How to Avoid Dressing Like a Tourist

Alee November 23, 2013 6

As much as we hate being superficial about fashion and appearance, we are offered better opportunities when we look sharp. People treat us with more respect, we get into places we wouldn't normally and we tend to fly under the radar.

It always surprises us when people don't believe that we've been travelling for one-and-a-half years on a bike. All the time we get comments like “you don't look like travellers”, or “you're not wearing outdoor clothing”, or “wow, you carry a business shirt with you”.

We've even been told we were the only long-term travellers who weren't “dirtbags” when staying at a hostel in Krygyzstan.

This is because we don't want to look like travellers. We are prepared to sacrifice some performance from our clothes in order to fit in a bit better and avoid looking too much like a tourist.

These tips are a guide for what types of clothes will keep you looking smart and fly you under the radar…

1. Carry casual, understated clothes

Bring the stuff you would wear at home. Keep your clothes plain, classic, simple, form fitting and with preferably no brand names. Items like merino tees, long-sleeve travel shirts, a pair of jeans and a nice jumper will give you much more of a casual look.

2. Avoid technical gear where you can – especially with colour!

We LOVE colourful technical gear, but there is a time and place for red goretex jackets and khaki zip-off pants. Steer clear from colours or designs and try dark technical gear with simple patterns if you really have to have it. Our clothing company list of techwear manufacturers should have you covered with the best understated gear available.

3. Carry a plain travel shirt or dress top

Shirts are smart – you never know when you'll need them. We've ended up as guests in the Chief of Tourism's office in Korea, at 5 star hotels in Japan and in expensive restaurants with the movers and shakers of society.

I don't know about you, but we feel pretty uncomfortable in these places when we're not dressed sharply.

4. Update your clothes every six months!

When you wear the same clothes day in, day out for six months, they start to look shabby. You'll find problems such as loss of colour, holes and pilling (on woolen garments). That is why we try to organise a fresh set of clothes every six months. It doesn't have to be brand new stuff, you might be able to get a friend to send you a few items from home or pick up some second-hand clothes in better condition.

I must admit, I am pretty bad at updating my clothes, but Kat keeps me somewhat in check!

5. Keep your clothes clean

It's fine to wear your clothes for a few days, but after that it needs a wash! If you're riding through areas without access to a washing machine, hand wash everything in hotels or in public toilets. We often take our clothes into the shower, and wash them on our body.

6. Ride with baggy cycling shorts and tees on the bike

There is no better way to stand out than in full lycra! We try to look a bit more casual by wearing plain tees and baggy shorts over our lycra while we ride.

7. Avoid sporty attire such as running shoes and sports pants

Sporty clothes are great for travel, but they make you stick out. We suggest wearing slightly less practical clothes for the sake of looking a bit smarter. Leave the track pants at home and consider wearing jeans/slacks, and pick up a pair of casual shoes with some tread, instead of running shoes.

8. Wear Merino

It is no secret that I love merino. I even wrote an article admitting to the fact I'm a merino addict in 2011.

Merino wool is the perfect travel fabric to wear. From its odour and dirt resistance, to its insulation properties, to its silky-smooth feel, to its washing ease – it simply rocks!

Our clothing pack list

It's completely dependant on region, but this is what we have right now:

Alee – 2x travel shirts, 2x tees, 1x shorts, 1x rain jacket, 3x undies, 3x socks, 1x jeans, 1x beenie, 1x swimming shorts, 1x jumper, 1x down jacket.

Kat – 2x tees, 1x collared shirt, 1x dress top, 1x jeans, 1x shorts, 1x singlet, 1x jumper, 1x leather belt, 1x leggings, 3x socks, 4x undies, 2x bras, 1x scarf/hat, 1x bikini, 1x down jacket

The following companies make expensive techwear we like…

To read our complete list of stylish clothing manufacturers – click HERE.

Cycling Specific:

- Chrome – rain jackets, jumpers, tees

- Giro – rain jackets, softshells, shorts, tees, shirts

- Levi's – jeans, shorts, shirts

- Makers and Riders – softshells, pants, jackets, tees

- Mission Workshop – rain jackets, jumpers, pants

- Outlier – jumpers, shirts, tees, shorts, pants

- Rapha – rain jackets, softshells, jackets, shirts, tees, shorts, pants

- Swrve – rain jackets, jumpers, tees, shorts, jeans

Other Outdoor / Techwear:

- Columbia - rain jackets, shirts, jumpers

- Endless Ammo – jackets, shirts, pants

- Icebreaker – tees, jackets, jumpers

- Macpac – down jackets, jumpers

- Nau – rain jackets, jumpers, pants, shirts

- Nike – fleece jumpers, rain jackets

- North Face – rain jackets, shirts, jumpers

- Triple Aught Design – jackets, pants, shorts

Super Expensive / Designer:

- Acronym

- Aether Apparal

- Arc'teryx Veilance

- White Mountaineering

Do you have any more tips or favourite clothing companies? Please leave us a comment.


  • Bike geek

    But really.. you’re riding a bike. Who gives a shit what you’re wearing? I’ve got better things to worry about personally.

    • Alee Denham

      When we travel with a bike, we spend just as much time OFF the bike as on it. We meet people, visit family homes, eat at restaurants and check out attractions. As the opening sentence mentions, we are offered better opportunities when we don’t look like cyclists.

      Give it a go sometime, perhaps?

  • Summit

    It’s not hard at all to care a little about how you appear. If you don’t “give a shit” about what you wear then more power to you buddy.

  • Leroy Jenkins

    Showering with your clothes on is the best free laundry! We call that a cowboy shower.

  • Matt Emerson

    Interesting take, we actually find that in the US where we have toured being dressed in our “tech” cycling gear makes people more willing to talk to us. When we dress normal they seem to avoid talking to us, but when we are obviously tourists they are willing to ask where we are going.

    • Alee Denham

      I can’t say we’ve never thought about that angle, Matt! We’ll have to keep it in mind when we need some help. ;)