Travel Fashion No-No's

Posted May 25th 2010 08:36 AMUpdated Jun 1st 2010 01:27 PM



The Travel Channel

Most people would kill for Samantha Brown's job. The Travel Channel host spends 230 days a year covering about 100,000 miles for shows like "Samantha Brown's Great Weekends", now in it's second season. She is also wrapping up "Samantha Brown's Destinations" and "Samantha Brown's Asia". Her last trip? To Indonesia. It took her 36 hours to get home. "The trip began on a horse and cart, then a boat, a car, and 4 plane rides later I was home," she says.

Like any seasoned traveler, Brown has learned a thing or two about cultural differences over the years, especially about what to pack to blend in with the locals. "I know that what works for job interviews also works in travel," says Brown. "First impressions mean a lot and looking good has a lot to do with that." Taking cues from the local style does more than make you more comfortable, she says, it also protects you. "You want to dress as close to as the locals do if only as to not be targeted as a tourist with a nice camera and wallet full of money and credit cards, even if you have neither," says Brown. But what works on one continent doesn't necessarily work on another. Here Brown shares with us her best advice on how to dress for the destination, culled from a decade on the road.

In Asia and the Middle East:

Cover yourself appropriately, everywhere you go. Americans love their casual summer attire-shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, and flip-flops-in warm weather, but in much of the world there's no temperature high enough to justify donning what's considered "beach wear" while sightseeing. Brown herself made this mistake during her recent travels in Southeast Asia. "I showed up in shorts and tank tops and realized that, while appropriately dressed for heat, I was inappropriate for the culture," she says. "Most of Asia is very conservative in dress and in exposing of skin."

Remember that some sites have even stricter rules. While covering up in public is important, making sure your legs and arms aren't bare while visiting religious buildings is sometimes a requirement. "There are a lot of beautiful temples to visit," Brown says of Asia, though the advice applies to mosques and cathedrals as well. "Make sure your shoulders are covered, and always bring a scarf."

Be careful when dressing exactly like the locals though -- you may miss some of the subtleties. Brown learned that lesson on a visit to one of Bali's temple ceremonies. "I tied my sarong, then I helped with my male cameraman's only to find that I had tied his 'the woman way,' " she says. "All the men laughed at us and we had a great chuckle, too."

In Europe:

Don't pack sportswear unless you're hitting the gym. There's no denying that the cliché is true -- you can easily pick out the American travelers in Europe by their bright-colored clothing and sneakers. "Lily Pulitzer works well in Palm Springs, but not in Florence, Italy," says Brown. She also advises travelers to leave the athletic shoes at home. "As a whole, Europeans dress in an extremely high-end and tailored fashion," explains Brown. "Both women and men devote a large part of their income to clothing."

Don't get lost in translation. The advice goes both ways here as well. While in Europe, if you get caught up in the style and decide to shop, remember to picture yourself wearing your purchases in your everyday life, whether that means trips to the grocery store, your weekly staff meeting, or date night. "Leave the man bag in Europe," says Brown.

In Latin America:

Avoid attention-getting outfits. "Here you actually want to be a lot more understated. Muted colors and jeans will get you in just about anywhere," says Brown.

Don't pack any bold jewelry. Since the locals don't wear ornate jewelry, doing so will immediately set you apart. Brown takes this advice seriously. "Leave the engagement rings at home," she says. "A diamond could attract the wrong attention."

Bring clothing that won't melt in the heat. "Central America is always hot and humid," Brown reminds us. "I always bring clothes with wicking capabilities (fabric that pulls moisture away from skin) that is also fast drying so that I can wash it out in the sink at night and it will be dry the next morning. Even when it's a heat wave I like to look put together."

See Samantha in action on the Travel Channel:

Filed Under: Tips & Tricks

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

America is one of the unsafest countries in the world! People visiting the USA take their lives in their hands when they come here.

July 13 2010 at 3:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Andy, you probably haven't been to New York if you think all of us carry man bags and I all the years I've been visiting other countries, I can't recal ever seeing a man wearing capri pants or clam diggers. All Samantha brown was doing was offering advise. If you don't want to take it, knock your lights out, do what you want. But if you're walking around with jewelry all over you and you get ripped off, don't blame her. If you try to get into St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in shorts, tank top and flip flops, don't say she didn't warn you, you WILL be turned away. While it is a tourist attraction, it is first and foremost, a church, a house of worship.
As for the sneaker thing, take her advice and mine as well. I bought a pair of great walking shoes, black loafers, which are comfortable, supportive and wore them absolutely everywhere on a month-long trip to Italy. No problems with my feet, I slipped them on and off going through security when I left, and I didn't have to take up room in my suitcase with another pair of shoes. They cost me about $60.00, give or take a buck or two, which isn't much more than a good pair of sneakers. In some cases, less.
By all means travel in the USA. Just make sure you get out of the theme parks and off the Interstate. Also, broaden your horizons, get out there and see the world. You will not be disappointed.

