What to Pack – Country Specific Packing
Packing can be complicated especially when traveling to an entirely new place, with different terrain, weather and health hazards. To ensure you know what to pack when heading to a new country/ continent I have prepared a detailed list based on my own experiences to ensure you don’t have those dreaded backpacking “why didn’t I think of that” moments. While you can pretty much get anything along the way (country contingent), these are my suggestions for items to bring from home which are not as easily available abroad.
What to pack when traveling to AFRICA
Make sure you pack:
- Mosquito Net- to protect yourself in hostels and homestays against mosquitoes with malaria. While most accommodations provide nets, a net should be brought along just in case and can be discarded when you no longer need it.
- Anti- malarial pills- ensure you bring enough pills for the duration of your trip. Depending on the pill, you may be required to take the medication a few days, week or even month before and after entering/ leaving a malaria filled region, so make sure you have enough. But if you run out, any local pharmacy should carry it, (however it may not be the brand that you are used to).
- For women, if traveling to Muslim areas of Africa, such as the East Coast of Kenya and Ethiopia make sure you bring appropriate clothing. Such as a long skirt and some sort of shawl to cover yourself in religious areas.
- Cross Trainers/ Hiking Boots- there are so many beautiful hikes and mountains to climb in Africa you don’t want to be left without the appropriate footwear to conquer them. Finding good walking shoes in Africa may be more difficult than in other parts of the world, so I suggest investing in a good pair before you leave.
- Visas- Ensure that you have necessary visas or cash on arrival to purchase a Visa.
- Lightweight clothing- Lightweight long-sleeved tops for game drives or safaris (this will protect you from mosquito’s & sunburns)
- Sterile needles just in case you need immediate medical care and you are unsure of the medical facility’s hygiene.
- passport photo- some visa applications require 1-2 passport photos. If you are planning on getting a visa on arrival its a smart idea to carry around 4 extra photos.
What to pack when traveling to ASIA
- Unless you are planning to do some hiking, you do not need running shoes. You can pretty much live in your thongs/flip flops. However, I would bring a pair of sturdy sport sandals that you can wear in water and on rocks. Several beaches in South East Asia are known for their dangerous sea urchins, so tread wisely if you swim barefoot. But if you choose to go with just plain flip flops, opt for a cheap pair that you don’t really care about because they unfortunately will likely get stolen at a beach party.
- Bring along a travel umbrella and a rain Jacket if visiting Asia through the monsoon season. Winds can get fierce and rains intense.
- Visas- Ensure that you have necessary visas or cash on arrival to purchase a Visa.
- Antibacterial hand sanitizer- this sanitizer is a must in Asia as many road side stops will not have running water to wash your hands post bathroom visits.
- Souvenirs from home- I like to bring along Canada pens and give them out to street children begging (particularly in India) instead of giving out candy and money. I also bring along Canada post cards to leave notes on bulletin boards either praising staff that went beyond the call of duty or recommending the hostel to other travelers. Generally, they are very appreciative of these gestures. Both these items take up minimal space in your bag and can have a deep impact on the people you meet
- Money Belt-if traveling in India wear a money belt on all trains and bus rides as many individuals hawking around the bus/ train stations are expert thieves and you can be robbed even when your money is safely secured.
- Chains for long train rides- bring one of these along if you are traveling on trains in India, Nepal, China or Northern Vietnam. Many rides are very long and to ensure your bag stays in one place while you sleep chain your bag to your bedpost. (these chains can also be easily purchased in local markets)
- If you plan on trekking in Tibet, Nepal or India- check out the section below for trekking in South America for all your travel essentials.
- Passport photo- some visa applications require 1-2 passport photos. If you are planning on getting a visa on arrival its a smart idea to carry around 4 extra photos. For instance, entry to Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam all require passport photos for their visa applications.
What to pack when traveling to EUROPE
- Lightweight Rain Jacket- bring one of these along as a safety measure because in Europe you never know when you will be caught in a rainstorm.
- Padlocks - if you are planning on staying in hostels while traveling make sure you bring along a padlock. Many hostels provide lockers but expect you to have your own lock.
- Packable Utensils- since food in Europe can be pretty pricey, many travelers opt for the self- catering option. Make sure you bring along a fork, knife and spoon so you can chow down on grocery bought food while waiting for trains and buses.
- Something fancy- to be frank Europe is fancy and they don’t really tolerate fashion sloppiness so its good to be prepared for unexpected evenings out, such as a night out at the Vienna Opera or a day spent gambling at the Monoco Casino or simply to not look like a grungy backpacker for even just one evening. Ladies should bring at least one nice dress or top and men should bring along a semi elegant dress shirt with dress shoes.
- Money Belt - unfortunately Europe’s crooks are known for their slippery hands and you can be robbed without even knowing it. If you are carrying around a lot of cash, I suggest using a money belt to ensure your items are protected.
- Sleeping Sheet- some hostels provide this sheet free of charge and some hostels charge a small fee. If you want the comfort of your own filth, bring along a light sleeping sheet that you can put on top of any single bed.
