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Essential South America Packing List (Things you can’t miss!)

Looking for the essential South America packing list including things you can’t miss? You have come to the right place!

We spent a few months in South America. There are some things we packed correctly but there are many things that we WISHED we packed in hindsight.

So with no further adieu, we present to you the Ultimate South America Packing List. Carefully review this list and make sure you haven’t forgotten anything!

The Essential Packing List for South America

On our trip to South America we traveled to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

This packing list is relevant to all the aforementioned countries in South America.

What bag to bring to South America?

First things first – what bag should you bring to South America?

To save money on flights to South America, it is highly advisable to bring only carry on luggage. If you are savvy, you can probably last up to a month with only carry on luggage. However, you have to pack smart.

We are suitcase lovers through and through but suitcases can be difficult in South America if you are traveling overland by bus.

There is limited cheap flights between countries in South America so your mode of transportation will most likely be by bus.

The  Hynes 40L Carry on Backpack is ideal for South America as it has a lot of space. It is also durable and  made of high quality materials to resist bus travel.

If you want something a little bigger we would suggest this backpack.

If you are a loyal suitcase lover, we would suggest this suitcase.

What clothing to add to your packing list for South America?

We are known for being serial over packers!

We would highly recommend not overpacking in South America if you are planning a large overland trip as it can involve long periods of time carting around your belongings.

Unless you plan an apartment, washing facilities can be few and far between in South America.

If we are packing light we bring special washing soap so we are able to do hand washes in the sink if necessary.

This is the clothing we would  suggest bringing for a 4 week trip to South America. We have made this list based on items we have or the next closest alternative we can find online:


Here are the essential, must have clothing pieces to bring to South America for the ladies!

4 x Short Sleeve Shirts

If you are packing light, you definitely need to bring some fast drying t-shirts that dry super quick after washing.

There are lots of hiking opportunities in South America like Machu Picchu.

Therefore, something that won’t stick to your body and will dry super fast after a hike is the best way to go.

We love the traveler favourite, Icebreaker Merino Women’s T-shirts due to its super quick drying ability and lightweight fabric.

2 x Lightweight long sleeve shirt

As we mentioned above, hiking is in abundance in South America!

Even if you are a bit older or not in good physical condition, you will be able to complete short hikes.

Over our years traveling, we have some across tourists crying in pain due to the the sunburn they received.

If you are going for a long hike in the middle of the day, please please wear a long sleeve shirt – believe me your skin will thank you later!

It can be something as simple & affordable as Matymats Women’s Workout Tee Tops Long Sleeve

You do want to select something that breaths as there is nothing worse than a long sleeve shirt that is hot and sticky on a hike!

1 – 2 x Lightweight Walking Pants

One to two pairs of lightweight walking pants are essential for the hot South American weather.

South Americans don’t usually wear shorts – they are a “gringo” thing.

Long pants can therefore stop you being targeted as an obvious tourist and are also essential for hiking and day to day activities.

Something as simple as these Women’s Leggings are perfect for a breathable & affordable pair of long pants.

1 x Waterproof Jacket

I pray it won’t rain on your vacation. But, sadly it will at one point or another.

A waterproof jacket is absolutely essential for South American travel and can also be doubled for warmth.

I own a jacket very similar to this Columbia Women’s Switchback II Jacket.It proved highly useful during my time in South America.

1 x Shorts or Skirt

I opted for long pants in South America.

I know the Zika Virus is allegedly a myth but better be safe than sorry right?

Saying this, I would suggest 1 pair of shorts only. These super cute lightweight travel shorts that would work well for South America.

1 x Flip Flops

Definitely don’t forget your flip flops! You need 1 paid of flip flops to wear in the showers and to the beach in South America.

You cant go past Havaianas Flip Flops

We won’t buy anything else due to their comfort and durability.

1 x Runners

Runners will be your go to shoe for South America.

South America is mostly a casual holiday and you will certainly do a lot of walking so bring a comfortable pair!

We both own Nike Free Runners and absolutely love them! We actually have bought the same pair twice over!

4 x Underwear

4 pairs for a whole trip!? Yes, we are trying to pack light here!

We would recommend the Icebreaker women’s underwear.

They are a special pair of quick drying underwear. A great option for minimal packing.

2 x Bras

I’m sure you have your regular bras sorted but don’t forget a sports bra for hikes in South America America.

It is best to select one that is lightweight and fast drying. This Icebreaker Women’s bra fits that criteria.

4 x Socks 

1 x Swimmers & 1 x Rash Shirt

Importantly here is the mention of the Rash Shirt.

You need a Rash Shirt because of the very hot climate but also as a protection from sea lice & jellyfish in the water.

I have two that I will show you.

I have this Rash shirt by Roxy and I love it. It is cheap & lightweight.

For a little more protection, I would suggest this billabong wetsuit rash shirt. 

It is a lot thicker and provides even more protection from jellyfish. In Puerto Vallarta I got stung by a jellyfish wearing just a bikini and let’s just say it hurt A LOT!!

1 x Sunglasses

1 x Hat

A pat is also a must pack as South American destinations are hot year round.

A big hat is not only trendy but you can also fold it up into your bag!

We would recommend a basic cheap hat. Like Central America (for some reason) hats are also a lot commodity in South America and they often get stolen.

