What To Pack for South Africa

A luxury holiday to South Africa is a bucket-list experience. So it’s only right you arrive with everything you need to make sure it truly is the trip of a lifetime. 

05 January 2023

Packing List South Africa

From world-renowned safari sites to secluded, white-sand beaches - South Africa has it all. Its diverse landscapes and changing seasons coupled with a mixed itinerary means that you’ll no doubt need to pack for a range of activities and climates.

At Scott Dunn, we’re committed to curating experiences that go beyond your wildest expectations, and part of that means making sure you have everything you need. We’ve thought of every single detail - right down to the factor of your sun cream - so you don’t have to. So, join us as we uncover what to take on your holiday to South Africa.

Download South Africa packing checklist

South Africa Packing List

Whether you’re wine tasting in Western Cape, stargazing in Sutherland, or planning to feast your eyes on the Big 5 - some South African packing tips are universal. 

The Essentials 

You won’t get far without these essential items.

  • Passport - this must be valid for at least six months from your arrival date. 
  • Visa - as a UK citizen, you can travel to South Africa for business or pleasure for up to 90 days.
  • Travel insurance - It’s always wise to make sure you have some form of travel insurance when
  • Yellow fever vaccination - UK citizens do not need a yellow fever vaccination to enter South Africa. However, if you have been to any of the countries on this list then you will need one.
  • Malaria vaccination - Most parts of South Africa present a low risk of malaria. However, it’s advised that you have a risk assessment before travelling as some parts, such as Kruger National Park, do pose a degree of risk.
  • Travel documents and tickets - Make sure you have your e-tickets downloaded and physical copies printed out.
  • Currency/bank card(s) - It’s always advisable to exchange some currency before you go on holiday so you can benefit from the best exchange rate. Alternatively, let your bank know you will be travelling abroad so they don’t block your card.  

Travel tip - Put together a travel wallet containing your passport as well as physical copies of your itinerary and other important documents. That way everything is in one place and even if your phone runs out of battery, you’ll have access to them.

An image of South Africa’s mountainous landscape

Clothes To Pack for South Africa

When it comes to packing clothes for South Africa - what you’ll pack here will be influenced by the seasons and your itinerary. You might be spending your days cruising in a classic car along the coast of Cape Town and your evening's fine dining at the Belmond Mount Nelson. Equally, you could be traversing the wild grasslands of Kruger National Park whilst staying at Garonga Safari Camp. So given that your itinerary might be pretty diverse, you’ll probably need quite a mix of clothing.

Clothes:

  • T-shirts  
  • Vests 
  • Shorts/skirt
  • Trousers
  • Dresses
  • Jacket/fleece 
  • Waterproof coat
  • Swimwear
  • Nightwear 

Footwear:  

  • Hiking boots
  • Trainers
  • Sandals/slip-ons/flip-flops

Accessories:

  • Scarf  
  • Sunglasses  
  • Rucksack/handbag  
  • Hat  

Travel tip: Think about the materials of your clothes. For the summer, opt for light fabrics, like linen, while packing a pair of denim jeans for any chilly nights. And remember, versatility is key. Choose items that you can dress up or down to match your array of activities.

Electronics 

Though we’d love to tell you to ditch the electronics completely and fully immerse yourself in South Africa’s beauty - we understand that’s just not possible, and of course, you’re going to want to capture some of those special moments on camera. Here are a few tech essentials you might want to bring with you: 

  • Phone  
  • Laptop/tablet 
  • Camera 
  • Adaptor plug  
  • Chargers  
  • Power bank 
  • Memory card  
  • Binoculars 
  • Torch

Travel tip: Power banks are the unsung hero of your electrical kit. Days out on a safari or wine tour can be long and if your gear runs out of battery at the wrong moment your power bank might just save the day. 

Toiletries and Medical Bag

No South Africa packing list would be complete without a mention of those all-essential toiletries and medical items.

Toilet bag: 

  • Shampoo and conditioner 
  • Body wash 
  • Face wash 
  • Moisturiser 
  • Sun cream (SPF 50)
  • After sun
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Hairbrush
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Make-up

Medical bag:

  • Anti-malaria tablets  
  • Insect repellent  
  • Anti-sickness tablets
  • Antihistamine tablets
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Regular medication
  • Painkillers (paracetamol/ibuprofen)
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Wet wipes
  • Plasters
  • Small pair of scissors

Travel tip: Regional Destination Manager and South Africa expert Harriet Whitmarsh says, “if you want to avoid Malarial areas in South Africa during a safari, then perhaps consider Madikwe Game Reserve, the Waterberg region, or the Eastern Cape. Also, a lot of people don’t know this, but Avon’s Skin So Soft dry oil is a fantastic mosquito repellent, I swear by it.

