Africa & The Middle East | Travel Tips & News

Your all terrain packing list for a trip to Africa

Recently updated on November 24th, 2023 at 05:22 pm

Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, with 54 countries spanning across eight different climate zones. You can go from sizzling savannahs to snowy mountains, blazing deserts to dripping jungles, and tropical beaches to breezy cities, which makes packing for your trip to Africa quite a daunting task. But don’t worry – whether you’re travelling in the wet or dry season, or going on safari, snorkelling or hiking, we’ve got you covered with what to pack and what to wear in Africa in all terrains. 

Before you start packing

You already know that Africa is a huge continent and any generic Africa packing advice probably won’t be enough for your specific trip – but it’s a good place to start. If you want to narrow down your packing list for your trip to Africa, here are a few questions to ask.

two lionesses trip to Africa

Where are you going in Africa?

Are you going to the deserts of Namibia, the beaches of South Africa or the great plains of Kenya? The different landscapes will help you refine your packing list.

What will you be doing in Africa?

Trekking? Swimming? Going on a safari? There are tons of different things to do in Africa and this will help you figure out whether you need hiking boots, swimwear – or both. 

What time of year are you going to Africa?

Whether you’re going in the dry or wet season, this will have a big impact on what to pack for Africa.

How long is your trip to Africa?

A short two-week trip will likely have different packing needs to a longer trip over many months. You’ll also need to consider how many souvenirs you’ll want to bring home with you.

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Deadvlei salt pan orange sand dunes Namibia

What to wear on your trip to Africa

From deserts to cities, here are some tips on what to wear in different terrains and climates in Africa. If you need more specific advice for your trip to Africa, you can reach out to our friendly Trafalgar team.

What to wear in warm weather in Africa

You’ll mostly find warm weather in Africa, so come prepared with light t-shirts and long-sleeved tops and long, light skirts or trousers. 

What to wear in cold weather in Africa

Lots of places in Africa can get very cold, especially in the mountains or early mornings and evenings. You should always pack trousers, sweaters, jackets and a raincoat for your trip to Africa. You might also need woolly hats, gloves, scarves and socks.

Victoria Falls trip to Africa

What to wear in rainy weather in Africa

Whether you’re travelling in the wet or dry season, you should come prepared for rain at any time. Bring a waterproof coat (a light one will be okay for the dry season, but you’ll need something sturdier for the wet season) and a small travel umbrella or rain poncho.

What to wear on a safari in Africa

Ditch the head-to-toe khaki! You’ll only need comfortable, lightweight clothing in neutral colours. Don’t wear bright colours like white or red (it can disturb the animals), and avoid dark colours like blue or black (it attracts Tsetse flies). Bring warm layers for morning and evening game drives, and cool layers for the hot days. It’s also best to wear light, long layers as it helps protect you from the sun and insects.

What to wear at the beach in Africa

You can wear your swimsuit at the beaches in Africa, but remember to cover up before leaving the beach and never walk around in your swimwear outside the beach. You might like to bring a sarong for extra modesty and remember, topless sunbathing is not advisable anywhere in Africa.

colourful beach boxes on the sand South Africa

What to wear in the mountains in Africa

If you’re going hiking in Africa, you’ll need to get the appropriate gear, depending on the climate. In general, it’s best to bring warm and cool layers that protect you from the elements, and sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support. And don’t forget to bring some thick pairs of socks. 

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What to wear in the deserts in Africa

Fancy checking out the deserts from Namibia to Egypt? These beautiful places are also home to some harsh climates, and you’ll need to wear long, light and loose clothing to protect you from the elements. You should also bring hats, sunglasses and a light scarf to wrap around your face and keep out the sand.

orange sand dunes blue sky Namibia

What to wear in African cities

Just like the countryside, Africa’s cities are incredibly diverse, from Cape Town in South Africa to Casablanca in Morocco. In general, dress conservatively and cover shoulders, knees and midriffs. You should also check up on the local dress customs for your specific country before you go.

