A complete African safari packing list for women and men from my recent trip to Africa, experiencing safaris in Zambia, Chobe National Park in Botswana, and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
In this post:
- General African Safari Checklist & Planning Tips
- Must Haves for African Safari (which sunblock, insect repellent, shoes, hat etc)
- African Safari Clothing Tips
- Safari Outfit Ideas
- Travel Essentials: Toiletries (Which toiletries you should pack and which your hotel will likely provide)
- Travel Essentials Electronics
- General International Travel Packing Tips
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General African Safari Checklist
- Check Visa Information: I suggest the multi-entry visa on arrival, as you might get coaxed into a day trip (I did!). You’ll likely need new the following for your visa on arrival:
- Passport photos
- Proof that you have somewhere to stay in the country (i.e. hotel reservation or safari booking information)
- Proof that you have a flight out or enough funds to purchase a flight out of the country. This is no joke. Once, on my way to Singapore, I was forced to buy a “cheap” flight out of the country as proof out, and the administrator told me it could be refunded, when it couldn’t. Have your flight out of the country purchased on hand. They may not ask for it, but if they do, don’t be surprised.
- Get Cash in US Dollars: Typically, I suggest that a person pulls cash from an ATM at the airport on arrival, to ensure the best currency conversion rate. However, in the countries I visited (Zambia, Botswana, and Tanzania), US dollars were preferred. In fact, upon arrival to the Tanzania airport, we could only pay for our visas in cash with US dollars. We had to dispense cash from the airport ATM (which gave us Tanzania shillings) and then convert it to US dollars at the airport currency conversion booth, before we could purchase our visa on arrival.
- Keep some singles and fives on hand to tip: It goes a very long way in developing nations and best suits the following types of care-takers who work in service:
- Hotel House-Keepers / Butlers
- Tour Guides
- Help with Luggage
- Bar Tenders
- Update your Vaccinations 4-6 weeks before your trip
- Request Malaria Pills (start taking one week before your trip, and take up to one week after your trip)
- Check for blank pages in your passport: you’ll need space for more than just a few stamps. My Tanzania visa on arrival takes up an entire page in my passport.
- Print your booking information: phones die, wifi isn’t always up to par and the best way to safely know where you are going is with a hard copy. Each person in your group should have your booking information. Should anyone get lost or separated from the group without a means of communication, they too can make it safely to your hotel.
- Contact your bank: Online or in-person, let your bank know that you will be traveling, so that they don’t put your account on hold for “fraud.”
- Book accommodation in advance for better rates. We stayed at the Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls in Zambia (did day trips to Botswana and Zimbabwe from there) and at the Four Seasons Serengeti in Tanzania.
Important Note (Before You Keep Reading)
Full transparency: some of the items we share in this post contain affiliate links. This means that while we researched and chose the best products that worked for our trip (unsponsored), referring you to these products can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Turn off your ad blocker to see the photos and links to the products we used and prefer. Sometimes, when packing, I pair new items with things I already have in my closet. Throughout the African safari packing list — if I can’t remember where I got the exact product I wore on a trip — I suggest similar items.
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Must Haves for African Safari
The most important part of your African safari packing list isn’t the clothes, it’s what keeps you safe! Don’t leave home without the following:
- Insect Repellent – I typically don’t worry about insect repellant because most hotels have some available and I “don’t get bit.” I didn’t get bit the first two times I went to the Amazon jungle, or when trekking through South East Asia. However, during this African safari, my laissez faire attitude caught up with me. My best friend use the lotion insect repellant and insect repellant sunblock lotion and rubbed it into her skin. She did not get many bites. I used the spray offered at the hotel and was eaten alive with bites. Please please please use a lotion repellant. It is much more effective and I switched within a few days of travel, noticing that the amount of bites I had were significantly greater than the bites she had.
- We used the Repel Sportsman at 40% lotion
- Sunblock – I don’t usually worry too much about sunblock as I don’t burn, I tan. However, with temperatures reaching 105 degrees, even this little Mexican-American had to lather up! We used Sunsect Insect Repellant + Sunscreen. It’s nice enough on your skin to wear on your face. It doesn’t smell and that’s the best part.
