Are you getting ready for the adventure of a lifetime? This page is all about helping you to pack for Africa. It’s just a quick starter guide – once you book with Encompass Africa, you’ll be given access to our exclusive pre-departure guide, ‘Safari Concierge’. It’s full of advice to help you plan every aspect of your holiday to Africa – including loads more help with packing.
For now, check out our guide on what to pack in your carry-on bag.
It’s only happened to us a handful of times during all of our travels to Africa, but landing without your luggage can happen. Yes, it’s a pain, but having a well-packed carry-on bag can really alleviate any drama. It also means you can start your safari without being too uncomfortable or inconvenienced.
It’s taken me more than a decade to master the art of packing the perfect carry-on bag. So if you’re a savvy traveller and want to know these must-have items, take a deep breath, keep calm and carry on to find about your carry-on…
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It’s obvious, but important (and applies to everywhere, not just Africa): whenever you travel, make sure you always carry these: passport, full itinerary, flight tickets, emergency contact numbers and your onward addresses (plus, of course, money and credit/debit cards). Many of our guests save copies of these onto two USB sticks and keep one in their main bag, and one in their hand luggage, together with the actual documents.
If you’re travelling with children to – or through – South Africa, Namibia or Botswana, you’ll also need to have relevant birth certificates and letters with you (again, always in your carry-on). See more about this here.
Keep any medication in your hand luggage. If you bag gets lost and you’re separated from vital medication for days, you could have real problems. I also pack painkillers, as well as malaria, nausea and motion sickness tablets in my carry-on.
Gizmos and gadgets
Most of us wouldn’t dream of travelling without a smartphone. These days you’ll usually find places to charge your phone at the airport (and even on some planes), so always keep a lightning cable (most of us call them a “charger cord”) in your carry-on bag. I also always travel with at least one fully charged power bank for charging on the move, so I’m never caught without power.
Other electronics I take include an iPad and a mini external hard drive. This allows me to save photos as I go, and share images with family back home when I have wifi access and know everything is safely backed up, charged and ready to go! For work purposes, we also travel with a camera, lenses, memory cards, batteries and chargers – the results they give are great, but they give us grief because they’re so heavy and cumbersome!
Don’t forget: if you’re travelling in South Africa and plan to buy a local sim to avoid expensive international roaming fees, be sure to unlock your phone before you go.
Also, plug points vary in every country, so do some research about chargers and power adaptors, and pack accordingly. I actually pack a mini power board in my main bag, so I can charge multiple items at once.
A change of clothes
This is one of the most important things I pack in my carry-on, because it means I can power on for another couple of days airline on the very slim chance my main bag doesn’t make it straight away. At least I’ll have a spare set of clothes to see me through!
To ensure I’m always comfortable and protected in the air and when I land, my hand luggage contains small bottles or tubes of sunscreen, insect repellent, hand sanitiser, antihistamine cream, lip balm, facial moisturiser, hand cream toothpaste and a ‘spritzer’-type spray to help wake me up and make me feel refreshed – especially great when travelling in summer. Just don’t forget the 100ml per item rule on planes. And a toothbrush and hairbrush, of course.
I always pack my reading glasses, sunglasses and a hat, plus a scarf. They’re great for when it gets chilly, or if you need a bit of shade, plus they can double as an extra pillow. Confession time: I have been known to use a scarf to cover up a stain gained while, ahem, ‘in-air’ eating!
Bonus tip: Pack smart
When you’re flying on a light aircraft, your luggage restriction can be as low as 15 kilograms (that’s hand luggage and main bag combined!). That means every kilo really counts, so wear your heaviest shoes, scarves, jackets and jumpers when your bags are getting weighed. Ziplock bags are great because they’re lightweight, great for storing any potentially leaky products and keeping dust out of camera equipment and other valuable items.
P.S. Luggage allowances in Africa are tricky! On the one hand, you get a decent allowance for international flights. On the other hand, once you arrive, if you’re going on a safari you might be catching a light aircraft, which will have a strict (and much smaller) luggage allowance. So how do you marry the two? Don’t worry, it’s all very do-able. You have options – give us a call and we’ll talk you through them. In the meantime, read more here (scroll down to the section called “luggage allowances”).
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