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krissyface Oct 26th, 2005 12:10 PM

Appropriate clothing
My fiance and I keep hearing conflicting reports about what type of clothing is acceptable in Thailand. On some sites it sounds like it's acceptable for men to skirt around town in shorts, a t-shirt, and tevas and some recommend dockers and a button down. For women, I'm definitely aware that I shouldn't be showing any leg or shoulder. :)
Our trip is set for late May and is going to involve spending four days in Bangkok (at the Peninsula) before departing on an overland tour through Chiang Mai and Chang Rai (through Asian Affair Holidays). We're also going to be in Singapore for three days. Any advice on clothing taboos?

simpsonc510 Oct 26th, 2005 12:36 PM

Thai friends (girls) like to wear the popular tiny-strapped tank tops so the "no shoulder showing" rule really isn't true. You DO need to dress "covered up" when visiting temples though.

Thai girls also wear the short skirts a lot. Thus, the "no leg" is also not true. But, the Thais usually do not wear shorts.

I usually wear a light weight cotton top and shirt (with long sleeves to protect from sun) and a pair of light weight capris or a longer skirt. I am almost always in sandals in BKK.

My DH and son like the khakis/shirt sort of look that you mentioned. They would not feel comfortable running around BKK in shorts. If they are at a swimming pool, that's a different story. Sandals are OK though. Our Thai friends (male) also do not wear shorts.

Hope this helps.


gbdelta Nov 1st, 2005 12:44 PM

What is acceptable? Good question. The Thai are a tolerant people to a point. They are a people who judge people by the way they dress. I am assuming you are caucasian if so, you are assumed to be a tourist but, you don't have to advertise it by dressing like one. When I walk around Bangkok the first ones I notice are the men or women walking around in shorts and T's. I do notice others but, when travellers wear shorts and t-shirts it really stands out in Bangkok. Though Bangkok is safe, no point in advertising. Men are not allowed in the Wats or Temples in shorts so that tells you something. As much as I like wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I do wear collared cotton short sleeve shirts and long pants every where I go outside the hotel. I would not wear jeans, it is too heavy a fabric for the climate in Bangkok. Dockers or dress or casual slacks are great for Thailand. I wear soft soled oxfords and black athletic shoes around Bangkok.

Since you are going to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai it is cooler there than Bangkok. Check the temperature differeces for that area. I know it is much cooler since it is higher in altitude and close to China. I have not been there.

After the rains Thailand got this past year, I would take a rain coat too. It can pour in sheets and still be hot.

gbdelta Nov 1st, 2005 01:11 PM

Oh yeah, just because you dress nice does not mean you have to pay farang or foreigner price. Always haggle, actually I don't like to haggle but, I cannot hear low tones so, I always repeat the price with a bit of uncertainty to make sure I heard the right amount. Doing that usually gets a lower price. Have fun. I am going there at the end of November for a visit.

Cicerone Nov 1st, 2005 08:06 PM

Agree with Simpson that the distinction is between what is permitted at religious sites versus what is permitted as street wear. With regard to the latter, in my experience anything goes (wait until you see Patpong…) Thais are somewhat modest but you cannot really tell this from some of the things young girls wear, just like the rest of the world. Topless bathing is not acceptable is most of Asia, Thailand included, most Thais find it quite offensive. As noted above, in temples both women AND men are not permitted to wear shorts. In the Grand Palace there are rules on footwear, open backed shoes, even those with straps like Tevas, usually are not permitted, I have seen people turned away because they are wearing Tevas. In the Grand Palace and elsewhere you can often "rent" a sarong for the duration of your visit to put over unacceptable clothing.

In Singapore, rules are not so strict for Buddhist or Hundu temples, but use your good judgment. There are a few mosques, generally tourists don't visit these, but if you do, shorts and bare shoulders would not be permitted on women, and a headscarf would be a good idea. When in doubt, ask your hotel about a possible dress code, and take your shoes off basically everywhere inside the walls or gates, observe the locals.

In general places like restaurants, hotel lobbies and public transport tend to be over air-conditioned and are quite cold, I would bring a cotton sweater esp for evenings.

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