The ULTIMATE Africa Packing List Guide

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HAZY sunsets, mouth-watering traditional dishes... a trip to Africa is on your horizon!

However, you might be stressed about exactly what you should pack for your African travels. Depending on where you’re traveling from, the continent may be a long ways away. And then there's those pesky misconceptions about life in Africa. You might be assuming your Africa packing list needs multiples of everything plus emergency backup items for potential disasters.

Packing for a trip to Africa doesn’t have to mean stuffing your life into one suitcase. With an understanding of exactly where in Africa you’re visiting and some basic organizational skills, creating your Africa packing list can be super exciting! So, let’s release all that anxiety and get you prepared for your trip of a lifetime. Here’s our insider’s knowledge on how to pack for your trip to Africa!

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Before you start packing, consider this

As you already know, the continent of Africa is huge! So don’t follow any generic “travel to Africa” packing advice. Each country, region, town, and village is totally different. Ask yourself the following questions to narrow down how to pack for your specific trip:

  • How long are you going to Africa for? Two weeks or six months? For longer trips, you could pack more sentimental items to keep a piece of home with you. You’ll likely probably accumulate items while abroad. So packing light is a strategy for saving space for your return travels.

    Heading down to the continent for a shorter trip? Focus your packing list more on travel specific items and less on mementos from home.
     
  • What time of year am I going to Africa? This will affect everything from your travel itinerary to how much your visit costs. It will also impact what you need to pack along. If you visited Mombasa recently you would’ve been caught up in their "long rains" of torrential downpours and flooding. However, had you traveled during their dry season (between December and March) it would’ve been sunny skies for days!

    Planning to travel to an African country at the peak of its summer season? Pack your favorite sun hat and SPF sunscreen. Now, if you’re flying to Joburg during its “winter”, bring your heavy coat!

    Tip: Many southern and northern African countries have cool weather seasons. So, check their forecasts and pack accordingly!
     
  • What will I be doing in Africa? How you plan to #travelAfrica will affect what you put in your luggage. So, if you’re planning to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Then you’ll definitely need some sturdy boots. But, if you’re opting for sunbathing on Seychelles (yasss!), then consider snagging a cute kente patterned two-piece!

    Maybe you will be volunteering at a youth center. That means one of your luggage could be filled with supplies like children’s books and board games. Tailor your packing list to the type of activities you’ll be doing.
     
  • What type of area are you visiting in Africa? Let’s say you are traveling to a capital city like Accra. There’s no need to pack five containers of your favorite Nivea deodorant! American products like Nivea, Dove, and Mitchum are available in many African nations. Or, you’ll find suitable local replacements.

Now, you may not be visiting an urban area on your trip to Africa. Maybe you’ll be exploring a rural area with limited electricity. Then your Africa packing list should focus on energy saving devices like a good 'ole non-smartphone Nokia. That’s right—“old school” phone batteries last way longer than their smartphone cousins. What you pack is directly tied to the type of community you will be experiencing.

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Your bags should reflect where you’re specifically going in Africa

One last time for the folks in the back! Your Africa packing list is directly linked to the specific African community/ies you’re heading to. So research the place/s you’re about to see (always exciting!). Then match that with what you will need while there. Next up: more tips on how to pack for different types of African trips.

Africa packing list for visiting rural areas

When visiting rural African areas like villages be prepared for:

  • Limited resources such as little water and electricity.
    What to pack: a battery charger, water purification tablet, non-smartphone which have longer battery life.

  • Unpaved roads which means dusty feet if you’re wearing flip-flops.
    What to pack: rain boots, closed toe shoes, sneakers like keds.

  • Limited or no sewage systems. As a result, flooding can easily happen so rain gear is a must.
    What to pack: rain boots, galoshes.

  • More insects!
    What to pack: insect repellant, antimalarials if you're heading to a malaria zone, and long-sleeved clothing to protect from mosquitos after dusk.

  • Fewer shops. You’ll find that the more rural you go, the fewer places to go shopping.
    What to pack: extra snacks, a water bottle for drinking. Buy non-perishables like canned foods in nearby towns.

How to pack for urban areas

Nowadays, most African capital cities are bustling metropolises. You will find everything from posh malls to street markets full of beautiful African art. Basically, if you’re visiting a more developed African nation like Botswana and sticking around its capital city please don't drive yourself crazy overthinking what to pack. You’ll be visiting a city and traveling in a lifestyle similar to a small American city.

Traveling to a lesser developed African nation like Somalia? Your packing list should be more detailed as you may not be able to find replacements in-country.

Tip: I notice many foreigners walking through African cities in “safari gear” (khaki cargo shorts and tan shirts). Save those outfits for game drives and dress like you would in any big city. So, if you want to catch some eyes in that turquoise green tunic, go for it!

