Packing list

On this page:
Documentation | Medical supplies | Recommended equipment | Personal effects | Recommended clothing | Donation items | Travelling after the program                                                          

1. Documentation

  • Cash (Notes: US dollars advisable. New bills after 2004 in 50's and 100's recommended.);
  • Bank card and/or credit card;
    Notes: There is good availability of bank machines in East Africa for Interac or credit card withdrawal, but it is advisable to bring some cash as well. Bring contact numbers in case you need to report a missing card. Don’t rely on bank machines for money: it can be a long time between ATMs and some bank cards work in some machines but not others. Bring a mixture of money options. Call your bank prior to leaving Canada to inform them of your travel plans. You may also want to increase your credit limit if you plan on withdrawing large amounts of money at one point (before Kilimanjaro, for example).
  • Passport and visa(s) - US passport holders may have to pay more for certain visas (i.e. Tanzania);
  • Vaccination booklet;
  • Airline ticket;
  • Complete medical insurance information: Insurance company emergency number, policy number;
  • Copy of our itinerary;
  • Money belt or small purse for carrying your important documents and money.
    Notes: During certain excursions, a money belt or a sturdy small purse is advisable for carrying your important documents and money. You may want to have a nice-ish purse for nights out or for travels after the program.
    Student tip: Do not bring a purse with skinny straps: these are easily snipped/stolen.


You should bring 2 copies of your passport, air ticket, medical insurance. Copies of these should also be left at home with your emergency contact.

Student tip: Leave one copy with your family/friend in North America, take one copy with you and scan a copy and email it to yourself.

Student tip: Most students bring more stuff than they need and recommend packing as light as you can. Contrary to popular belief, most things can be purchased in Uganda, Kenya and many places in Tanzania if you run out or really need something you didn't bring (this does not apply to prescription drugs). There will be chances to go shopping during the course of the trip.

2. Medical Supplies

  • Antiseptic lotion (Purel or equivalent - mandatory): expect to use at least once a day;
  • Pepto Bismol tablets (helpful for stomach upset);
  • Imodium(Loperamide 2 mg) for symptom control of diarrhea;
  • First aid items: band-aids, steristrips, elastic bandage;
  • Antibiotic ointment (e.g. Polysporin);
  • Malaria prophylaxis pills (e.g. Doxycycline, Malarone, Larium prescribed by your doctor);
  • One or two doses of Ciprofloxacin (500mg twice a day for three days), an antibiotic used to treat severe diarrhea. Requires a prescription from your physician, can be obtained at any travel clinic;
  • Selection of over-the-counter medications you think you might need: those that you use regularly such as: Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), anti-inflammatory (e.g. Advil), antihistamine, contraception, antacid, throat losenges;
  • Gravol or anti-naseau tablets if you have a tendency to motion sickness (not available in Africa);
  • Prescription medicines, if required.
  • Insect repellent (minimum 30% DEET) expect to use once a day;
    - Mosquitoes are less bothersome than when camping in North America, but potentially more dangerous. Covering up in the evening is imperative, and use large amounts of insect repellent;
    - It is possible to have your clothes pre-treated with chemical repellents beforehand, or to buy insecticide clothes. This is not mandatory and most students are fine with insect spray. Plan according to your comfort/fears/known reaction to bug bites.
  • Anti-itch cream or gel (insect sting/bite relief solution);
  • Sunscreen and lip balm (minimum SPF 15). Also: aloe vera (or other after sun care). Take note that sunscreen is EXTRAORDINARLY high priced in East Africa, so bring an adequate amount;
  • Insect sting/bite relief solution, such as After Bite;
  • Nailbrush for cleaning under nails / removing stains on laundry;
  • Nail polish, clear - for some bug bites;
  • Small mirror;
  • Antihistamines and/ or Epi-pen. If you are allergic to pollen/dust and or if you are allergic to bees or other. 


Some supplies are more recommended than others; purchase according to personal need/preference/estimation.

Wear your Medic Alert bracelet or necklace if you have one.

Keep all special medications in a small bag in your personal kit to keep with you at all times.

Bring copies of prescriptions in case you lose something and need a replacement, or to show airline security.

Make sure that you have any drugs in their original bottles and not in an unlabeled convenience bottle.

Student tip: Bring minimal toiletries: you can buy brands like Dove, Pantene Pro-V, etc. at the supermarkets if you run out, and not that much is really needed for 2.5 months.

