South Africa

Packing List

This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in-country and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in-country.

Baggage & weight limit: The Peace Corps limits the size and weight of baggage and will not pay to transport baggage that exceeds these limits. The allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds per bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers.

General Clothing

  • Warm coat/jacket (not necessarily down; fleece works well and can be layered)
  • Waterproof rain jacket/poncho
  • Windbreaker
  • Durable jeans (for weekends and travel)
  • Two or three sweaters (lightweight cotton and wool)
  • Two or three pairs of walking-length shorts
  • Long thermal underwear
  • Good socks, including thick ones
  • Baseball cap or sun hat
  • Swimsuit and sportswear
  • Belts
  • Exercise gear 

For Men

Men dress neatly and professionally in all workplaces, which means dress slacks or nice khakis, dress shirts, and dress shoes/loafers. Schoolteachers in particular are expected to wear ties while on duty.  Jeans are not allowed to be worn at work.

  • Two or three dress slacks/khakis
  • Plenty of cotton underwear
  • Three or four cotton dress shirts (button-down, both long and short sleeve)
  • Two or three polo shirts
  • One sport coat or suit
  • Two or three ties
  • T-shirts (neutral colors)

For Women

Women dress in a stylish and professional manner in workplaces, which means dresses, skirts and blouses, and dress shoes (flat or low-heeled, with good support and rubber soles) or sandals. Short shorts, miniskirts, and tops that show a lot of skin (e.g., halter tops with spaghetti straps) are inappropriate for women in village settings.

  • Three to five dresses or skirts (knee length or longer)
  • Two to four lightweight polyester/cotton blouses (short or long sleeve)
  • T-shirts (neutral colors)
  • Tights to wear with skirts in winter
  • Plenty of cotton underwear and bras
  • Heavy-duty sports bra
  • Cotton half slips (knee and ankle length)


  • Comfortable dress shoes or loafers for men
  • Dress shoes with flat or low heels for women
  • Athletic shoes
  • Waterproof hiking boots
  • Flip-flops/shower shoes
People who wear larger sizes (12+ for men, 10+ for women), wide sizes, or corrective shoes should consider bringing an extra pair or two of shoes, as such shoes are difficult to find here.

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

  • All the little things you need to keep your life running smoothly are available locally at prices comparable to those in the United States, so do not burden yourself with them. But bring enough toiletries to get you through training, as you will be in a rural setting where supplies may be limited.
  • Two pairs of  prescription eyeglasses (sunglasses are a must, so bring an extra pair; the Peace Corps will not replace prescription sunglasses)
  • Prescription drugs (bring a three-month supply to last until the Peace Corps can reorder them)


You can easily purchase any needed supplies (dishes, pots, glasses, utensils), so do not use your 80 pounds on these items. However, you might want to bring your favorite cookbook.


  • If you plan to travel to other countries for vacation, you may want to bring extra money to suit your travel plans; credit cards or traveler's checks are preferable to cash. There are ATMs in larger cities, and most towns so you may want to bring an ATM card to access a bank account in the U.S. 
  • Small gifts for host family and friends (not required); knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; photos to give away
  • Two towels
  • Stationery and envelopes to last during the eight to 10 weeks of pre-service training
  • Watch—durable, water-resistant, inexpensive
  • Money belt that fits under your clothes
  • Small sewing kit
  • Audio player
  • Digital Camera
  • Laptop with flash disk and plug adapter
  • Swiss army knife or Leatherman
  • Camping equipment if you like camping (e.g., sleeping bag, backpack, and small tent)
  • Solar-powered, rechargeable batteries with charger
  • Water bottle (e.g., Nalgene)
  • Pictures of hometown, historical sites, family, and friends
  • U.S. stamps (letters can often be mailed by people traveling back home)
  • Maps of the United States and the world (good as teaching aids and wall hangings)
  • Small flashlight and extra bulbs
  • Guidebooks on the region
  • Paperback novels (to swap after reading)
  • Journal
  • Hobby materials like sketching pads and pencils
  • Musical instruments
  • Games (Scrabble, cards, chess, Frisbee, etc.)
  • Work gloves