How to look fashionable while traveling in europe

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Never wear expensive, flashy jewelry when traveling abroad, unless you want your diamond ring, pearls, or pricey watch to be tagged for someone else’s collection. You may also be more likely to misplace your cherished jewelry while traveling. Instead, leave the valuables at home.

What to wear: If you must have a little adornment, bring one or two costume pieces that will go with your outfits. And if you choose to wear your engagement ring, turn the stone to the inside of your hand on public transportation and in large crowds.


Impractical Shoes

We’re all for expressing yourself, but when you travel, bright colors aren’t always the way to do it. You’ll stick out more in many destinations, and if you spill your gelato, it’s going to be harder to hide that stain. You want to blend in, not draw unwanted attention to yourself (and nothing does the latter better than a neon green tank top).

Avoiding certain colors can even keep you safe. In sub-Saharan Africa, where tsetse flies transmit a potentially fatal disease known as trypanosomiasis, the CDC recommends wearing “neutral colors that blend with the background environment” because the flies are attracted to bright or dark colors.

What to wear: Unless loud colors or bold patterns are the norm in your destination, consider sticking with conservative hues like navy, blue, tan, and gray—and you’ll rarely go wrong with classic black.

The Wrong Pants


Avoid clothing with sporting, religious, or military symbols, swear words, national flags, and any words or symbols written in a language you cannot translate. There’s no need to unintentionally spark an emotional debate while on vacation or to risk being kicked off a plane for wearing something the airline doesn’t approve of.

Be wary of hand gestures, both making them and wearing clothing depicting them, because these can have different meanings depending on where you are. (In Bangladesh and other parts of the world, for example, the “thumbs up” gesture is considered obscene.) Since you may never know what certain images suggest in another country, avoid them to keep from offending anyone.

To make yourself less of a target, you may also want to leave religious jewelry at home, or wear it under your clothes so it’s not visible to anyone.

What to wear: When in doubt, opt for clothing with solid colors or simple patterns, available from brands such as Ann Taylor, Everlane, Banana Republic, and Uniqlo.


Excessive Technology

Backpacks and large purses tend to be impractical for urban sightseeing—do you really want to lug all that weight around? They’re also appealing targets for thieves, who can easily reach into an unzipped tote or sneak something out of a backpack while you’re wearing it on a busy subway train.

What to wear: Cross-body bags are one of the best options for travel, but any bag that fully zips will make you less of a target for thieves. Sling bags are another, gender-neutral option.


Uncomfortable Fabrics

Unless you’re skiing or taking on another outdoor winter adventure, leave the oversized jacket at home. This will save you space, weight, and hassle when packing.

What to wear: Layering is your friend. When traveling to a cooler destination, pack a few longer sleeved shirts as a base, then layer sweaters and a looser, lightweight winter jacket. Luckily, many travel and outdoor recreation companies are coming up with lighter down jackets that can be compressed into a small pack, such as this option for men or this one for women.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ashley Rossi, Erin Gifford, and Sarah Schlichter contributed to this story.

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How to Stay Stylish While Traveling

How to Stay Stylish While Traveling

Packing clothes for a trip can be an incredible hassle. With many airlines charging growing fees for checked baggage, packing light has become not just an issue of space but of economics, too.

In my twenties, the only thing I cared about was how much my bag weighed. Now, in my thirties, I carefully consider what goes into my suitcase — so I can save luggage space and still remain stylish.

Staying Stylish While Traveling

Table of Contents

Travel Style: How to Look Stylish While Traveling

Pack Mostly Basics & A Few Statement Pieces

About 70% of the clothes you pack should be basics, not statement pieces. Dark blue jeans, a black skirt, a cute sundress, shorts or a warm coat, depending on the local climate, and a few dressy-casual blouses can all be mixed and matched to fit any occasion. By stocking the majority of your suitcase with basics, you remove the need to pack a different set of clothes for each activity.

La Jolla San Diego Sunset

For example, wearing a plain black or white tank top with some dark jeans or shorts can be perfect for physical activities like hiking, biking, or just exploring a city by foot. That same tank top, when tucked into a black skirt and covered with a cardigan and a scarf, becomes a cute and flirty outfit for a dinner in town.


While most of my clothes are solid colors while traveling, I do have one or two colorful dresses and pairs of shoes to brighten up my outfits. For instance, this dress goes with me almost everywhere.

From the vineyards of Emilia Romagna to the beaches in Mexico, this cotton dress pairs perfectly with a cardigan (I love this cardigan or long-sleeved solid top — and it doesn’t wrinkle in my suitcase.

How to Stay Stylish While Traveling


Another way to spice up an outfit is by packing a colorful pair of shoes to go with solid colors. These are my favorite travel shoes and I get compliments every single time I wear them — even from men! They go with jeans, shorts, dresses — basically any solid-colored outfit — and they have an extremely cushioned insole with amazing arch support. I found them at a surf shop in San Diego, but they sell them cheaper on Amazon!

Boots are another great item to liven up an outfit. Not all boots pack well, but I found a cute pair of knee-high boots that don’t take up too much space in my luggage. I normally end up wearing them on the plane, anyway, because they are so comfortable.

