Whatever you’re doing while in South Africa; admiring penguins on Boulders Beach or visiting Kruger National Park, you need to make sure you pack all of the essentials. Basically all of the super important travel items that you will need for a great trip to South Africa. So use this South Africa packing list to help you enjoy every second of your trip, no matter what the weather is like or your choice of activities and entertainment. Relax! We’ve got you covered!
South Africa Packing List
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Firstly, how do the locals dress in South Africa?
In South Africa there’s no strict dress code perhaps due to the great diversity of people living here. There are no laws banning shorts, miniskirts, or other types of revealing clothing in South Africa and you really are free to wear what you like. However it’s best to respect the culture and traditions to avoid offending locals and many South Africans dress conservatively. Men often wear shirts with long sleeves and women wear trousers or skirts that cover the knee. So do take this into account when packing for your trip.
In a nutshell…
Due to the heat and humidity during most months in South Africa, it is best to wear light, cotton clothing. Pack loose-fitted t-shirts and blouses with high necklines and long sleeves. Also pack loose pants and ankle-length skirts. A lightweight cotton scarf to wear around your neck or cover your hair for extra modesty when visiting temples and mosques would also be a great idea.
Think about the weather and climate when creating your South Africa Packing List
South Africa is a year-round destination due to its varying regional climates. In its summer months from November to February, The Cape has beautiful hot, dry weather. The best time to go whale watching is between July and November. So what you include in your South Africa packing list really depends on the month you plan your visit for.
You might also like: Top 10 things every female traveler should do in South Africa
Clothing To Pack
2 maxi dresses: Cute boho maxi dresses will be perfect for most places in South Africa.
1 pair of jeans: If you’re visiting a big city like Cape Town and just want to look and feel normal.
2 pairs of trousers: Pack trekking trousers that
double triple-up as trousers you can wear for general sightseeing and even on the plane too. This saves room in your luggage. If necessary make use of your hotels laundry service. I like these boot cut outdoor stretch pants because they fit quite snug and flatter your figure. They’re also stain, rain and UV resistant.
2 Short Sleeve T-shirts: Pack 1 breathable lightweight t-shirt that can be worn during the day.
2 Long Sleeve T-shirts: Icebreaker is a really great brand for keeping you warm or cool depending on the weather. Choose pale colors like beige or light grey to help keep you cool.
1 Lightweight Fleece: Pack one that’s lightweight and quick to dry like this beauty.
2 Sports Bras: If you’re trekking or just doing a lot of sightseeing pack sports bras.
Headband or Buff: Get one like this that can double-up as a scarf to cover your hair in temples or mosques and also as a headband for sweat absorption and to keep your hair out of your face. You can roll it up and use it as neck support to sleep on public transport too, if you’re really desperate that is.
All other clothing you can buy out there, that’s what all the markets and awesome shops in South Africa are for! So leave some extra space in your luggage for some cute new clothes and accessories made in Africa with their fabulous bold designs and prints.
Flip Flops: Bring a really cheap pair of flip flips or buy a pair when you arrive and give them away when you leave.
Sandals: These will be what you wear during the day for most sightseeing, the sandals you pack for South Africa need to be lightweight and comfortable. A pair of Tivas (very popular) or Chacos (which I use) will work great. For the evening if you want to look a bit more stylish then consider packing a pair of Uin Loafers which will be perfect to wear on the plane too.
Hiking Boots: If you plan on going off the beaten path in South Africa (hello… exploring the Blyde River Canyon Reserve) or just doing some hiking your boots can seriously make or break your trip. Make sure they’re broken in properly before you go. These mid-rise waterproof hiking boots by Hi-Tec are a great choice for hiking in South Africa.
Gear To Pack
DSLR Camera: For a trip of a lifetime that you know will set your instagram account on fire you might want to consider bringing your DSLR. That said, my camera on my iphone is so good I’m not sure I can justify the extra weight of a DSLR these days.