- ISIC card- if you are still a student, in Europe, you need this piece of identification to demonstrate that you hold a student status (your home institution’s student card will generally not cut it). This card offers fantastic discounts on most national monuments, museums, galleries etc (usually the discount is half the adult price). It costs anywhere between $15- $18 and is available at most student travel agencies and campuses. For more information check out http://www.isic.org/home.aspx.
What to pack when traveling to SOUTH AMERICA
Depending on what you are doing/ where you are planning on going, South America is a wonderful place to experience trekking, camping and local life at its finest. This list is geared towards the adventuresome traveler. If you are opting for a more laid back, beach vacay along the shores of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) or Cartagena (Columbia) you need to pack the basics such as a towel, sandals, bathing suit etc. While away, make sure you get your hands on a sarong with the Brazilian flag and a few pairs of Havianas to bring home to family and friends.
- Cross Trainers/ Hiking Boots- The trekking in South America is not easy and most treks last anywhere from 4- 20 days. Make sure you bring along a comfortable, worked in pair of shoes. For extra protection against rain, try a hiking boot combined with Gortex such as the Merrell Moab GORE-TEX® XCR®
- Trekking pants- bring along a pair of pants that is lightweight and easy to roll up if you get hot. I particularly like The North Face Men’s Paramount Peak Convertible Pant.
- Thermal Underwear- my mother, last minute, insisted that I bring a long a pair of long underwear for my trip to South America and thank goodness I listened to her. In high altitude areas, the temperatures can drop to freezing. In a thin tent, with a lightweight sleeping bag, its hard to sleep in such weather if you don’t have the right protection. Try Carhartt Men’s Heavyweight Cotton Thermal Bottom and Carhartt Men’s Heavyweight Cotton Thermal Crew Neck T-Shirt.
- Gloves- again, since the temperatures can drop so drastically make sure all parts of your body are covered. I bought a pair of gloves in a local Bolivian market but if you want something not made out of wool, I suggest you bring a pair from home.
- Windbreaker/Fleece- I know for the majority of your trip, you don’t think you will need it, but I was surprised by how much I relied upon my fleece to keep me warm, during trekking season and even in major cities with low altitudes. Check out Yellow Adjustable Reflective Windbreaker & Rainwear for a great windbreaker lined with fleece.
- Pills for Diarrhea- aka Montezuma’s Revenge. The high altitudes can often be a shock to many people’s systems that combined with foreign food is recipe for stomach disaster- there is nothing worse than having the runs while trekking and stopping every few minutes for a bathroom break. Bring along these pills just in case you start to feel ill.
- Insect Repellent- while much of your trek may be in high altitude areas, you will notice that the landscape can change rather quickly from rough terrain to lush rain forests- so make sure you are ready to fend off those critters. I would also highly recommend insect repellent if traveling to the Amazon, as the insects there could eat you alive. Try one combined with SPF such as Avon SKIN SO SOFT Bug Guard PlusIR3535® EXPEDITION SPF 30 Pump Spray.
- Baseball Hat or Head Covering- When trekking for long periods, make sure you bring a head covering because while it may seem cool, the sun is usually still beating down on you and can become easily dehydrated.
- Biodegradble Laundry soap- for long trips, its a good idea to bring along some biodegrable soap, so you can wash your clothes in rivers and streams along the way.
- Headlamp- for getting around your hostel room at night and for getting to and from your tent in pitch black bring along an easy to use headlamp. I love the Petzl headlamp, they are durable and reliable Petzl TacTikka Plus 4-LED Headlamp
- Passport photo- some visa applications require 1-2 passport photos. If you are planning on getting a visa on arrival its a smart idea to carry around 4 extra photos.
What to Pack when Backpacking in AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND
Make sure you know the season it is before you go. Similar to South America, their seasons are reversed to those in North America and Europe. So when its winter in Canada its summer in Australia. However, that doesn’t mean everywhere you go will be warm. Parts of Tasmania and New Zealand can get pretty cool even in the summer months so make sure you plan out a general itinerary before and pack appropriately.
- Nice shoes (for men)- The nightlife in both Australia and New Zealand is great and if you want to enjoy it men should bring along a nice pair of shoes as many clubs have a no sneaker policy
- Hiking Boots- if you plan to do any trekking in New Zealand (or tramping as the Kiwis call it) make sure you bring along appropriate footwear.
- Fleece- it can get pretty cold in New Zealand and Australia, depending on the season, so make sure you pack a jacket or fleece to stay warm.
- Pegless clothesline- comes in handy if you wash your clothes and have nowhere to hang them.
- Fast drying and breathable clothing- for both the bush and trekking trips such as fast drying ‘Travel’ Socks and these lightweight Pants and a breathable Long Sleeve T.
- Working visa- if you plan on working while you travel, make sure you obtain a working visa before entering the country. Visit the related websites for either an Australia work/ study visa, holiday working visas (for people between the ages of 18- 30) or visa for New Zealand
Deciding what to pack can be complicated, follow these tips to make your packing easy and efficient.