3. Recommended Equipment

  • Large duffle bag or large back pack (preferable) to carry everything in (tape your name and address on the inside as well as on an outside tag); Keep in mind that smaller is better and less is more! Bags in the past have ranged from 50l to 85l. You'll rarely have to carry your bag for extended periods, but if you can't lift it, you've packed too much.
  • Day pack (i.e. small backpack) - should be able to fit a few notebooks, pencilcase, water, sunscreen, and anything else you might need for a FULL day;
  • Sleeping bag (waterproof stuff sack to cover and squish small);
    Student tip: Make sure your sleeping bag is both small and warm. You'll alternate betewen sleeping in sweltering heat and freezing cold, wo your sleeping bag shouldn't be too accommodationg to one extreme only.
  • Pillowcase;
  • Student tip: Bring a small, compactable camping pillow if you have room.
  • Bath towel and face cloth (quick-dry is preferable...);
    Student tip: MEC's adventure towels or you can buy a wrap when you are there. These dry quickly and can also be worn.
  • Laundry line or some string/rope;
    Student tip: laundry detergent can be purchased readily.
  • Pocket knife (Swiss Army type);
  • Sewing kit;
  • Plastic water bottle (1 litre);
    Student tip: buy one with a loop so that you can attach to bags with a carabiner/clip.
  • School supplies: clipboard, notebooks (hard backed rather than spiral or soft cover), pens and pencils, journal;
  • Device with alarm;
  • Binoculars;
  • Student tip: binoculars are not required unless you are taking the ornithology course however highly recommended for game drives; often students with a super zoom lens feel this is adequate and wouldn't recommend binoculars.
  • Small combination lock;
  • Flavour crystals for H2O e.g. Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, Vit-C crystals, Ribena etc.;
  • A few novels that can be swapped, shared or given away;
  • Sturdy flashlight or headlamp. Bring bulbs as well;
    Student tip: bring a headlamp rather than a flashlight for activities such as writing and reading at night.
  • Phones/electronics: East Africa has much more cellular service than you might expect, and the majority of the program sites will have good or at least some service. Some phone companies allow international roaming plans. Otherwise, you will have the opportunity to purchase SIM cards with prepaid data/cellular plan at the beginning of every session (each country). How much you should purchase is entirely a function of how much you plan to use, but keep in mind it is not always possible/easy to purchase more. Opt for purchasing data over minutes.
  • It is not required to bring a personal laptop and it is strongly discouraged to do so. While it may make assignement completion or class readings more accessible, it comes with significant risks for theft/breakage/water damage.
  • Movie nights can be a fun activity, and the outfitter company travels with a projector, os feel free to bring a USB key with a selection of films (coordinate with other group members!).
  • Camera: Digital- extra memory. Bring equipment for transferring and storing photos, as there will be good computer access at some of the sites. Also - bring charger;
  • CD or MP3 player with extra batteries and/or charger;
    Student tip: those that left their iPods/MPs player at home regretted it!
  • USB key or portable hard drive to save school work and photographs;
    Student tip: USB keys, CDs or memory cards are also great for uploading pictures, e.g. 1-2 GB. If you plan on taking a lot of pictures some people bought portable hard drives rather than extra memory cards.
  • Plug adaptor, if you bring electronic equipment. Get adaptors for UK plugs.
  • Student tip: Bring a few sets of rechargeable batteries, but remember that batteries can be heavy and are generally available in Africa.
    Plastic bags and ziplocs. Kenya has banned plastic bags and they will be confiscated at the airport if you bring them.
    Drones: you cannot fly drones without government authorization.

4. Personal Effects

  • Sunglasses;
    Student tip: Strap recommended for travelling in bumpy open-air trucks.
  • Prescription glasses, sufficient contact lens solution/cleaners with spares (not available in Africa), repair kit;
  • Tampons/pads;
    Student tip: the styles and brands of tampons available at home are not available in East Africa (O.B. only). Therefore, it is advised for students to bring a supply sufficient for the amount of time they intend on staying, even after the program if they do not want to change their style/brand (which may not be a problem, depending on preference).
  • Personal grooming supplies: deodorant, toothbrush/paste, small bottle of moisturizer, q-tips, add face wash/wipes for camping when there is limited water access;
    Student tip: pack very lightly - many items can be purchased or replaced while in Africa.
  • Shampoo, soap (all purpose liquid soap is easiest and friendlier to the environment: e.g. Campsuds);
  • Disposable towelettes (individually foil packed);
  • Photos from home to share with homestay.

A special note about insects:

Mosquitoes are less bothersome than when camping in North America, but potentially more dangerous. Covering up in the evening is imperative, and use liberal amounts of insect repellent.

Bed nets will be provided to students


Important personal possessions and necessities should be in your day pack, to be carried on the plane and wherever you are in East Africa. These include money, documentation and prescription drugs.

5. Recommended Clothing

Student tip:For the program, you do not need to buy new stuff! Using good judgment, replace things on this list with things you have from home if it seems reasonable. Do not bring things that you are not comfortable getting stained or damaged.

