Eastern Fashion: What to Wear in Asia and Not to Look Like a Tourist

September 7, 2022

Traveling is exciting but can be a nightmare without proper planning and background check. When visiting another country or continent, it is crucial to understand the language, customs, or culture. 

Clothing is a significant part of every culture, and one of the biggest sins a traveler can commit is landing in a country without any idea of its clothing etiquette. Shorts and t-shirts may sound like the ideal pick for vacation during summer or hit places. However, this may turn heads your way in conservative countries for all the wrong reasons. 

Asia is a unique continent with a rich fashion culture from different countries. Designers have, over the years, derived inspiration from some of these outfits and come up with incredible pieces like the sailor lolita dress. While the continent is generally accommodative, it is wise to conform to the dressing style of your host countries. 


The weather in Asia is consistently warm, with a few exceptions. Most enclosed spaces need an AC, and you may spot bus crews adorn hoodies and winter clothes. This is because the transportation hubs and malls are mostly chilled below comfort thresholds. 

Less is more when packing clothes for Asia. You will enjoy the wide variety of unique wearable and fun shopping, leaving room for some new additions. 

Avoid carrying excess luggage. Bringing too much along may give away what you need and love and extra costs on excess baggage. An overloaded suitcase may hinder you from enjoying your trip. 

Clothing to Pack 

Apart from a few places, Asia enjoys warm weather throughout the year, with only a few winter months.

The trapped humidity in rainforests and cities is sometimes sweltering, so cotton clothing and lightweight clothing are the best. Because of the moisture, you will need to change after sweating all day and before going in the evening. 

Shorts or Jeans

While jeans are stylish in the area, they are heavy, hot, and do not dry fast as you may want. Go for thinner materials instead.

Most locals will go for long pants, while tourists usually resort to wearing shorts because of the high temperatures. You will need at least one garment that covers up to the knees when visiting government officers and the temples. 

Jeans will increase your laundry bills as they are heavy.  

Laundry in the City

Laundry services are easy to find and affordable in Asia. The prices are always based on the weight, except in places like Bali, where they charge per piece. 

Due to high electricity costs, clothes are usually sun-dried. You can, however, pay extra for machine drying or expedited service. For planning purposes, expect your laundry back in a day, though it may take longer during the rainy season. 

Laundry service prices are low. Unfortunately, the cost matches the services rendered. It is common for items to get damaged or lost; hence you will always need to take inventory at the pickup before you walk away. 

If you plan to travel, take your clothes for laundry early enough. Sending them a day before your journey is a risky step. Always allow a buffer of 2 days for unexpected delays. Sometimes your hotel may or may not offer laundry services on-site and opt to send your items to a center, taking more days. 

Buy Some Local Clothing

Set aside some budget and space to add to your wardrobe when planning what to wear in Asia. You can save your good stuff from home and buy quality, affordable, acceptable clothing in Asia. 

There are colorful markets and boutique shops where you can purchase clothes, among other items. Besides contributing to the local economy, you will get some souvenirs. 

Designers in Asia are among the best and renowned for cranking out fun and quirky pieces that you can add to your wardrobe and leave people wowed. 

You will also realize that sarongs, T-shirts, sunglasses, hats, thin skirts, and beach coverups are among the fabulous wearables you can find in Asia at very affordable prices. 

Keep it Conservative

If you are unsure of the local customs, keep neutral color shirts with no political, sexual, or religious inclinations.

When entering temples or similar religious monuments, keep your shoulders covered. Sites like Grand Palace in Bangkok have a conservative dress code and even avail sarongs at the entrance for rent.

Though some T-shirts sold to tourists in Asia depict images of Ganesha or Budha, in some places, wearing them is deemed inappropriate. You may notice many travelers wearing t-shirts but very few locals. 


While in Thailand, try and avoid red, yellow, and gold shirts as they hold solid political meaning. Wearing these colors will make you stand out as a tourist. 

Like in many cultures, black is also associated with funerals; hence not suitable for all occasions. 


Though Asia is warm, consider carrying at least one warm item as public transportation and other enclosed spaces are cold enough to cause window frost. As a thumb rule, avoid skimpy and revealing clothes.  

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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