Top 9 Ways to Avoid Looking Like a Gringo in Latin America

The following is a guest post by Andrew. If you’d like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read our submission guidelines.

Hi! I'm a douchebag!

I realize there are numerous obvious reasons you can think of that would make someone not want to stick out as an obvious tourist in Latin America–safety (criminals are far more likely to target an obvious tourist), social acceptance, not feeling stupid, simply wanting to blend in by dressing in the local fashion, etc.–but the best reason isn’t any of those, and it’s one that requires a bit of explaining and delves right into the culture of Latin America, and it has to do with poverty…

Normal people dress more formally in Latin America than elsewhere, and the reason for this is that a much, much larger proportion of their population is relatively poor than in wealthier developed nations like the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe, and consequently it isn’t, and never has been, considered fashionable to dress down or to dress like you’re poorer than you really are.

No one wants to be mistaken for the lowest lower class (Latin America is also a much more class-centered society), no one wears jeans that are intentionally torn (if your jeans are torn it must be because you’re too poor to afford new ones), no one wears clothes that are baggy and don’t fit (if they don’t fit, it must be because you can’t afford proper clothes that do fit correctly), no one dresses informally because it looks “cool” (because it doesn’t there), etc.

Latin America is an extremely class-conscious society, and the A-number-one way that people communicate to everyone else that they’re respectable, not a criminal, and not a violent delinquent is by dressing as smartly and as nicely as they can possibly afford to.

Even very poor people will still do this, they’ll own just one nice pair of dress pants that they wear every single day and wash and iron every single night if they have to, only the worst of the worst don’t–they’re not being snobs, this isn’t our culture, it’s not the same as if you were to do this here.

When you dress shabbily (shabbily by their standards, normal by ours), you’re associating yourself immediately with some very ‘undesirable’ people that no one else wants to be associated with, people will avoid being seen with you and any friends you might make will not want to be seen out with you but will be too polite to tell you that your dressing habits make you look like a desperate heroin addict.

Please, before you start ranting at me in the comments, understand that I’m not saying you can’t wear what you want, I’m not telling you how to dress, I’m just saying people are going to judge you for it and you really cannot hold that against them since they’re just being normal (you’re in their culture, right?) and you’re the one being weird, I’m just telling you what’s socially acceptable and what’s not and why.

Just as an example of how this can cause problems, having had this same exact experience related to me by several backpackers who have had this happen in several different Latin American countries: you will get turned away at the door at clubs and even bars if you’re wearing sneakers, or shorts, or a t-shirt (without a nice button-up shirt on top of it), and frequently even jeans, and god help you if you’re wearing 3 or 4 of those.

The Top 9 Gringo Giveaways

The following list contains what I’ve found are the most common and obvious things that gringos will tend to do that you would never see a native doing, thereby being the things that are most commonly known by the natives to indicate that someone isn’t from around there (and most of these tend to be associated with the stereotypical white American/Canadian/European tourist).

Follow these tips to avoid looking like a gringo in Latin America:

1. People don’t usually wear just a t-shirt when they go out.

This is something that would be worn around the house after work or perhaps while one was working out or doing some gardening or landscaping at home, though people do wear them underneath a nice button-up shirt, so that’s fine.

2. They don’t wear sneakers unless they’re going running or they’re doing (or on their way to do) some sort of physical or athletic activity that requires them.

And even then, many people would wear their normal clothes on the way over while bringing their running/sports clothes with them that they’ll change into when they get there.

Also, white socks are only worn with sneakers, never with normal dress shoes that people wear day-to-day.

3. They would never wear a tracksuit, exercise shorts, or exercise pants unless they were actually exercising.

Even going to and from the gym they’d wear something nicer and bring their workout clothes back and forth with them and change at the gym (which would almost certainly involve a shower post-workout prior to changing back into their nice clothes).

4. Fanny packs.

No. Never. Not ever. This makes you a walking target as far as muggers are concerned, and with there being plenty of other less obtrusive options such as money belts, backpacks (student-style backpack that is: students are poor, they have no money, don’t bother robbing them, you know?), briefcases/man-purses, etc. there just isn’t a good reason to have one.

5. Generally dressing like a hippy.

You already know if this applies to you: looking like you just rolled out of Woodstock is fine in most places in the U.S., and fine with me personally by the way (I have a bit of a soft spot for hippie chicks, I think they’re cute especially when they have dreadlocks), I have nothing against them, but the problem with it is that Latin Americans will perceive you as dirty, in a heroin-addict-who-might-just-stab-you sort of way.

Sorry, but you’ll get significantly better treatment and service if you take note of the fact that the locals will frequently be dressed in nice trousers/skirts and a starched button-up shirt even in sweltering heat and do what you can to blend in.

6. Very skimpy clothing.

Make no mistake, the women will certainly go to great lengths to show off their “assets” sometimes, especially if they’re going out clubbing or something, and plenty of them are frequently sporting a very respectable amount of cleavage (I’m looking at you, Medellín), but what you won’t ever see is really revealing stuff like shorts that are so short your ass is practically hanging out, a top so small that it’s essentially a bra, itty-bitty mini-skirts (again, with your ass practically hanging out), etc.

This is especially a no-no in a church, and this is one complaint I’ve heard from locals where the reaction goes from “oh that’s slutty”, which is how they would normally see it, to “that’s really f*ing offensive, someone should throw her out”. Be careful what you wear to churches, if you don’t normally bother please just this once make the effort to wear something nice, it’s really a big deal (this isn’t a religion thing–I’m agnostic–it’s a respect thing because it’s their culture you’re in).

7. Cargo pants.

Nope, they don’t do them, they never caught on down there and consequently no one wears them, it’ll immediately peg you as a gringo (whether that’s good or bad or irrelevant is entirely up to you by the way).

8. Flip-flops and sandals.

Sorry girls, outside of the beach or at the swimming pool, they’re never worn and are considered far too casual for everyday wear (kind of like walking around in bedroom slippers here). For guys, this includes sandals, with socks or without, doesn’t matter.

9. I’ve saved the worst offender for last: the men do not wear shorts. Ever.

This is the stereotypical gringo thing to do, it’s the one that everyone jokes about. Exceptions: working out, the beach, walking around the house, swimming pool.

That’s it. I honestly hopes this helps you, and please keep in mind the above list is not some strict “don’t do this unless you’re a jerk” type of thing, it’s just meant to be informative so that you can use it to help you make a decision about what to wear and when, that’s all.

This is really meant to be only for the people who would actually be concerned about this in the first place, if you’re not really worried about blending in then don’t worry about it, I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with that and even then this should still help you so that you understand part of the culture you’ll be interacting in.

No judgment here, I’m just trying to inform, that’s all.

