How to Dress Respectfully in Religious Countries

covering up at uluwatu

Some days when traveling in hot areas, you just want to wear a tank top and shorts but shouldn’t because of religious restrictions. Have you ever been one of those tourists forced to wear a paper cover at a cathedral? It’s not pretty to wear and slightly embarrassing. Part of being a responsible traveler is not only learning from different cultures, but respecting their cultural practices too. From Swaziland to Malaysia to anywhere else in between, here are some tips on how to dress respectfully when traveling in religious countries.

Wear Loose-Fitting Clothes

As with many religions, modesty is key. That said, you don’t need to look like you’re wearing a curtain or a nightgown. Just dress comfortable. I suggest wearing pieces like tunics, lounge pants, and draped jackets. The useful aspect of wearing loose-fitting clothes is that they also provide airflow and breathability in hotter climates. 


Wear a Scarf

Scarves are probably the most useful clothing piece for traveling, especially infinity scarves. They can serve as a normal scarf, around the arms as a shawl, wrapped around the waist as a belt, bunched up as a pillow, or as a head covering. I love to wear my Little Minnow Designs‘ infinity scarf when I travel because it is incredibly soft and easy to wear in many ways.

Cover Tattoos

Showing your tattoos won’t get you chastised in other countries, but you definitely will be stared at. In Japan, tattoo culture is strongly related to the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) and people with tattoos are strongly advised to cover their tattoos and aren’t allowed into most onsens (hot springs). To hide many tattoos, try wearing a tattoo cover-up sleeve.


Cover the Knees and/or Ankles

In certain countries around Africa, like Swaziland for example, the legs are considered to be more sexual than cleavage. In the least, it is best to cover the knees, but try to cover down to the ankles too. Some tips I received before traveling to Swaziland was to wear long skirts, and to wrap a sarong around the waist if wearing jeans or leggings.

Wear a Hijab

In very strict religious countries, women are required to cover their hair or their whole face. Some places ease up on foreigners, but it is best to still be prepared. If you have Muslim friends, ask to borrow a Hijab from them or buy one online or at an Islamic fashion store. Otherwise, as mentioned above, a scarf will work just fine too.