These ankle boots are a good option if it’s too hot for knee-high boots.


I’m slightly addicted to buying cute scarves and have a drawer full of them at home. It can be tough to pick just one scarf to bring on a trip, so if I’m traveling somewhere cold, I might sneak two or three into my bag.

Work with Layers

Layering is the key to dressing your outfits up or down. A little black dress for that night on the town, for example, becomes a lot more appropriate for day wear when it’s topped with a shrug or sweater and worn over dark stockings. Similarly, dark jeans with a plain blouse can quickly become dressed up with a well-fitted colorful jacket or long scarf used as a shawl.

Dress Up Your Outfits with Accessories

Like with your clothing, keeping your accessories fairly simple means they will fit more easily with any outfit. Small gold or silver studs, a nice pendant, and your favorite charm bracelet or watch should cover most of your needs, whether you’re going dressy or casual. You would be surprised how easy it is to do a lot with just a few accessories!

I have a few cuff bracelets that always stay packed in my toiletries bag — so I never forget them when packing for a trip. Turquoise and silver bracelets go great with solid-colored clothing.

If you need something flashier or realize you have forgotten something at home, there’s always the opportunity to shop for souvenirs at your destination. Whether it’s a necklace, sunglasses, or a new scarf, chances are that the place you’re going has its own unique style. Purchasing your accessories at your destination can be a fun way of incorporating that local style into your wardrobe, as well as getting a nice memento to bring home with you.

Consider Your Destination

Obviously if you’re going to Yakutsk, Russia, you don’t want to pack shorts and a swimsuit. Similarly, a trip to Mauritius is not the place for heavy winter coats and turtlenecks. I always joke that it’s easy for me to pack for a tropical destination — I just throw in a few sundresses and five bikinis.

How to Stay Stylish While Traveling

Bikini bottoms by Luli Fama

It’s much more difficult to pack light for a cold weather destination, so this is where layering really comes in handy. Don’t forget scarves, gloves, a beanie, and warm socks. This slouchy knit oversized beanie keeps me warm and — depending on what color you choose — it can brighten up an outfit.

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Considering your destination while packing involves more than just packing for the geographical climate — it also means being aware of the cultural and political climate of your destination, too.

If you’re visiting Istanbul or another location whose culture sports a more conservative style, be respectful and wear longer shirts, skirts, or pants. While it will matter less in more cosmopolitan areas, in rural areas your different style of dress might be considered rude or inappropriate. Research your location before you pack to get an idea of what other travelers have found works best.

Love to Travel?

Want to know how to travel the world? I’ve put together a huge page full of useful travel resources with tips and tricks I’ve learned after consistently traveling for over five years. Learn how I make a living while traveling, how to find the best prices on flights and accommodation, how to save money for travel, how to start a travel blog, the best travel gifts and more.

About Christy Woodrow

Christy Woodrow is a travel photographer and professional blogger based in South Lake Tahoe, California. She started this adventure travel blog in 2010 to provide trip ideas and helpful travel tips for people with limited vacation time. Follow her adventures by signing up for weekly emails or read more about her on our about page.

Reader Interactions


Thanks, Christy! We’re going for a one months trip to Eastern Europe with Travel all Russia, so I need all the information on what to pack! As you mentioned- we’re going to Russia, so the weather is unpredictable, there are warm places, but it can get very cold as we will travel Northern..

Ordinary Traveler says

I’m so glad the post was helpful. Your trip sounds amazing!

Emiko Atherton says

Thank you for this posts!! I’m traveling around the world and originally packed a more backpackers wardrobe. Well, I quickly learned what worked for me in my 20s doesn’t work for 30 something me. I’ve replaced most of my clothes with more stylish things (black pants, always black pants!), but I haven’t added jewelry. Great suggestions!

Ordinary Traveler says

I’m so glad you liked it! I hear ya on the backpacker’s wardrobe. I cringe at my travel photos from my twenties.

Hayley Swinson says

Great article! I always find myself bringing a couple of flashy scarves as my “pop” element. They usually pack light anyway, so I don’t feel bad bringing more than one.

Ordinary Traveler says

Thanks! Are you a scarf collector too?

Hayley Swinson says

It’s hard not to be! Although lately I’ve been trying to give a lot of them away and only keep my favorites

Loved this! I might just buy those shoes too… they’re super cute and would go with so much I think!

Clothes You Shouldn’t Wear as a Tourist in Europe: The Unspoken Rules of Travel Fashion

This article was co-authored by Archana Ramamoorthy, MS. Archana Ramamoorthy is the Chief Technology Officer, North America at Workday She is a product ninja, security advocate, and on a quest to enable more inclusion in the tech industry. Archana received her BS from SRM University and MS from Duke University and has been working in product management for over 8 years.

There are 16 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 15,195 times.

Europe is a diverse and densely packed place, so the fashion you see out your window can change even over the course of a day’s drive. But even if Dublin doesn’t wear the same clothes as Zagreb, there are definite trends that set Europe apart from other continents. There’s nothing wrong with being or looking like a tourist, but it’s undeniable that blending in, or at least making an effort, can get you a friendlier reception. [1] X Expert Source

Archana Ramamoorthy, MS
Experienced Solo Traveler Expert Interview. 26 February 2019. Good luck to you as you try to fit everything into that suitcase, and enjoy your time abroad!

