Do’s and Don’ts of Womens Travel Clothing in South East Asia

Do’s and Don’ts of Womens Travel Clothing in South East Asia

So, you’re heading on a big backpacking adventure across Southeast Asia, and you’re wondering what the heck you’re going to take. Don’t worry! We’ve got some great suggestions for you here, from our seasoned pro.

Check out our Ultimate Packing List for Southeast Asia.


Do’s and Don’ts for What to Wear in South East Asia

by Swenja from BlondeTraveler


First of all, don’t take too much clothing with you. Usually when you travel with a backpack, you have to throw out a piece of clothing for every new piece you buy. Plus, shopping in Asia is one of the most incredible and enjoyable experiences you’ll have.

I’ll never forget my first time in an Asian shopping mall – so many different colors and styles hanging in the shop fronts – I couldn’t believe it! So I suggest starting your trip with some shopping! Follow this list of do’s and don’ts for your packing and shopping list and you can’t go wrong.


South East Asia Do:

  • Pack like you’re going on the catwalk. You can’t take more than 15 kg with you in your backpack, so every piece has to be chosen carefully to ensure coordination purposes. Before you go, invite your girlfriends back home and let them help you check all possible combinations to mix and match travel outfits for every destination.
  • Pay attention to the dress code. Have a pair of fancy sandals with you at all times. You shouldn’t miss a rooftop bar with an unbelievable view of the skyline just because you don’t have the proper footwear!

Check out our favorite dress sandals for a beach getaway.

  • Take a sarong with you. There are endless ways to use a sarong: as a sheet, a dress, a towel, a pillow cover, a handbag, a skirt, a yoga mat …
  • Dress up. Cotton is comfy and you can’t see marks on dark colored cotton fabric but keep in mind that during your trip through Southeast Asia you will be in thousands of photos. This is your time to dress up! Show your girlfriends at home amazing scenes from tropical islands you and your brand new summer dress playing in the sand.

Read about choosing the best fabrics for humid climates.

  • Grab unique fashion finds as travel gifts and souvenirs. Imagine a colleague at home compliments you on your necklace and you answer: “Thanks! I got it in Bali from this cute street vendor.” Nothing feels better.


South East Asia Don’t:

  • Show too much skin. Southeast Asians are quite modest dressers and this is an integral part of their culture. This is especially important if you are going to visit temples. When you do, wear shirts or blouses with sleeves and carry a sarong or wear a maxi skirt to cover your legs.

Read these tips about choosing clothing for conservative countries.

  • Wear black during the day. Black is a color you can only wear at night in Asia and it’s still considered quite lascivious. So now is the best time to try something new! Why not try wearing apple-green shorts or a dramatic pink dress?
  • Travel without a pair of flip-flops. Flip-flops are perfect to travel with, because you can wear them in the shower of a hostel or bungalow, on the beach and on your shopping tour downtown.

Check out our favorite flip-flops for travel!

  • Be careless. In areas where the population is primarily Muslim, cover up or expect to be propositioned, followed around by men and/or put in uncomfortable and even dangerous situations.
  • Catch a cold. Being sick in Southeast Asia is not only wasted time – it will take far longer to recover than it would back home. So when you’re in air-conditioned areas, don’t forget to cover yourself with a scarf, towel, or sarong.


What are your tips for what to wear in Southeast Asia? Comment Below! 

For more Southeast Asia packing tips, please read:

Suggested Travel Resources

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Author Bio: Originally from Germany, Swenja discovered her traveler’s heart during university and decided to go on a world trip in 2009. Till now, she has travelled more than 40 countries, lived in Germany and Thailand. In 2011, she became the beauty and fashion advisor for, a travel support service, magazine, and community for women traveling and living in Southeast Asia.


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  1. Great tips.

    • thanks!

  2. Haha! Where did you go in SEA? In Singapore it definitely isn’t stressed to wear modest clothing. Most locals are wearing short-shorts and bandeaus and stuff of that sort

  3. Thanks for this article. I am curious about the statement that black is considered lascivious in Southeast Asia. Is this commonly known? Will I attract stares if I wear black during the day? Loose black cotton/linen t-shirts, not a slinky cocktail dress :-)

    • You may or may not attract stares but so long as it’s not a sexy short dress you’ll be fine :-)

  4. I agree that holiday time is a good chance to be a bit braver with your fashion choices! I went for a pair of hot pink paisley harem pants and I loved wearing them. Now that I’m home, they look like pajama pants though!!

    • haha yes, some things look better traveling than they do at home :-)


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