Among the most interesting things I have done with my life is travelling through East Africa. The region is filled with all sorts of physical features and weather changes that vary from very hot to very cold. It is for this reason that I found it tricky packing for my first expedition there.
Uganda lies along the equator, right? On my first travel there, I assumed it would be hot and packed for summer. I ended up buying a raincoat and sweatpants to help me survive the April rains. The cold weather, however, lasted a short while.
I now have the best work vacations and work travels to East Africa because I have an elaborate pack list for solo female travellers of necessary items to carry. My pack list will help you know exactly what to lug and what to leave behind when going to East Africa.
The Pack List
Save on the space in your travel-bag by carrying few necessary clothes. Nobody really cares about your flashy fashion when on a tour. Carry a few garments that are easy to wash and dry as the region is very humid. Consider having the following clothes;
Dresses and skirts
Pack a nice casual dress or skirt for your relaxing days. You can also have one dinner dress in case you are on official duties in the evening. Culturally, Africans are conservative in the way they dress and rarely expose their thighs. Pack up clothes that cover your knees, especially in the villages. I loved putting on maxis.
Carry pants and capris that are breathable and light. You will appreciate them when you get to a bug-infested area. The mosquitoes of Lake Victoria will feast on the blood in your feet in their dreams. Have clothes that do not touch the ground to avoid dragging dirt when trekking.
Lightweight shirts and tops
Include both long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts to serve you in both sweltering and rainy days. You can have two tank-tops if you will visit coastlines like Kenya’s Mombasa City. It was pretty hot, my husband slept shirtless.
This one is obviously for you if you are going to cooler areas like Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro regions in Tanzania. It rains often in mountainous areas. However, it does not nullify the chances of it raining at the lakeside. East Africa is full of surprises: be wise and bring a rain jacket anyway.
This trip will give you a reason to use the fancy hat that you keep for the summer. The hat will protect you from the direct rays of the sun. As of the sarong, carry yours or buy one from the locals as a souvenir. It does not cost much.
You have to take care of your feet. Pack light, waterproof closed shoes and a pair of sandals. If you are interested the likes of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda, simple trail runners or hiking boots will serve the purpose. Bulky shoes will tire you.
Do not forget socks. You will hate the soggy feeling of walking in shoes full of your sweat. Your feet could stink and get infected! Socks will also be the best to warm your feet at night as you lay to sleep.
You do not expect hotels and new friends to provide you with some personal items like tissues and shaving supplies, do you? You have to keep it hygienic and personal. Drop the following toiletries into your bag and any other you want to. These topped my list.
- Soap – Organic soap to bathe and clean your clothes with will be ideal.
- Sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen – Do not forget these as they are quite pricey in most East African outlets.
- Body lotion
- Tissues and wet-wipes
- Hand sanitizers – Sometimes water is scarce.
- Towel and washcloth
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Razor blade
- Nail cutter
- Diva Cup – It saves you more money and space than normal tampons.
It is a fun expedition, so carry along your favourite electronic. You may need music to as you take evening walks. I can bet you will want to take photographs too. However, leave behind most of the appliances you can do without and expensive ones. Below is some tech gear to consider having.
- Torch or headlamp – You need it; do not leave it.
- Nice Camera and binoculars – You would definitely love to capture the moments you have in East Africa. How disappointing it shall be if you saw a lion in Serengeti National Park and take a poor quality photograph!
- Cheap phone – Buy one to use so that in case of theft you shall have little to use. These phones can also be purchased in your tour at around 20$.
- Chargers and adaptors
- Extra batteries
Safety and precaution list
When I visited this part of the world, I took precautionary measures very seriously. In any of the East African countries, you have to take your health seriously, regardless of whether you are from Africa or not. Some of the things I was keen to include in my luggage are;
I would never leave my town without a bandage or painkiller in my possession. Call it sadistic behaviour, I call it the precaution. Carry a customized first-aid kit with you to your planned travel.
Prescriptions and medicine
Having visited my doctor to advise me on the travel health, malaria prophylaxis was to keep me protected. I also carried Imodium to prevent me from experiencing diarrhoea. You never see it coming: a running stomach. If you have any other medical prescriptions, do not leave them behind. Include antihistamines and throat lozenges in your luggage if you can.
Bug spray and insect repellent
There are so many insects you are yet to come across in East Africa. Buy a bug spray and use it anywhere you shall stay at in your visit. The insect repellent should always be in your daypack.
As you move around during the day, you should have a smaller bag to carry around. Pack it with essential things you shall need during the day. If you can find a nice backpack or handbag for these items, you are sorted.
- Water (In plenty)
- Energy snacks
- Bug repellent
- Camera and binoculars
- Extra batteries
- Cell phone
- Headphones/ book/ magazine
There is this one time I left my medical insurance card at the hotel I was staying in and went camping. Well, I was left out of the camping group because I lacked that document. It made me feel bad; I would not want the same for you. Have the following documents with you when travelling.
- Valid passport
- Visas required
- Air tickets
- Medical insurance card
- Travel insurance
- Business cards
What about the community?
People in this part of the world are friendly. At the end of your stay, you may wonder what to leave them to as an appreciation means. I suggest you carry some clothes to donate or books and pens. If you feel generous enough, you can donate money to charity organizations around. Avoid giving children money and candy for it only encourages dropping out of school and begging.
The pack list to East Africa could be the breakthrough you have been waiting for to smooth travels. Despite being a region full of natural contradictions, it is one you can visit freely. Have the right clothing and footwear for you to enjoy the weather and the walks.
Take as many photos out there as you can. Spice up the fun with your favourite novel or playlist in the evening. I have to warn you though, be careful as you interact with everybody to avoid being conned. It is crazy out there.