________

About the Author: Andrew runs a blog on how to learn Spanish and has been learning Spanish on his own for nearly four years now. He posts information on his site aimed specifically at people who want to teach themselves Spanish on their own, from home, including things like using popular media to learn Spanish as in his recent series about Shakira’s music videos.

Comments

  1. segacs says

    I don’t really find this post all that useful, to be honest. Sure, it’s all well and good to try to dress to blend in. But the #1 way to avoid looking like a gringo is to look Latin American – physically, I mean. When you’re a Canadian of Eastern European descent, with glow-in-the-dark white skin, reddish hair, freckles, and a propensity to turn lobster-red in the sun, there really isn’t much you can do to “blend” in, no matter what you wear.

    Backpackers and tourists will get pegged as such just by virtue of the fact that they’re out and about at sites, attractions, cafes and restaurants in the middle of the business day while most locals are at work or at school. Wearing comfortable walking shoes won’t really make much of a difference once it’s obvious that you’re a tourist, and will probably protect your feet from serious injury when you spend hours every day walking. Likewise with shorts; as a woman, I find a casual skirt helps me “blend” in hot countries much better than shorts would, but attempting to wear longs and heavy stuff in super-hot climates will just cause negative side effects like heatstroke. You don’t blend very well when you’re not adapted to the climate like the locals are.

    Agree about the fanny packs, mind you. That’s just a fashion faux pas no matter where, no matter when.

    • says

      Well, this is sort of true, but keep in mind that there are plenty of blond-haired, blue-eyed Latin Americans, especially in Argentina and Southern Brazil, so simply being white won’t necessarily peg you as a gringo–if you look the part, yes, you could pass for a local.

      I do agree that red hair is probably really unusual, though, haha…

      Your decision to wear a skirt was a wise one, I didn’t mention it but I’m pretty sure women almost never wear pants (jeans yes, pants as in slacks, no). Also, the pants the men wear are very light, breathable material.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

    • steph says

      I don’t think you understood the blog very well, the point is that in latin america wearing shorts and sandels is kind of tacky, its not about hiding your nationality, its about whats right in the u.s. isn’t exactly right in latin america..

    • Estefanía says

      Ok, i´m Colombian. I found a little offensive and very false the psicological speculations about our reasons for dressing carefully. Well, in Colombia, cold=rain and warm=sun; then in sunny places like beach we wear shorts(men and women), sandals, t-shirt more often than in non coast city like Medellín. In rainy places we wear the same except for shorts and sandals, adding jeans, jackets and boots.

      In adition, i can tell you look like gringos because you are taller, bigger, have red-lobster skin, speak (english) louder, etc, and im sorry, but some of you smell like hell (not every one, off course). More important than clothes is take a shower EVERY day and use deodorant, please.

      • contentbelle says

        In adition, i can tell you look like latino’s because you are shorter, smaller, have dark skin, speak (Spanish ) louder, etc, and im sorry, but some of you smell like hell (not every one, off course). More important than clothes is take a shower EVERY day and use deodorant, please.

  2. says

    Great post – really enjoyed it. Because we had to stuff four seasons of clothing into out backpacks for this year we can’t dress up every day here in South America, but I would never travel without having at least one nice outfit for dinner or a night out. Your post is really informative and explains a lot about why we see people all dressed up to get on the bus and the older gentlemen who seem to “dress up” in their jacket and hat just to go down to town for coffee and a newspaper during the day (they’re obviously retired). It’s quite similar in Europe, where the standards are a lot more formal. What I can’t get over is the number of gringos we see dressed like hippies or with bare feet out in the streets here in Chile. Seriously. It’s bad enough when we see people in the supermarket or walking around in the city in Australia with no shoes on, but how can one possibly think that would be even remotely acceptable here in this culture? Just for safety reasons alone…keep your shoes on people!

    • says

      Thank you, guys! I’m really glad you enjoyed it, I like helping people. Are there really that many gringos out and about in Chile?

      I honestly kind of like the fact that people in Latin America and Europe will dress up to a somewhat greater degree than we do, I wish we would do that, odd as it sounds I actually think it fosters and encourages civility and politeness.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

      • Jennifer with @TwoYearsOff says

        That makes a lot of sense. That’s why some corporate cultures require people to dress up in suits, ties, and generally very professional even though employees work in an office cubicle all day. It’s about how you see yourself.

        Great post! I really appreciate the insight.

      • says

        I wouldn’t say there are heaps but relative to the number that we’ve seen there have been more than enough with bare feet and messy clothes. It is nice to dress up, I agree. When I’m at home in my usual city I make an effort to have a neat appearance. It’s something I learned living in Paris and haven’t been able to shake. But, hey, there are plenty of well-dressed rude people around so I don’t judge people on their clothes.

        • says

          Since living in Medellin, I’ve become more self-conscious about what I’m wearing when I step out of the apartment. Even a quick cafe run a few minutes walk away usually has me in jeans versus shorts (which I wear around the apartment).

          • says

            We’re really trying to get to Colombia this trip…we have a couple of weeks up our sleeve in June (I know, I know – NOT enough time). Have heard nothing but wonderful things!

  3. says

    This post strikes me as pretty silly. I’ve been living in China for 6 years and am much closer to celebrating the fact that I don’t dress like a Chinese person than pondering what silk garbs I can don to appear Asian.

    If Latin America (the entire continent is grouped together??) doesn’t appreciate the subtleties of dressing down that developed Western countries are accustomed to, why not give them a lesson and be yourself at the same time? And, you know, get to wear shorts in Latin American places that are hot as hell.

    I too think fanny packs look ridiculous, but advocating people to dress differently to appease superficial locals strikes me as kind of lame.

    • says

      I think the important bit is having the personally of respect rather than worrying about wearing flip-flops or not. Wearing flip-flops walking around the city doesn’t hurt anyone. Wearing a skimpy outfit in a church is disrespectful. Other than that, like Charlie said, just be yourself.

      • LeenzieM says

        I agree. It isn’t that the locals are superficial at all though. That’s their culture. But yes, as long as you’re comfortable while being respectful to them and their country, wear what you want.

  4. says

    Very good advice. I just read this having walked up and down Via Argentina in Panama City in flip flops. But they weren’t ugly flip-flops. There is a difference.

    I would say to the ladies this: those very cute, decorated flip-flops are okay. If they have sequins, all the better. I have Panama friends down here and they wear them. (My friend, who is a young lawyer, wore some black sequined flip-flops yesterday at lunch. So there.)

    The rest of your tips are spot-on. Leave the shorts and t-shirts at home.

  5. says

    Nice tips!
    I don’t find #8 entirely true though. Of course, this depends on where you are but I feel in most places, flip-flops are used pretty often. The big cities like BA or Lima, flip-flops are not used often but right outside of them – they are everywhere.
    For #5, most hippies are Argentine, Chilean, and Brazilian selling bracelets on the streets. They are all over S.America.

