This is one of the most common topics that many women are wondering about when traveling to a Muslim country – how to dress properly? This topic was also very much on my mind when we planned a trip here, to North Sumatra. They live by the Sharia Law here, which is the most strict of Muslim regulations. I have repeatedly wondered if I even want to come here at all because I have had read and heard things about this place and religion. But it was definitely a good choice to come because now I have much more experiences and new perspectives.
Therefore I think it’s important to travel to places like this to really understand what it is like. All the locals are very friendly and even when the religion is what it is, I have never felt unsafe (but I have never gone out alone when it’s dark). We’ve been here for 2 months now, so I can tell you a little about this place and culture, and share my experiences about what to wear as a foreign female.
The dress code must be respectful of this religion. Local women must wear veils here but the western woman should cover their shoulders and knees, it is not allowed to wear a veil as a non-muslim foreigner. At first, I found myself a little bit uncomfortable when I left my room and had to wear covering clothes in this +30 degrees Celcius heat. Clothes, in general, don’t feel that nice on the sweaty skin here, but loose clothing is more comfortable in the heat.
Luckily, at this homestay where we are staying it’s more free with what you wear. But when I leave this yard, I have to put some clothing on. Sometimes it feels frustrating when you just want to go to the restaurant close by, eat and enjoy the sun and get some tan, but you still have to put your clothes on. At first, this was annoying but I got used to it quickly. A sharong is really convenient because it’s light and it can easily put over the shoulders.
Women must also wear clothes while surfing or swimming. Or at least it’s very recommended. For the first time, I went surfing just with a one-piece swimsuit but I didn’t like the gaze I got so after that I always wore my capri-length leggings and t-shirt. Most of the girls wear leggings/t-shorts while they surf. Shorts are also okay when you are in the water but as soon as you get up you better cover yourself.
Tips for females who travel to a Muslim country:
-Pack up breathable tunics or dresses (above the knee/maxidresses) which are made of lightweight fabrics. They’re nice to wear especially in the heat and they’re also nice looking!
-Surfing is best done with leggings (capri or full length) or sports shorts and t-shirt / long sleeve (also prevents sunburn!).
-Lightweight long pants are a comfortable and good choice, preferably loose ones. The yoga pants are NOT good because they’re tight – people (local men) are staring and it doesn’t feel comfortable at all. Loose clothing is a better choice!
-A sharong is really convenient for its versatility. It can be used on the shoulders or as a skirt to cover your knees.