Cargo clothing

Image titled What Clothes Should You Avoid Wearing in Europe Step 1

If you’re covered in pockets, everyone knows you’re a tourist. Cargo pants, cargo shorts, travel vests. if the goal of your outfit is storage space, you’re going to stick out. Similarly, safari clothes and hiking clothes are great for the grand outdoors, but not so much for the center of Vienna. [2] X Research source

Fanny packs

Image titled What Clothes Should You Avoid Wearing in Europe Step 2

  • Pickpocketing is mostly a risk in the biggest, most tourist-filled cities, so those are where a subtle storage option is most important. If you’re in a low-crime area, wearing a backpack might make you blend in a bit less, but it’s not disrespectful or risky.
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Shorts (indoors)

Image titled What Clothes Should You Avoid Wearing in Europe Step 3

  • Many places of worship won’t let you in if your clothing doesn’t cover your knees, shoulders, and most of your chest. Definitely plan around this if you want to see the many impressive Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim holy sites (mostly in southern and Eastern Europe).

Workout clothes

Image titled What Clothes Should You Avoid Wearing in Europe Step 4

Don’t wear gym clothes outside. Europeans almost never wear sweatpants or yoga pants out on the street, and even white athletic socks aren’t too common. A sweatshirt or hoodie isn’t a complete “no,” depending on the city and your age, but aim for “smart casual” instead if you want to look closer to the average pedestrian. [5] X Research source

Athletic clothing

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  • Tracksuits have a unique history in Eastern Europe and the UK. You might see them on the street, but wearing one yourself sends out some fairly complicated class and subculture signals! [7] X Research source

Baggy clothing

Image titled What Clothes Should You Avoid Wearing in Europe Step 6

Aim for well-fitting clothing if you want to blend in. Plenty of Europeans wear a T-shirt and jeans, but compared to the USA, these clothes tend to be a much snugger fit (for all genders). [8] X Research source If you want a simple outfit that still fits Europe’s “smart casual” style, think slim or skinny jeans (often dark-colored or grey and undistressed), and a T-shirt that fits your frame. [9] X Research source


Image titled What Clothes Should You Avoid Wearing in Europe Step 7

  • Don’t go too far in the other direction and only pack high heels! Getting around European cities can mean a lot of walking over cobblestones, so comfortable, broken-in shoes are important. [12] X Research source

Extra-loud colors and patterns

Image titled What Clothes Should You Avoid Wearing in Europe Step 8

  • In general, northern countries and colder seasons lead to duller outfits. A Scandinavian crowd in winter can look nearly monochrome. [15] X Research source
  • Southern regions and summer weather means brighter clothes. A Spanish summer might feature warm but muted colors, stripes, and simple patterns. [16] X Research source

Sports logos

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Regional sports logos make it clear you’re a visitor. There are a few famous teams (like the Yankees) that have made it abroad as a generic symbol of US coolness—not a sign of any personal connection. [17] X Research source But for the most part, sports logos from your home country will just mark you as a tourist. (If you’re a genuine fan of a European team or player, then repping them could earn you some friends—or rivals!)

Designer logos

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Just like sports logos, these can out you as a visitor. A big Old Navy or Abercrombie logo across your chest is a pretty clear sign that you didn’t buy your clothes from the shop around the corner. It’s better to go with unbranded clothes, although a small logo or brand symbol isn’t a big deal. [18] X Research source

Patriotic symbols

Image titled What Clothes Should You Avoid Wearing in Europe Step 11

Think twice before wearing any flag or national symbol. Announcing that you’re from abroad may not make a good first impression, especially in places where locals can be tired of tourists. Even local flags and symbols could be a bad idea depending on regional politics, or just local custom. For example, wearing a German flag in Germany could be seen as a bit weird. [19] X Research source

Community Q&A

Pack light by layering instead of bringing a lot of separate outfits. Carry-on only puts you at a huge advantage: you look less touristy, traveling to hotels is less exhausting, and you avoid the often exorbitant fees for checked baggage on flights within Europe. [20] X Research source

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

If you expect to spend time in “semi-formal” settings, such as decent restaurants or a dinner party with a middle-aged or older crowd, make sure to pack something on the classy side, like a button-up shirt, blouse, or modest dress.

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

Rules about swimwear can vary even from beach to beach, so look up local rules. In some places it’s important to change back to streetwear before leaving: for instance, the rules on a French beach might be lax, but you could get fined if you wear a bathing suit back to the parking lot. [21] X Research source

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!

Many places in Europe have recently passed laws against traditional Muslim clothing, and/or seen a rise in violence against people of Muslim and Jewish faith. Look into the local situation if you plan on wearing religious symbols or religious clothing, especially face coverings. [22] X Trustworthy Source Pew Research Center Nonpartisan thinktank conducting research and providing information on public opinion, demographic trends, and social trends Go to source

As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a $30 gift card (valid at Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy!




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