The Ultimate South Africa Packing List (2021)

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Regardless of your home country, a trip to South Africa is a trip of a lifetime. When planning your trip to South Africa, especially if it is your first time, it is a good idea to create a packing list before you pack to make sure you leave nothing important out. 

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Factors to consider in creating the ultimate South Africa packing list

Consider these things when you create the ultimate South Africa packing list:

Are you going on game drives and walking safaris?

Most visitors are keen to do a South African safari. If you plan on doing one or more game drives or a walking safari in a game reserve, such as Kruger National Park, you need to focus more on creating a safari packing list for your time in South Africa.

Where you will spend time, and how will you travel between destinations?

Where you spend your time in South Africa and how you travel between cities may influence what you pack. When you fly to and from South Africa, you will take international flights with a significant luggage allowance of between 23 and 30kgs. If you plan on taking small flights between destinations in South Africa, you may not get the same luggage allowance and need to consider how you use your luggage space carefully to ensure your luggage don’t exceed the weight limit as the extra weight could cause an extra cost for you. 

If you plan on spending time in Cape Town, consider the weather in Cape Town, where you could experience four seasons in one day.

Time of the year

The time of the year you will visit South Africa my influence what you need to pack. Although the climates in Johannesburg and Cape Town are mild in winter, it is best to take a range of outfits to cater to any possible weather situations. Layering can help you be comfortable regardless of the weather.

Other destinations you are visiting

Are you combining your trip to South Africa with a visit to other African countries? If so, you need to consider not only what you pack for the South African leg of your trip and the other country as the climates may differ from each other. 

Suggestions for your ultimate packing list for South Africa

The following South Africa packing list includes the best things to pack for your visit to South Africa:

First aid kit

First Aid Kit - South Africa Packing List
Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

Always have a first-aid kit with you when travelling to South Africa. Include items such as plasters, pain medication and diarrhoea medicine. Also, take eye drops and a nasal spray to clear dust and soothing tired and irritated eyes. Most hotels and lodges will have a medical aid kit, but make sure you take your vitamins and personal medications. 

Insect repellent

Regardless of where you go in South Africa, the best thing to pack is insect repellent. You will need bug spray for mosquitoes and tsetse flies, especially if you visit South Africa during the summer months or on Safari.

Toiletries

Take your toiletries, such as shampoo and conditioner, in reusable containers. Not only will this weigh less, but it can reduce plastic waste, and you can use it multiple times in the future. You don’t need to pack a hair dryer – you will find a hair dryer in most hotels and lodges.

Extra plastic bags

It will be helpful to take extra plastic bags with you on your South African trip. You can use it for wet swimming clothes or placing opened snacks in to keep them fresh and avoid spilling. Some people use plastic bags instead of packing cubes. You can even have every outfit in a different bag and grab one each day to wear rather than worrying about what to wear!

Sun protection

The hot sun may be too hot for you if you are from a cooler climate. The average temperature during the summer months can get to the mid-thirty degrees celsius, but the winter months can become quite cold. Regardless of the time of year you are visiting, taking sun protection with is essential. At a minimum, you need sunscreen and a hat. Remember to re-apply sunscreen frequently during the day to ensure your skin remains protected at all times. Always have a hat that protects you from UV rays for the best protection.

Lip balm

Whenever you travel to South Africa, take a lip balm with you. During the summer months, the sun can dry your lips out, and a good lip balm can go a long way to keep your lips moist. Many people find that the South African winters can dry their skin and lips out, and good lip balm is essential. 

Travel insurance

Regardless of where you travel in the world, make sure to have travel insurance for unforeseen events. A good option for travel insurance is World Nomads or Safety Wing. 

Yellow fever vaccination

If you are from a yellow fever risk country or have transited through a yellow fever risk country, you need to show proof of a yellow fever vaccination by having a yellow fever vaccination. You can see the list of yellow fever risk countries by clicking here.

