Whenever we think of the five countries in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) collectively known as “the Stans”, we often think of conservative countries filled with mosques and mausoleums. While these places are indeed rich in a shared history, as they were all part of the famous silk road, they differ quite significantly from each other, even when it comes to what to wear.
Also Read: Is Travelling To Central Asia Safe?
Back in the months of April and May, I had the chance to visit Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and realized how culturally different they are. Some of the myths that I had previously believed were dispelled when I understood the countries a little better. Below is my guide on to how to dress when visiting Central Asia, and also on how conservative each of the three countries I visited are.
This is the first country we landed in while backpacking across the “Stans”. Our landing point was Almaty, which is one of the major cities of Kazakhstan. Almaty is also a popular destination for tourism. So there are lots of wonderful attractions – such as lakes and hikes – that are close to Almaty.
As we landed here, were blown away by the fact that it is so modern. Lots of locals were following fast fashion and wearing dresses/shorts as an everyday thing.
If you are travelling to the Almaty region, know that it is quite okay to wear shorts, sleeveless tops, dresses, heels, etc. However, if you plan to move out of Almaty to visit smaller cities like Shymkent, it is better to be more covered up.
Shymkent is quite modern too, however, the main spots to visit in this region are the mosques and mausoleums. It is always a sign of respect to cover your shoulders and knees. Even if you are wearing a dress, try to wear a knee-length dress.
Did you know that in Kyrgyzstan almost 70% of the land is made up of mountains? It is a perfect paradise for hikers and nature lovers. If you are in Kyrgyzstan and you don’t go hiking, then you’re not seeing the true essence of the country.
Having said that, for Kyrgyzstan, you should always have your hiking gear ready, as well as some warm clothes; since the area is mountainous and it tends to become cold at the night time even during the summer season.
In fact in Kyrgyzstan, just like in Kazakhstan, dressing conservatively is not mandatory. You can hike in your shorts. However, do carry your hiking shoes to this country along with other hiking essentials such as a backpack, socks, fleece jackets, etc.
Also Read: 5 Must-Do Hikes in Kyrgyzstan
As we moved to Uzbekistan after travelling to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, we realised that this place is slightly more conservative as compared to the other two. The place is rich with mosques and other impressive monuments, and it feels like you are in some fantastical world.
It is better to cover yourself here as many of the popular tourist places are the mosques, mausoleums and madrasahs where culture and tradition are important. You can opt for wearing trousers with a fitted top. Also, remember to carry a scarf to cover up whenever necessary. You will find locals here dressed up in typical hijabs and burkhas.
Of course, women can also wear dresses, but make sure they are at least knee-length. This will also be a sign of respect for the culture and tradition over there.
Central Asia will blow you away once you visit it! It is far more modern than we believe and far more beautiful than we have imagined. It is the perfect place for explorers, not only to discover some of the lesser-known places but also do it in a very safe manner. So if you are worried about how to dress up, do not worry! Most of the region is full of Russians, and Russians are very famous about their quirky clothes and modern fashion sense.