The Consummate Traveler: Wardrobe and Safety

February 20, 2014 Updated: February 20, 2014

Does what you wear affect your safety while traveling abroad? That depends on where you are going, what you are wearing, and how well you blend in with the surroundings.

In preparation for my upcoming trip to South America, I just happened to do some online research, looking for wardrobe advice. What I learned along the way was enlightening and definitely worth sharing.

In the next few weeks, I will be visiting Bogota, Colombia. While I already knew that the weather there is not typically warm due to its location at the foothills of the Andes Mountains, it just so happens that there is a heat wave going on at the moment. The cool air has turned into a sweltering 90 degrees, which leaves me with some important choices to make on what to pack.

I must have read about 15 different blog posts with advice on what to wear in Bogota, and it was interesting that most had common words of wisdom. Each described how the city vibe was formal and sophisticated, like New York, with everyone wearing suits and darker colored clothes. They also noted how everyone is impeccably groomed. Then, to my surprise, came all of the explanations on what a visitor should never wear.

As if taken from the same rulebook, each blog warned that you should not be seen wearing shorts, cargo pants, sandals (most notably flip flops), short sleeve shirts, or sneakers. If you do, you will immediately stand out as an obvious tourist. This can then leave you more vulnerable to con artists, slick taxi drivers, and the like.

Since what the blogs warned of describes how most Americans dress, it has caused me to carefully consider my clothing choices. I appreciated the advice and will be taking along only full-length lightweight pants, loose fitting longer sleeve shirts, and flat shoes instead of sneakers. Although they didn’t say it, I guess this means my favorite baseball hat needs to stay home too.

Standing out as the perfect target in an unfamiliar city is never a good thing. Therefore, I think it is a wise practice for all of us to do some homework in order to learn about cultural habits before leaving for a destination. It certainly is better to be safe than sorry.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels.