Are you wondering what clothes to pack for Africa? Packing for Africa can be downright daunting unless you have a handy Africa packing list. Whether you’re on an overland safari, a mission trip, or just traveling around the massive continent making sure you’re well packed for Africa is essential. Once you get outside of South Africa and African capital cities, it will be hard to replenish your wardrobe and even a little difficult to stock up on bare essentials so you will want to make sure you arrive equipped.
It’s true that Africa is a huge and vast continent and of course, the climate varies from what time of year you are visiting. I know you have probably seen the movies about Africa where people are decked out in khaki and dark green clothes, with their safari hats, and binoculars. However, the truth is you probably won’t need any of that gear unless you are actually in the bush or on safari. Don’t worry if that is you – we have you covered here! This Africa packing list is a guide for everyday travel around Africa. We have been traversing the continent for a year now and like to think we have nailed down what exactly to pack for Southern and Eastern Africa. Here are a few things to remember before you go on an African shopping spree.
- Be sure to note what time of year you are traveling to Africa. The rainy season in Southern Africa varies greatly from the rainy season in Eastern Africa. If you are traveling during the rainy season a rain jacket is essential.
- I like traveling to Africa with polyester clothing since it dries fast and doesn’t stain easily.
- Just because it’s Africa doesn’t mean you should toss style out the window. I would recommend packing at least one dress or skirt for nice occasions. Here’s a women’s safari clothing guide with stylish options.
- Dark shades of blue attract the dreaded tsetse fly, which is found throughout parts of Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and other general pockets of Africa. So it’s best to try and avoid this color.
- You’ll be able to find local clothing in many villages off the side of the road. Big cities are your best bet for Western-style clothing.
- You’ll always be able to find local women who will wash your clothing for you. For a small fee they will hand wash, hang dry, and many times iron your clothing for an affordable price. Plus it’s a job and a way for locals to support their families so I highly recommend seeking them out. I typically just asked wherever I was staying for recommendations.
What to pack for Africa
Essential “must take” items to Africa
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.I love my Merrell Moab Ventilators and have been going strong in them for two years! Check out my other recommendations here. I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by.
Shower Flip Flops
Unless you’re staying in only five-star lodges some shower flip-flops to escape nasty floors are vital.
You won’t want to live in hiking shoes and you certainly won’t want to live in flimsy shower flip flops. A good pair of sandals are great for letting your feet breath while still maintaining comfort. I travel with my Rainbow leather flip flops as well as my Teva Hurricanes which get me through anything.
You will 100% be able to buy this from the local women around Africa, but if you want one before you land here is one that I love. Sarongs are great for just about anything – covering up at the beach, drying off after a shower, or just looking cute as a skirt.
Lightweight, neutral colored pants are great for any kind of travel in general. I have two pairs of these kinds of pants. One pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other zips off to make shorts.
I literally live in loose free flowing pants when I travel. My favorite are made by prAna. Their Women’s Mantra pants are made out of hemp and recycled polyester while offering 50+ UPF protection. They are perfect for Africa, especially in the more conservative countries. These pants are lightweight and weigh nothing in a carry-on bag. I could literally live in these pants if it were acceptable to wear them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner out.
A light button up
I wear my beige button up almost every night. Many countries in Africa suffer from malaria – a disease that can be a little more prevented if you just cover your skin at night when the mozzies are out.
Loose and Light Shirts
That being said almost every shirt you pack for Africa should be loose and light colored. It gets bloody HOT in Africa and trust me the last thing you will want to be wearing is a skin tight black top. I break down my favorite safari shirts here!
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine everyday when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
I would recommend taking at least three pairs of sunglasses with you on your trip to Africa. I wouldn’t be caught dead traveling around without some protection on my eyes and if one pair breaks I want to make sure I have back ups.
A good pair of long shorts will prevent against chaffing in the African heat.
No need for push up bras while you’re in the bush. I have seven pairs of sports bras and wish I had more. They get sweaty real fast here. My favorite brand of activewear is Alala. They make high-quality sports bras that last forever. Use the exclusive code TWP15 for 15% off your whole purchase with Alala.
Please don’t leave home without sunscreen. You will need it underneath the African sun and it can be very hard to find in grocery stores in Africa (and when you do find it the pricing will be insane).