How to pack for the bush

Planning on spending extensive time out in the wild? Shop for camping gear on sites like REI, Patagonia, Timbaland, or Amazon. Read a few backpacking or over-landing travel blogs. They'll tell you what types of packing gear you should bring. You can contact the African national park you’re visiting for info on what amenities their campsite facilities offer.

Common items to pack for African camping trips:

  • Mosquito net
  • Antimalarials
  • Water purification tablets (if needed)
  • Tent
  • Bug repellent and sunscreen
  • Hand Wipes
  • Solar powered lights
  • First aid kit
  • Cooler
  • Sleeping bag
  • Basic eating utensils
  • Lighter
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Must have items for your first trip to Africa!

Digital Camera

Catch the stunning imagery of the Motherland with this powerful yet affordable Sony cam.

Computer charger

It’s always good to have an extra charger or two on hand. Travel wears down items. Or what if you lose a charger while traveling? Instead of having to hunt for a new one, you'll have an extra one on hand.

Adapter

When you visit Africa you’ll need a converter to use your electronics from home. Purchase a quality travel adapter to keep your appliances useable.

Laptop cover

Due to varying terrain, many parts of Africa get dusty. If you’re traveling with your laptop, purchase a keyboard cover and well cushioned case to protect it from dust. Same goes for tablets and phones!

Luggage

Flights to Africa are generally long and may include a transfer or two. You'll want to invest in durable luggage to prevent damage like broken zippers or wheels.

Convertible clothing

Pack a few comfy but cute dresses or jumpers that double into attire for fancier occasions. These are great luggage space savers!

Shoes

On your trip, you’ll probably be on your feet a lot. That’s why comfy footwear is the way to go. And don’t forget a pair of rain boots if you’re traveling during a rainy season!

Apple iPad/Tablet

Don’t feel like lugging an entire laptop around Africa with you? I hear you. Bring a tablet instead for smoother travel without compromising your workflow.

Packing cubes

These little zipper compartments neatly organize your items (everything from dirty laundry to toiletries) in your luggage and save space. You can even store travel items in them while you’re not traveling. Maybe you're like me and hate a messy luggage. Purchase a few of these affordable lifehackers and travel like a boss.

An extra memory card

You know what's super annoying? Getting ready to take the perfect shot and discovering your camera's out of space. Pack an extra memory card or two (or three) so you can capture all your memories stress free.

A water bottle

Weather across much of the continent gets pretty hot. That's why a water bottle is one of the best and healthiest investments you can make on your Africa packing list.
Edited to add after reader suggestion: depending on where you're going, you may need to bring a water filter too.  

An e-reader

No matter how long you’re visiting Africa for an e-reader will make your trip that much more enriching. You can download African travel guides on it. Or, pass the time on long haul flights with your favorite books. 

Swimwear (depending on time of year)

Dipping into your hotel pool...wading through the shores of the Indian ocean... Whatever your plans, don't leave your bathing suit home! 

Smart Travel to Africa Luggage Packing TIPs

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“Ma’am your luggage is overweight.” 

“Wait, why is my Kindle missing from my luggage?!”


Imagine having to repack your luggage at the airport. Or how about discovering your chargers have been stolen from your luggage? #buzzkills Thankfully, there are simple precautions you can take to avoid these situations:  

  • Verify baggage allowances. Many airlines allow only two checked luggage (often around 50 pounds each) and one carry-on. If you try to bring more you could get slapped with a couple extra hundred dollars fee. Or, you may be asked to remove items until your luggage meets the requirements. That's why you have to check with your airline about baggage allowances before departure day.

    Tip: get a digital scale (it's almost impossible to view the weight with manual scales) to weigh your luggage.
     

  • Have your luggage wrapped. Wrapping your luggage is a useful deterrent to airport theft. It also cushions your luggage from getting damaged during all traveling.
     

  • Buy TSA approved locks and quality luggage tags. Go a step further and secure your bags with good quality TSA approved (if you’re traveling from the U.S.) locks ($19.95). Stick on some luggage tags to help you easily identify your luggage at baggage claim. These extra layers of protection can’t hurt. Plus, TSA says the vast majority of luggage are not manually searched through.
     

  • Don’t pack electronics underneath. Unfortunately, theft happens at many airports around the world. The O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg is a popular connecting point. However, its sadly become notorious for baggage tampering and theft. So, don’t pack anything super expensive like electronics in your luggage. Keep them with you in your carry on.
     

  • Don’t fold, roll. Rolling clothing instead of folding saves a ton of space. Head over to google for plenty of tutorials on the best rolling techniques.

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Don’t believe the hype. Packing for a trip to Africa doesn‘t have to be stressful

Time to research your location as you plan your trip. That way, you’ll pack a good balance of everything you need and want for your visit. Now that you know what to pack, click the booking link below to find exciting travel deals. Sawabona (as they say on South African Airways)!

Booking.com

MORE AFRICA TRAVEL INSPIRATION: Need help with choosing which African country to visit? Wondering how much it will cost you? We break it all down in this article!