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What shoes to wear in Africa

No matter where you’re going, you’ll always need closed toe shoes. Make sure they’re comfortable, worn-in and sturdy enough for days of walking. They’ll also protect your feet from dust, insects and other creepy-crawlies. You’ll also need to bring sandals or flip-flops for hanging around the lodge, pool or beach.

woman sitting on a rock on a mountain top South Africa

Essentials to pack for any trip to Africa

  • Sun protection – hat, sunglasses and lots of high SPF sunscreen. You’ll need these in any season.
  • Secure day bag – preferably waterproof with lots of pockets
  • Reusable water bottle – you can often refill it with filtered water at your accommodation, or bring one with an inbuilt filter.
  • Toiletries – aim to use reusable travel bottles or solid toiletries like bar shampoos, soaps, deodorants and toothpaste tablets.
  • Medical kit – strong insect repellent, hand sanitiser, painkillers, electrolytes, antiseptic ointment, bandaids, travel sickness tablets, eye drops and personal medications. Be sure to consult your doctor for health advice on vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis.
  • Toilet paper or tissues – you never know when you’ll need it.

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  • Electronics – smartphone, camera, extra memory cards, chargers, and waterproof cases. A portable charger and power strip will come in handy on every trip. You might also like to bring an e-reader or headphones for some entertainment on long coach rides or relaxing afternoons.
  • Travel adaptor – you can check your specific destinations for the required plug adaptors, or bring a universal adaptor.
  • Head torch – handy for getting around the camps at night and looking at stargazing maps.
  • Binoculars – these are excellent for spotting wildlife lurking in the landscapes.
  • Eye mask and earplugs – essentials for light sleepers. 
  • Scarf or sarong – perfect for when you need to dress modestly or protect yourself from the cold or heat.
  • Cash and cards – it’s handy to bring a mix of credit and debit cards, plus some local cash, along with US dollars.
  • Important documents – as well as the originals, always bring photocopies of your important documents like your passport, visa and travel insurance.

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family of elephants in green grass trip to Africa

Packing tips for Africa

Always dress conservatively

If you’re wondering what to wear in African cities or on safari, always remember the general rule – dress modestly. Most countries in Africa follow conservative dress codes and it’s important to be respectful of the local culture and do the same. You should wear long, light, loose-fitting clothing that covers your shoulders, knees, midriff, chest and back. Swimwear is only for the pool or beach and remember to dress more conservatively in rural areas or at religious sites. If you’re not sure what to wear, it’s best to do as the locals do, or you can always ask your Trafalgar Travel Director for advice.

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Don’t overpack

While your international airline luggage limit might be 30kg, it’s likely a lot less on domestic flights within Africa or on safari. Choose a small, lightweight suitcase or soft bag, and only pack the essentials. You’ll also want to leave room for souvenirs! Remember, most lodges and hotels will have laundry facilities, so you can wash your clothes instead of bringing an outfit for every day of your trip.

giraffe walking through the bushland Africa

Layer up

The weather in Africa can change drastically from regions to even times of day. While the morning might be freezing, the midday sun could be blazing hot. Bring lots of lightweight, versatile layers you can easily remove and throw back on. 

Don’t pack your best clothes

While it’s nice to have one or two dressy outfits for evenings out, you don’t want a suitcase full of fancy clothes. Go for casual and comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting covered in sweat and dirt.

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Leave the drones at home

Drones are banned in many African countries like Morocco, while most countries have strict regulations on the use of drones. They also disturb the wildlife and are easily lost or damaged in the African landscapes, so it’s best to leave them at home.

aerial view of Cape Town and Table Mountain South Africa

Avoid military-inspired clothing

You should never wear camouflage or military-inspired clothing in Africa as it can look like you’re impersonating military personnel and can lead to questioning by police or even arrests. 

Don’t bring plastic bags

Plastic bags are completely banned in many African countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. This includes everything from plastic grocery bags to plastic packaging and plastic ziploc bags. Instead, use a see-through toiletry bag for your toiletries at the airport, and cotton totes for everything else.

Are you planning your ultimate trip to Africa? What’s on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!

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