Don't forget...

When we told you we thought of everything, we meant it. 

  • Book
  • Travel Journal
  • Travel/safari/animal guide(s)
  • Water bottle

Travel tip: Insulated water bottles can keep your drinks cold (or hot) for an extended period and can be just the refresher you need when out on an excursion. 

An older couple packing a suitcase

Seasonal Packing Tips

South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, so its seasons work in reverse to the UK's. When it’s summer in the UK it’s winter in South Africa. You’ll need to be mindful of this when creating your South Africa packing list for summer - the last thing you want is to arrive with the wrong seasonal attire.  

Unlike some parts of equatorial Africa which only have two seasons; wet and dry, South Africa has four seasons. 

  • Summer: December, January, February 
  • Autumn: March, April, May 
  • Winter: June, July, August 
  • Spring: September, October, November  

Winter in South Africa is not like winter as we know it in the UK. You can still expect blue skies and warm temperatures, but don’t go unpacking your coat just yet - South African winter evenings can still get pretty chilly. And if a cold front sweeps in causing the temperature to drop, you’ll definitely be grateful for that fleece.  

In terms of your South Africa packing list for the summer, we still recommend packing a jumper and a waterproof coat - especially if you’re going on a safari, hiking the Drakensberg Mountains, or visiting the White Desert. 

Temperatures in South Africa average between 15-36 degrees in the summer so whatever you do, don’t forget to pack sun cream. We recommend factor 50. The sun in South Africa can be unforgiving and you don’t want sunstroke standing in the way of you and your bucket-list safari experience.   

Regional expert Harriet Whitmarsh says:  

“Regardless of the season, you are getting up before the sun comes up for safari’s so you will be chilly in the back of that game vehicle. A key tip would be to pack layers that can be stripped off as the day gets warmer; two thinner layers and one fleece topped off with a scarf is often my go-to.” 

What To Pack for a Safari in South Africa

South Africa is synonymous with safari - and rightly so. With an abundance of renowned safari sites to explore, it’s only right that safari packing has its own section.  

So, what should you pack for a Safari in South Africa?  

Harriet says: 

Light neutral tones are typically preferred for safari, colours that blend well with the bush such as khaki, brown, beige/tan and green – this is especially advised for walking safaris. By not standing out you will be able to have the most exceptional game viewing opportunities, also it can get quite dusty on safari so white clothing is not advised.” 

We mentioned binoculars earlier, but they deserve a special mention here. Above anything else, if there’s one item you need to make sure you pack for your safari excursion, it’s the binoculars. Whilst your tour guide can place you in the presence of the big 5, it’s your binoculars that will get you up close and personal with them.  

Harriet also advises bringing another key item… 

“Don’t forget your camera! You are going to come up close and personal with some of the world’s most beautiful animals, so you are going to want to capture it on camera. I know we all have amazing cameras on our phones now, but there is nothing quite like capturing a close-up of the face of a leopard or lion, something you truly need a good zoom lens in order to do.” 

Want to know more about the unwritten rules of Safari? Our resident expert, Bjorn, has got you covered. 

A woman holding binoculars with zebras in the background

Tips for Packing Light

Our list of things to pack for South Africa is quite extensive. So here are some tips to help you pack light and stay within your luggage allowance.  

Only pack what you need - Perhaps you’d prefer to lay eyes on a great white over a giraffe? If exploring by sea is more your thing, then skip the heavy hiking boots.  

Sharing is caring - if you’re travelling with other people then sharing and splitting up your toiletry bag and medical kit will lighten the load. You only need one of most of the items from that section (except for the sun cream, of course).  

Pack smart - Choose pieces that you can dress down for daytime wear and dress up for the evening.  

Travel sizes - Where possible go for the travel size options. Large bottles of shampoo and conditioner take up valuable space and it’s unlikely you’ll get through it all.  

Use bag dividers - travel bag dividers can help stop you from overpacking because there’s only so much they will hold. They also keep your suitcase nice and organised. 

Matt Shock

Africa & Safari Specialist

Safari encapsulates everything that I love and yearn for in travel – wildlife, remote landscapes, wonderful people and special memories – and I am so lucky to have been able to form a career around these passions.

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