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What to pack for South Africa

Your ultimate packing list

There are many reasons to visit South Africa. Perhaps you’re heading to the Kruger or Eastern Cape on safari, brandishing your binos and ready for some top-notch wildlife-watching? Maybe you’ll be marvelling at the scenery on the Garden Route, or sipping cocktails on the beach in Cape Town? In fact, you might be doing all of them, which leads us to the question: what to pack for South Africa? We’ve come up with a South Africa packing list that covers all the essentials – and a couple of little extras that you might never have dreamt of…

Credit: Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa


First up on any South Africa packing list is clothing – but what sort of clothing we hear you cry? You can’t go wrong with layers; think long-sleeve tops layered over T-shirts, a light, down jacket that folds away into nothing, and lightweight jumpers, sweaters and cardigans. By doing so, you’ll be prepared for whatever activities and weather fluctuations South Africa throws at you, whether it’s cold mornings but hot afternoons on safari, evening drinks after a long day sightseeing in Cape Town, or the chilly sea breeze along the coast.

The colours of the rainbow…

… Or perhaps not! One of the questions we’re most often asked is what colour of clothing to pack for South Africa. For safari, it is important to wear neutral-coloured clothing, but don’t rush out and buy a whole new wardrobe. You don’t have to dress in top-to-toe khaki as greys, greens, light browns and beige, neutral checks and even light and medium blues are all fine, especially if it’s mostly game drives you’ll be doing. If you’re planning a walking safari, colour of clothing becomes a little stricter, and it’s advisable to have one khaki-coloured shirt or pair of trousers. To avoid looking like a total safari novice, just avoid bright reds, yellows, purples and white.

Credit: Royal Malewane Lodge

Keep warm

A common misconception about South Africa is that it’s always warm, however this isn’t strictly true. And just to throw a spanner in the works, when one part of the country is warm and toasty, another is doing the exact opposite. Cape Town in January, for example, is hot and sunny all day, every day, but it’s raining in the Kruger, and in June, it’s around 20 degrees in Cape Town, but can fall below 10 in Kruger! This is where your layers will come in handy (see above), but if you can, squeeze in gloves, a scarf and even a hat, and you won’t regret it.

A little glamour

Perhaps not what you expected to read on a South Africa packing list, but a little glamour never goes amiss! We’re not talking evening gowns and tuxedos – they can definitely stay at home – but just something a little jazzier for the evening. On safari, you might like to take a pretty scarf, or a pair of smarter shoes for dinner, and if you’re spending some time in the city, pop in a nice dress or a shirt. South Africans are, however, very relaxed by nature, so if you end up wearing your khakis in a cocktail bar in Cape Town, that’s also fine!

South Africa
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Shoes, shoes, shoes

Footwear can be real a headache when deciding what to pack for South Africa. On safari, take a pair of comfortable trainers or shoes for the game drives, a pair of flip flops for relaxing during the day, and a pair of closed shoes (not sandals!) for the evening. If a walking safari is on the cards, you might consider walking boots, but really, good trainers should suffice. If you’re spending longer in towns and cities, add in another pair of comfy, closed shoes that are easy to walk in, and you’re sorted.

Medical things

South Africa has good medical facilities and pharmacies, particularly in towns and cities, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared. So, what to pack for South Africa in terms of medical kit? Think about bringing painkillers, plasters, anti-allergy tablets, insect repellent, and cough medicine. You shouldn’t need to take anti-malaria medication in South Africa, unless you’re visiting the very north of the country, but please check with a medical professional before you travel. Oh, and high-factor sunscreen (and lip balm) is an absolute must.

Credit: Tanda Tula Safari Camp

Don’t travel without…

No South Africa packing list would be complete without a mention of those all-important documents. Remember the things your mum used to check, before you left home for your childhood holidays? That’s what we’re talking about: passport, tickets, travel insurance and, of course, your visa (please ask us if you’re unsure whether you require a visa or not). It’s also a good idea to have copies of these documents, on paper or digital.

That’s entertainment

Our last piece of advice when you’re thinking about what to pack for South Africa? Don’t forget the fun stuff! A Kindle for airport waits, siestas on safari, and on the beach in Cape Town; an iPod to plug into your hire car (what’s a road trip without great music?); a camera, spare memory cards and binoculars, and your swimmers. Enjoy your trip!

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