  • 6 pairs of socks: 1 thick, 5 light;
  • 12 pairs of underwear;
  • Running shoes or light to medium hiking boots, suitably broken in;
    Notes: flip-flops are for use only in showers (they should not be used for walking or activities under any circumstances).
  • No more than 2 pairs of shorts;
    Notes: for women, short-shorts and even regular shorts are considered inappropriate and sometimes offensive in many regions we will be travelling to. Please leave all short-shorts at home. Long shorts are fine for men.
  • 4-5 T-shirts or sport shirts;

    Please leave tank-tops and low-cut shirts at home as these are often considered inappropriate and/or offensive in many of the regions we will be travelling to. Very light shirts with max coverage are preferable, and will protect you from the sun. Student tip: avoid too many light/ white shirts as these are difficult to wash and keep clean.

  • 2 long sleeved shirts; Thin, long-sleeved shirts are essential for mosquito protection at night;
  • Student tip: button-up shirts are great for putting over T-shirts if you need protection, warmth, or want to look more formal or covered during a visit to professionals, mosques or churches, etc.
  • 1 fleece or wool sweater; It can get cold!
  • 1 light raincoat, rain resistant - coated nylon or Gortex type;
    Student tip: make sure to bring a good, waterproof rainjacket!
  • 1-2 below-knee lenght dresses or skirts for women;
  • 2 pairs of loose-fitting long pants;
    Student tip: one pair of jeans or similar, one quick-dry, non-cotton material.
  • 2 bandannas, large handkerchiefs or scarves;
  • Brimmed hat (required);
    Student tip: baseball hats and Tilley hats are favourites!
  • Swimsuit (make it modest).
  • Student tip: many students wanted at least 1 "nice" outfit for nights out (a pair of jeans or a dress, a nicer shirt).
    Camouflage clothing. Do not wear camouflage. Camouflage is considered to be military-related, therefore, it should be avoided.



Many of the educational activities and learning experiences on the program include interacting with locals. IT IS DISRESPECTFUL (and embarrassing, as you will discover quickly) to show too much skin especially SHOULDERS and KNEES - particularly on the coast in Muslim areas. Please make sure your skirts cover your knees (at least longer is better) and that you have sufficient t-shirts to cover your shoulders and upper chest. There are times, though, when you are isolated in hot, humid areas among only your classmates and professors. At these times, it is ok to wear shorts and tank tops. Bare arms and legs are for children, not professionals or adults. In general, PLEASE REMEMBER and take heed to this cultural difference.

During our social excursions and other out-of-camp events you may want to have a nice outfit to wear. Ladies, for most of these occasions you will want your shoulders covered as well as your legs (at least covering your knees).

Light coloured clothing and light material is recommended as it is cooler when in the heat and the sun. Please note as well, that due to the nature of traveling in Africa (dust and hand-washing) your clothes will take a beating. Don't bring anything to wear on a daily basis that you don't want to get damaged or stained.

6. Donation Items

  • Current textbooks on any topic. These are easily obtainable from your institution, or you can use your own. Most institutions will be willing to donate, ask your instructors. Books from elementary and high school are the most needed (e.g. math science, or English text books). Textbooks are not easy to come by in Africa and all donations are greatly appreciated.
    Student tip: Multiple copies of individual texts are particularly appreciated so classes can have more than one for students to share.
  • School supplies to give away to elementary and high schools (pencils, pens, erasers, children's books, paper, workbooks, etc.)
  • Health Supplies for health centres. Including ‘basics’ such as pain killers, bandages, rehydration salts, etc.
  • Spare children’s shoes (soccer cleats in particular) We often visit school and sport programs and providing extra equipment is greatly appreciated.

7. Do you plan to travel or volunteer after the program?

Travelling after the program means that you will no longer have the guidance of McGill staff including the medical doctor. You will need to be equipped to travel and deal with situations on your own in Africa. Talk to the doctors during the AFSS program about how to prepare for solo travel, especially if backpacking through developing areas. Some of the things we recommend that you bring are:

  • Malaria self-medication (e.g. Doxycycline, Larium or Malarone);
  • Syringes (in case you need injections, you will have a clean needle);
  • Digital thermometer;
  • Money belt;
  • Contacts for good hospitals wherever you plan to travel;
    Tip: Strongly recommended: always choose the most expensive hospital. It will still be relatively cheap compared to home.
  • Pocket knife;
  • Duct tape;
  • Small solar calculator;
  • Combination lock;
  • Canadian paraphernalia for presents (e.g. flags, pencils, maple surup);
  • Warmer clothes if trekking/hiking in the mountains (although hikes such as Kilimanjaro will have rental clothes available for low prices);
  • Guide book / phrasebook;
  • Light backpack as opposed to a duffle bag;
  • Disposable towlettes;
  • Anti-amoeba/giardia medication. Buy from a pharmacy if you will be traveling in rural areas for more than a few days. Ask for a broad-spectrum 1- or 2-day dose.(e.g. Cipro).
  • Condoms/birth control

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