- Medicated ointment for when you do get bit. If you’re in mosquito-prone areas for long enough, chances are you’ll get at least a few bug bites. I’ve tried so many anti-itch creams, and swear by Chiggerex for saving me during my trip to Africa.
- Advil to help with the swelling of any bug bites.
- Anti-diarrheal: Taking malaria pills can come with malaria-like side effects. Not to mention that foreign water and food can cause an upset stomach. Have something on hand; it’s better to be safe than sorry. The brand recommended by Kaiser Permante is MAJOR.
- Disposable makeup applicators: Not that you have to be glammed up for an African safari. However, I did want to wear a little makeup for photos during my trip. Mixing the insect repellant on my skin with my expensive, permanent makeup applicators just made me uncomfortable. It means accidentally putting insect repellant back into the makeup you’ll be wearing next month. You can use a makeup applicator with your concealers or eyeshadows and protect your makeup from the toxic lotions.
African Safari Clothing Tips
- Wear neutral colors and avoid black, blue or white for the actual safaris.
- Army / Camouflouge print is illegal in some areas as it is associated with military teams.
- Keep your feet covered with socks and boots as they’re the most vulnerable to bug bites.
- It’s quite cold at sunrise, bring a light jacket.
- It’s very hot during the day. Wear cool, light fabrics.
- Enjoy the hotel! A cute cocktail outfit or swimsuit for play at the hotel is all in good fun, at your disclosure.
Experiencing a Rhino Walk with the Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Resort in Zambia
African Safari Shoes based on Safari Experience Types
I based my African safari packing list on the type of excursions and accommodation we had booked. Had we been back-packing, our list could look different.
We didn’t do an aggressive trek-through-the-jungle-for-days-at-a-time trip. We took day trips and half day trips from our hotels. This not only minimized packing and unpacking, but enabled us to have a nice clean space to rest in between safari encounters. Our safari experiences can be summarized as follows:
Big Five Game Drives: during these trips, we were in a car, viewing animals at a safe distance. Closed-toed shoes were ideal for protecting our feet from mosquitos, however admittedly, we sometimes snuck in some comfortable, low heeled, close-toed wedges. You’re not exactly walking around, you’re driving around, so the shoes didn’t matter too much as long as they’re comfortable.
Safari River Cruise: The safari that brought us closest to animals was by boat. Again, any type of shoe really works here as you’ll be seated.
The Safari River Cruise, Chobe National Park, Botswana — Day Trip from Victoria Falls
Rhino Walk: A short walk through the bush gets you to a rhino conservation park in Zambia. The walk is very short and comfortable. Wear any shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, and pants to cover your legs in the light bush.
Micro Lighting Over Victoria Falls: while flying over this Natural World Wonder, I was able to spot elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and more. Closed-toed shoes are necessary for this experience.
Animal Encounters from our Hotel: we were able to see zebras, giraffes, monkeys and hippos from the comfort of our hotel at Victoria Falls, the Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls — and able to see elephants and gazelles at the watering hole of our pool at the Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge.
These beautiful luxury hotels allow you to dress at your discretion. We wore dressier, trendy, safari-inspired outfits and paired them with chunky heels. Many people stayed in their sporty activewear, and many people joined us in the opportunity to doll up. Wear what you please during your hotel experience.
Travel Blogger Stephanie Be (that’s meee!) at the Royal Livingstone Resort Victoria Falls, Zambia
Note: this is not Photoshopped … I was that close to the zebras on property, and you can be too!
Hiking to Victoria Falls: we didn’t know that you could truly hike from Zambia to Zimbabwe through Victoria Falls. Be sure to bring cash to tip a guide as you’ll head off the beaten path in a way that you can’t explore without a guide. If you’d like this experience, I highly recommend comfortable boots, hiking or running shoes. We wore shorts and it worked just fine, but pants may be more comfortable in a few parts of the bush.
Swimming at the Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls: There are strict, guided tours to swimming in the Devil’s Pool, which is for tourist safety. You’ll need water shoes or have to keep barefoot for the swim.
My Safari Boots
No African safari packing list is complete without a good pair of safari boots!
The boots that I wore the most throughout my experience, were WELL worth the $60. They were not only very comfortable for safaris, hiking to the falls and the rhino walk, but also super cute in tying together my “safari looks.” They had good traction and were tough, I highly recommend them.
