Going on a Tanzania safari is going to take your best organization and packing skills. If you haven’t already checked it out, our write-up on the Tanzania climate helps explain some of the challenges that come with traveling long distances over such diverse terrain and elevation specifically. You’re traveling a long way and usually for more than just a couple days. You’re going to need more than just an overnight bag. At the same time, you’re going to be travel-weary and if you haven’t made a bellhop-type service arrangement, you’re going to have to lug everything around. You need to pack everything you need to have with you and nothing more.
We aren’t trying to re-create the wheel here, as this question has been asked and answered many times (btw, here is a great resource from Rothschild). This is just our specific view of this as it relates to Tanzania travel and safaris.
Here’s your first tip: Most, though certainly not all, safari itineraries call for both a main flight into one of Tanzania’s major cities and then secondary domestic flight to start the safari expedition itself. In this case, you’ll want to make sure you have an appropriate-sized bag for this secondary trip packing. Crucial to this packing strategy is knowing how much stuff you can bring during both the main international flight and the secondary trip. Many domestic safari flights have weight limits as low as 30lbs., though you can usually bring more for an extra cost.
Safari Packing Brochures
Now, a safari company will likely provide some of the essential supplies. More than likely, you’ll want to consult the safari brochure and/or contact the company before finalizing your packing plan. Crucially, the same brochure and company-provided packing list may be used for different safari trips and during different times of the year, when the weather can be remarkably different. Put another way, these brochures will tell you to pack light, while listing out everything you might need on any trip, rather than what you personally will likely need on any particular safari trip. If it feels like you’re over-packing and you have questions about specific items, don’t hesitate to contact the safari company.
The Tanzania Online Packing List
Indeed, here’s our Tanzanian vacation and safari packing list. This is a great place to start your own packing list, but you’ll undoubtedly want to add and subtract items based on the length of your stay, time of year, local destination spots, and personal preferences.
- Lots of loose-fitting layers are the foundation of your clothing packing choices, especially if you’re looking to get the full Tanzania experience with some time in the hot and humid beach town resorts as well as the drier savannas and cooler mountain climes.
- Unless you’re attending a destination wedding and even then, there’s little reason to think you’ll need formal wear. Romantic and semi-formal wear for fine dining in one or more resort towns, sure. But you can leave the ballroom gowns and tuxedos at home.
- Neutral, earthy tones—typical safari browns, olives, khaki, etc.—are the best bet for safari days. At the resorts, there’s a more eclectic mix of white, black, and brightly colored apparel.
- The local custom in many areas is to dress conservatively, but it’s not like you have to be covered from head-to-toe, either. Tank tops and shorts/skirts above the knee may generate whispers and side-eye. If you try to enter a place of worship or some other place in which strict decorum is observed—and then you may be asked to leave until more appropriately dressed.
- Shoes are a big space-consumer, and there’s often no good substitute for it. You should probably bring sandals, but these are pretty much just for the beach or indoor use. You’ll also want comfortable hiking shoes/boots and quite possibly waterproof or at least “river shoes” for most Tanzania safari itineraries.
Toiletries, Medicines, and Travel Essentials
Most lodging will have soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and most guided tours will have first-aid kits, but it’s not a bad idea to bring your own. In addition to oral care, feminine hygiene, and other personal toiletries, there are a number of other travel essentials to include on your list.
- Get mosquito/insect repellant and sunscreen. We recommend the full strength stuff, but the good news is that the most common and annoying insects have a similar enough physiology the world over that it’s not like you need to buy special African bug spray. Sunscreen is another essential. Use your preferred SPF, but look for something that’s convenient to apply as well. When the sun’s out in full force, you’re going to want to apply sunscreen more than once a day.
- Antihistamines, antacids, and anti-inflammatories, we like to think of these AAA. Who knows what personal allergies may flare up from the Tanzanian flora? Aches and pains are frequently part of traveling. Or maybe the flying is the worst part for you, and a benzo is the only way you can get through it. Whether you like ibuprofen, tylenol, or aspirin, whether Claritin or Benadryl works better for you, don’t forget to bring your prescription and over-the-counter medications.
- You may want to pack some sleep aids and jet lag remedies. From the U.S., you’re going almost halfway around the world. Expect to experience jet lag and take all the best precautions and mitigating steps. More than just jet lag, you want to be able to get as much decent sleep and general rest as you can. A travel pillow, neck-rest, or similar devices can come in handy even after you’ve gotten off the plane. Even a sleep aid medication may not be a bad idea for travel and short-term use.
Small-Item Accessories and Big-Item Shipping
- Smart phones, cameras+memory cards, chargers, and portable electronics. All the modern gadgets you can fit in your luggage, really. But there is a catch: The Tanzania electrical grid uses 220-240 volts and 50 hertz and British-style sockets that use three rectangular blade pins. Bring books or magazines for the plane, and binoculars for the sight-seeing. Want to be extra cool? Find and bring a pair of night-vision goggles.
- Some vacation activities require considerable props and equipment that may need to be shipped ahead of time. Golf is one example. You can choose to rent clubs, but you can also ship your clubs to one of the country’s resort-based golf courses. It’s not cheap. When we tried, popular services like ShipSticks didn’t provide direct service to Tanzania but will instead have you contact them and try to set something up for you.
- Skiing is another example. Ski rentals are few and far between—if only because there are no actual ski resorts in Tanzania, but we did tell you about the mountains and snow, right? People have been skiing with some regularity in Tanzania since the 1990s. If you’re part of this hardcore group of primitive and international skiing destinations, you may also be a fanatic about having your personal skis shipped to Tanzania.