What to pack for South America?

Packing for the Machu Pacchu Trek

Having tracked the weather before we headed to South America I quickly learned that it wasn’t going to be all shorts and camis – with the seasons upside down there it’s autumn so some warmer clothes are required for this time of year! I thought this guide on how to pack for South America would be good for others who travel there too.

I invested in a padded jacket that would keep me cosy in the cold weather and the altitude. Packing was hard because prior to the trip the temperatures in Lima were reasonably high so we hoped for shorts weather, however upon arrival it was cloudy with a chilly wind! So glad for that coat and the extra cosy items I bought too. Here’s my original packing list with comments:


  • Sweatshirt x1
  • T-shirt x 8
  • Cami x 2
  • Long sleeve top x1 (another one would have been handy)
  • Coloured shirt X1 (didn’t wear) 
  • Zip hoodie x1 (having a hood was great for chilly overnight buses etc)
  • Elephant pants x1 (for comfort and chilling in hostels)
  • Joggers x1
  • Shorts x2
  • Gym leggings x2 (perfect for trekking and the salt flats, another pair would be great)
  • Bikini / Costume x2 (I was hopeful here, I didn’t wear either, although there was a chance for a hotsprings, so defo take!)
  • Dresses x2 (didn’t wear haha, but probably could have in Lima if we’d not been ill)
  • Rain Jacket x1 (a must)
  • Padded coat x1 (another must)
  • Underwear x20 (these next three are upto you depending how long you travel)
  • Thick socks x2
  • Other socks x8
  • Sandals / Flip flops x1 (the latter handy for the shower, personal choice)
  • Trainers x1
  • Walking boots x1 (I had these cos I wanted extra knee support, a lot of people including Rach did the same treks etc in trainers, totally upto you)
  • Toiletries
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Hairbrush
  • Face wash
  • Face wipes / baby wipes (handy for cleaning with when there’s no showers haha)
  • Moisturiser (I put this on all the time, especially after air conditioned buses and planes which really dry out your skin)
  • Lip balm (make sure this is a really good one. My lips got burnt and chapped with the cold, ended up buying one in Bolivia with Lanoline in, best thing ever!)
  • Sun cream (I had a little factor 30 in my rucksack at all times and used that the most)
  • Bug spray
  • Deodorant
  • Spray (something that smells nice instead of carrying proper perfume / aftershave)
  • Makeup (just a few essentials)
  • First aid (plasters/ blister plasters/ paracetamol/ ibruprofen/ diarrhoea tablets/probiotics/other vitamins/bite cream)
  • Hand sanitiser (2)
  • Tissues (loads, often there is no loo roll)


  • Portable charger
  • Travel pillow (this will be the best thing you ever buy, check out this one I got, really great for cuddling)
  • Eye Mask / Ear Plugs (a must for travelling overnight and when sharing hostel rooms with snorers)
  • Towel (I took my small microfibre gym towel but some hostels had towels too which was great)
  • Adapter plug (2)
  • Spanish Phrase Book
  • Passport (I also took a photocopy just in case)
  • Phone
  • Camera (if you have or want, I took a spare battery too)
  • Kindle
  • Charger cables / packs
  • Rucksack (for the day time or when travelling for a couple of days, make sure it’s big enough for a change of clothes and a rain coat for example)
  • Small bag (for evenings)
  • Padlock (for hostel lockers)
  • Credit / Debit Cards (for emergencies)
  • Money belt / bumbag (wear on buses for keeping your important things safe)
  • Travel insurance information
  • Money (for Bolivia, we took dollars and then exchanged there)
  • Playing cards (so handy for bars etc, making friends)
  • Snacks (handy to have sweets and breakfast bars in your bag just in case you get peckish on a night bus)
  • Packing squares (I used these to keep my clothes organised in my rucksack. Tshirts in one, undies in the small one and everything else in the other, makes routing through your bag a lot less messy)
  • Spare plastic bags / sandwich bags (for random thing like putting your sun cream in so it doesn’t leak, or storing dirties)

In addition whilst we were away I bought gloves and a cosy hair band which were life savers! No point in taking things like that with you as there’s lots of cosy and cute items to buy cheaply. Rach got an amazing Alpaca jumper which she didn’t take off the whole time haha, really warm and very “travellery”.

Hope this is helpful for anyone else travelling to South America. People I met that were travelling for longer had small laptops, straighteners etc, but these items are totally personal depending on what you want / need – also plenty of chance to buy things if you’re going away for a while!

Visit all my South America posts here.

Packing on the bed before I went

View across South America from the plane

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