    • Hana says

      That’s what I thought. I need to go where the hippies are, where my gaged ears and nose ring and dreadlocked dirty friends will be accepted, haha.

  6. Hana says

    I’ve never been but Latin America is certainly somewhere I’d like to spend some time visiting, and this article was extremely informative. I had no idea how class-conscious and judgmental they were! In the US I can afford to look nice, but I choose comfort over image. Basically I look like a hippie who showers daily and wears a little makeup. I don’t care if I wear the same thing a few days in a row if it’s not visibly dirty, I very rarely dress up fancy unless it’s absolutely required, I don’t own a pair of dress shoes, I wear cargo pants and hand-me-down skirts all the time, and I shop at Ross and Goodwill even though I can afford to spend money at nicer clothing outlets. This post is actually a bit discouraging because I feel like I’d have to do some serious shopping before travelling here, but thanks for being so honest and to-the-point about it. Then again like you said, I don’t really care much about blending in. I just don’t want to stick out so bad that I’m a target for crime.

    • says

      I think the women who visit may notice the difference more than men. For example in Medellin, the women are VERY style conscious, but they’re more likely to be judging and competing with other women for attention.

    • Dusty says

      It was discouraging for me to hear someone saying these things too. The author stated they’re not telling someone how to dress, but the act of writing this article has an affect on people that in my opinion sways people from being themselves. Wear what you wear and don’t try to be someone you’re not.

      • Jennifer says

        Clothes don’t determine who someone is. They are tools that keep us covered and warm/dry/safe. They are also used to signal cultural/social messages, the interpretation of which varies by culture. Changing your dress to fit how the culture will perceive you is not changing yourself for that culture. If you choose not to do that great, but saying that others who do are changing themselves is very ignorant and also offensive.

  7. Hansen says

    My backpack with all my gear can hold a couple standard T-shirts, one dress shirt, a pair of jeans, a pair of pants that can zip into shorts, and one pair of shorts. Flip flops are my go to shoes but I bring all black running shoes that can blend in walking around or in the club (not look great, just not stand out with fluorescent colored running shoes). If that style fits where I’m traveling to, then great. If not, I just have to get over it. I agree with the comments about respecting the culture, but that doesn’t require fitting in everywhere you go. Plus, looking like a local won’t get you all the friendly help that lost looking tourists generally receive. Thanks for the post Andrew!

  8. LeenzieM says

    Um… There are some truths about this. Well I should say… Things that are specific to Latin America. I’m from Antigua, and I can tell you some of this definitely applies.

    For example, the slippers and socks and the fanny packs, the “hawaiian” shirts, etc. It’s not that it’s bad, but the person will just stick out. But men wear shorts though, like if they’re just running errands around town etc. As long as they’re below the knew, no one really bothers… It’s fine.

    I like the point about not dressing skimpy. Just because it’s an island that doesn’t mean you have to be naked. I’ve seen tourists go in shirtless to places or walk around town that way, people (as in local people) don’t like that. As mentioned about, just be respectful. Same goes for churches and the like.

    But honestly, you don’t need to be wearing button/up shirts and slacks, etc. Just as long as you’re comfortable while being respectful, you’re fine.

    Last thing, referring to the fashion thing. I find that the Caribbean is becoming increasingly influenced by North American fashion. So that means we DO wear intentionally ripped jeans and boys DO wear baggy clothes… Cuz they can. Some people still do think that baggy clothes for example indicates that you’re in with a bad crowd or not doing things that are too respectable (drugs, gangs, etc). But generally most boys dress that way cuz they think it’s “fashionable”. I disagree but I’m just saying.

    (p.s. People wear cargo pants, as long as it’s not too hot. And your shoes don’t matter much either, just depends on the dress code for that particular place. But of you’re just walking aroun town, etc, no one cares about what shoes you’re wearing)

  9. Annamaria says

    Number 4 is false. I studied abroad in Santiago two years ago, and Chilean students rocked the fanny pack. It was cool to wear it across the chest.

  10. says

    The American tourist stereotype is alive and well in this post, and sometimes in real life. I feel like today, there are few people rocking the Hawaiian shirts and fanny packs like the Griswalds. Not to say it doesn’t happen, but it’s not that common for the younger generations.

    We wrote a post about weird things we experienced in Latin America and got slammed for generalizing too much. I tried to explain that I understood not everything applied to every country, it was more like one thing to a country. The same applies to this article.

    Fashion and style are alive and well in Argentina, Colombia and Brazil. In fact, you rarely find young women and men not in hot tight jeans and art printed t-shirts. Wearing ripped, decorated or colored jeans and a printed t-shirt in Medellin or Buenos Aires is the norm.

    Hippies are all over Argentina and many of them will make their way into Bolivia. Sandals are fine, but shorts are rarely worn.

    The fashion in Latin America surprised me many times. In Leon, Nicaragua and Panama City, again all the young guys wearing DG. It’s definitely there, but I do see the older crowd, even those that have little money wearing slacks, dress shirts and dress shoes. I find the contrast between the generations fascinating. It seems to be happening so fast in Latin America.

    I enjoyed the article and think you can find many places where this applies, but also, you can find many places it does not, just like our article.

    Long live the Griswalds.

  11. says

    I can see how this would be helpful if you were an expat, but just passing through?

    Personally, I could care less if locals find me fashionable or not. I’m not about to change my all my clothes every time I visit a new country! Talk about expensive, and wasteful.

    Although knowing what might be considered “disrespectful” is always good.

    As for fanny packs, it actually looks like quite a fashionable trend down here in Central America. I see younger kids with them across their chests all the time! :-)

  12. Asgasdgsd says

    I think this piece has some good insights, but it could really, REALLY do without the ridiculous remark about “hippie chicks” and how “cute” they can be. Totally unprofessional, and makes the author seem like absolute scum. It really threw off the whole piece, which would otherwise be pretty okay.

    • says

      Agreed, those comments about girls weren’t necessary, but I didn’t find them offensive, and therefore didn’t see the need to edit them out. “absolute scum” seems a bit harsh when the author was just trying to relay a little of his own personality throughout the piece.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Dusty says

      That would be because the author IS a douche. I didn’t have to have the hippie chick comment to know that. How can you possibly be so self absorbed to write this ridiculous article about how you should change yourself to travel to another culture. Be who you are. Be respectful, obviously.

      • Mossy says

        I think these comments about the author are unfair. So he likes hippie chicks and wanted to express himself in his writing, what’s wrong with that? How can you possibly find that offensive? If that seriously bothers you, it’s *your* issue, not the author’s! I found the article useful because I want to be attractive to Colombian women (oh no, did I let it slip that I’m a sexual being! What scum I must be!). Normally I wear shorts and T-shirts and sneakers, but when I go to Medellín I will make the effort to dress up a little more.

