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Women's dress code?

by GrannyRosie Online Now Feb 6, 2011 at 6:49 AM

I shall be travelling through Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso very soon. Any advice on what I should or should not wear please?

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17 Answers
  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by CatherineReichardt Online Now Feb 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    Hi
    I am assuming from your VT name that you don't usually favour skimpy clothing? Well, just in case I am mistaken, this is not the part of the world to venture out in public in your pole dancing gear!
    All these countries are fairly laid back when it comes to dress code, but excessive amounts of revealed skin are not appreciated, and will make you feel uncomfortably conspicuous - exposed midriffs and shoulders seem to be more problematic other parts of the body. I have never had any trouble travelling in West Africa wearing trousers, but again, modesty is appreciated, so no skintight drainpipes!
    What is probably more important is to dress for comfort and practicality. Loose fitting clothes that don't have tight waistbands, collars or cuffs are most comfortable under hot and humid conditions, and also pass the 'modesty' test. I tend to bring lightweight articles of clothing that I can layer, and always travel with a light sarong in my hand luggage, which can serve as a headscarf just in case you find yourself in an area where particular modesty is required (such as the areas around a mosque). Long peasant type skirts and loose fitting tops are ideal, except if you are intending to be very active, in which case trousers are a better bet.
    Probably the best piece of advice is to bring natural fabrics that can breathe -wearing synthetic materials under hot and humid conditions can be penitential. I don't know what sort of accommodation you're staying in, but to make laundry more practical, try to find fabrics that don't crease or are meant to be creased (eg. cheesecloth or the crinkly cottons). Lighter colours are cooler than dark colours, but again, practicality should prevail: white is no longer white within minutes, and there's a good reason why people wear so much khaki in Africa!
    Lastly, make sure that you bring some long sleeved tops and long trousers for the evenings, as some of the areas that you will be travelling through are likely to be malarial. The best way not to get malaria is not to be bitten in the first place, so on top of your pharmaceutical prophylaxis, bring lots of mozzie repellent, mozzie coils for your room (don't assume that they will be provided, and don't rely on mozzie-repelling machines that need electricity, as this is not a 'given') and cover up from before dusk until after dawn (when the mozzies get most active).
    Lastly, bring a comfortable, wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. Despite being an extremely white woman with a Celtic skin that burns at the mearest suggestion of sunshine, I've never a problem with sunburn in West Africa, but then I've tended to work in the dry interior, where there is a lot of suspended dust in the atmosphere. This tends to give some protection from UV - however, don't assume that this is the case where you are going, and go well prepared with high factor sunscreen - I would suggest using one designed for use in water so that it won't get washed off easily, even if you sweat profusely.
    One last piece of advice: in all the travel I've done, my luggage has gone missing most often in West Africa (although it has always turned up eventually), so in the interests of comfort and personal hygiene, pack a full change of clothes and several changes of underwear in your hand luggage just in case you and your baggage part company!
    Hope this helps, and happy planning!
    Regards
    Cathy

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  • georeiser's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by georeiser Online Now Feb 6, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Hi,
    A good post from Catherine.
    Ghana, Togo and Benin are laid back on this issue. But just wondering how you are travelling? Sitting in a fully packed public transportation with clammy people all around? I would say that you should wear thin trousers and a shirt blouse in the daytime. The shoes should not be too warm, and easy to take on/off, like a sandal. Have a nice holiday.

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by CatherineReichardt Online Now Feb 6, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    An excellent addendum - I got distracted, so didn't make it from head to toe.
    My recommendation for footwear would be Crocs. I know that they are hideous to look at, but, unlike sandals, they have some structure which give your feet - particularly your toes - some protection and support and elevate your feet a cm or two above the ground, which is good under muddy conditons or where there is standing water. Despite being made of plastic, they do allow your feet to breathe, and are also washable (leather sandals can go manky once they get wet). Washability is important in West African towns where you may have to walk through standing water (harbouring potentially unpleasant components, including sewage), so it's good to be able to take them off and wash them down. They are also useful for beachware.
    Regards
    Cathy

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  • Odinnthor's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by Odinnthor Online Now Feb 6, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    Those are my favorite African countries.

    I will add to this just one thing. Do not under any circumstances wear any camoflage style clothing. Not even the trendy fashionable ones. Some might think that they are cool, but they are not. I do speak from experience here as a tour director, back when these countries had a lot of conflict. Although they do not have conflicts at this point in time, this rule is still in effect, and if you ignore it, it can get you trouble that you are not prepared for.

    Here is some more information on Ghana in particular on my pages. Pay attention to the left/right hand rule as well.

    "Ghana, after the conflicts, things are looking up!" - Ghana by Odinnthor

    Have fun in Ghana/Benin and Togo. The people are some of the nicest on the entire continent.

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by CatherineReichardt Online Now Feb 6, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    Very good advice - camouflage gear is seldoma good idea in the developing world

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by CatherineReichardt Online Now Feb 6, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    Very good advice - camouflage gear is seldom a good idea in the developing world

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  • GrannyRosie's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by GrannyRosie Online Now Feb 7, 2011 at 2:59 AM

    Many, many thanks for all your thoughtful suggestions...obviously I shall have to leave the Lycra shorts at home!!! I have never favoured the camouflage look so that won't be a problem either....are long shorts acceptable? I am not long back from a trip that involved Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, (amongst others)...all strongly Muslim and long shorts (mid calf)weren't a problem at all...no-one looked twice at us...I have the long skirt for Mosques though, and a couple of sarongs. Mostly the women on that trip travelled in long shorts and loose vests with light weight shirts to put over the top. What do you think? I'm travelling with my husband in a four-wheel drive...we have a local driver via UK company. I have Mosquito nets, sleep sacks, spray, suntan lotion, large hat, sunglasses, SOME mossie coils...but they are now on the shopping list for later today! Thanks for the tip about missing luggage...I will keep a small bag with me!

