I’m at a point in my life and travels where packing typically comes easy. I’ve nailed down the whole “only take what you need” bit and haven’t even checked a bag in a few years. But when it came time to pack for Tanzania and the safaris, I’ll admit I was a bit stumped. This trip was unlike anything I’ve ever done or experienced before. This was no trip to London, that’s for sure. I based my packing lists and purchases around what a lot of other bloggers had written and suggested. And for the most part, they’re pretty spot on. With a few additional learnings from my own personal experience, here is my packing information for a 10 trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar!
It is definitely important to note I traveled during their dry season in August. Mainland temperatures ranged from mid 70s to mid 80s. Zanzibar island temperatures were high 80s with super high humidity.
Traveling internationally usually means you have the luxury of free checked baggage. On this trip, that wasn’t the case. We received pretty strict rules on the bags we could bring with us: they had to be a certain size (read: small) and no hard shells. This was due to the super tiny planes we were taking from the mainland to Zanzibar Island and back. I asked my tour company which bag they recommended and they shared this one with me.
This black bag is fantastic and not just for this trip. I will definitely be using this on future trips. It is the perfect bag for backpacking or for a trip like this one where there are luggage restrictions. It holds a ton and has lots of pockets. Yay pockets! This bag fits perfectly in the overhead bins so I still brought along my favorite Lo & Sons purple weekender bag as my personal item. I know I talk about my Lo & Sons a lot but it really is the best bag. The shoe compartment is easily the best part. I was able to fit my makeup/medicine bag and my second pair of shoes in the bottom compartment.
I also brought a small, packable backpack to use during the day to hold my camera, money, power banks, etc. This was perfect for days full of game drives.
Speaking of shoes, I only brought two pairs with me: one pair of sneakers and one pair of sandals. We weren’t doing any walking safaris, only driving so I knew I wouldn’t need any kind of heavy-duty safari shoe. But for game drives, I still wanted to have my feet covered. I went to my trusted Dr Scholl’s shoes. Dr Scholl’s, in my honest opinion, makes the most comfortable shoes you can buy on the market. When I work long shifts at the restaurant they are the only shoes I trust to get me through it. They are the best and they always have sales going on!
My second pair of shoes was from famous footwear. I can’t find the original but this pair and this pair are both similar to what I purchased. I will advise not to go with a sandal that has a minimal sole (like a flip flop). You’ll still be walking around in “nature” and should take care of your feet. I was walking around the grounds of one of our hotels and a spike from a tree went almost completely straight through my sandal. These kinds of sandals will work perfectly for this kind of environment and beach days in Zanzibar.
That’s it! I only took two pairs and did not need anything else! I wore my sneakers on the plane and my sandals took up barely any space in my bags.
While reading about clothing, everyone was pretty consistent across the board: neutral colors, light fabrics, and modest (covering knees and shoulders). Truthfully, my wardrobe at home is mostly blues, blacks, and reds, the colors everyone said to avoid. So off I went to Amazon.com, Forever21.com, and Shein.com where I knew I could get neutral colored clothes at a relatively cheap price. Below are some of the pieces I picked up and recommend!
***I will start off by saying that having a 20/20 hindsight perspective now, I most likely would pack differently for the next trip. You do not need “modest” clothes for the mainland safari drives. Even in Zanzibar, the only time I really needed a “modest” outfit was during our walking tour of Stone Town. Beach time and even dinners out were totally fine for wearing shorts and tank tops. And with regards to colors, I certainly learned a lot while being there. Mosquitos are only active at night and are only attracted to solid black and solid navy blue. Tsetse flies, while active during the day, are also only attracted to solid black and navy blue. A pattern navy blue pant will not even attract them. Bright colors also don’t attract them. More shorts and more colors next time!
Overall, the biggest thing to consider in my opinion is flowy, light fabrics. It does get warm on the mainland during the day and hot on the island. Skintight pieces are not your friend here!
I knew ahead of time that toiletry space was going to be an issue. Sunscreen was most definitely going to take up a majority of my carry on toiletry space. Knowing this, I had to get a bit creative on how to take my normal toiletries with me. The answer: solids! I bought a ton of solid items and tried them all so you don’t have to.
Solid Shampoo: this is my favorite shampoo bar from Lush Cosmetics. It lathers and cleans just like regular shampoo and not only has become a travel staple but a day-to-day part of my shower routine.
