Gift ideas for friends traveling to Africa and Thailand this summer
May 4, 2013 6:28 AM   Subscribe

I have several good friends who will be traveling abroad this summer to work with elephants in Thailand and wildlife in Zimbabwe. I wanted to get them each something that would be thoughtful, useful or fun, especially in a foreign land. I have never traveled abroad, so I am having a hard time deciding what is needed or wanted when one is in Thailand or Africa. So, I am looking for something small and not terribly expensive. What would you have wanted on your trip to Thailand and/or Africa?
posted by Seppaku to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
I lived in Thailand on and off from 1998 through 2004. Things may have changed since then, but I spent a lot of money ordering books through Amazon or deploring the music available. So maybe a Kindle or iPod/iPod shuffle packed with books and tunes, if that's not outside your budget.

Thailand (at least in cities like Chiang Mai or Bangkok) has just about everything else a Westerner could want if you look for it.

If you're looking for something more single serving, a phrase book or one of the Culture Shock! books could be useful. A little Thai language can go a long way, and it's fun and easy to learn.
posted by seemoreglass at 7:05 AM on May 4, 2013

I've traveled in both those places. Zimbabwe is quite pricey because a lot of things are imported. If that person won't be in South Africa beforehand, I'd consider some edibles (soup mixes, trail mix, chocolate) for treats.


swiss army knife

- compass
- nice little zippered bag with:
safety pins, small wad of duct tape, basic sewing kit, nail clippers, gluestick, mechanical pencil, eraser, couple of pens, little bottle of antibacterial gel, assortment of tiny stickers for kids, mini sharpie,
posted by maya at 7:24 AM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Soccer ball to make friends without using language?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:32 AM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've perfected my packing list after several years abroad. Just looked at it and this is my new favorite thing: portable speaker - random option

more ideas: silk sleep sack, gum, sky map (check hemisphere), LED flashlight, cable lock, apps gift certificate
posted by maya at 7:56 AM on May 4, 2013

A wordless dictionary. I found it utterly useful on my trip through Africa and it's small enough to take anywhere. It has served me well as a dictionary but also as a picture book, at those times when you just want to show people what grass or cows look like in your country.

You can even buy it on Amazon and The Book Depository.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:21 AM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Electrical outlet adapters (can be found at places like Best Buy, not very expensive).
posted by phoenix_rising at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2013

Lightweight fine mesh mosquito nets (the noseeum kind) go a long way outside Bangkok and Harare and make pretty fine gifts for people in rural areas upon leaving. Some kind of portable water purifier might be wise for Zim.
posted by Ahab at 10:00 AM on May 4, 2013

Best answer: For traveling in hot humid places, I really love the little tiny pack towels. I have this one, which stays attached to its mesh bag (which you attach to your purse/backpack/beltloop/whatever).

When you get sweaty, it's nice to have something on hand to wipe your face.

Edit: fixed link.
posted by ktkt at 12:49 PM on May 4, 2013

Best answer: How bout a solar-powered rechargeable lantern that only costs $11?

Correction, it looks like they've gone up in price a bit ($18). I have one and use it every day. Good enough to read by, etc.
posted by halatukit at 1:05 PM on May 4, 2013

One more idea... I met a French guy in India recently who gets Jenga game pieces made by local carpenters when he travels. I was with him when he got his most recent set and, despite my hesitations because of the weight, i wanted one for myself!! Like the soccer ball idea above, it will provide a way to connect with locals. The blocks are indestructible, and anyone can play! Cards and sports equipment do the similar things but are readily available in most places.
posted by maya at 8:15 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of these offline Wikipedia gadgets looks not bad. Use examples.
posted by Gotanda at 2:05 PM on May 7, 2013

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