These boots were my #1 must have African safari accessory … alongside my safari hat!
Microlighting over Victoria Falls, Zambia/ Zimbabwe
S H O P
safari shoes \\ scroll over the image to learn more
How to Pack Your Safari Shoes
You’re going to be picking up all kinds of interesting dirt and grime, and you don’t want it to get all over your clean clothes.
Grab a set of shoe bags with clear “viewing window,” on Amazon.
My African Safari Hat
If there is anything that tied my outfits together and put me in the safari “zone” was my African safari hat. I considered the following characteristics in picking my hat:
- Foldable (packing is a real deal)
- Shady, but light-weight (it’s hot)
- Color that contrasts my hair (personal preference for color “pops” in photos)
- String to hang the hat
My best friend and I both got a safari hat from Wombat Leather. It not only looked great with everything, but really lasted the wear and tear of so many adventures.
I do wish that I had packed a variety of hats, and not just the one. The safari hat really does “make” your outfit, so if you can stack them when you pack them, here’s a few more to consider.
S H O P
other safari hats \\ scroll over the image to learn more
How to Pack Your Safari Hat
You have three options:
- Wear it on flights.
- Add it to your suitcase, rolling clothing inside the head section to fill it out and keep it from being smashed.
- Pack it in a hard case hat box.
Safari Outfit Ideas
Before you start shopping for your African safari packing list, check out our own looks!
- Combat green romper with safari hat.
- High-waisted pants with a cute top and safari hat. My friend got them in olive at Forever 21 and I got them in khaki and H & M.
- Fun top, shorts and safari combat boots.
- Maxi dress for the hotel.
- Dress or skirt and top for high-tea at the hotel.
- Beach outfit for the hotel pool, the Devil’s Pool or a Zanzibar-like trip.
Safari Outfit Ideas – Combat green romper with safari hat.
Travel Blogger Stephanie Be (that’s me!) with the Four Seasons in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
S H O P
safari outfit ideas \\ scroll over the image to learn more
Safari Clothing and Accessory Checklist (Women)
- Safari top/bottom
- Light jacket for sunrise and sunset
- Bras & Underwear
- Swimsuit Coverup
- Water shoes or Flip Flops
- Cheap Sunglasses
- Cocktail dress or romper
- High-Tea Dress or Assemble
- Cocktail/ High-tea shoes
- Comfortable sundress for the hotel or shopping
- Safari hat
- Fashion jewelry (if applicable — leave valuables at home)
- Comfortable, Warm Clothing for Flights
Safari Outfit Ideas Mix and Match
Some of our looks from Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
Revise this inspiration for your own African safari packing list!
High-waisted wide leg khaki pants and tight olive top.
Definitely add this long sleeve denim top to your African safari packing list! Pair with white short and olive top.
High-waisted wide leg olive pants with tight black top.
White button up blouse, leopard print sunglasses, and high waisted olive bottoms.
Knit cover up over black halter for sunrise safari.
[ need for sunrise & sunset ]
[ pants for any walking in light brush, shorts if you’re staying in the car ]
[ mix + match ]
[ for dinner or in-car experiences, these are an African safari packing list must have! ]
Other Safari Outfit Ideas
[ because this is a trip of a lifetime ]
[ for the hotel pool and Devil’s Pool ]
Safari Clothing and Accessory Checklist (Men)
- Safari top/bottom
- Light jacket for sunrise and sunset
- Swim trunks
- Swim T-shirt
- Water Shoes or Flip Flops
- Cheap Sunglasses
- Cocktail Attire
- Cocktail Shoes
- Comfortable light clothing for hotel
- Safari hat
- Watch, cuff links (if applicable — leave valuables at home)
- Comfortable, Warm Clothing for Flights
International Travel Essentials: Toiletries
Your African safari packing list wouldn’t be complete without your everyday essentials! But what do you pack, and what’s there when you get there?
Most hotels will have great body wash, moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner. However, if you’re staying at an AirBNB or have allergies, add the following to your African safari packing list:
- Body Wash
- Body Lotion
- Hair Dryer
Toiletries that most hotels are less likely to have:
You can order all of this online via Amazon or Target. This is a super easy way to avoid forgetting anything in your African safari packing list! Carry on liquids needs to be 3.4 oz (100 mil) or less.
