The packing of Russia deserves its own post because this was the first time I traveled to a climate so different from what I’m used to (before this, the coldest places I’ve been to is Iceland in the summer and Iran, both of which are downright balmy compared to this.)
As I’ve said in my other Russia posts, this past winter was the warmest in Russia since 1886, but with temperatures down to -25 degrees Celsius (in Murmansk), it still presented a big challenge for us. Adding to that, the Russians like to keep the inside of their buildings super toasty, and it’s all central heating so you can’t adjust it, so you don’t want to dress too warm or you’ll end up overheated when you step inside.
The answer is, of course, layers (actually, I’ve found the answer to all travel clothes is to layer.) Almost everywhere has a cloakroom, so you can just take off the layers inside. Here is an example of how I usually layered during my time in Russia:
Thermal shirt + Sweater + Down parka on top, Wool tights + Fleeced-line pants/jeans on bottom, then another pair of socks and boots, then of course a scarf, hat, and gloves or mittens (mittens are warmer, but gloves are more practical for photo-taking.) If it was particularly cold, like in Murmansk, I would add a turtleneck top and a pair of ski pants (this may sound a bit extreme, but they really saved me during those cold, long nights on the Aurora hunt.)
And here’s a sample packing list for a 12-day trip (we did laundry a few times):
– Top: 4 thermal top, 1 turtleneck top
– Bottom: 3 wool tights, 3 fleece-lined pants/jeans (I could’ve gotten away with just 2 pairs, but I like some varieties), 1 pair of ski pants, 1 skirt
– Shoes: 1 pair of snow boots, 1 pair of leather boots, 1 pair of flats (the flats and skirt were just for the ballet. I didn’t need to dress up – there was everything from jeans to cocktail dresses at the theater – but I wanted to.)
– Outerwear: 2 sweaters, 1 fleece jacket, 1 down parka
– Accessories: 1 beanie, 2 scarves (though the other scarf sheds like crazy so I ended up wearing my red wool circle scarf most of the time), 1 pair of gloves, 1 pair of mittens, 1 neck buff (which can serve as a scarf or a beanie if necessaries, I mostly used it to cover my face.)
This served me quite well, at least on top. My feet were OK too, though sometimes I had to stick some packets of chemical hand warmers in my boots. The two bits that were constantly cold, though, were my hands and legs. If I ever travel to such a cold climate again, I would get a pair of warm glove liners to wear under my mittens and a more fashionable pair of ski pants (I bought my ski pants simply because they were on sale) to wear over my jeans, because even with wool tights and fleece-lined jeans, my legs were still like icicles. But hey, it’s part of the experience, right?
As I mentioned in my “Overview” post on Iran, the dress code is one of the things that stress people out about visiting Iran, but it’s actually quite simple. All you have to wear is a headscarf (no need to worry about covering up all of your hair) and a top/jacket/coat that cover your butt and with sleeves past your elbows (the men have to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants as well.) Other than that, it’s anything goes – skinny jeans (and other tight clothes), heels (or sandals in the summer), and bright colors are all allowed.
You may have heard of the “morals police” going about admonishing people for not sticking to the dress code, but I only witnessed one instance on Tabiat Bridge, in which a local girl was gently reminded by a security guard to fix her headscarf, which had fallen down. As long as you don’t walk around with your head bare, you’ll be fine. The ladies in Tehran are especially stylish; I felt a bit underdressed with my travel wardrobe!
Travling during the winter, like I did, definitely makes covering up easier, but I imagine that in the summer, the scarf and long shirts would actually be cooler than baring it all (as anyone who lives in a hot climate knows, you should cover up in the heat.) That being said, here is what I packed for my 10-day trip:
– Tops: 4 thermal tops (I get cold easily), 1 turtleneck top.
– Bottoms: 3 pairs of tights/leggings (for layering under my jeans), 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of fleece-lined pants.
– Outerwears: 2 turtleneck sweaters, 1 cardigan (these are all long enough in case I had to take off my coat), 1 waterproof coat.
– Shoes: 2 pairs of boots (one lightweight for city walks, the other for more vigorous hikes.)
– Acessories: 3 scarves (they are harder to keep on my head than I expected! Bring a hairclip to fix them to your hair if necessary.)
I did feel relieved to take off my headscarf upon boarding the flight home, but I never felt any pressure from having to dress a certain way while in Iran. Don’t let it deter you from visiting this wonderful country!
I wasn’t going to write packing post for this trip, but then I realized that, like every aspect of traveling to Cuba, packing for Cuba also has its own specificities that I’d like to share with you. Plus, any excuse to post more Cuba photos, right? 😀
So, for 10 days in Cuba, here is what I packed:
– Tops: 5 T-shirts, 1 long-sleeved shirt, 1 chambray shirt (it was so hot that I went through these faster than I thought, so I had to do laundry a couple of times.)