Electronics to add to your Africa packing list
Camera with Telephoto Lens
If you can swing the money and are going on an African safari I would highly recommend investing in a proper camera. Those lions don’t look quite as majestic on an iPad. I travel with a Fujifilm X-T10 as well as a 55-200 mm Fuji telephoto lens for close-up shots. Cameron talks about his favorite cameras for safari here.
We get a ton of questions about our drone photography and videos around Africa. If you want killer landscape shots of Africa from above consider getting a drone. We have the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced and have been quite happy with the video we get with it. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Subscribe to our YouTube Channel! Update: We did travel around Africa with the drone mentioned, however technology has changed and there are newer drones to be had. We now have the Mavic Airbecause it is small and lightweight. For absolutely fantastic footage I would recommend the Phantom 4 Pro.
We live in a digital age and I hate to say this but…our phones are our lifelines in Africa. They are our maps, our news sources, our online social lives, and yes they are even used as our telephones to get around. We always get a local sim card when we get to a new country and top it up with data and airtime so that we can call the local numbers in case of emergencies.
One of the last things when considering what to pack when visiting Africa is an adaptor. Most of Southern Africa uses the plug M. We arrived in Johannesburg without this adaptor and were stuck venturing around the city at night looking for one (not ideal). I would recommend getting a good one on Amazon before arriving. The further north you go the more you will see the British “type G” plugs, which we also have on stock.
I travel with my handy dandy MacBook Pro to keep up with this website and also entertain myself with movies while I’m bored in the African bush. To accompany my laptop I also travel with two 1 terabyte hard drives that house all my movies and photos!
Medicines to Add to your Packing List for Africa
Many people think that malaria is just like the quick flu and isn’t that serious – this is not the case. Malaria is very serious and if not treated can even lead to death. Do your research and determine if you are traveling to a malaria zone on your African trip. Most of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and much of Northern Africa are not affected by malaria. My advice is to wait until you land in Africa to get your malaria medicine, it is cheaper and I find the information to be better than Western doctors who can barely tell you what the symptoms are. If you don’t have the time to get medicine after you land in Africa then make sure you have enough for your entire trip before you leave.
Aspirin or Ibuprofen
Mosquito repellant: Can also be found at any supermarket in Africa.
If you forget a medicine at home, don’t panic! Pharmacies are located in many of the towns and cities around the continent.
Other useful items that should be on your Africa checklist
Outside of big cities it will be hard to find a swimsuit you are used to. One of my favorite brands for swimsuits is Sensi Graves bikinis. Sensi Graves are high-quality swimsuits made for active women. They are stylish, yet supportive. So if you’re planning to go surfing, bodyboarding, kitesurfing, play beach volleyball, etc while in Africa and want to make sure your ta-tas stay intact these swimsuits are for you. Here’s $20 off any order over $100!
At least one nice outfit
Just because you’re traveling to Africa doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress up once in awhile. Especially if you’re in Cape Town or Johannesburg. I would definitely recommend throwing at least one dress into your South Africa packing list. My favorite dresses that look nice, but are still made for active women are made by prAna. I’ve traveled all over with their Cantine dress and can attest to it’s durability.
It’s not advisable to drink the tap water in most of Africa. We use the Lifestraw Go for all those times during our travels when the water is questionable. Saving money and saving plastic.
Dehydration in Africa is a real concern and should be taken seriously. These tablets should have your body back to normal should you happen to fall sick.
Pillow and sheets
Certainly not a necessity when packing for Africa but comes in handy when you get to a room and find the conditions are…less than desirable.
If you cherish your teeth then make sure to pack extra floss before you get to Africa. Toothpaste and toothbrushes can be found just about anywhere.
I have terrible eye sight, but I also hate wearing glasses. Contact solution isn’t easy to find in Africa and when you do find it it will be expensive.
Plan Your Trip to Africa
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Flights to Africa: Compare airlines, dates and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
- Water: Much of the water in Africa is questionable at best. We always use our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle to ensure safe drinking water.
- Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.
All of these items I personally have and have tried and tested throughout Africa. Whatever you bring remember that you will be able to find most things that you need in Africa (especially in the capital cities). Some of these links are affiliate links, meaning we receive a small commission from anything you go on to buy. This helps us maintain our site and bring information to our readers!
Want to see more of Africa?
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more adventures!
- Africa’s Best Places to Have a Safari Vacation
- How to Plan a Safari in Africa: A Step by Step Guide
- Ultimate Safari Clothes Guide: What To Wear On Safari In Africa
- The Best Safari Bags to Take to Africa