        • says

          Hey Mossy, in Medellin I always go out to the discotecas in Diesel t-shirts, jeans, and Adidas. Nothing special required at 99% of the places, whether you’re on a date or not.

          If you’re really trying to impress, or hanging out with a crowd of professional Colombians, you might want a button down shirt, but hardly necessary on most occasions.

    • says

      It’s true, I haven’t been to Brasil, but I also didn’t write this article. I plan to be in Brazil by early 2012 — looking forward to it.

  13. Vauxhal says

    May be mildly true in **certain** circles in **certain** cites, but to make a generalization this broad (i.e. about a VERY culturally diverse region with more than 20 countries, 8m+ sq miles, and 500m+ people) is beyond inaccurate. At best.

    • says

      Agreed, and I mentioned this to Andrew before publishing the article, however we both agreed that some generalizing was required to make his point more poignant.

  14. Paula says

    Sorry Andrew, but your post isn’t very helpful at all… I am South American, and I have lived in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. I’ve met people people from all over Latin America, and I can tell you this: many of your tips are inaccurate. Latin America is class-centered, but Hispanics wear intentionally torn jeans all the time, specially in the early 2000s. Fanny packs are a little bit of a gringo giveaway, but if you go to Brazil (Rio in particular) you will see many (old) people wearing them. I see people wearing flip flops and sandals pretty much everywhere I go in Latin America. But yes, you shouldn’t wear revealing clothes in a South American church, but doesn’t that apply to most churches in the world?? Rules 2 and 3 are mostly accurate, but sorry to break it to you, but men wear shorts in Latin America all the time. Latin American is warm. Men wear shorts all the time.

    • says

      I don’t disagree, however in Medellin, Colombia where I’ve lived for the last year, most adult men do not wear shorts, even during the daytime when the sun is hot and it can be quite hot. Exceptions include guys at the gym, playing sports or working out outside, and kids.

      Again, just one city, but it was so noticeable that to assimilate I began wearing jeans 24/7, and do so even when I’m outside Colombia (in the hot US summers).

  15. Pasha says

    Thanks for the useful post! It’s very sad fact that S-American culture is 50+ years behind “European”.
    =(

    • Ondina says

      Your answer summarizes perfectly centuries of «European » colonialism, imperialism, racism and superiority complex all over the world. It is very sad that people who are uncapable of working and thinking properly out of a structured system that is better than its invidual components (i.e. human beings) judge themselves better than many people who are better than the system they live in.

  16. says

    I beg to differ with the author of this post.

    I don’t think you should have generalized so much. Latin American countries are very diverse and what is the norm in one, may be unusual in another. For example, Brazilians dress much more casually than Argentineans (who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing what their neighbors wear just because they have a different sense of style)

    It seems to me that you left you left out the question of fashion and style. People tend to follow fashion trends because they like them and not because they do not want to be mistaken for a thief.

    But I understand that these are the observations of a foreigner living in a Latin American country. A Latin American author would view things differently.

    Thanks,

    Ana

  17. Joie7994 says

    As a redhead, glow-in-the-dark white, freckled type of girl, I’ve pretty much given up on attempting to blend in physically when I go to Medellin but what I heard about how to dress there is pretty contradictory to this article. My friends who live there told me that the way I dress for school is way more formal than how they dress and that I would probably look weird (all this because I wear a fair amount of makeup and the occasional blouse or skirt). You were dead on about the shorts though, one friend said her mother would never let her go to school in shorts! My question is, are there any rules of wardrobe etiquette you know of that specifically apply to high schools in Colombia?

  18. Eileen says

    Just going to chip in and say most of this doesn’t apply at all in Chile. Santiago is all about the fanny packs, hippies, dreadlocks, mullets, informal dressing, etc. etc.

  19. John Pedroza says

    Great tips, I especially liked the shorts one. My dad owns a travel agency in Mexico City and we would always laught at the tourists in shorts (behind their backs). The only other think I would add would be avoid loud colors or crazy prints. Anything neon is the equivalent of putting a “please mug me” sign on your back. Latin americans tend to dress in subtle earth colors (this does not always apply to natives).

  20. Jim says

    As someone whose travelled around latin america quite a bit, I think this advice is not entirely true. Look at the young people in most Central American countries….they are wearing t-shirts.

    Fact…you look like a gringo because you are a gringo. There is certainly a difference between dressing in in A, pants and a button down and B, Hawaiian shirt, shorts and sandals.

    As well, I can bear looking like a gringo if the alternative means walking around Leon in dress shoes, pants, and a button down.

    That being said, the writers advice is true for some things.

    in my opinion, a light cotton “wife beater” on under a presentable, “breathable” button down shirt and a pair of cotton (not swim shorts) shorts is about as local as I can get without the heat being to much.

  21. Pablo Fernandez says

    Hi

    I just read this post, since I live in Argentina I thought I’d speak up about some (all?) misconceptions in this post. Not sure about other countries in Latin America, I’ve been to about 50% of the countries in latin america but, to be honest, I’ve never paid attention to locals’ outfits.

    Anyway, shorts, sandals, t-shirts, sneakers, exercise shorts and shirts… all those are basically three fourths of my wardrobe, I think I have a pair of actual shoes, but I haven’t wore them in years, I hate shoes, I use sneakers all the time, same thing with t-shirts, I normally just ware dry fit nike shirts cause they are great and I do a lot of sports so I might as well stay in exercise sports. Oh, and also I hate buttons, takes me for ever to button up a shirt, so I tend to skip them.

    Oh, jeans, yeah, those are pretty much the only actual pants I have, and yes, most of them are intentionally ripped since non-ripped pants seem a bit boring.

    By the way, I should mention, I’m not a hobo or anything, I live in an upscale neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Nuñez.

    So yeah, that’s pretty much it, just wanted to debunk that myth, and again, I’m just talking about Argentina. I was in Chile last week and people might have been wearing a bit more formal clothing, but I was just at the airport, hard to judge who’s from Chile and who’s not and whether they are just travelling on business so they need to dress up.

    One last thing, a couple years ago I went to Brazil and eeeeverybody was wearing really comfy, laid back clothes.

    • Pablo Fernandez says

      (yikes, I just saw the picture that got pulled on my previous post, I guess my outfit on that picture says it all… haha!)

      In that picture I was doing rock climbing, that’s why I have all that crap hanging in chest, but that t-shirt is one of my favorite ones and I wear it all the time!