Conditioner: I tried Lush’s solid conditioner and honestly, it’s worthless. I bit the bullet and bought a travel-sized conditioner. Don’t bother with solid conditioner.
Perfume: I usually do like to take a small perfume or body spray with me when I travel. I gave Lush’s solid perfume a try and overall I liked it! It’s not something I’d use on a day-to-day basis if I have access to my normal items but for traveling it’s a great option.
Soap: I know this one is obvious so I’ll spare you a ton of details. I brought Dial bar soap instead of my normal body wash.
Lotion: I gave this solid lotion bar a try from Walmart.com. Overall, it was okay but I still found myself using the small hotel bottles of lotion. It does smell good though!
Liquids: I took 3 travel size bottles of sunscreen, conditioner, a tiny tube of face wash, a small bottle of toothpaste, and a little bottle of lavender essential oil (great for alleviating mosquito bite itch).
I was able to pick up a cheap set of soap holders here on Walmart.com that served me well. The only thing I brought back with me on my trip was the lavender, solid lotion and perfume. I’ll get more use out of them in the future.
Makeup & Medicine:
I’m lumping these together only because I packed them together in my favorite travel makeup case. In hindsight, I did not need as much makeup as I brought and I even pared down from my normal amount. Daily, I only used concealer, my eyebrow pencil, and mascara. I definitely thought I’d use my makeup more but I just didn’t. My group was mostly girls and it was honestly really refreshing to not think twice about my appearance for a whole week.
I do highly recommend bringing a few of your typical medicines. Access to our regular day-to-day items simply doesn’t exist. I brought both day and nigh cold medicine, day and night allergy medicine, as well as Advil, charcoal pills, malaria pills, and my normal prescription medications.
Quick note on malaria: it’s really not as common in Tanzania for tourists as it’s made out to be. The issue really comes from access to the treatment for locals, which is a simple 6-day pill routine. Most local people do not have quick access to medical treatment, which is the cause of malaria related deaths. I did take the malaria pills as advised up until the last day. They were making me incredibly nauseous and seeing as I only had 2 bug bites total the whole trip, I just didn’t feel it was worth it (this is specific for Tanzania only. I’ve heard different things about other African countries). Your doctor will prescribe them to you but in my brutally honest experience, use your own judgment when taking them (cue the angry DMs….).
I brought with me my iPad, Cannon Powershot SX530, my boyfriend’s Hero6 Go Pro, iPhone, 2 power banks, and adapters. You don’t have to worry about having a place to charge your items at any of your accommodations. Even the tented camp in the Serengeti had charging capabilities. The only thing I will say is that data service and Wi-Fi are not reliable anywhere you are. I had better service camping in the Serengeti than I did at the airport. It’s just hit or miss. When downloading television shows, movies, and books for your long travel times, make sure you download enough for the way there and the way back. For those of you interested, I downloaded:
Dear White People Seasons 1 & 2
Suits Season 8 & 9
Bachelor in Paradise new episodes
Marvelous Miss Maisel Season 1
The Last Mrs. Parrish
A Woman is No Man
Tell Me Lies
The Kind Worth Killing
I packed a large but lightweight beige scarf for the chilly mornings & evenings and for the dusty Serengeti.
Baby wipes were my best friend on this trip. Highly recommend.
Emergency toilet paper may sound weird but when you’re in the middle of a game drive, sometimes you just have to go.
I always use 2 towels when I shower and since I was sharing a room, I knew they wouldn’t be giving us 4 towels. This microfiber towel also doubled as a beach/ pool towel. It was so soft!
Binoculars were a surprising win in my packing book. I was really glad I had them and so were a lot of people in my safari van.
I brought two pairs of cheap earrings on the trip. That’s it. I left everything else at home.
I brought a value pack of Cliff bars with me. I found these super helpful for the mid morning/afternoon/night cravings for food I have. You won’t have opportunities to run out and buy snacks so this was a hunger saver for sure!
At the end of the trip, I did leave a bunch of items behind in an effort to make room for my souvenirs! One of the best tips I usually share about packing is not to pack things you are truly attached to. Don’t bring your expensive jewelry, shoes, clothing, etc. I wish usually voluntarily part with a few things so I can either make room for acquired items or to alleviate weight on my journey home.
Hopefully, this makes packing for your safari trip a little easier! If you have any questions or need recommendations, drop me a note!