Inga in Fez, Morocco (Steve Mullen)

I’ll start by saying that there is no dress code in Morocco or India, and I saw a wide range of clothing choices among tourists. This is an opinion piece—it’s my opinion about how I choose to dress in conservative countries, and I wouldn’t presume to tell others how to dress. I am sharing it because questions in travel groups often come up about how to dress in Morocco, India and other places in the Middle East and beyond. This is one person’s strategy for how to dress in Morocco and India and other conservative countries.

Inga in Marrakech, Morocco in Liverpool pants (Steve Mullen)

I’m a committed carry-on-only packer, so I favor a capsule wardrobe where pieces mix and match. I do sink laundry, so much of my travel clothing is lightweight and quick-dry.

My history

Inga in Jaipur, India (Steve Mullen)

My experience growing up as an American girl in an expat family informs my clothing choices. We moved from California to Pakistan, a Muslim country, when I was four and I swung between a few years overseas and a year or two in California until I was in my early 20s. Besides Pakistan, I lived in Bangladesh, Peru, and Indonesia. Since then, I have continued traveling all over the world. Times have changed and I’m more relaxed about clothing, but I still feel more comfortable covering up more in conservative countries than I do at home out of respect and convention (my family’s convention).

Guiding principle

My guiding principle in conservative countries is to keep shoulders and legs covered. It’s that simple.

For me, this basic guideline translates to:

  • No leggings or tight pants (unless under a long tunic top)
  • No shorts and especially no short-shorts
  • No mini-skirts or dresses
  • No sleeveless shirts
  • No tank tops
  • No spaghetti straps
  • No visible bra straps
Inga and Steve in Jaipur, India (Inga Aksamit)

It varies a bit by country and activities. In some countries and in some houses of worship, it may be appropriate to cover the head or whole body. In some mosques and temples, they may rent full length robes.

Inga and Steve with heads covered in Pushkar, India

Beach and pool locations are often more relaxed, and it may be acceptable to wear shorts or sun dresses at times.

Inga at Sabang, Aceh, Indonesia where the beach resort made it very clear where the bikini zone ended (Steve Mullen)

I observe how local women are dressed. I don’t always dress as conservatively as they do, but it informs my choices. I then look at how tourists are dressed and see how much attention they draw. If groups of men stare or gawk or make catcalls, I’m going to cover more skin because I don’t want that kind of attention.

Inga in a rented robe at Jama Masjid Mosque in Old Delhi, India (Steve Mullen)

When visiting Aceh, a very conservative community in Sumatra, I identified a few women who looked like they could be Indonesian businesswomen who boarded the plane with bare heads. When we landed in Aceh, I watched to see if they covered their heads, and if they did, I planned to pull out my scarf. Because they didn’t, I left my head bare, but I was ready if I needed it.

See my free downloadable packing lists:


Steve and Inga at Ait Ben Haddou Ksar, Morocco in Ouiselle shirt, ExOfficio pants, JBU sandals (Inga Aksamit)

In cold weather, everyone is covered. The harder decisions are about how to stay cool in searing deserts and tropical jungles, where temperatures can climb above 100F, and humidity can make it feel like a sauna. I usually choose loose, comfortable clothing. Natural fibers are a plus, but I also have quick-dry synthetic fabrics that don’t wrinkle and feel cool.

Inga hiking in the High Atlas Mountains, Imlil, Morocco (Steve Mullen)

The conservative countries where I’ve lived and visited are mostly in the Global South and tend to be in equatorial latitudes, which often translates to hot and humid.

See my article on Packing Light for a Trip to India for more tips.

My packing list

Pants-3 pairs

  • Travel pants, gray, Kuhl Trekr
  • Loose, wide legged pants, blue, purchased at a stall in India
  • Patterned straight leg pants for nice dinners, blue, Liverpool Bali


T-shirts, variety of solid colors and patterns, short sleeve (4)

  • Button-down, collared shirts, variety of patterns (2, Ouiselle, Benjamina Button)
  • Long sleeve white button, collar shirt to wear as an outer layer (Tommy Bahama, Costalina)


Women’s underwear (3, Jockey-No Panty Line Promise-Tactel)

Outerwear (3)

Shoes (3)

  • Sneakers, gray (Allbirds, Tree Runners)
  • Sandals, white, for dinners (purchased in Portugal)
  • Sandals, walking, gray (JBU, Peace)
  • If space allows, consider Altra Timp trail runners, black flats)
  • If beach time, add Teva Mush flip flops


  • Pajamas
  • Hat
  • Purse
  • Toiletries
  • Bathing suit if beach or pool activities are planned
Inga with Travelpro Maxlite 5 (22″), 17″ backpack for 5 weeks of travel, Oiselle shirt, ExOfficio Pants, Allbirds shoes (Steve Mullen)


Photo Gallery

Inga in a Tommy Bahama linen shirt as an outer layer, Allbirds shoes (Steve Mullen)
Urban Coco skirt with variety of tops (cami would be worn under long sleeve linen shirt) and JBU gray sandals, white sandals from Portugal, Allbirds shoes (Inga Aksamit)
Wide pants from India, variety of tops and 3 pairs of shoes (Inga Aksamit)
Joseph Ribkoff black blazer, Oiselle shirt, black pants for evening (Steve Mullen)
Urban Coco Chiffon Blazer for casual dressy (from Amazon)
Urban Coco skirt and blazer, sandals from Portugal (Inga Aksamit)
Kurti tunic from India, JBU sandals (Steve Mullen)

Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links may be used, and Kuhl Trekr pants were provided free in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed are my own.