Your essential packing list for South African travel

Exploring South Africa, whether on safari in the bushveld or taking a sophisticated urban city break, is an exciting experience. As always with international travel, it’s critical to make sure you pack everything you need to enhance your holiday and make it a great one, so here is Go Touch Down Travel and Tour’s guide to knowing what to pack when visiting South Africa.

The necessities

Let’s start by recapping the absolute necessities. You’ll need your cash or card, passport and visa [where applicable]. Make sure any electronic device you’re bringing has a suitable plug and adapter, and above all else be sure that you pack any medical essentials you may have. If your medicine is on script, make a copy of your latest prescription to carry with you too. Americans, please note that South Africa is on 220W power, not the 110W from back home.

The clothing

South Africa has a pleasant climate year around, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to dress for the season. If you’re travelling from the Northern Hemisphere, remember that our seasons are backward to yours, so you’ll come from Winter to Summer and vice-versa. Lightweight summer apparel is needed from November to April, as temperatures range around 86-104° F [30-40 ° C]. While you will no doubt be tempted to wear cool clothes, don’t forget that the sun packs a punch and add some factor 40 or higher sunscreen to your packing list too. Do bring a light jacket and possibly some long sleeved shirts if you’re venturing on safari. Neutral colours are best to make the most of the experience and avoid frightening animals. And, of course, bring your bathing suit if you’re headed to a beach. Remember that this is the season for rain in many parts of the country, and a hat to shield your face from strong sun is a great idea.

Warmer clothes are needed the rest of the year, but temperatures rarely dip more than slightly below the single digits [° C] so rather aim to dress in layers. While it will be decidedly nippy rising at dawn for a safari in winter, by midday it can be quite hot, so rather add and take off layers to help you stay comfortable. Do remember that many buildings do not have central heating as they do overseas, and bush lodges may have no heating other than fireplaces. Spring and autumn can be ‘awkward’ seasons, and you will never be quite sure when winter/summer will put in a fast and spectacular experience, so pack accordingly.

Good walking shoes and sunglasses should be added no matter the season. Ladies, consider a sports bra to enhance your comfort if you’re participating in action adventure activities or long safaris. There is risk of theft in some areas of the country, so keep valuables like flashy jewelry to a minimum and be discrete with big ticket value possessions.

Some safari camps, especially in the Kruger, have luggage weight restrictions, but do offer laundry services, so be sure to check with your travel agency. Leave the delicates [like silk] at home, and opt for robust fabrics instead.


The less expensive baggage the better for both breakage and theft risk, but you will want to bring your camera and any accessories you need. Don’t forget adaptors and memory cards! You may want your binoculars, or a telephoto lens if you have one. A cell phone will come in handy provided yours will work in the country- be sure you have international roaming enabled with your network. North American visitors, do note that most of the country does not work on your standard outlets, so equipment like laptops, hairdryers and more will need a good adaptor. Most hotels will provide in-room hair dryers for your convenience.

Medical needs

Outside of malaria risk in certain areas, you likely won’t need more than any ‘comfort’ medications [like your favoured brand of headache tablet] and any personal essentials. Pack an insect repellant if you’re heading into nature.

General items

South Africa has a vast range of shopping opportunities, and you should be able to replace any necessities like toiletries, contact lens solution etc. in any city. However, if you will be spending all of your time in tiny towns or the bush, be sure to come prepared as you may not be able to access your favourite brands.

Knowing what to pack when coming to South Africa can help enhance your travel experience, so be sure to reach out to Go Touch Down Travel and Tours if you have any questions about your specific destination.