One Crucial Thing Tourists Should Consider When Packing For An International Trip

Part of what makes international travel so exciting, aside from the sights and eats, is the immersion into a new culture. However, there is one element of culture you may not consider while packing: Whether certain clothing is appropriate or not. For every place you visit, there will be a certain standard for public appearances. That's part of the reason so many travelers strive to look like a local whenever they travel. At the end of the day, how you pack for a trip is up to you, though there can be real-world consequences for dressing inappropriately. 


Back in 2019, for instance, a Taiwanese tourist was cited for wearing a string bikini in the Philippines. While a swimsuit may sound like no big deal, if there are modesty rules in place then ignoring them could be a legal matter. Boracay Inter-Agency Management and Rehabilitation Group chief Natividad Bernardino told the Philippine News Agency that customs must be respected, even by tourists. "We have our own cultural values as Filipinos and Asians. They should be able to respect that," Bernardino told the outlet. The news agency noted that the tourist was fined 2,500 PHP, or the equivalent of about $42.

It's like the clothes-packing mistake travelers make when going to Disney World: There may not be significant consequences outside of being uncomfortable, but it will impact your adventure one way or another. So, how can you avoid this social faux-pas?


Be aware of local dress codes

Don't let the popularity of a travel location fool you into thinking they're lax about dress codes. Take the Maldives for example. This ultra-dreamy locale is popular among honeymooners or anyone looking for a luxury beach vacation. But it is also a country with one of the strictest dress codes. That's because the culture in the Maldives is largely influenced by its Islamic heritage, making modesty paramount. This is one place where, if you plan on exploring outside of the resort, you want to pack more than simply half a dozen swimsuits. 


Sometimes these dress codes aren't unilateral for all clothing either. In Uganda, from 2014 to 2021, it was illegal to wear miniskirts. It's also a fineable offense to wear swimwear in public outside of a beach in both Mallorca and Barcelona. Before you start packing for a trip, do an online mini-dive into your destination's clothing culture. You should discover fairly quickly what is and is not culturally appropriate. 

Right away you'll probably see that a common clothing mistake for tourists in Europe is reliance on shorts as a fashion item. Although things are changing little by little, it still isn't very common to see Europeans trotting around in shorts, unless it's oppressively hot or they're at the beach. But unlike legal dress code situations, wearing shorts in major European cities isn't a crime. Well, some may consider it a fashion crime, but we digress. 


Other clothing situations to consider

Beyond your destination(s) as a whole, you need to take into account your style of traveling. If you plan on spending every hour of your trip lounging poolside at a resort, appropriate dress may not need to be top of mind. However, if you are an adventurous traveler keen on church or museum hopping, there are other considerations to make. For example, there are many churches and holy spaces that require some clothing modesty. That means no bare shoulders or too-short shorts or dresses. They may not kick you out, though they may give you a communal shawl, cloth, or even paper, to cover yourself while you're inside. 


Even spots like the museums in the Vatican have dress codes. That isn't surprising, though we're sure plenty of tourists have stopped by without equating the museum with the same modesty policy as a church or temple. It's a good idea to seek out any dress codes for the places you're visiting on your itinerary. The websites should tell you if certain clothes, or even things like hats and sandals, are not allowed. Do this investigation before you start packing to save yourself the headache of repacking — trust us on this one.