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What to put in your suitcase when travelling in South Africa

So you made the decision. You spent hours looking at your world map and turning your spinning globe before deciding Africa's the place. More precisely, South Africa's the country.

And, as with every trip, you're now scratching your head in front of an empty suitcase. What to take? What to leave out? What's essential? What have I forgotten? What do I need most of all? What can I buy there? Don't panic! I'm here to help.

South Africa is huge and its climate varied, so you need to pack according the region(s) you're planning to visit and the time of year you go. From a simple T-shirt to a K-Way, a pair of flip flops to hiking boots, the best advice is to pack for all temperatures. Durban's beaches can be scorching, whilst at 3,000m altitude, the Drakensberg is more than chilly.

Whilst planning your trip to South Africa, you probably thought about going on a safari. In which case you'll need binoculars to spot whales at Hermanus and the Big 5 in the Kruger Park (or one of the many other game reserves).

You should also pack clothes suitable for all occasions. Bear in mind whether, being a city lover, you plan to spend time in Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban or, if being surrounded by nature appeals, you plan to tour game parks and go on mountain hikes. One thing's for sure, try to pack according to the activities you intend to do once you're there. South Africa is a blend of traditional Africa and the contemporary modern. For example, dress in the big cities is the same style as modern day UK.

The checklist

  1. A torch in case of power cuts
  2. A basic medical kit
  3. A bank/credit card rather than travellers cheques - there are cashpoints everywhere
  4. A photocopy of your passport in case of loss
  5. A wet or drysuit for diving or swimming in colder, coastal waters
  6. Dark coloured clothes to blend in when watching the Big 5
  7. City clothes for trips to Capetown, Johannesburg and Pretoria
  8. Sunscreen for those hot, Durban beaches
  9. Warm clothes to protect you from the Drakensberg's wind
  10. All terrain boots for hiking along the Drakensberg's trails
  11. Binoculars to spot wildlife
  12. A camera/camcorder - the scenery and people are incredibly photogenic!
David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 26 October 2018
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