Reusable water bottle

The tap water in South Africa is drinkable. Take a reusable water bottle and refill it instead of buying bottled water. 

Take a credit card and cash

You can use a credit card in the larger cities and medium-sized towns in South Africa. In smaller, more rural areas, cash may still be king. You can also use cash to trip your safari guide or waiters. To make sure you can purchase what you need, always have a small amount of cash with you at all times. 

Photography equipment

South Africa is a beautiful country, and you will most definitely take many photos. Take a good camera with extra memory cards to ensure you can take as many pictures as you want. If you plan on doing a Safari or one or more bush walks, take a zoom lens with you to get the best photos of the animals you encounter.

Binoculars

If you love seeing wild animals up close, take a pair of binoculars with you on Safari or a bush walk. 

Travel adaptor and power plugs

You will need a travel adaptor when visiting South Africa. South Africa uses four different plug types, including types C, D, M, and N. South Africa uses a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz. Bring multiple power plugs or a power strip with you to let you charge all your items simultaneously. 

A good book

A general travel tip is to take an excellent book with you when travelling. You can read while travelling between destinations or while lying on the beach in beautiful Cape Town. If you are looking for wonderful books written by South African authors, try these books.

A spacious but light day pack

It would help if you had a light day bag to carry your sunscreen, photography equipment and a light jacket as you go sightseeing. You can also use it for your water bottle, sunglasses and hat when you are not using it.

A flashlight

If you are planning to go on a safari camp, you may go on a bush walk or need to get up at night to use the restrooms. It is a great idea to take a small flashlight to show you the way for these situations. Some people find a head torch useful as you tie it to your head and don’t need to carry it in your hands.

South Africa packing list for clothing

Lightweight clothing in neutral or light colours is best when you visit South Africa. Quick-drying clothing will work best if you need to do laundry during your visit. Avoid packing dark clothing as it may attract tsetse flies while on Safari. Do not wear bright colours (including white and red) when you go on Safari as this may draw the attention of specific animals and make you a target. 

Before deciding on the best clothing options, consider the activities you will participate in and the time of year you will visit South Africa. To make sure you pack for any weather during your trip to South Africa, consider packing these items:

Rain jacket

Depending on where you go in South Africa, you may encounter rainy days. Johannesburg and surrounding areas have their rainy season in summer, while Cape Town and its surrounding areas have a winter rainy season. Take a waterproof jacket or rain jacket with you to continue sightseeing on rainy days. 

Shirt options for South Africa

For general sightseeing, tank tops for women are perfect in summer. If you want to visit the fancier restaurants at night, consider taking a dress shirt. Long-sleeved shirts can protect you from insect bites while on Safari or doing a bush walk. 

Shoes

If you visit South Africa in summer, a pair of sandals can help your feet cool down. Closed shoes are best for bush walks and spending time on Safari.

Taking a pair of flip-flops is a must when visiting South Africa. You can use this when taking a shower while camping in the bush or going to the beach to cool off. 

Pants

For spending time on Safari or in the bush, consider taking lightweight, long pants or long trousers. For sightseeing and time on the beach, take short pants with you. In winter, a pair of long pants will keep you warm.

One nice outfit

If you love luxury hotels and experiences, consider taking one or more nice outfits with you with dress shirts, fancier pants and shoes. 

Swimming outfits

If you visit South Africa in the warmer months, you will probably swim in the ocean or be lazy in a swimming pool. Take one or more swimsuits with you. A quick-drying towel will be helpful as well.

Warmer accessories

The nights can be pretty cold in the South African winters. Taking items such as a beanie or scarf can help keep you warm on a night safari or night tour 

The Ultimate South Africa packing list
The Ultimate South Africa packing list
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Sabs | South Africa Travel Blog

By Sabs

Editor of the South Africa Travel Blog that focuses on travel to South Africa, including destinations, attractions, accommodation, food & drink.

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