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What should women tourists wear around Asia?

I know it's really hot all year in Southeast Asia, but I also know that shorts and sleeveless tops are frowned upon. So, what’s the happy medium? - Varina - Guest

what women tourists wear around asia

Breathable, moisture wicking sportswear has always worked well for me. It's hot (and I mean hot) in Southeast Asia no matter what time of the year, but you have to wear shirts with sleeves and long pants in most cases. How do you do that? You wear 'intelligent' clothing. Let me explain.

Throughout my Southeast Asia trip I mostly wore running shirts with sleeves -- the ones you see women wearing in marathons. They breathe, they are super comfortable, and they keep your sweat away from your skin. As a bonus, they dry very easily; in fact, I only needed to bring 5 of these shirts for a 30-day trip; if I needed fresh clothes, all I had to do was wash them in the hotel sink (using shampoo) and hang them to dry. They dry overnight, guaranteed, especially in the Southeast Asian climate.

Dri-fit tops from Nike and Columbia are my favorites. There are some surprisingly stylish sleeved sports from Nike. They're fitted, they come in all sorts of prints and colors, and they have sleeves, making them Southeast Asia appropriate. Some shirts are even made of UV-protection fabrics.

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Travel Clothes to Wear in Asia:


Check out this selection of running shirts (with sleeves) from Nike. They're feminine, they keep you dry, and they're perfect for the Southeast Asian weather.

These clothes aren't just for the great outdoors - they worked really well for us in cities, too.

Now, for the pants / bottom situation.  Women always ask me - can you wear shorts in Southeast Asia? The answer is yes, but (1) they can't be too short and (2) you cannot wear them everywhere. It's fine to wear shorts walking around markets and on the beach, of course, but you obviously shouldn't wear them in temples and churches.  So if you're on a city tour and you are going to the market in the morning and some religious places in the afternoon, and you don't have time to go back to your hotel to change, then you are better off wearing pants.

I know what you're thinking -- it's too hot to wear pants in Asia. And you are right. But the good news is, there are some really amazing breathable pants you can buy and they're totally worth it.  You can even buy pants that you can turn into shorts. You can remove the bottom half (cleverly attached with a zipper) et voila, you just went from wearing long pants to wearing knee-length shorts. 

For convertible pants, I really like Columbia but they're a bit expensive and kinda heavy. As an alternative when I really want to pack light, I bring several pairs of dark colored, super lightweight PAJAMA bottoms made of super breathable cotton. They have to be in dark, solid colors so that they don't look like pajamas.  Hope this helps!

Jeans and shirts are your best friends when traveling around Southeast Asia, including very conservative countries. Shorts and sleeveless tops are fine, but don't go overboard by showing too much skin, especially when visiting very conservative locales. Take a hint from what the locals are wearing and you will find that many cities are not as conservative as you might think.

To be safe, always pack with you some jeans and shirts, a few dresses and some formal clothing for special occasions, and anything else that will make you feel comfortable despite the humid weather.

In most places around Asia, it is perfectly fine to dress down, unless you are visiting formal places and locations where there are specific dress codes (some restaurants, government buildings, temples, religious establishments, museums, etc.). If you are a woman and would like to avoid stares and whispers because of your clothing, just remember to dress modestly and avoid baring too much skin.

Agdis G.
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