Rachel Taylor, an avid traveller joined our 46-Day Ultimate African Adventure and the 19-Day Kruger to Cape Town Tours. Read about her experiences on route and tips for travelling in this amazing continent.
Packing can be stressful, and there is always so much pressure to make sure you have everything you need. Whether you have never been on an overland tour before or are an old hand at it, here are a few things people tend to forget/don’t realise they need until they are overlanding through Africa!
1 – Old electricals (mobile phones, memory cards, iPods)
In places such as Malawi, where imported goods are out of most people’s price range, you’ll find that locals are quite willing to exchange wood carvings for electronic goods. In particular, they want old phones, music players, and memory cards. Use this opportunity to give continued life to that old phone sitting in your drawer and take home a personalised wood carving instead.
2 – Old clothes
Throughout your trip, there will be an opportunity to leave clothes at various points. A lot of people bring clothes they don’t mind not taking home (safaris means a lot of dust!) so they can leave them behind where there is a more urgent need for them. In some countries, you can also use clothes when bargaining for goods. Socks can buy a lot!
3 – Chargers
Have a camera, phone, or e-book reader that you’ll need electricity to charge? The truck will plug into spots at night and you can charge all your devices while you sleep. You could have British plugs, South African plugs or cigarette lighters on your truck, so Be sure to pack chargers for all three as you can’t guarantee what you’ll need -and, in some places in Africa, finding adapters is hard (and expensive).
4 – Flashlight
It will get dark at night and there will be some early starts, so a flashlight will be your best friend! The best sort is a headlight that leaves your hands free for the important tasks like eating or putting the tent up. If you have extra room, consider a small LED light that will light up your tent.
5 – Packing cubes
You will store your stuff in lockers in the truck. To make life easier, bring packing cubes for your things. These cubes will make it quicker for you to locate what you need, meaning when there are huge queues at the lockers you won’t be holding everyone up. Sometimes, you will be arriving late at night and you will need to put your tent up and have dinner. The last thing you’ll want to do is pull out your backpack and search for everything you need – pack a cube full of vitals and take just that into the tent.
6 – Playing cards/games/books/music/podcasts
To get to that amazing destination you will need to spend some time on the truck. This will be a great opportunity to catch up with sleep, but remember to bring something to amuse yourself with, as well. Books, music and podcasts are great for truck journeys. The trucks also have tables where you can play cards or games (Uno, Travel Monopoly etc.) with friends. At night, if you have a pack of cards or small games you will also be a favourite among your fellow passengers.
7 – Pens, pencils, erasers
You will meet lots of children on your journey, and although it is tempting to give them sweets, this is not advised, as it damages their teeth. Instead, bring pens, pencils, and notepads that they can use for their education.
8 – Sunscreen
Bring plenty! You can buy it in Africa, but it is expensive and not always reliable. Don’t let yourself become the laughing stock of the locals by being the colour of a lobster.
9 – Power bank
If you are camping there will be times when the truck can’t plug into power and you won’t be able to charge your electricals. Avoid this by bringing a power bank with you. You will also need this to charge electrical items during the day.
10 – Weather-appropriate clothing
Africa has all sorts of weather – even snow! Check which season you are travelling in and pack accordingly. You’ll need your thermals if you are camping in winter, and in the wet season you’ll need suitable footwear to get through the mud.
11 – Fresh, clean dollars in a range of denominations
If you are travelling in East Africa and some countries in Southern Africa, then the dollar is widely accepted. You won’t be able to get the local currency of every country beforehand due to restrictions. Remember to check your dollars are post-2006 and clean, and to bring a variety of denominations. Smaller notes are great for tipping, but larger notes will give you a better exchange rate. Dollars can be hard to get hold of while in Africa, so bring more than you expect. Most VISAs on arrival will need dollars for payment.
12 – Passport photos
The rules for VISAs on arrival can change suddenly or be at the whim of the person in charge on that day. You probably won’t need any passport photos, but bring a few just in case. This could save you a lot of hassle.
13 – Travel sickness tablets
Driving in some parts of Africa is called the ‘African massage’ – the roads are full of potholes, which makes for a very bumpy journey. Bring a few travel sickness tablets even if you don’t normally suffer, as travel sickness can strike even the hardiest passenger.
14 – Hand gel
There won’t always be service stations for toilets and you may need to stop for ‘bushy bush’, aka the natural toilet. The trucks have a small tank you can wash your hands with, but bring some hand gel to reduce your likelihood of getting sick.
Blog Written by: Rachel Taylor