Dress etiquette for travelling the world on business

Travelling the world on business may seem glamourous, but in reality, living on the road is tough. With suitcase space at a premium, clothing needs to be carefully thought out, especially if your trip involves going to a variety of places featuring different cultures and climates.

As any experienced business traveller will tell you, dress etiquette for travelling the world on business is difficult to get right. If you are about to embark on an epic business journey across the continents, here are some handy tips to help you get your clothing selection spot on.

travelling the world on business

1. Respect local culture

It’s really important to respect local culture when you are travelling the world on business, so always familiarise yourself with the local business and casual dress codes before you go. While most places won’t expect you to adopt the exact form of dress worn by locals, in some parts of the world conservative and modest dress is expected.

The bad news is that the places with the strictest expectations are usually the hottest so getting the balance right between feeling comfortable and respecting local culture isn’t always easy. Be sure to read up on the dress code guidelines for visiting Iran and other Muslim destinations as inappropriate dressing will offend locals. Female travellers especially need to be fully aware of what to wear in Muslim countries.

Other cultural considerations when travelling for business include how you greet people, how to behave in meetings and working styles, all of which should be researched thoroughly before you go.

2. Consider climate

Looking crisp and professional on a hot summer’s day in an unfamiliar climate is easier said than done. Along with respecting cultural differences, you will want a hot-weather wardrobe that won’t leave you covered in sweat patches.

Be sure to research climate according to the time of year you are travelling as some hot places will be baking during the daytime, but decidedly chilly at night. In Marrakech, for example, winter temperatures can approach 30 °C during the day, but can drop to below 5 °C overnight.

Adjusting to a completely different climate is a challenge. See here for some tips on surviving a business trip in the tropics.

3. Pack less

Before you even think about packing, pare down your list A LOT. Whatever you think you are going to need, you’ll probably only actually wear half of it. Don’t be tempted to choose larger luggage and shove in every piece of business attire you own.

Firstly, consider if you really want to check luggage in. Many business travellers have perfected the art of packing and choose baggage they can take on board flights. It saves a lot of time and hassle.

4. Choose versatile pieces and darker colours

Black goes with everything. Both men and women should include a black trouser suit in their business travel wardrobe.

According to Real Men Real Style, a good business bag should be dark, sombre, simple and packed lightly with a few versatile pieces. The amount of clothes you take will depend on the length of your trip, but even for longer trips, clothing can be laundered and worn again.

The female fashionistas business trip attire can literally be made up of around ten mix and match pieces. See some great examples here. Always pack a large scarf that can double up as a sarong, a beach blanket or add a colourful edge to any outfit.

Another handy tip – clothing in darker colours hides stains.

5. Shoes and socks

Shoes take up room, so you need to be picky about what you take. You’ll need at least two pairs (probably three if you are female). For men a pair of black derby shoes are a must for formal wear and loafers work with chinos for a more casual look. Stuff shoes with three pairs of socks to save space.

Women should opt for heels (black or nude) and a pair of simple flats can be worn to travel. Sandals aren’t business attire, but if you are going somewhere hot and know you will get some time poolside, a bikini, a pair of flip-flops and a kaftan won’t take up much room.