  22. lucas says

    the problem with your article is that you are 100% correct in latin american customs. The down side and the hard part is to accept their deficiencies of their social structure an mannerisms of dress. You dress for the weather, not the customs, this is common sense and healthy living 101. I however understand this psychologically though due to the simplistic fact that latinos in general are mostly old world catholic. And with theses prehistoric idealisms I can see why there entire culture lags behind in customs and economics and in technology

    • Navin says

      Ignoring the fact that you seem to be lumping the entirety of Latin America together under the same cultural canopy, your comment seems to contain a few blanket statements without backing any of it up. If you could be a little more specific and/or articulate with your thoughts, I’m sure it would aid the discussion. For instance, I can’t help but wonder how a culture “lags behind in customs”? And if you could also be so kind as to inform us as to how Latin American Catholicism is connected with how “there [sic] entire culture lags behind in customs and economics and in technology.” -Navin

  23. Boydnar says

    Basically, what you’re saying, Dave, it that Latin America is stuck in 1940’s-ish American formality. No tennies, no shorts, no casualness.

    Yuck.

  24. Hernandez_32 says

    I have Spanish parents from Andalusia
    I might have a better chance with ‘blending in’ than most Americans or Europeans. I have black hair and brown eyes and somewhat olive skin. This post may be helpful for people travelling in the Andean regions but in the Southern cone countries which are more European in culture, people dress differently in what region so there could be some changes. Just dress formal, especially in Catholic churches :)

    • pablo says

      At least in Chile, Argentina or Uruguay, you can enter as a drag queen to a church, and nobody will tell anything, in Chile people will talk, but just as it is their culture to bash about anything… see reviews about adult female models getting churches crazy in the country.

  25. Carlo Cretaro says

    If cargo pants are a no no for men, then what other type of pants are suitable? No shorts?? Even the cargo style ones?

  26. Maria says

    Well I am from bogota Colombia and me and my family wore tee shirts sneakers miniskirts. I do think our fashion is formal but you wont get turned down if you are wearing sneakers at a club. Also people do wear ripped jeans and its kind of offensive that you say people would think you are an undesirable person if you dress shabby because thats not true. If you dont want to look like a gringo dont wear flip flops.

    • says

      I agree Maria. One of the things I liked about Colombian nightlife, especially in Medellin, is I could wear Adidas to all the discotecas without concerned about being turned away. The funny thing was to always see how dressed up the women got – high heels, miniskirts, etc. And their guy friends or boyfriends would be in jeans and a t-shirt.

  27. GringaEstudiante says

    Dude I totally love this article. I’m a college student doing a volunteer stint in the city of santa cruz bolivia this summer. I am one of those super white people (shoutout to Seattle) so I had to dye my hair dark before comming and well, the tan just happens on its own. I’ve notice that women here (just putting this out to tourists EASTERN BOLIVIA IS NOT ANDEAN. IT IS SPANISH) tend to show skin but as long as it’s a piece of quality clothing. Example: it dosen’t matter how low cut, if it’s an expensiveish looking dress than it is instantly good. I totally agree on the shorts thing! The only guys that wear shorts here are teenage boys. No man over the age of 22 would be caught dead in shorts. Another note on ladie’s clothing is Bolivian women tend to be well dressed sasuages. What I mean by that is is it is better waaay too tight (pardon my obsecenity but I have seen A LOT of what one would call uniboobs) than way too loose. I’m a small lady and well, line drying tends to make things stretch. The day I decided to pull out the pair of all black skinny jeans (flattering I should note) and super tight shirt that I later realized my bra was rather visable (oh laundry day) was the day I ironically blended in the most (add in the large sunglasses covering up the blue eye thing). As far as the church thing goes yeah you are SPOT ON! Ladies please note that when it comes to church clothing go knee length skirts. Well below the knee and you are probally a nun. Well above the knee and you are asking for slightly more loud whistles than normal. I’ve noticed that since it’s so dusty and gross here most people don’t have really nice shoes so if you are a lady a dark pair of flip flops is a common trend (in santa cruz that is. I wouldn’t dare do it in Panama from previous summer unless you want to loose your shoe to the mud). Man sandals are a no no and too much makeup is also a big problem. I “dress up” because I wear mascara and eyeliner. That is considered perfectly acceptable but the day I wore eyeshadow and lipstick I got the “you whore” look. Oh side random note ladies don’t wear much jewlry here for fear of robbery/it’s a poor country but having nice nails is a must. The great thing is a professional manicure only costs about $2. Hope this helps someone as Dave’s blog has helped me!

  28. GringaEstudiante says

    Oh side note I read the comment by Mealine @ TravelToast and on the Panama City thing (spent last summer in Panama and hung out quite a bit in the city) yes totally agree flip flops are a yay. But when it comes to shorts and women in Panama itself (the city and the rest of it) shorts are okish for the younger guys (friend Oscar born and raised Panamanian city agrees) and in this case under 25. Shorts for ladies NEVER EVER EVER ok. I brought all skirts for that trip because well, I don’t like shorts that much because of the cultural bother in the first place. There where a few girls that were with me and ONLY brought shorts. That story ended with them being glared at and having to borrow skirts while they shopped for some.

  29. arg says

    Wearing like the man in the photo above is too ridiculous. I live in Argentina, and i can ensure that Latin America is a quite influenced with the culture of USA because here are so much of your way of life. The TV programs, the fashion, the tecnology, the music, USA is everywhere, even we don´t realize all the time.
    In Latin America there is a gap between rich people and poor people. Here is not looking good to the people who waste their money living a ostentatious life.
    Being honest and respecting our culture you will have a good time here. And not wearing that ridiculuos hawaiian t-shirt.

  30. Ehscoballin says

    Being of mixed Native and white descent, me and my dad get mistaken for locals in Mexico and Honduras all the time.

  31. Gabby says

    Wow. I’d like to say that this article is completely unfounded. There is no way you can generalize the entirety of Latin America like this. I can’t speak for other countries but I am currently studying abroad in Chile and I according to chilean customs… none of this is true.
    Coming here I program told us much of the same bullshit on the packing list, so I left my ripped jeans and grandpa sweaters which i love at home. Only to get here and discover that people have the same standards of dressing as the states. In fact, I often feel over-dressed with the clothes I brought and have ended up wearing the only pair of sneakers I brought almost everyday. Also, fanny packs are really popular here, but often worn around one’s chest instead of hip, but either works. T-shirts and shorts are also just as common as they are in the states.
    Overall you really can’t say that people dress in a certain way here, because I’ve literally seen every type of style.. and QUITE a few hippies with dread-locks at that. So really, come as you are.
    I will however say that they are a bit behind on the trends here, but not terribly so. If you really are worried about, don’t dress too trendy. And don’t wear North face and birkenstocks. Things like that stick out because they’re more expensive here and many people can’t afford that.
    But honestly, dress however you want. If you want to blend in, I’d say understated is the way to go.
    To the author, eres estúpido.

