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South America Packing List and Tips

South America Packing List and Tips

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When preparing to travel in South America, packing can be a daunting experience. Depending on the travel route and style, one might need to prepare for enjoying the nightlife in cosmopolitan cities, lounging in beaches, exploring pre-Hispanic ruins, trekking through the rain forest or on high altitude trails; just to name a few of the possibilities. To help you plan better, we’ve compiled the ultimate South America packing list. But first, here are some useful packing tips.

Watching the sunset in Cartagena (Colombia)


South America Packing Tips

  • Travel as light as possible — keeping your luggage light and small has many advantages: it’s easier to storage and carry it, you’ll have some space left for souvenirs, and you’ll meet the baggage weight restrictions if taking flights.
  • Medications — for prescription medicine, bring the quantity you need for the length of your trip, if possible. For all other medications that you don’t take regularly, sometimes it’s better to buy them at your destination if/when you need them.
  • Dress for the season — seasons in South America are different than in the northern hemisphere. It pays to do some research before you travel so that you can prepare accordingly.
  • Make copies of important travel documents — keep copies of your passport, travel insurance documents and driver’s license in your email account so that you can access them from anywhere. Also, keep your passport safely stored when you don’t need it and just carry a photocopy with you.
  • Bring low maintenance clothing — avoid packing clothing items that are too delicate, need to be dry cleaned and wrinkle easily. When traveling it pays off to be practical. The best clothes are those that don’t stain easily, dry quickly and can serve well on different occasions.
  • Books — it’s nice to have something to read while traveling, but books can take a lot of space and are heavy. Consider bringing your books in electronic format instead. Also, you can just bring one book to read and exchange it once you finish it.
  • Packing organizers — to keep your bag organized and easy to pack/unpack, packing cubes can be useful. Alternatively, you can also use ziplock bags or regular plastic bags.


Tayrona National Park in Colombia


South America Packing List

  • Comfortable walking shoes — if you’re sticking with beach and city locations, a pair of sturdy sandals or running shoes will serve you well. If you’re planning to go trekking, a good pair of hiking shoes/boots is a must. You can always wear them while traveling so they don’t take space in your bag. Also, it’s recommended that you wear them in before attempting any big hikes in order to avoid blisters.
  • Sweater or fleece — bring a light one if you’re traveling to warm locations. If you’re going to visit places in high altitude, it’s best to bring something thicker to keep you warm.
  • T-shirts and tank tops — from 3 – 6 should be enough; bring at least one that would look good for going out at night.
  • Jeans — great for city escapes and night time.
  • Extra pair of pants
  • Shorts and/or skirt for those warm days
  • Underwear — keep in mind that underwear is the main trigger to do laundry, so bring plenty and you won’t have to wash it as often.
  • Socks — bring some thicker ones for hiking and cold places; thinner for warm places.
  • Sleep wear
  • Flip flops
  • Sandals or dressier shoes
  • Swim wear
  • Day pack and/or bag
  • Journal and/or note pad
  • Headlamp or small flash light — always useful when camping and in hostel dorm rooms.
  • Toiletries — travel sizes are the best; if you run out during your trip, you can buy more travel size toiletries in most touristic destinations. Sunblock is also a must for most locations and it pays off to buy it in advance, since it can be expensive to buy it in some locations.
  • Sunglasses & hat to protect from the sun


Hiking in Colombia


Optional Items:

  • Waterproof jacket — essential if traveling in rain season and to the rain forest; otherwise, you might not need it.
  • Hiking pants — if you’re going hiking these can be useful, specially those that convert to shorts.
  • Thermal wear — if you’re planning to visit places in high altitude, chances are you’ll need these.
  • Warm hat, gloves and scarves — only needed in cold places. You can also buy at your destination, there are many beautiful crafted items in South America; plus you’ll have a nice souvenir from your trip.
  • Travel towel — if you’re staying at hostels only; but most can provide one at extra cost.
  • Padlock — essential if you’re staying in hostels.

There is a fine line between being prepared for your trip and over-packing, so think twice about what you really need to bring for your South American adventure. We hope that these tips can be helpful in deciding what to bring. For our next post, we’ll give you some tips about which electronic gadgets are best for your travels. Stay tuned!

Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to add to this list? Do you have any questions or suggestions for us? Leave us a comment below, we’d love to help!

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Treasures of Colombia

11 days,
Bogota to Cartagena
  • Salento Coffee Plantation
  • Tayrona National Park
  • Villa de Leyva on Horseback
  • Colorful Cartagena

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