What to Pack for a Trip to South America
There’s a good reason so many people flock to South America every year: it’s a continent absolutely jam-packed with all sorts of amazing biomes. You have the Caribbean up north, stunning coastlines all around, and the Andes & Amazon in the interior.
With so much to see, you may be inclined to pack everything you own into your backpack before taking off. But how do you keep it light & efficient when you plan to both hike Machu Picchu and kick back on Colombian beaches?
The truth is that you’ll need to be frugal with your gear. You won’t need heavy winter coats or big plush towels.
With this South American packing list, you can maximize your space and prepare for all sorts of environments in South America, ranging from the freezing glaciers of the Andes all the way to the steamy jungles of the Amazon.
Of course, clothes are important for any trip, but all too often people pack way too much. This South America packing list details what I have nailed the requirements down to, nothing more, nothing less.
Don’t neglect your warm clothes. Many people incorrectly associate South America with heat, however, if you’ll be in the Andes or at any high altitude you’ll definitely want some warmer layers like long johns.
- 1 pair of hiking shoes – for daily wear & hikes
- 1 pair sandals/flip flops – for daily wear, hostel showers & beaches
- 4 T-shirts
- 6-8 pairs underwear
- 4-6 pairs everyday socks
- 1 pair thick/wool socks
- 1 sweatshirt/sweater – warm but compact
- 1 pair long hiking pants
- 2 pairs shorts – gym, hiking, casual
- 1 set of swimmers
- 1 dress shirt – I always just pack a decent button down for just in case
- 1 pair under armor long johns (thermals) – thin, compact & really useful in high altitude camping situations
- 1 raincoat – thin, lightweight, and a lifesaver at times
Altitude pills, malaria pills, and proper vaccines can prove really useful in staying happy and healthy in South America. The Altitude pills will help from crushing headaches in Peru, and the Malaria pills will prevent mosquito-borne illnesses in the Amazon.
From personal experience, I’ve found that the following items are a must-have when you pack for a trip to South America.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Bug spray
- Shampoo and bar soap
- Towel – microfiber, to conserve space
- Pepto Bismol – for upper digestive/stomach issues
- Imodium – major diarrhea deterrent (take if you don’t want to poop for a few days)
- Advil, Tylenol or any other headache medication
- Altitude sickness pills – for regions in the Andes with a height of 2600m
- Malaria Pills – if you’re going to the Amazon
- Talcum powder or anti-chafing gel – for hot & humid jungle hikes (trust me on this)
All of these items can be useful & essential on long-term trips to South America, and the vast range of clothes – from bathing suits to sweaters – can make you an efficient and adaptable traveler, ready for any environment and any occasion.
- Passport and 3 to 6 passport-sized pictures for visas
- Phone and Phone charger
- Camera, Lenses, and Charger
- Combination lock – essential in hostels
- Plastic bags for dirty laundry
- Outlet adapter – if your country has a different electric plug than your own
- Paper copies of passport, flight itineraries, credit cards
- Waterproof phone case
- Flashlight or headlamp – helpful if camping/hiking overnight
Guest Author Bio
Gilad is the traveler and author of Anxious & Abroad, a travel website that aims to show nervous and first-time travelers that travel isn’t just for the carefree nomadic types but can be fun and worthwhile for any kind of person — neurotic, meticulous, anxious or otherwise. His site is full of tips, recommendations, advice and step-by-step guides he’s compiled from his travels so that he can help people plan a trip from the beginning all the way up until you get on the plane. You can follow him on social media on Instagram, and Facebook.