  32. Nicole says

    some of this article is true, but by what I know from my native of country
    is that they criticized the people from the U.S. because what most of them wear shorts, and t-shirts that might be old and for this reason they think that they are messy
    no offence
    this is just what I know, and a tip for the next time you go to a Latin American country :)

  33. laura says

    Just maybe an update since I read this and laughed at most of the “advice.” The beginning is true. They dress as nicely as possible. Only if you wear obviously expensive clothing, you can pretty much get away with wearing almost anything (including jeans with holes in them), except maybe shorts. The rest really depends on where you are. I have seen some pretty slutty looking clothes in and out of church in Colombia (but in church they wear the nicest of the nice ie most expensive looking) but I dont know what people were saying about those people, the one exception would be shorts again. Exercise clothes in Cali was acceptable as long as it looks nice and expensive (especially if it says Nike/Adidas/Puma/etc), other places not so much (I saw people working out in jeans). A lot people I saw in most places wore flip flops but not so much in central city area and most guys I know have an obscene collection of sneakers that they definitely wear with jeans to many places including clubs (it is always best to scope those out though before you go this depends on city to city and block to block sometimes).

    People wear fanny packs and things like fanny packs EVERYWHERE even little ones that just fit their mobiles. Women and men. I am still not suggesting you wear one, I cringe at the frequent sight. Some men wear purses, some fanny packs, some backpacks but very few briefcases because they don’t work well on the back of a moto. And even the locals carry their bags in the front and keep a good grip on them in many places.

    Although shorts are not so popular (in Cali women do wear shorts some), capri length or knee length is popular in warmer climates.

    And, maybe it is just because i searched out yoga studios, there are a LOT of hippie boutiques (mind you VERY expensive mostly), yoga is very hip, and a lot of people with dreads and fros in the artsy districts in the bigger cities I was in. Especially because alternative health and herbal remedies are such a common thing. Mind you, its not ratty old hippy clothing.

  34. Vicki says

    I live and work in Costa Rica for a local family in a small rural community that sees a disproportionately high number of tourists due to a number of volunteer farms within the area.

    Of course all of these ‘rules’ are generalised and it varies from country to country, whether you are in a city or somewhere more remote makes a huge difference too. Among younger generations there is much less of a difference in fashion, especially in large cities, no surprise there.

    It also depends on the kind of travelling you have planned, but I would say that the longer you plan to stay in one place, the more you can gain from taking on board and trying to understand some of these cultural differences, and just generally being a little aware of what the ‘norm’ is.

    Costa Rica is generally quite westernised, with much of the male population wear board shorts and t-shirts. Likewise girls are fine in shorts and dresses. However, this is undoubtedly considered casual wear and is far more acceptable at the beach.

    All generations tend to dress smartly, especially when the work day is over or you are heading to the town or city, smart trousers or jeans are the standard option for travel on buses. The women’s jeans might be skin tight but are considered much more suitable than short shorts that might reveal a little bit too much skin.

    Overall, I would say that cleanliness is the most important of all. There is a perception of gringos being ‘dirty’ – and this is generally directed at backpackers, who at times may embrace the dirt a little more than necessary. Taking a shower, and putting on nice clean clothes will go a long way to endear you with the locals. This is especially important if you live with or work for locals, you are a reflection on them.

    • says

      Hi Vicki,

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. Interesting point about the way people dress being generational. I think more casual attire (especially at work) has been the trend with younger generations in the US too.

      I only travel with cargo hiking pants and jeans, so when I go to a fancy restaurant, be it in Mexico City, Medellin, or Lima, I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans. So far, it hasn’t been a problem.

  35. sarah callaghan says

    Going on my fourth year as an American woman in Latin America, I would totally agree with most of these points. I learned over time how to dress, but it would have been easier if someone had just sat me down four years ago and given me the do’s and dont’s list. As a woman, I would add that it’s not just that you can’t wear flip flops, but you’ve gotta wear cute shoes. Most heels or wedges will do; or a stylish sandal can usually suffice. Make-up. You gotta wear lipstick. You’ve got to have your nails (toes and fingers) at least polished well. Hair. Make it look good. The lazy bun (though I still catch myself doing it) is not considered ‘messy sexy’ like in the U.S. Basically, put yourself together before you leave the house. If you have to run an errand after the gym, the rules are null and void. I didn’t think that women ever wore jeans in Latin America until I moved to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The young women here wear short, short shorts. Big surprise. And I would challenge the notion that Gringas dress skimpier, in general, than Latinas. From my experience, Latinas always take the cake when it comes to dressing a little risque. And the church thing surprised me… as a church-goer in the U.S. and both Central and South America, I was surprised to find that women dressed so casually for church here (in Latin America). Every Mass I ever attended had at least some people wearing jeans and tank tops. It seemed to be one of the only places they didn’t dress up for! In most U.S. churches you at least put on slacks or a skirt for church. Well, there is my two cents!! Great article!

    • says

      Thanks for the tips Sara.

      Even I get my nails done here in Colombia. It only costs $10 for both a manicure AND pedicure at the place in my building, and I know for sure you can find it even cheaper in other parts of the city.

  36. Sarah says

    I agree with the basic message of the post although I agree with those who commented saying that it hard to make a general set of rules for all Latin America. A person who is planning on visiting or moving to a country in Latin America should do research on the specific rules of country- and even more specifically the region of the country they will be on if they can.
    I lived in Honduras for 13 months and I got to visit locations all around the country. What I found was that rules changed depending on location and how populated the area was. Shorts were perfectly fine on the island, but if I went to a small village in the mountains of the mainland I should wear a skirt because even pants were semi-unacceptable. Sandals were perfectly acceptable for women for all occaisions, but men shouldn’t wear them unless they are going to the beach or doing something really casual- definitely not going to church. Torn jeans were ok as long as they were intentionally torn- although I think the older generation thought they were odd (similar to the US).

    • Ondina says

      Well, I find it amusing and sometimes, annoying that many westerners tend to put down those characteristics of people from developing countries they do not conform to.

      From them, I learnt Latinos wear more formally than Americans because we can be “superficial” or “classist” (oh, yes! you are so deep and we are shallow people) or because we are “poorer than people from wealthier countries”. Of course, nobody will never, ever mention that people from LA tend to “dress up” because we consider doing otherwise shows carelessnes, sloppiness or neglect FIRST and foremost to ourselves and second, to others. Or that some of us would never go out wearing pajamas because personal care is mainly to please ourselves in first place and the rest of people then.

      I live in a rather cold but sunny place and it is funny how despite the very cold weather, some foreigners get misled by the harsh sun and blue sky and wear flip flops, shorts and t shirts to face the cool streets meanwhile the rest of us wear warm shoes and clothes.

      The advice given in this article is useful and practical despite the misleading judgemental explanations on why we “dress up” and can help to fully enjoy a stay in LA. It implies to avoid a little the “superiority complex” that shows how some people will be always “themselves” by wearing as they were in the place they came from no matter where they are.