You can have your nice hat stolen off their head as a  motorbike drives by. For this reason, I would suggest  this affordable $14 packable black hat 


Here’s what to add to his essential packing list for South America:

4 x Short Sleeve Shirt 

Like with the ladies, he needs a shirt that will dry super fast and is lightweight for comfort in hot weather.

With this in mind, we would recommend Woolly Men’s Merino Wool Short Sleeve as the perfect t-shirt for South America.

2 x Lightweight Long Sleeve Shirt

Like with the ladies, he needs two lightweight long sleeves.

There are lots of great hiking opportunities in South America.

I would recommend an affordable,  lightweight & fast drying such as Icebreaker’s Long Sleeve

1 – 2 x Lightweight Walking Pants

Mike loves Chinos. He even hikes in them.

A pair of cheap, lightweight chinos are great option for men as they are trendy and quite comfortable.

1 x Waterproof Jacket

Rain is inevitable in South America. Therefore, a waterproof jacket is essential for both rain and warmth.

Mike has one one very similar to this Columbia Men’s Watertight Jacket which he used a lot in South America.

1 x Shorts

Shorts are a gringo thing, its true, and you will be more noticed wearing them. But its nice to have shorts in hot weather.

Therefore, bring 1 paid of comfortable pair of walking shorts for South America.

1 x Flip Flops

It is absolutely necessary to not forget a pair of flip flops for South America to wear in the showers and to the beach.

We are huge fans of Havaianas Flip Flops and wont buy anything else due to their comfort and durability.

1 x Runners

Runners are also an essential must pack! South America is a very causal holiday and you will do a lot of walking so bring a comfortable pair!

We we both have Nike Free Runners and absolutely love them, they are so comfortable!

4 x Underwear

Four pairs of quick drying underwear is all you need.

The Icebreaker men’s underwear are a great option for a quick drying pair of men’s underwear.

4 x Socks 

1 x Swimmers & 1 x Rash Shirt

We are huge advocates of the necessity of a rash shirt.

You can never go past a plain black Billabong rash shirt for men. Mike has one almost identical to this Billabong rash shirt and gets a lot of wear of it.


1 x Hat

Bring whatever hat takes your fancy. Mike loves his New York Yankees cap

Mosquito Related Items for your South America Packing List

Whether you believe the Zika virus is real or not – you are always better safe than sorry.

They are also incredibly annoying. Believe me, you want to avoid these suckers at all costs!

The essential mosquito related items that you will need to add to your South American packing list include:

mosquito net for your bed 

It is very hard to know if your hotel will have adequate screening. We found comfortable hotels often didn’t even have it!

There is absolutely nothing worse than being bitten in your sleep!

Therefore, a lightweight traveller’s mosquito net is definitely the way to go to protect yourself completely as you sleep in South America.

Mosquito coils

Mosquito coils were essential to us. We were able to sit outdoors in South America without fear of getting bitten.

We even used it in our room for extra protection if mosquito nets weren’t installed on the windows.

Mosquito bracelets

We met a Belgian couple on the road that swore by mosquito bracelets.

We enviously admired their bracelets and asked where you get such a product. They told us ‘Belgium’  – we felt very disappointed as to not be able to get one.

Well, turns out you can buy mosquito bracelets online too!! Click here to get your mosquito bracelet to protect against mosquitos in South America.

Mosquito spray

If nothing else, mosquito spray is an absolute very essential!

It is more expensive to buy it in South America so if you are bringing checked in luggage buy it before you go.

Add a silk sleeping bag to your South America Packing List

If you are planning to stay anywhere cheap or in hostels in South America, sometimes levels of sanitary can be a little lower than the western world.

Bringing along a silk sleeping bag ensures that you feel comfortable sleeping at all times. They are also great to use on overnight buses.

Toiletries for your South America Packing List

You can purchase affordable toiletries upon landing but is  advisable to have a small amount of toiletries with you.

We would advise purchasing a travel toiletry kit for South America to ensure you have a small amount of the necessities when you arrive.


Sunscreen is liquid gold in South America. You wont find a cheap bottle.Therefore, I would highly recommend bringing a bottle of sunscreen with you.

The higher SPF the better. Neutrogena offers a great sunscreen which is SPF 100+ for only $8. Bring as much as you can if you are paying for checked in luggage!

Add Binoculars if you are headed to an area with wildlife

If you are traveling to the Fjords of Chile or the Amazon Jungle, bring a pair of basic binoculars to view animals and glaciers up close and personal.

Good binoculars were essential to getting a clear view of the wildlife!

Add a High Powered Night Torch if you are headed to a remote area

If you are going to visit the Uyuni Salt Flats, a high powered high torch will certainly come in handy.

An area like the Uyuni Salt Flats has limited power so  a high powered night torch is very handy.

If you have the room, it might be useful even if you are not traveling there as power outages are quite common in South America.

Add a snorkel set to your South America Packing List

It’s always expensive (and a little gross) to hire snorkel gear while away on holidays. To avoid overpriced snorkel gear purchase a cheap snorkel set to take with you.

Other items to bring to South America

So that is a wrap on the South America packing guide! Check and check twice and you are all set for an amazing South American adventure!

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  • MC Miller

    MC Miller is a travel blogger and writer who has travelled America extensively and abroad to over 80 countries. He founded Couple Travel The World in 2017. Since then, he has spent over 6 years on the road as a full time travel couple. When he not traveling he likes to spend quality time with his partner Bett, planning our their next date or romantic getaway!

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