Day Pack: I love Osprey’s Daylight Plus Daypack which comes with a hydration pocket for your Hydration pack which you’ll need if you plan on doing any hiking or trekking.
Sunglasses: Pack polarized sunglasses with UV protection that can be worn at a high altitude too so you can double them up as trekking sunglasses and everyday sunglasses too.
Drinking Bottle: Camelbak has really good options for easy to use water bottles.
Trekking towel: Fast drying, very absorbent, compact and lightweight; the Rainleaf micro fibre towel is one of the most popular choices and you can use it after your travels for the gym too and lots of other sweat-inducing things.
Waterproof Sack: For valuable and electronics in case it pours down if your visiting during the monsoon season (oh and it will, but only if you’re not prepared… because thats life!).
Padlock & Chain: For your backpack, and keeping things safe in hotels, hostels and when sleeping on public transport.
Sleep sheet: So handy especially if you’re doing South Africa on a budget.
Ziplocks: Trust me, they will come in handy!
If you plan on buying toiletries when you arrive in South Africa to save space in your luggage be aware that their toiletry brands will be very different than what you’re used to. So if you really like a certain product, bring it with you, but in small high-quality travel bottles to save space in your luggage.
Toiletries travel bag: Bring a clear TSA approved travel makeup bag for liquids to speed up going through customs.
Sunscreen: Sunblock can be a bit of a rip off in a lot of places in South Africa so consider bringing a small bottle with you.
Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel: Buy it there.
Hand sanitizer & wet wipes: Buy it there.
Toothpaste and toothbrush: Bring it with you so you can brush your teeth at the airport or on the first night if you don’t have time to shop. You can probably make do with a travel sized tube of paste considering you only need a pea size amount for each brush.
Deodorant: I would bring your preferred deodorant with you, it’s annoying having to use one you don’t like much plus they weigh nothing. I use an all-natural deodorant (without the aluminum) made in Bali because it smells like roses and does the job.
Nail cutter and nail file: Bring it with you because there’s nothing more annoying than having a broken nail you can’t do anything about.
Optional Extras (we love)
Packing Cubes: Travel light and stay organized with these lightweight Eagle Creek packing cubes.
Hidden Pocket Scarves: Stash secret cash, lip balm and your passport in a sneaky scarf like this.
Where to buy your South Africa travel gear
You really don’t need to spend a small fortune on all this travel gear for a trip to South Africa. Besides you’ve already spent enough just getting to South Africa. If you’re planning your trip in advance then you should be able to catch a sale at any good outdoor clothing store, there’s usually about three or four each year. I’ve bought everything from hiking boots to sunglasses by timing my shopping trips to coincide with a sale and saved between 40-75% each time. So planning in advance will save you a lot of hard earned cash.
If you don’t have time to wait for a sale, you can still get a good deal online. Of course Amazon is one of the best places to go to read hundreds of reviews and compare prices before making a purchase. Another bonus of shopping online for your travel gear is that you can save your legs for exploring the Big Hole in Kimberley or Kruger National Park!
If you forget to pack something don’t worry, you can find everything you could possibly need when in South Africa. But this shouldn’t be necessary because this awesome South Africa Packing List is here to help you to not forget your trip essentials.
Travel Resources (we love)
Booking.com for booking South Africa hotel accommodation.
Skyscanner for getting the best deals on South Africa flights.
Hostelworld for budget travelers or anyone looking to meet travel buddies while backpacking in South Africa.
GetYourGuide for the best tours and activities to do once you’ve arrived in South Africa.
IVisa helps us know if we need a visa, how long it will take to process and how much it will cost.
Lonely Planet South Africa: Check price on Amazon
For more South Africa travel tips take a peek at our South Africa Travel Guide which includes the South Africa basics, top things to do, fun festivals, what to eat, where to stay and recommended trip planning resources.
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Did we miss something that you think should be included in this South Africa Packing List? Let us know in the comments section below!