  37. pablo says

    Seriously ? I found the article quite offensive and with a lot of false things in it, first of all, avoid saying Latin America, most of the citizens (mostly south america) since they feel they are totally different cultures than central america for example, in Chile for ex. a Gringo it’s only a person of american nationality, not every white.

    And Bitch Please, in cities like Buenos Aires or Santiago the way people dress it’standard of the dressing it’s much higher compared to US or Canada, you can total see that by the european influences… and in brazil, colombia or venezuela, averyone wears tshirt and flip flops, and it’s not tacky at all…

    To be honest i know at least south america pretty well, and this article fits probably only Peru, Bolivia and maybe Ecuador. But not at all in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and about all Brazil…. despite of the fact that in those last countries there is a lot of european descendants like in the US or Australia.

    • says

      The article was meant to be fun and entertaining, and a little tongue in cheek. The author was in no way trying to cause offense.

      I’ve spent over two years in Colombia since 2009, and I think it’s fair to say Colombian men prefer jeans or pants over shorts, except along the Caribbean coast where it’s hot as hell regardless of your descent. And away from the coast you won’t see men in flip flops unless they’re in their home. Otherwise they’re wearing sneakers or shoes.

      In Medellin where I’ve spent the most time, only the gringo tourists are wearing flip flops and shorts out and about during the day. You can spot them walking down the street a mile away.

      T-shirts for men are totally normal across all the Latin countries, I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.

      You’ve pointed out the more developed, western-influenced countries in South America also have guys wearing shorts and flip flops. That’s a good point, and I’d agree with it.

  38. ed says

    I’m Peruvian. Just apply the logic of any fashion magazine: dress according to the occasion and place, I think this applies to anywhere in the world.

  39. Brad says

    How should a good ol’ black Canadian lad,60,with boyish good looks,a muscular build-I’m 5’9″,200-205 lb./,18-inch arms-who’s said to resemble a handsome black cowboy dress and behave to get a buxom Latin lady between 24 and 38?

  40. Martin says

    Latin America rocks! Don’t put them all in the same bag though. All of us who had lived in Chile know that they are anything but formal. Try not to wear cargo things, as they don’t sell them down there nor the combination jeans-flip flops (don’t even do that up here). You can always wear flip flops with shorts. & as long as you dress accordingly to the situation you’re sorted! Btw is not even trendy to be informal all the time here in Europe anyway, so speak for yourself Murricans.

  41. Jb says

    Not everyone dresses up all the time in Latin America, that’s just ridiculous.
    In Colombia you see more Colombians (guys & girls) wearing fanny packs than any gringos. In fact it’s more socially accepted there than in the us (mochila culture). They also love crocs in Latin America more than in the US and wear them everywhere. If that’s not extremely informal I don’t know what is..

  42. Andrew says

    This article is dead on. American guy who travels a lot to Latin America for business. I have learned to “sweat it out” not wearing shorts when its 90 degrees because the tourists look ridiculous wearing shorts. The worst offenders of the dress code, so to speak, are the over 50 crowd. I think under 25, do what you want, you are just a “kid”, but the over 50 crowd wearing shorts is offensive. No one wants to see your ugly white legs. Really.

  43. says

    I don’t know if I agree with all of these.

    When I was in Venezuela the locals were wearing exactly the things you said no locals would ever wear in the latin american countries.

    Everywhere you looked on the streets in both bigger and smaller citys, at the beach, in their own homes, in the djungel, at the country side. Everywhere the locals WHERE wearing shorts. Both men and women. The only once that wasn’t wearing shorts where the once working and had special working clothes. Like if they were a waiter, police or something like that. And the shorts were both long and short. Depending on the preferences of the one wearing them.

    Also, I’m used to hear people say we dress “slutty” in europé compaired to for example latin america. But the women on the beaches were wearng Thongs as a bikini. The women in the citys were Always wearing SUPER TIGHT clothes. Often tight, short shorts and a tight croped top that shows your stomach and with a BIG cleavage! It didn’t bother me, and we were not judging but we actually got surprised sometimes of how much skin they show and how tight the clothes fit.

    Also, they Always seem to combine A LOT of different colours. They never go with black and White clothes. It was blue, pink, green, yellow and Purple at the same time!

    And about the flip flops. People there wore flip flops. Not just at the beach.
    The same with work out clothes. I saw houndrets of thousands of peple weaing t-shirts, shorts, tights, sandals and sneakers normally. In the city. Me and my backpacker friends actually blended in quite well no mather what we were wearing. The reason we were almost harrased sometimes because the loals came up to us ALL the time, wanting to talk, to take photos of us with them, honking the horn at us and so on was because we were White and had blond hair. The were really excited about that. They treated us like famous people. But after spending 2 months there we all got really tanned and in the end of our trip they didn’t really care about us anymore because we were not as White anymore. That was when we blended in with the locals!

    One thing you’re right about though is that you don’t get in to a club or a Cinema wearing shorts or flip flops. The guys needed to wear long pants and the girls a dress och skirt and sandals or nicer snearks och flats. (or high heels if we wanted but as backpackers wi didn’st bring heels)

  44. bobsue says

    ok i’m in cartagena right now, and not one of these is true here. delete if you want, that’s just because you don’t want the truth vs. your self-righteousness. unfortunately i packed according to advice like yours and now i look very out of place. time to shop for some booty shorts with rhinestones on them :-/

    • says

      I’ve been to Cartagena four times, and it’s so bloody hot and humid along Colombia’s coast, it’s impossible for me to wear long pants there, but if I’m leaving the house in Medellín where I live, I’m almost always in jeans or pants unless I’m heading to the gym. That’s the norm here, where the climate is a bit cooler.

  45. Tony G says

    I found this blog when googling “Do Mexican men wear shorts?” My wife and I are at a resort near Cancun. I refer to it as “Epcot Mexico”. This is fine with us since we just wanted a week to relax at a beach for our anniversary. As one of those who is believes strongly that those coming into the USA should speak at least a passable amount of English, I feel like a real jackass, coming to Mexico knowing hardly any Spanish. I remember the first trip I took through the “real Mexico” many years ago. I sort of got by on my halting Italian. At that time, I was warned by a savvy traveling companion that only boys wear shorts in Mexico, NEVER men. So, here we are, all these years later and I am just about the only Gringo wearing long pants. Thank you for verifying that the rule still holds and though I may sound like a jackass, at least I don’t look like one. By the way, I am old enough to remember when similar rules of dress held true in the USA. People just looked a lot better.

