef which were very tropical. Knowing I had to carry my own bags anywhere I went, I packed light. My advice is to pack neutral colors in solid colors that can be layered. Earthy colors like white, tan, khaki, navy and black are great for Australia. A long cotton skirt, a pair of khaki pants, a plain white t-shirt, a navy blazer, a pair of shorts and a cotton sweater and you're set for just about any climate. If you plan to go out to someplace dressy, you may want to include something to fancy up a basic outfit. Mix and match and layering is key.
Sherry, Washington, USA

I traveled in Australia. My advice is to wear a bra under t-shirts or any other thin fabrics.
Jessica,Singapore
Ed. note: Another little bit of advice. Roots sweatshirts and T-shirts that are so popular in Canada are a no-no as women's wear in Australia (unless you want to attract a lot of attention). There, the term "rooting" is slang for "sexual intercourse."

I traveled to Australia and my advice is to pack neutral colours. (I'm talking khakies). If your shorts, pants, and skirts are all the same colour, then your shirts (what you need the most of) will match everything. Only take a couple of pairs of pants, a few pairs of shorts, a couple of long-sleeved tops, one skirt, and as many t-shirts as you like. You'll be ready for any situation!
Heidi, Waterloo, Canada
Ed. note: Any situation? Theatre? Fancy lunch?

 

Azerbaijan

I traveled in Azerbaijan. Pants and longer shorts are acceptable in the major cities (such as Baku). However once you get beyond the major cities, only longer skirts (definitely below the knee) and dresses are appropriate.
Mindy, Costa Mesa, USA

 

 

 

 
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