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I once had a very romantic idea about Thailand with it’s exotic culture and deserted tropical islands. And while it is still my favorite country in the entire world and the place where I most feel at home; the romantic notion no longer exists and I’d like to offer some “local” observations after living here for some time.
What Travelers Wear in Thailand and Southeast Asia
There are several types of traveling personalities in Southeast Asia. If you’re wondering what travelers wear in Thailand and most of the surrounding countries, keep reading to find out!
Many people always use technical clothing and convertible travel pants no matter what part of the globe they visit. They may stand out but aren’t usually concerned with fashion so their practical gear keeps them comfortable and happy.
This is one type of traveler style in SEA.
Gap Year Students
Many times unprepared, gap year students over pack all the wrong things but look fabulous in their stylishly cute but impractical clothes. They’re the ones that send everyone else rushing to buy a whole new wardrobe which is easy since shopping in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand is amazing!
This image represents the typical “backpacker” look of loose sleeveless tops and denim shorts (my favorite beach side outfit in Thailand or Bali).
Holiday makers are here for 1-2 weeks and stay in the resort areas of Khao Lak, Phuket, or Koh Samui wearing pretty summer dresses and sparkly sandals that don’t need to be too practical – just look amazing in their vacation pictures. If you plan to venture outside of your resort, pack a couple of versatile pieces and comfortable shoes you can wear to explore.
Please apply plenty of sun screen! You can always tell when someone’s just arrived on their holiday because they have bright red sunburns on their skin. Ouch!
The Boho Hippies
Whether boho hippies arrived in Southeast Asia with dreadlocks, plugs, and baggy pants or transformed into these types of travelers upon arrival is uncertain.
One thing’s for sure: it’s easy to adapt and transform with the laid back traveler clothing style and endless fisherman pants in this region.
No matter what type of traveler you are, everyone seems to end up with some variation of the look below:
These are 7 items travelers insist on purchasing upon arrival in Southeast Asia:
fisherman / harem pants / flip flops / denim shorts / straw fedoras / fabric cross body bags and beer logo shirts.
To sum it up, Thailand and many other parts of Southeast Asia have a unique traveler dress code that usually has nothing to do with local customs.
Locals may dress traditionally or conservatively while others will wear less modest clothing. Try to dress appropriately if going to small towns, villages, and when visiting temples. If you’re unsure, do what the locals do.
On a beach in Phi Phi you might see local girls with short shorts and in Luang Prabang you may observe a more conservative local dress.
Places like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are modern so anything other what you’d normally wear at home will more than likely stand out. When in doubt, do what the locals do.
Creating an interchangeable capsule wardrobe is the key to simplified packing, which can easily fit into a carryon suitcase with the help of packing cubes to compress your clothing!
Have you been to Southeast Asia? What did you think about the traveler style?
For more tips on what to wear in Thailand and SEA, please read:
- Thailand Packing List
- Cambodia Packing List
- What to Wear in Siem Reap
- Backpacking Packing List for Southeast Asia
- Bali Style: What to Wear in Bali
- Southeast Asia Travel Essentials
Suggested Travel Resources:
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I am a young at heart senior traveler (80+) who loves your travel fashion girl columns. I do love your packing cubes. I live in Hawaii and I bring my Pareos and a linen L/S shirt for temples in SE Asia. I use breathable lightweight tees and pants with zippered pockets for money. Long dress from Hawaii made in Indonesia ? in a batik pattern suffices for evening dinners.
Hi Karina, that is so lovely of you. So pleased you love our CR packing cubes, thank you for all your support!!! Happy travels! ??
Those ‘7’ items made me laugh so hard…because it is definitely true!
It is funny how you can seperate the ‘short’ backpackers (who travel a month or two), the ‘longer’ backpackers (who travel over 3 months) and the ‘vacationers’ (just a few weeks) just by clothes… we, people, are so predictable.
Totally agree Stephanie!
Just realized that I did fall into a hippie category once. I did it once! Lol. And then never repeated this mistake again…I think.
For safety and convenience sake I always wear a fanny pack (in front) instead of carrying a big purse or bag. I pack very light. Four bottoms and five tops…skirts are cool in the heat.
Wow that’s incredible! Awesome job 🙂
Forget the fabric cross body bag, really unsafe, they are an advertisement, they mark you as a ‘backpacker’ and the thieves in the area will rip it off you or worse razor blade it off you with the thought that you may have all your worldly possessions inside it like passport money credit cards. If you insist on one because you want ” the look” keep it close and secure, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam. One french girl in phnom penh was pulled off the back of a motor bike taxi into traffic by one of these bags in an attempt to steal it and was killed. We meet one girl who’s friend lost all her important stuff and ended up only having one week of her three month holiday, and she herself had her bag grabbed despite being with a man a week later. Also back packs – don’t wear them on your back when you are in a busy place – again razor blades. keep safe and enjoy they are my favourite places on earth.
Hi Sharon, unfortunately purse snatchers are a serious issue in SE Asia. Some precautions should always be practiced. You can even be dragged while wearing a backpack.
I stopped using a purse all together. The best thing is to not keep anything valuable in a bag if you use one.
If on a motorbike, place the purse inside the bike don’t wear it. While walking, try to walk close to buildings and away from the street. It’s always discouraged to keep your valuables on you while sightseeing.
I’d suggest readers also take a look at this post: https://travelfashiongirl.com/how-to-keep-your-passport-safe-while-traveling/
Thanks for your comment! I’m working on a post to elaborate on this subject.
Interesting information! I’ll plan to keep my money on me, but planned to bring a purse to carry my dslr – any suggestions for this? I I was thinking a leather messenger (leather so its harder to razor, something distressed so it doesn’t draw attention like my guess purse would for example)…
Definitely no logos are good and I always prefer a leather bag on my travels, too. Have you read this post: https://travelfashiongirl.com/how-to-keep-your-passport-safe-while-traveling/
Use money belts, people, have little amount of money in your wallet and keep the rest in your money belt with credit card and passport.
Too funny and so true!
As an older traveller, I only bought a few batik tank tops in Bali, which were great in Thailand. Except at the Royal Palace, where using a shawl or scarf to cover shoulders didn’t work – nope, they insist on sleeves. I had to “rent” a man’s short sleeved button up shirt, in a tiny size so it didn’t button up. But the sleeves were all the guards cared about, to meet the dress code. Looked hideous, was hot (poly blend fabric), and to me wasn’t as nice as the tank top with a shawl around my shoulders – but hey, it was the custom of the place. (And at least I had ankle-length slacks so I didn’t have to rent the rainbow-striped slacks that other people ended up wearing.)
Yes, that was the one major exception. In some parts of Bali they also provide sarongs but aren’t too strict otherwise. I love SEA!
I giggled at this, it sums up the people travelling in SEAsia so prefectly! I definitely fall into the “hippy” category, and may have carried that back into my life here in Canada… 🙂
It’s funny it is a very unique place with such a defined traveler dress code!