  46. Atilla says

    I’m considering working in Medellin after living in the Balkans and then back into the USA for awhile. I’ve always identified with the motto “a gentleman doesn’t wear pants”. I always live in climates that allow for pants 9 months of the year. Is Medellin pushing it? Sorry, I just don’t want to be going to work every day drenched in sweat. My forearms are also tattooed and I’m assuming they’ll need to be covered up. Oh Medellin looks good, but maybe I have to move to Russia after all….

    • says

      Medellin’s climate is such that it’s usually in the low 80’s every day, though the strength of the sun given the 1500m elevation and proximity to the Equator can make it feel quite a bit hotter. I wear shorts when I’m feeling casual, not out of necessity here.

      Colombian men are wearing shorts more and more, but it very much depends on the situation. It’s more common on the weekends, and for casual get togethers like a picnic in the park, playing sports, or walking around the immediate area near where you live (like stepping out to the corner store). It’s not nearly as common as in the USA.

      Why would your tattoos need to be covered? If you mean for working in an office, yes, I suppose that may be the case. I’m not familiar with office culture here.

  47. Celine says

    For a tall Asian lady traveling in South America I always get the look somehow. It’s not because I’m not dressed appropriately for the place/culture but simple because I look different. Anyway once you get past the “blending in” phase you’ll be fine.
    Some are true to this article, well the obvious belt bags for instance, and those are tacky anyway.
    I agree with some commenters that in some countries like Argentina, Chile.. Dressing up like a European works, and somehow what I’d call chic in Paris would be chic here. In cities like Lima or Quito, I think the new high street fashion would be considered in, and I see a lot of young people wearing shorts with a carefree top, or skinnies and plaid shirt with Moto boots, I guess no different than other cosmopolitan cities.
    Some notable points though that I would agree on, people here are kind of judgmental with how you dress up. I went to some posh restaurant in Lima and the receptionist checked me out head to toe, well I wasn’t wearing a dress but rather a more high street ensemble of cigarette pants, a printed tee and a tweed jacket with smoking slippers, and I had an LV tote, yet like the snobbish person that she was checked me head to toe. So she told me no available table without checking, if not with my driver coming over to ask what seems to be problem that she won’t have an idea of my capacity to dine there. Then she told me to follow her as magically there’s a table available for me. How ridiculous. I wouldn’t want to give in to the idea of superficiality but I certainly do respect cultures, the differences.
    I wear flipflops with short shorts and a nice top and I don’t give a damn, granting the weather allows. Have fun. Oh and another thing, nothing is wrong with nice skimpy clothes, just make sure it doesn’t make you look like you have fat when you’re pretty slim in the first place. It seems to be the norm in some Latin countries, and jeans with no pockets! Duh Que horror! I don’t know if it’s to emphasize the rounded assets or just that some ladies have real tacky taste in clothes.
    Guys I have a pretty good advice, at least bring a dress shirt that you can wear with clean smelling jeans, then top it off with a navy sport jacket. You can even get away with sneakers with this look. I’m out of reality here, I’ve realized it’s a backpackers forum. Chau guys

  48. Laura says

    Just to add my two cents. No offense but I’m from Mexico City and the reason you give for not dressing down is not poverty. Is not that you don’t want to be associated with a certain type. And believe me there are LOTS of people -young and otherwise- who wear torn and baggy jeans because they think it’s cool. Dressing a bit more formally is simply a matter of culture and common sense. Are you going to your workplace? Dress nicely. Are you going to the park to walk the dog? Wear whatever you feel like. Are you staying at a beach resort? Wear shorts for the love of God! Do we wear shorts (men and women) in Mexico City? Sometimes we do if the weather is hot enough. And Tony G. only boys wore shorts in Mexico during my grandpa’s times.

  49. travis says

    I’m wondering when you were last in Central America? I’ve been here for more than two years, and would disagree with the majority of your list!
    Flip-flops and sandals are worn all the time, especially by women. In the city, at the beach, walking around town, out at night even.
    People wear t-shirts ALL the time.
    Men live in running shoes – typically stylish Nike or Adidas street shoes, but running shoes nonetheless.
    A number of people, especially those who work in tourism as guides, drivers, bartenders, waitresses and more, use fanny packs ALL the time.
    Skimpy clothes – have you ever been to a bar or club in Central America?????????
    And lastly, men most definitely wear shorts!
    I know it says this list was published in 2011, but it’s more indicative of 1989, unless you’ve been living under a rock.

  50. Josh says

    Yes, I’m in early thirties and noticed the dress style: Unfortunately yes, this is not Miami or NYC, a cool style is a no-no for some of the reasons mentioned; also, because these styles are too flashy and expensive there. The shorts thing is not common and extremely rare; call it weird, maybe it is, but it is the case there in Medellin unless you are in a very very poor area of Medellin outside of the Poblado further north. Sold colors and blue jeans are routine, hats are okay if they are not flashy; think real madrid style t-shirts or hats if you do wan’t to rock something; or a polo emblem. Don’t think outside the box. Everyone looks the same in Medelln- this is not Cali with all that swag. Sneakers not basketball shoes are normal and dress shoes might be overdoing it unless it is with business attire or for a club, but don’t look too well off if you are going around the centro or using buses. If you are tan skin, dark hair, you might not even be noticed to be from another place; however, your walk, and the attire must conform. Robberies usually happen via a guy hopping off of a motorcycle while another waits on one, gun pointed, done deal, your stuff gone, he jumps back on. Stay alert at all times, unless you are surrounded by tons of people in exclusive areas like parque lleras in the day, perhaps even in the night that spot is okay, but remember again, think boring, dress boring, it’s like Brickell, Miami without the money, solid colors, polo shirts and blue jeans; sneakers non basketball…..don’t rock jewelry. Yes, nobody wears shorts, it isn’t cartagena or cali; you are not an afro-colombian with swag rocking a reggetone outfit im assuming. Be safe. At night, think fitted boring clothes, Miami brickell style without the flash…..

  51. says

    very funny, very sad, completely True and exactly precise, I could even add some more(I’m latin)
    but there is no point.
    It is indeed very difficult to compare. Different cultures, different manners.
    People eat with their mouth open making noises, others don’t. If I would have to pay attention to that
    I would end sitting by myself. One thing is easiness and comfort other quite different is vulgarity.
    We are talking about hundred of years of good manners and education versus hamburgers and fast food.
    so, who cares, really?
    .

  52. Lamas says

    This article is blah. The reason behind why people in Bogota nicer has nothing to do with trying to show one is not poor. Bogotanos have been influenced by Europeans, hence they dress nicer.
    If you go to warmer places like Medellin or Cartagena is totally fine to wear shorts, sandals, etc. Bogota is colder and more formal so slacks and closed toe shoes are the norm.
    There are kids wearing baggy clothes, that doesn’t make them look like criminals they just follow the hip hop trend…same goes for skimpy clothes.
    Jeans and a t are totally ok for Bogota, just bring a light jacket for the night time.

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