What clothing should I wear in Peru? (31, female)
September 17, 2019 1:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to Peru (Lima, Nazca, Huacachina, Arequipa/Colca Canyon, and Cusco/Machu Picchu) in December. What is most appropriate for a 31 year old, single, white, female tourist to wear?

I'm not too concerned with weather requirements (I know to dress for all temperatures and seasons and I'm pretty good on that front) but what's most appropriate for cities?

Can I wear:
- leggings and a top?
- let "fancy" sports bra straps show?
- shorts?
- tank tops?
- wear jeans to a restaurant?
- wear shorts to a restaurant?
- Other cultural guidance?
- sneakers?
- best type of purse/bag?

I'm pretty widely traveled and aware of picking up on what's culturally appropriate to wear- I'm just not sure I'll have it in my bag. I'm going hiking in the Colca Canyon and plan to wear a combination of hiking pants/ athleta style leggings there. Is that offensive when I get in to a town? If there's a certain style or type that are better or worse, specific links would also be helpful.

I'll also have some overnight bus journeys (Peru Hop/tour bus). I'm planning on wearing joggers, sports bra and shirt. Will that be ok when we get out for a rest stop?

Other guidance such as "bright colors really are common" or " "everyone wears fancy shoes even if they are flats" " women tend to wear skirts and dresses rather than pants" etc is also very helpful

This stresses me out quite a bit so I'd really love some input (especially on leggings and what kinds/places they might be more or less appropriate). Thank you!
posted by raccoon409 to Travel & Transportation around Peru (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
These areas are heavily touristed, so there is a lot of leeway in what is acceptable. Dress for comfort for your activities. Don't walk around in just a sports bra or super short shorts, especially the cities. Peruvians are pretty tolerant, but it's not a beach resort so running around in a bikini is probably not going to be comfortable for you or them. Yoga pants are okay in town if you wear a long top or dress overtop.

You're going to stand out from the locals no matter what. Have a bag with a good strap and a zipper, wear it crossbody, and don't go out alone at night unless you're familiar with the area and feel safe.

The overnight buses are super cold. Dress in layers and bring a blanket or shawl. Have fun! Peru is awesome:)
posted by ananci at 4:34 PM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hmm. Overall I would say that woman's clothing in Peru is not particularly conservative and also all of the places you listed are very used to tourists, so I wouldn't worry too much. This is especially true on the coast where tank tops, shorts, strappy dresses are all widely worn. The mountainous areas are a bit more conservative (also colder) so you may stick out a bit in shorts. Jeans, joggers, hiking pants should all be fine in town/on a bus. Jeans for a restaurant is fine unless you're in a particularly nice restaurant.

The part that is stumping me about your question is the athletic wear peice as I haven't been to Peru since that trend came around. I took a quick look through some Peruvian friends facebook profiles and I didn't come across the leggings-as-pants trend or the strappy-sports-bra-showing trend. Hopefully someone else will have more guidance on those.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:32 PM on September 17, 2019

You're gonna be cold at night in the mountains, it's not summer like you're picturing it. After sunset in December in Cusco if you're in shorts and a tank top you will be cold as fuck, it'll be like 45-50 degrees out by 8pm.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:26 PM on September 17, 2019

I spent a week in various parts of Peru last year, also during December, and I didn't see anything that made me think Peruvians and say, Americans, do majorly differently in terms of women's fashion. Sure some styles are more prominent here or there, but Peru is the type of country you don't really need to curb your dressing habits for. I mean, sure, there is always the thing where you shouldn't severely underdress, but that is the same anywhere. I didn't feel hindered in any way while I was there by potential clothing choices. Hope that helps. Have fun! And drink lots of chicha! Also, I hope you like quinoa :P

Just remember, it's summer there, but higher up in the mountains, expect cooler air and random rain. If you dress for the weather, you'll be fine.
posted by Atraxa at 9:39 PM on September 17, 2019

Thank you! These answers are very helpful!

While I have traveled extensively (Europe, China, West Africa) South America is new for me and as such I have no clue about many of the norms. I also remember shuddering slightly as I passed many groups of American tourists in Europe wearing leggings and college sweatshirts and wishing they hadn't.

If there are any follow up answers about leggings those are particularly helpful (I try to avoid being "The Ugly American" as much as possible)
posted by raccoon409 at 5:43 AM on September 18, 2019

I've worked and traveled a lot in Peru. Seconding what people have said about about there not being any specific concern that you will upset people for being 'immodest'.

I always recommend, just wear your normal winter clothes. You don't need hiking boots, honestly. Unless you are actually hiking a mountain and then you only need them the day you are wearing them. Lots of the places you are going are super touristy, but also just normal towns. Pack the kind of clothes you'd normally wear on a weekend, or to a restaurant in the evening. So if that's leggings, go for it.

The "Ugly American" look in Peru (and elsewhere on the South American tourist trail) does exist: it's the people in a fancy bar downtown wearing action pants with rip off sections, their pockets bulging with dehydration tablets, while the Peruvians around them are dressed in their little black dresses and heels.

The only thing to consider really, as someone mentioned above, is the altitude means you can burn very easily, even if the temperature feels cool. Take a good high-factor sun screen and a hat you enjoy wearing, and get in the habit of putting your sunscreen on first thing in the morning and repeatedly through the day. And perhaps think about layers that cover your neck, arms, and shoulders so you don't burn by accident.

Have fun!
posted by EllaEm at 6:22 AM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older Throwing over the brassiere industrial complex   |   Dealing with a jerk boss Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments