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Packing Tips for Africa
Heading to Africa? Be sure to pack smart!
My family and I have had the opportunity to travel to several countries in Africa including Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Each time we've traveled, we've added to our list of packing essentials. I like to travel light, one bag and one carry-on. My husband and I along with my two teen daughters traveled to Zimbabwe several years ago with two suitcases and 4 backpacks for a two week trip. In this article I'll be sharing packing tips and what to include and what not to include in your luggage.
#1 Pack the Right Clothes
Packing the right clothes saved much room in our suitcases. Each of us purchased travel clothes that were easy to wash and dry in a hotel room. This was the best investment we've made. Purchasing clothes that are convertible is my number one packing tip. Pants that zip off as shorts, and shirts with sleeves that roll-up guarantees that we will have the right clothes for all weather conditions. Choosing clothes that are lightweight and wrinkle resistant is a must. Be sure to pack items that can be layered if needed.
Lightweight, long sleeves are great for hot weather climates and to keep off the mosquitoes and sun off the skin. I love Columbia brand clothing and have several shirts that have worn nicely over the years. I don't just wear them when traveling, but also hiking and other outdoor activities. Comes in women's sizes and styles as well.
#2 Pack the Right Outerwear
Depending on where in Africa you travel and the time of the year, pack a jacket or light coat that is water resistant. It will serve as protection from the rain as well as warmth on cooler days and nights. Be sure that it has a hood so that there is no need to pack an umbrella.
A hat is needed to guard from the effects of the sun. A light colored one that keeps it's shape when packed is best. Be sure it has a nice wide brim to shield all of the face.
Closed Toe Shoes
Depending on what you will be doing in Africa. Closed toe shoes are advised. In Kenya at least we encountered what is known as "Jiggers" or sand fleas that can burrow in the skin of your feet and lower legs causing pain. My daughter brought one home from a trip to Kenya that burrowed under her toenail. It had to be surgically removed by a podiatrist. She had worn flip flops on that trip; she now wears sneakers.
#3 Pack Insect Protection and Medications
Malaria is a problem in many African countries. Malaria is transmitted through mosquitoes. Packing clothing and other essentials that will protect from mosquitoes is very important to reduce risk of contracting the malaria parasite. Other than packing long pants and long sleeve shirts, pack bug repellent, mosquito bed nets and anti-malaria medication that can be prescribed by a physician. Recently we came across a mission volunteer that tested positive for Malaria while she was taking anti-malaria medication. Although this is rare, it can happen.
It is also advised to pack an antibiotic, Cipro, for bacterial infections that can cause diarrhea. We always avoid eating any raw foods such as salads, vegetable and fruits that can not be peeled. These items can be washed in contaminated water and look fine to eat, but can cause illness to those foreigners not accustomed to the local "bugs". With that said, also avoid drinking the local water. We go as far as rinsing toothbrushes with bottled water. Be careful when purchasing bottled water. We were in Mexico and found that a vendor sold water in used water bottles. Buyer beware!
#4 Pack a Camera
If you are going to travel to Africa, you need to invest in the best camera that you can afford. Picture opportunities abound.
#5 Pack it All in the Right Luggage
We have found that packing our clothes into a soft sided suitcase is best. The soft sides allow for packing more items than a hard side suitcase. Purchasing one with wheels is an added convenience. We roll our clothes together in outfits for ease and wrinkle-free packing.
Other Items Needed Before Travel
Be sure to get recommended or required immunizations well in advance of travel plans. A physician or health department will be able to recommend needed immunizations for the areas that will be visited. Immunizations can also be researched through the Centers for Disease Control website below.
Passports can be obtained through the U.S. Postal Service.
A visa may be needed depending on the country visited.