Travel tips: What to pack for East Africa and Madagascar?

More than 14 weeks of travel through Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda (Uganda) and Rwanda: what should you pack for such a trip? In this blog, I will give you a detailed packing list and I will tell you some useful tips that I would like to know before our trip to Africa!


Traveling through Africa: do you bring a backpack or suitcase?

A personal choice of course, but for me really a no-brainer: my blue 65 L Slimfit Karoo Backpack from NOMAD *. Due to the thick material and the accompanying flight bag, all my belongings are well protected against dust, dirt and rain. Ries uses the slightly larger 70 L Karoo Backpack in green. My backpack weighs (packed) 11.5 kilos and my daypack 5 kilos.

The reason I prefer travelling with a backpack in Africa is because we move a lot. We travel by public transport (bus, train, taxi, boat, motorcycle taxi) and sometimes with a rented car. A backpack often fits into one of these vehicles more easily and ensures that while walking between the vehicles, you have your hands free since the backpack is on your back. This feels safer for us. A suitcase is a lot bigger, it’s also less easily to press into a small space like the back of a rented car.

Are you planning to buy a backpack? Then read this blog that tells you exactly what to look for when purchasing and gives you a handy checklist!

Daypack

In addition to my large backpack, I use the North Face Router daypack with a capacity of 35L. This is quite large for a daypack but good for me in terms of size. We travel with quite a bit of electronics and divide all this between the daypack of me and Ries. Ries uses the North Face Recon bag.


Which clothes to pack for (East) Africa?

East Africa, only flipflops and beach dresses right? Well, no that’s not entirely the case. In Madagascar in particular, the evenings can be quite cold. So make sure to pack long pants and a sweater. Below you will find exactly which clothes to pack for Africa. **

  • 1 shirt
  • 1 raincoat
  • 1 fleece sweater
  • 1 thin sweater
  • 2 dresses
  • 6 t-shirts
  • 1x sports shirt with short sleeves
  • 1 sports shirt with long sleeves
  • 1 long jeans

  • 1 long thin pants
  • 1 long wide skirt
  • 3 short pants
  • 1 long sports pants
  • 1 short sports pants
  • 2 half-long jumpsuits
  • 2 bikinis
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 x sports bra
  • 9 x underwear

What is in your toilet bag and first aid kit during a trip trough Africa?

Ries and I share a toilet bag and first aid kit. For Africa, we received a lot of medicines from the GGD as a precautionary measure. We take Lariam against malaria every week. Furthermore, fortunately, we did not need the majority of the list below!

First aid kit (shared)

  • travel sickness pills
  • general antibiotics
  • antibiotics cream
  • diarrhoea antibiotics for Africa
  • Paracetamol & Ibuprofen
  • Okugest 

Toiletry bag

We use this toilet bag from the Decathlon (€ 12.99), highly recommended. There is a hook with which you can hang it on in hostels and then it rolls out completely.

  • sunscreen (factor 50 and 30)
  • face sunscreen (factor 50 and 30)
  • refillable shampoo 100ml x2
  • refillable conditioner 100ml
  • refillable facewash 100ml x2
  • facial cleansing wipes
  • deet

  • deodorant
  • brush
  • nail clipper
  • face cream
  • dry shampoo 50ml
  • sewing kit
  • makeup

  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • toothpicks
  • gel
  • earbuds
  • cotton buds
  • mirror

Which electronics/photo equipment do you bring to Africa?

Well, this is quite subjective … for us, photography, filming and writing blogs is an important part of our travels and therefor we pack a lot of electronics. Africa is the place to photograph beautiful animals on safari and to be able to do that properly, a good camera and 100-400 MM lens are essential, according to Ries. Below all the electronics that we brought with us, however, chances are that you will need less!

What's in our Camera bag?

In this blog, I will tell you exactly what is in our camera bag and why it is in it.

What other things do you bring to Africa?

And then there are of course a number of other things that do not fit into the above categories. We were especially very happy with the salt shaker, mini cutlery and the folding containers. We often ate breakfast or lunch with this. An impregnated mosquito net is also indispensable in Africa. We often used this if there was no mosquito net in our room (s), or if the mosquito net present had too many holes.


Extra packing list tips for a trip through Africa

1. Camping gear: tent, sleeping bags and mats
In Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, camping is very normal. There are many campsites in and outside safari parks, but also around the cities. We didn’t have any camping gear with us this time, but we would bring this along next time. We love camping. Please note: most campsites do not have a kitchen. If you want to cook, you must bring all your cookware and a gas burner yourself.

2. Lightweight foldable yoga mat
We have hardly encountered yoga studios, gyms or other sports options in East Africa. To keep a bit fit, we regularly download yoga classes on YouTube, which we then did on a towel in our hotel or in a park. For our next trip I found this lightweight folding yoga mat that fits exactly in my backpack. Really recommended!

3. Dress codes for women in Africa
In advance I expected as a woman, that I should dress well covered in Africa, out of respect for the local culture. However, it turned out that most local women in Africa are not dressed this way so it deffinitly wasn’t necessary. Only in Lamu, a largely Islamic island off the coast of Kenya, is it desirable for a woman to cover your shoulders and knees. Furthermore, short pants and a top / T-shirt are more than sufficient.


Are you packing your suitcase or backpack for a trip through Africa and do you have questions? Or do you have tips for other travellers? Let me know via a comment!


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* NOMAD is one of our partners, but everything above is true to me and I am a huge fan of the brand!

** Since I made this packing list with my experiences, it is a bit feminine in terms of clothing ;-). As a man, the majority of the backlist is also applicable, but a little less in terms of clothing.

The Island Lamu: the most relaxing place in whole Kenya!
Video: Roadtrip through the north of Madagascar!

2 Comments

  1. by Teddy Nyoro on 25 September 2019  13:13 Reply

    Nice read. Loose cash is important especially when getting around the cities with public transportation

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 26 September 2019  09:51 Reply

      Ooo very smart! Indeed, we were always traveling with cash because of the lack of ATM’s!

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