July 13 2010 at 9:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know it is considered cosmopolitan and chic to emulate Europeans. There are those who fancy themselves as more cultured than the rest of the US and therefore make disparaging remarks about their fellow Americans. This superiority complex is lame.
Just because you have traveled to Europe once, twice or 400 times doesn't elevate your status. There is nothing superior about being a European. Be proud that you're an American and stop being pretentious. Saying that you have traveled to Europe might have been impressive years ago, but everyone and their Grandma has been there by now and it just doesn't have the impact it once had.

When traveling anywhere (a foreign country, a neighboring state, a town an hour away), we should follow one simple rule: show respect to the people and the culture. It's that simple. If it is considered rude to dress a certain way, then don't dress that way! But, if it comes down to simple fashion (like not wearing sneakers in Europe), but you are comfortable in them and no one is going to be offended but rather they will identify you as an American and think you look unstylish, but you like your sneakers, wear them! Who cares if people in Italy think sneakers are unstylish? Let them laugh.

And furthermore, why is it such a bad thing to be identified as an American? There are far worse things people could call you.

July 01 2010 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I feel sorry for people who only listen to reports of crime directed at tourists abroad and not at tourists (or others who are "different") here in the U.S. Their paranoia gets in the way of being able to be a part of some real miracles. Here's a quote...

"The world is a novel, and ...those who do not travel read only one page."
-St. Augustine

But as far as the clothing thing's entirely possible to wear completely comfortable shoes without wearing tennies or other shoes that mark you as a tourist (in fact, go to a "comfort" shoe store, and you'll find most of the shoes are made by European companies).

And why is it preferable to not be a tourist? First of all, traveling in a bubble in which you're cut off from your surroundings, you miss a chance to do the best traveling, the kind where you meet people and make new friends that connect you to the wider world. I never leave those discussions without having learned something new--about myself, about my own country, and about the place I'm traveling. I've been treated graciously in every country I've visited (including some pretty dodgy places where news reports might indicate that I'd be hated because of my U.S. nationality); I like to think it's because I travel with interest, tolerance, and awareness and (and also because I don't expect to be treated like visiting royalty because I'm an American).

But on a more practical level, if indeed people are concerned about being targeted as a possible victim of criminal activity anywhere in the world (including the U.S.), they shouldn't wear something that makes you stand out as someone who is out of their element. I've been asked for directions by OTHER tourists--including people traveling in their own countries--and I will tell you that it's incredibly flattering to have fit in so well that others actually thought I might be local.

June 30 2010 at 10:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good points in the article, all of which are undermined by the photos. Were they supposed to be ironic? Thin, see-through, bare-shouldered, body-hugging, leg-and-upper-thigh-baring and other body show-off styles are considered inappropriate in many cultures, and that's just what the model is wearing in the photos. Why?

June 03 2010 at 4:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have spend 4-7 weeks each year for the past 7 years in Florence. Most of those trips I went by myself. To tell you the truth, I felt safer there than I do here. The train comes into the historical center, which would be only a few blocks from just about anywhere you stay. You can go all over Europe from this train station. Over the many weeks and months that I have stayed there, I never had any encounters. The Italians are more than glad to help you with directions, even to the point of walking you to where you need to be. I do use my head as to where and where not to go. Believe me, it is totally, by far, the safest place to visit. Now if you are not polite, it is the same as in the USA, you are disgusting. The Italians are very patient people.

June 03 2010 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just find it odd that when Americans go to other countries we have to change our outward appearances to match the locals to blend in. Yet, if someone from another country comes to the US they can wear any of their outfits and still be considered blending in. I understand that we are the "melting pot" of the world and we do accept people of all cultures, walks of lives, etc. I just wish that most countries (including the US) were more accepting and less oppressive to those who are different. I understand that you should respect local cultures, and I do, if you don't it can get you arrested or worse. I've been to places where that's true. You should be allowed to wear whatever you want as long as your actions are respectful. Yes, some cultures stress clothing as a way of respect, but shouldn't we also respect visiting cultures? If it is against ones culture to stay covered and then you were to go to another where clothing was minimal do you need to abandon your culture to "blend in" or should we just accept the fact that there are different cultures that have different ideals and let them go on their merry way and just do our thing. Not that one shouldn't learn from other cultures, just that one shouldn't force their views on another. Just accept those willing to learn from ones culture and teach it, and let the others be. Just a view I have, that we should accept those willing to learn and accept others and let others like maryann just enjoy their little world. I do think the US is a great place to live and there is tons of rich culture here in the US and other countries as well. Sorry for the slightly scrambled thoughts and the bad formatting. It has been a long day.

June 02 2010 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Is that really your name? Or are you the one that has been annoying me taking up all the sunday spots in all the websites? Yes, this is really my name! Was my grandmother's name, too!

June 02 2010 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think a lot of you miss the point. She doesn't say you can't or should not dress like an American, except in places like the middle east wher it can get you into trouble. or other just like here you can't out without any thing on but over there it can be even more restrictive. also sometimes you just don't want to look like a tourist. not that you can't. nobody is going to say anything to you for dressing in tee shirts and running shoes . it's just sometimes better to blend in.

June 02 2010 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't care what she's wearing.
I love Samantha Brown.
I'd take her any day over Anthony or Andrew.
She's charming, attractive and smart.

June 02 2010 at 8:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply