An Easy Packing List for Africa

An Easy Packing List for Africa

“What do people pack when they go to Africa? Where do I start? What is essential and what should I leave on My Africa packing list?”

This was my question before I went to Africa for the first time, heading to South Africa with a backpack full of denim shorts and tank tops, a little clueless about what was and wasn’t cool to wear there.

It turned out that in most of Southern Africa, people dressed like where I’m from in California – it’s all about fashion, feeling comfortable, and keeping it relaxed.

In Africa, you can see all sorts of interesting fashion decisions. I have to laugh a little at myself every time I travel there and see foreigners like me decked out from head to toe in beige and olive green safari gear. They have the vests, the hats, and the pants that zip off at the knee.

What do they think they need that for? You are not even allowed out of the safaris when you are in the nature reserves, because of lions, hippos,

and buffaloes.

While you can certainly make the safari chic work for you by opting for the more stylish and modern cousins of the original, it’s also totally fine to go for the same cute clothes you would wear at home, keeping a few general rules in mind:

  • Do not take anything that is expensive or that you really love. That’s the general rule I use to travel everywhere. You could lose some, stains in that Red African dirt, and the tough wash-and-scrub washing methods are going to age them quickly.
  • Keep modesty in mind, especially in parts of East Africa, such as Tanzania and Zanzibar, and in Morocco and the surrounding area where it is a Muslim majority.
  • Bring some nice and nice looking clothes, but most importantly, keep practicality in mind.
  • Quick-drying clothes are your friend, because the rainy season in Africa is real.

My Africa Packing List:

Other Africa packing list essentials: bags, toiletries, camping supplies

Every time I travel to Africa, I tend to take my Pacsafe 55L backpack with me. It’s lined with Exomesh which makes it slash-proof, the zippers lock, and it has RFID blocking technology so the women can ‘bump’ into me and scan my credit card and passport info. Some airports like the one in Johannesburg are not as reliable with checked baggage, so this bag ensures that thieves cannot get to any of your valuables.

I also bring along a smaller cross-body wallet and purse that has room for multiple currencies. they both have the exomesh, RFID blockers and strong zippers.

I also lock my stuff in my Pacsafe Wire mesh bag protector. Unless your room has a safe, use this to lock up your belongings. It is very common to find money or items stolen in Africa. Unfortunately, it is often pressure from local bandits on the people working in the hotels, or despair given how low wages are in most of Africa.

More Africa packing list essentials:

There are a few more absolute essentials to bring from home that you will have a hard time finding in Africa, with the exception of South Africa and big cities like Nairobi, Kigali and Lusaka:

Insurance, vaccinations and medicines:

Travel insurance is an important addition to this packing list because it covers you in the worst matter, being flown to a country where you can get the proper care you need. I use World Nomads because their explorer option also includes adventure activities like hiking and diving.

You wouldn’t expect to find that in major cities in Africa, such as Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Kigali, Kampala, Nairobi, and certainly plenty of others, vaccinations and anti-malaria pills are much affordable and often don’t require a prescription. I always buy my anti-malaria medications on the ground (although it is important to take them before you will be exposed, so plan ahead).

Keep in mind, Africa is huge, and this list is for those traveling through Southern and Eastern countries with some suggestions for the Far North as well.

If you’re just sticking to South Africa, modesty isn’t a big concern and staples like hair products and sunscreen are easy to replace, but if you head more North and East, expect things to be a lot leaner and basic. You may be surprised at how difficult it is to find things that are completely normal at home. Plan ahead and you will enjoy!

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