8 Fashion must-haves for traveling in tropical countries

The summer season may be fleeting in your home country, but in tropical countries, you can look forward to warm weather all year round. If you’re about to go on a tropical vacation to the Caribbean, South or Central America, Africa, or Asia-Pacific, your excitement may start as soon as you pack.

But what should you bring with you so that you can look and feel breezy at the same time? What clothing essentials should you prioritize when you head somewhere with permanently summery weather? Here’s a quick guide on the eight pieces that should be part of your travel wardrobe, plus some tips on staying fashionable, healthy, and considerate to others throughout your trip.

Tropical countries packing list

Airy, breathable sleeveless tops

The first order of business is packing tops that will keep you cool, even during the hottest parts of the day. You can’t go wrong with sleeveless tees and button-downs in neutral colors like white, beige, or navy, as well as bright and summery colors like yellow or salmon.

Choose wisely when it comes to fabrics. Opt for a breathable material that will keep you from feeling stuffy, like cotton, silk, or chambray. You may also want to consider packing tops made out of moisture-wicking material so that you won’t be overwhelmed by your sweat.

tropics packing list scarf
Tropical countries packing list: a beautiful adaptable shawl or scarf

An adaptable shawl or infinity scarf

Even though you can expect it to be hot most of the time, there will be instances where you’ll need to cover up. It may be windy at night, or it may rain on certain days. And while you’re likely to feel warm when you’re outdoors, you may get cold from the strength of the air conditioning in your room or in another indoor space.

The most versatile cover-up options for your tropical wardrobe are a simple shawl or infinity scarf. These items are less bulky than jackets or sweaters, but they’ll do a sufficient job of keeping you warm when you need to be. Simply drape your shawl or scarf over your upper body when you need to, and store it away in your handbag or backpack when it’s not being used.

Light and comfortable leggings

When you’re traveling to a tropical country, it’s wise to leave thick and heavy clothing items like jeans behind. Choose cooler, lighter items like leggings and style them in the same way you would a pair of thicker pants.

For the same versatility as a pair of jeans, add a pair of denim leggings to your travel wardrobe. They’ll help you achieve the same fashionable looks that are good for all seasons, but without additional discomfort from the sweltering heat. 

tropical countries travel clothes
Tropical countries clothes: shorts for every occasion

Versatile pairs of shorts

On casual occasions, however, you may be able to depend on shorts as your bottom of choice. Shorts will be ideal for popular summer activities like lazing on the beach or cruising on a boat. They may also be more comfortable for long plane or car rides.

It’s recommended that you pack several pairs of shorts, with each being a different length. You can use the shorter pairs for occasions when you’ll be outdoors or doing something active, while knee-length or Capri shorts can be reserved for nights out and visits to tourist sites.  

maxi dress tropical vacation
Clothes for tropical countries: pack a maxi dress

A chic maxi dress

How about an item of clothing that will make you look effortlessly elegant, but not out of place in a tropical country? If you anticipate going to a fancy dinner or another occasion where you’ll need to be just a bit dressier, a maxi dress is a godsend.

The good thing about a maxi dress is that it can easily be dressed up or dressed down to serve your purposes. Wear a plain or printed maxi dress on its own when you’re doing something casual, like enjoying cocktails at a beachside barbecue. Then, layer on accessories like pearl earrings or a statement necklace before you go to a special event.

Stylish and comfy sandals

As far as footwear choices are concerned, sandals are your best bet for a tropical vacation. They’ll pair well with other summer clothing essentials like leggings, shorts, or maxi-length dresses. They’re also the easiest to wear outdoors, especially if you expect to get your feet dirty or wet.

Bring a pair with sturdy, easy-to-use straps and sufficient cushioning for your feet. Whenever they get dusty, simply wipe them down and leave them out to dry before you use them next.

sunglasses tropics vacation packing
Tropical countries essentials: a good pair of sunglasses

A fashionable pair of shades

Protective eyewear is also a must when on a trip to a tropical country. You don’t want the sun to impede your vision and take away your enjoyment of activities like swimming or lounging.

Before you jet off to your country of destination, invest in a quality pair of shades that you can wear the whole time there. Take your pick from chic and timeless designs like aviators or wayfarer-style shades. 

hat tropical countries clothes
Tropical countries clothes and accessories: a hat that matches your style

A durable hat

Lastly, it would be smart to pack a hat for additional protection and shade against the sun’s rays. There’s the option to bring a simple and unobtrusive baseball hat, but you can also explore broader-brimmed styles like sun hats, bush hats, or fedoras for the additional neck protection they’ll provide.

Choose according to what matches the rest of your wardrobe, as well as your own personal comfort. On top of being a handy accessory, a hat can serve as the perfect last touch for your favorite tropical outfits.

More travel tips for your next rendezvous in a tropical country

Remember to pack light and smart, as heavy luggage may be even more tiresome to lug around in the heat. In addition, even if it seems tempting to wear as little clothing as possible, put some protective layers over your skin all the same. The fabric will serve as a shield against sunburn, rashes, and insect bites and guarantee you a more pleasant time.  

When in a foreign country, you should also be courteous and observe its religious and proprietary customs. If you need to adhere to a certain dress code to gain entry into a temple or other culturally significant place, be sure to follow the rules.

The list above should make it easier to pack for your trip and to style yourself appropriately for a holiday in tropical countries. Have fun, and soak up plenty of healthy summer sunshine!

About the author

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe. Creator of unique free travel guides and local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

More packing tips for tropical countries and beyond
Stylish essentials that can fit in any carry-on
Avoid missing luggage and other baggage problems
Essential guide to the ultimate carry-on packing list