- Tooth Paste
- Tooth Brush
- Face wipes / make-up removing wipes
- Face wash
- Face moisturizer
- Shaving cream
- Feminine care products
- Tweezers, nail clippers
- Safety Pins
African Safari Packing List (Optional)
- Hair Product (Hairspray, gel etc)
- Bobby pins, Hair Ties, Clips
- Dry Shampoo (life-saver!)
- Curling iron or flat iron… FYI we both forgot our curling iron and could not find one at any airport. If you’re all about it, make sure you don’t forget it!
- Eye Drops (whether or not you wear contacts, your eyes will dry out from flights)
- Contact Lenses
- Contact Case
- Contact Solution
- Prescription Eye Glasses
Leave most of your makeup at home. Seriously. There’s enough to keep track of in your African safari packing list. The less the better, and you’ll have better things to do than get creative with your makeup.
- Primer + Face Setting Spray: I only wear this when I’m going to be taking a lot of photos and want my makeup to last. Sephora sells it as a travel set, and it really does make a big difference in how long your makeup holds!
- Concealer / Contour
- Power/ Foundation
- Eyeshadow & Eye Brow Palette
- Lipstick / Lip Moisturizer
- Highlighter/ Bronzer + Blush (get a set like this one to minimize packing or just get the “uncomplicated brush set”)
- Brushes (I like the small, double sided ones for travel purposes) and tthe cleansing brush wipes
International Travel Essentials Electronics
Your African Safari packing list wouldn’t be complete without the energy that keeps you going! Don’t forget this list, and consider the Powerbank charging luxury backpack to keep it all organized.
- Travel Adapter: I’ve been through a lot of these and tried several brands. This one has two USBs and two outlets. It’s is great for cameras, laptops and iPhones — but does not convert voltage for curling irons and hair dryers.
Poweradd Travel Adapter
- If you are going to use high voltage products and need an adapter + converter set, I recommend the auto-adjust converter + adapters for every continent.
- You’re going to start charging your goods with one adapter for the country and realized you need many more plugs. I highly recommend a travel power strip. I use the Belkin Travel Rockstar.
- Powerbank: I use the one by GoPro.
- iPhone Charge Case: I like the Boostcase iPhone 7 Case
If you’d like to free up your adapters to charge cameras, curling irons and other products, consider charging your Apple products with Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. Charge your Apple products anywhere in the world.
You’re 100% going to want to take a camera. You can read my three camera guides for more details:
You can also rent lenses during your stay at the Four Seasons Lodge in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
Photography brings my memories to life!
General International Travel Packing Tips
An African safari packing list wouldn’t be complete without a guide on how to organize it! Please refer to my general packing tips for international travel.
- Put valuables that you absolutely need in your carryon (i.e. camera, passport, jewelry etc).
- Leave most valuables at home.
- Use packing cubes to pack by destination and daily use items. For example, an electronics cube, a toiletries cube, and clothing cubes in sets. That way you can leave clothing cubes packed up that you aren’t using at a destination. I am absolutely OBSESSED with these packing cubes. They not only serve well for international trips, but also great for meetings and weekenders. Everything in my bag stays the same (electronics etc). They’re super cheap and extremely helpful in getting more into your suitcase, but more importantly keeping everything in place. I did a lot of research on the right packing cubes and settled on these because I like a laundry pouch with a zipper (keeps any smells away from your clean clothing).
- Consider your transit route. For example, we stayed at Victoria Falls in Zambia because it was easy to do a day-trip to Botswana, a day trip to Zimbabwe, and leave our belongings for the first three countries, packing a carryon only for Tanzania, and breaking up the many flights with a stop in Zambia to pick up our belongings and rest before flying back to South Africa an, to Dubai and Los Angeles. We cut our packing and unpacking time by staying at the same hotel and doing day trips.
- Check baggage allowance for flights. You’re going to have a greater allowance for an international flight than for a quick one or two hour flight within the country. Talk to your first hotel about leaving belongings there, as you won’t be able to take large suitcases on tiny charters into the national parks.
That’s it for now!
Any recommendations to make my African Safari Packing List better?