    We are hoping to visit some schools along the way...I have pens and pencils to take...any other suggestions? I also have a small pack of children's' clothes I plan to take...from my grandchildren, but would be going to charity shop anyway..is this a good idea to take? Where would be the best place to give them? Are there orphanages or charities working out there that I could give them to? In Senegal I just handed them out at a small village we passed through.

    A note on my name....age is a state of mind, not a figure!! Ask Helen Mirren! And there are still SO many countries I want to visit!!

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  • GrannyRosie's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by GrannyRosie Online Now Feb 7, 2011 at 3:50 AM

    Another question......Dollars, Euros, Stirling?

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by CatherineReichardt Online Now Feb 7, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    ... and keep those tatoos and piercings under wraps!
    Helen Mirren is an absolute inspiration to us all (I'll never see her as anything other than Jane Tennison though), and apologies if I overestimate your vintage, but you don't give us much to go on on your home page!!! Clearly your spirit is extremely youthful, and that's what really counts (have I dug myself out of that hole yet???)
    I think that long shorts - with the sarong as a backstop - are fine, particularly if you have your own transport. If you were travelling on local minibus taxis or buses, it might be another matter, but given that you've got your own vehicle and are travelling in male company, I think that it should be fine and should be comfortable. Otherwise, sounds like you're pretty well prepared, but then clearly you're a seasoned traveller, and I'm seriously impressed by where you've been of late!
    In terms of what to give out, my only concern is that in your generosity you unwittingly develop a culture where people (particularly children) equate travellers with handouts and start to pester. I would therefore suggest that you focus your largesse on one or two particular institutions (school, church, hospital) and give a consignment to them which they can then share or distribute. Chances are that they'll have a better sense of how to distribute it fairly to achieve maximum benefit, which is, after all, the purpose of the exercise. Pens and pencils are good (if pencils, then be sure to include some sharpeners), but this does assume that they have paper to write on, so if you want to do this, then maybe pick up some on your arrival (as it is too heavy to bring with you). If you are going to donate to an organisation,I would consider bringing some 'shared' resources such as an atlas or an English/French dictionary or a few childrens books that can be kept in a library and used for everyone's benefit. Or some light, robust educational games that your grandchildren have outgrown - from our perspective of privilege, we underestimate how few resources schools have in that part of the world have, especially for the pre/primary school age group who need to develop core skills on which to build. (wooden jigsaws, buttons that thread onto cords, basic lego).
    I wouldn't recommend sterling in that part of the world and euros are probably a better bet in Francophone countries. However, I have never seen an African turn his/her nose up at a US$: it really is the universal currency, so I would go with that.
    Sounds like quite a trip, and let us know how it goes!
    Regards
    Cathy

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  • Odinnthor's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by Odinnthor Online Now Feb 7, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Excellent stuff Catherine. It is a great idea to bring such supplies to kids in the local hospitals.

    I got into the habit of picking up a soccerball/footballs in Accra and leaving them in a village somewhere. Nothing will light up the faces of the kids as much as a soccer ball. I once hung around a village and built a goal with some wood and fishing nets and brought out a ball, and it was great to see all the smiles. Have a great trip.......d:o)

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by CatherineReichardt Online Now Feb 8, 2011 at 5:12 AM

    Tremendous idea OdinThor - coincidentally I answered an almost identical query from someone on the Maputo forum earlier in the week who wanted to know where to buy soccer balls!
    The practical advantage of a shared (rather than individual) gift is that you're not caught out by numbers - in my experience, give three children a pencil and another five suddenly materialise, which can be heartbreaking for all concerned if you're running low on stock!
    Regards
    Cathy

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  • GrannyRosie's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by GrannyRosie Online Now Feb 9, 2011 at 2:57 AM

    I love the idea of the footballs!! We'll have to see how much spare room we have in the vehicle as to how many we can take. The suggestions from you both have been immensely useful...I'll let you know how we get on.
    I now have a huge pile of things spread all over the floor....so now it's the reduce by 50%, followed by reduce by 50% game! And probably another 50%.....mosquito nets, newly re-impregnated are fluttering on the line....now it's time to do the sleep sacks.....
    Nearly time to get excited!!

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by CatherineReichardt Online Now Feb 9, 2011 at 3:28 AM

    Hamba kahle Rosie ('go well' in Zulu) - with your attitude, you can't but have a good time!

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  • Odinnthor's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by Odinnthor Online Now Feb 9, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    Yeah, have a great journey, - and come back and tell us all about it......d:o)

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  • Odinnthor's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by Odinnthor Online Now Feb 9, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    ...oh and "Nantew yiye" (Have a safe journey in Ashanti Twi or just Twi), the main language, although many many speak Fante Twi.

    Here is a bit of the main phrases you may need. Try them out, and watch the great big smiles you get back.....d:o)

    africafortheafricans.org/ind...

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  • GrannyRosie's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by GrannyRosie Online Now Feb 9, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Brill!! Have just printed that off and will mark, read and inwardly digest!!

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  • Odinnthor's Profile Photo

    Re: Women's dress code?

    by Odinnthor Online Now Feb 9, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    .......d:o)

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