– Bottoms: 2 linen pants, 2 lightweight jeans, 1 dress (the dress was strictly for SIA, but it came in handy when I was too lazy to wash my tops.)
– Outerwear: 1 cardigan, 1 sweater, 1 light jacket (though I never wore the sweater and the jacket in Cuba. We transferred flights in Moscow, so they were for keeping warm inside the airport/on the plane.)
– Shoes: 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of flip-flops (for the beach/walking around the casa.)
– Accessories: 2 hats (1 baseball cap and 1 straw hat I bought in Trinidad), 3 scarves. These are life-savers; I used them to cover up from the sun and the big one was used as a sarong when we went to the beach. They can also double up as face masks in dusty/smoggy places. We got some funny looks walking around Havana with scarves wrapped around our faces, but trust me, your nose, throat, and lungs are going to thank you.
– Don’t bring anything too nice, anything you don’t want to sweat through or get sand or dirt on. If you’re planning to go dancing, maybe bring a cute dress, but honestly, it’s all very casual.
– I know it’s hot, but don’t bring just tank tops and shorts if you don’t want to be burned to a sizzle. The sun is relentless, even during February.
– Pack all the toiletries, make-up, and medications you’re going to need. You won’t be able to buy them here. And sunscreen. A lot of sunscreen.
– Bring hand sanitizer and tissue/toilet paper. Bathrooms in Cuba are not the cleanest, so it’s better to be prepared.
– Pack some detergent if you’re going to do laundry. Most casas provide laundry service, but it can be expensive.
Remember when I went to Singapore for 3 days to see Dylan Moran back in 2015? And I said I wished I had stayed longer? Well, wish granted – I’m going to back Singapore, for 3 weeks this time, on a work trip. I’m shepherding a group of students to participate in an exchange program with another university there, which is pretty exciting. Still, I’m glad that I’ve already been to Singapore; that means I can better focus on my task and help the students instead of figuring out a new country.
Of course, it helps with the packing as well. I’ve never packed for a business trip before, but luckily it’s a pretty casual affair, so my packing list came together pretty quickly. I didn’t have the time to doodle or paint it this time, so a quick photo will have to do:
Tops: 2 button-ups (white & blue print), 2 sleeveless blouses (white & blue print), 2 dressy tees (black & white), and 2 casual tees (black & gray)
Bottoms: 2 wide-leg pants (black & white), 1 casual navy linen pants, & 1 dressy gray linen pants
Shoes: 1 pair of black flats and 2 pairs of sandals (brown & nude)
Accessories: 1 scarf, 1 necklace, 1 brooch
As you can see, it’s all light, natural fabric in neutral colors, to maximize the mix and match. Now, the difficult thing is that we’re having a cold snap here in Hanoi, meaning I’m going to travel from one climate to another. So I had to plan a separate airplane outfit, something that’s warm enough and can still be worn in Singapore:
My trusty striped tee, a black blazer, black khaki pants, a big (but light) scarf, and sneakers. We’re going to walk a lot, so the sneakers are a must, and they tend to crank their AC to “arctic”, so I suspect the scarf and blazer won’t be superfluous either. With each trip, my packing gets a little better, so we’ll see how well I packed this time!
I’ve been home for a week now, but while I’m settling back into my old routine, let’s look back at my epic summer trip, starting with the usual: the packing list.
I lost count of how many sample packing lists I looked at during the months leading up to the trip. My main concern was that I was going to be in Iceland, and how cold it could be, and how much the cold-weather clothes would add to the rest of my list. This is what I ended up taking with me:
(I had so much fun doodling my packing list last time that I did it again. I got the illustrations online, mostly from goodobjects, then traced them and colored them myself.)
The list includes: 3 short-sleeved tees, 3 long-sleeved tees, 1 chambray shirt, 1 flannel shirt, 2 sweaters, 2 cardigans, 4 pairs of jeans, 2 scarves, 1 jacket, and 3 pairs of shoes. Not included here are the big waterproof jacket and blanket scarf I packed especially for Iceland.
Though that doesn’t seem a lot for a 5-week trip, I actually over-packed. I didn’t realize that 65 degrees in Europe feel very different from 65 degrees in Vietnam, and packed too many warm items. Since I could afford to do laundry quite often, I could’ve done without the striped turtleneck, the extra sweater and cardigan, the light-washed jeans, and the flats (which are my “just in case” shoes, and those I almost always end up never wearing). I guess you learn something new with each trip you make, right? Now that I’ve recorded this, I’m definitely going to pack more wisely for my next long trip!