Traveling to South Africa
June 18, 2006 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Help me go abroad to South Africa this fall. What should I pack if the program I'm going on involves a series of homestays?

I am going to be there from September to December. We are mostly in Durban, but will also travel to Johanasburg, Cape Town, and more rural areas. So I'll be in situations ranging from going to bars in the city to staying in areas without running water.

The program I am going on strongly suggests that I pack in only one bag for ease of travel purposes. I bought the REI Mars pack, which is about 5,000 cubic inches in volume and has a front loading horseshoe pocket. Is this big enough for the four months? Has anyone ever used it? What would you all suggest I put inside this big bag?
posted by names are hard to Travel & Transportation around (5 answers total)
As far as I can tell, South Africa is a modern country and you'll be able to buy all the amenities of everyday living (clothes, toiletries, etc.) over there.

Pack size stops mattering after two weeks. At that point you'll start wishing you brought less stuff. This is assuming you'll be able to wash clothes and won't mind appearing in the same outfit in a lot of picures.

The one thing I do recommend you buy ASAP and start using now (well before the trip) are a good pair of walking shoes or boots. Chances are you'll be getting to a lot of places by foot and limping around thanks to unsupportive footwear is no fun (I've been there).

If you're staying with family, small gifts from home might be appropriate.

Rick Steves, though kind of a dork, does have some good advice on packing light.
posted by pealco at 8:43 PM on June 18, 2006

Boots, sneakers and sandals. One set of nice-ish town clothes (pants and button up shirt to be worn with the boots), two pairs of light-weight/ easy dry long pants (you can get ones that look like kahkis) two pairs of shorts (one of which you can swim in), two t-shirts, two long sleeve shirts (one button up light weight cotton to keep the sun off) and one sweatshirt. underwear for a week. toothbrush and comb. sarong (sheet, sun shelter, pillow, blanket etc.). Camp towel. sunscreen.

5000 is a huge bag to be dragging around and besides you'll want to bring stuff back so leave lots of room.
posted by fshgrl at 11:04 PM on June 18, 2006

- If you're bringing any electrical appliance then a converter plug is a must. In SA we use two plugs, a large three prong plug and a smaller two prong one, depending on the appliance.
- I wouldn't worry about packing too much clothing. If you need anything you can buy it easily here if you're in any decent sized town.
- If you've got a GSM compatiable cell phone bring that with as well, along with it's recharger. You can buy cheap pay-as-you-go starter packs for less than a dollar.
posted by PenDevil at 3:40 AM on June 19, 2006

OneBag has a lot of good tips and resources for packing light and resourcefully.
posted by desuetude at 6:16 AM on June 19, 2006

Electric: The 2-prong is the same as in Germany. You can't always find a built-in outlet for that, but sometimes you can. The voltage is 220.

Clothes are cheap in South Africa. I suppose anything of fabric is cheap. Towels are cheap, for sure. I'm in a more laid-back part of the country. Shorts and sandals or barefeet are typical, even in the stores (yes, grown men, barefoot, and I don't mean poor folk)

Durban is a hot and humid place! Pack accordingly.

If you find yourself near East London (Eastern Cape) give a holler. We keep Belgian beer in the house :-)
posted by Goofyy at 7:19 AM on June 20, 2006

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