What to Wear in South Africa

Cape Town beach in January

Cape Town beach in January

Beach houses, Cape Town, January

Beach houses, Cape Town, January

Pretoria in March

Pretoria in March

Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg

Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg

A Message From Helen



I want you to have an amazing vacation. That's why I started WhatToWearOnVacation.com,
to help you pack with confidence and stay safe, secure and comfortable.

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General Style Tips

  • The dress code is generally casual, even in most restaurants.
  • However there are a few smarter city hotels and restaurants, where a smart casual outfit may make you feel more comfortable.
  • If you are planning to travel in summer, our advice is to pack lightweight, loose fitting clothes in natural fabrics such as linen, silk and cotton that will keep you cool and are easy to wash and dry.
  • And don't forget a safari hat or cap to protect you from the sun.
  • Wear plenty of sunscreen (we love the Riemann P20 range for 10 hour protection) and sunglasses, and remember your insect/mosquito repellent.

What Shoes To Pack

  • Good comfortable walking shoes are a must for a visit to Table Mountain or sightseeing in general. We love Hotter shoes, for comfort with style.
  • We love the Lindsay Phillips Switch Flops range of shoes too - using interchangeable shoe and flip-flop bases with snap-on decorations, you can change your look from day to evening in an instant whilst still packing light.

Clothing Tips for Women

  • South Africans are pretty conservative, so our advice would be to avoid anything too revealing.
  • Our advice would be to keep swimwear to the beach and pool, and cover up with a kaftan or sarong when walking around public areas.
  • A skirt or loose-fitting pants are good in the heat and will protect you from the sun.
  • A pashmina can be useful to dress up any outfit should the occasion arise.
  • If you are here to work then the dress code is more formal: knee-length skirt, and on cooler days a jacket.

Clothing Tips for Men

  • Men are required to wear a shirt with a collar to clubs (although it can still be casual) and no sneakers or tennis shoes.
  • If you're looking for versatile and stylish beachwear, try the Madda Fella range of shirts, shorts, polos and swimwear.
  • For great versatile travel jackets with multiple pockets including RFID security options, we love the SCOTTeVEST range.

Pack for the Weather

  • Pack a raincoat if you travel to the Cape region.
  • We love the Weather+ app - it gives an accurate 6 day forecast for day and night, which when you're planning from home is really helpful. You can keep all the places you've been to too - a nice way to remember your trip :) Download for iPad/iPhone or Android

Regions of South Africa

  • If you are on safari the idea is to relax and enjoy your time under the African sky, and listen to the calls of the wild all around you. Dinner dress is therefore casual and comfortable.
  • Early morning game drives can be chilly, so pop in a fleece, hat and gloves. Make sure you have sturdy, closed footwear that won't slip off, and avoid blue or black clothing - the tsetse flies are drawn to these colors.

Other Things To Pack

  • A soft-sided rucksack is more practical than a hard suitcase for safari vacations - it's easier to fit into the small planes or transfer vehicles. Using packing cubes can help to keep your belongings tidy whilst compressing the volume too.
  • Internal flights often have much lower baggage limits than your international carrier. Use an accurate luggage scale to ensure you keep within the weight allowance.
  • Pack a sling bag or lightweight day sack for sightseeing trips and game drives.
  • Look after your mobile phone with a phone bunjee - it protects against loss, theft and damage. You may like to carry a solar powered charger too, to boost your battery when out and about - you don't want to miss that great photo opportunity!
  • To use electrical gadgets you may need a travel adapter plug, and also a step down voltage converter if your devices are not designed for the local voltage (230V).
  • Don’t drink or even brush your teeth in tap water. Consider taking a Water-to-Go Filtration Water Bottle.
  • Don't forget to leave room for souvenirs on the way home! Amarula is a popular local liqueur made from the exotic Marula fruit, and of course South African wine is enjoyed the world over. Just remember any liquids will need to be packed in your checked-in luggage when you fly home. Look for wooden carvings and beaded jewelry too.

Last updated 16 December 2016.

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Pack Light

  • Less luggage to carry
  • Save time packing and unpacking
  • Save money on baggage fees

Pack Right

  • Respect local cultures
  • Feel comfortable and confident
  • Suitable outfits for all occasions

A Message From Helen



I want you to have an amazing vacation. That's why I started WhatToWearOnVacation.com,
to help you pack with confidence and stay safe, secure and comfortable.

Advice You Can Trust

Don't take too many shoes would be my advice. I ended up buying a pair of cheap flip flops in Cape Town and living in those.

- Nina, Bristol UK