What to Wear in South America

by | Sep 23, 2017

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Last updated on April 15th, 2024

If you’re headed to the highlands around La Paz, think layers. You will experience all four seasons in one day. Fleece is nice, but you can purchase wonderfully warm alpaca sweaters there (called: “chompas”).

In the lowlands, in Santa Cruz city, young women dress very stylishly. Short skirts, sleeveless tops, etc. But be aware, you will draw a lot of attention as non-Bolivian. Think hot and humid from Sept-April, then cool and humid the rest of the year. Again, layers are good, also clothing that dries quickly.

Brooke, Cambridge, USA

I traveled in Central and South America. In these countries–think conservative. In most Central and South American countries, short skirts, shorts and bare arms and shoulders are seen as very provocative, even offensive to local and indigenous populations. You will certainly attract leering glances at the least. Please note that this applies away from the typical “US-like” beach resorts where you can get away with more. Also on the Brazilian beaches and surrounds – you will feel overdressed if you’re in shorts and T-shirt! But, in more isolated areas, have some respect for the locals and stick to longer skirts or loose pants and at least short sleeves rather than sleeveless ones.

Charlotte, Sydney, Australia

While in the more remote areas of South America I made the mistake of wearing t-shirts with embroidery and writing across the chest. The embroidery seemed an invitation to touch and the writing had many men (shorter than I) reading my chest. I would have been better off and less conspicuous by wearing clothes more in line with what the local women were wearing. I also found that wearing shorts anywhere (even though people say that shorts at the beach are fine) really was more an invitation than I realized–especially in very religious countries where the only women who wore suggestive clothing got paid for their time.

Dana, Bellingham, USA

This what I learned from traveling in Peru and Bolivia. Take khaki pants. Layer your clothing. If you travel to the Amazon, take a lightweight, long sleeved white shirt (like a man’s dress shirt) to keep both the sun and the bugs off you. Leave jeans and other denim clothing at home. They’re too hard to wash (or rather get dry). Hiking boots are really a life saver. Don’t wear form fitting clothing. Women in Peru and Bolivia dress modestly.

Connie, Los Angeles, USA

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

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

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

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