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••• The International Writers Magazine - Our 20th Year: Travel

A Packing Checklist For A South American Road Trip
• Stuart Cooke
Essentials for independent travelers

Rio Brazil

South America is home to a number of beautiful countries and exciting cultures just waiting to be explored. This makes it an extremely popular destination for travellers. If you’ve decided that you want to visit this wonderful continent - that’s great! There are different ways you can explore: backpacking and travelling by bus or plane, you could also cycle if you're feeling up to the challenge, but one of the best ways to see what this great place has to offer is on a road trip.

You might take your own car or van, or you might want to hire a car or RV once you're there. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive checklist so you can get your South American road trip off to the perfect start. Here’s what you're going to need to pack.

To go in the car/RV

There are some essentials you'll need in your chosen vehicle. From a spare key to a spare tire, you’ll want to check you’ve got the essentials. If you're hiring your vehicle then it’s likely this will come with everything you need. If not, use the list below:

RV in Chile

Manual for the vehicle
Spare key
Oil and screen wash
Sat nav
Paper map - just in case
A spare tire

Admin and documents

These are going to be some of the most important things you need to pack, and you don't want to forget them. Your passport and other important documents should be kept in their own folder or bag for safe keeping. Make sure you have these somewhere safe that you can access when you need to use them. Don’t forget to pack the following:

Visas - if needed
Passport and driving license
Photocopy of passport - just in case
Proof of breakdown cover
Any hotel or activity vouchers
Money - but don't take too much
Credit or debit card
Car/RV documentation - if hiring
Printed travel and car insurance documents


What you take from this list will depend on your vehicle and where you will be staying. For example, if you're in an RV it may already have most of the following built in. Alternatively, if you're travelling in your car and camping most nights, you’ll probably need more of the items listed below. Consider your plans and decide what you need to pack from the following:

Sleeping bag or bedding
Roll mat
Small gas cooker
Cooking equipment
Travel kettle
Bin bags
A small tent
Tin opener
Bowls and utensils
Small camping chair
Duct tape

Clothes and shoes

There are so many things to see and do in South America that you're going to need to make sure you’ve got all bases covered when it comes to your clothes and shoes. You’ll want a good bag to store these in and you’ll need to choose your clothes wisely so you don't run out of space. Below is an idea of the clothes you should take with you so you're ready for every eventuality and weather. These will of course vary depending on your style and gender, so you don't need to follow this list to the letter:

1 x jeans
2 x leggings or comfortable trousers
1 x tracksuit bottoms
1 x skirt
1 x shorts
2 x dresses
3-4 x vest tops or T-shirts
1 x long sleeve top
1-2 x shirts
2 x jumper or sweatshirts
1 x hoodie
1 x light waterproof jacket
7 x underwear (pants and socks)
2 x bras or sports tops
1 x bikini or swimwear

You also need to make sure you’ve got the right footwear. You might find that one day you're on the beach and the next you're hiking. So here are the different shoes you’ll want to pack:

1 x flip flops or sandals
1 x hiking boots or shoes
1 x comfortable trainers


You can of course buy most of the toiletries your need when you get there, but if you like to feel prepared and you don't want to rush around finding a shop right away, there are a few things you you’ll want to pack into your wash bag. Be aware of any restrictions on your flights such as the size of liquids you're taking on board, but as a general rule you’ll be fine taking these in your check-in bag. Choose a smallish wash bag to store everything in. After all, you don't want this taking up loads of space in your case or holdall. Here are the essentials:

Travel bottle of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Lip balm
Hand gel
Hairbrush and hair ties

You’ll also want to pack any medication you're going to need and those that can be useful in South America. You might also want a travel first aid kit with you just in case. Here are some things to consider:

Insect repellent and bite cream
Malaria tablets
Travel first aid kit
Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol
Imodium and rehydration tablets
Any medication you take daily such as contraception


Once you’ve got your clothes packed up, there are some accessories you’ll also want to take with you. These can help to prepare you for different weathers and help you keep your bag organised. Many of these are optional but can be extremely beneficial while you're away:

Backpack or holdall
Small bag or day pack
Mesh bags or packing cubes to organise your clothes
Cap or sunhat
Woolly hat
Padlock for your bag or lockers


Finally, unless you plan on going completely off grid, you’ll probably want to take some of your tech with you. From your phone to your straighteners, what you choose from the list below will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Here are some of our top tech suggestions:

Mobile phone
Phone charger
Adapter - find out what you’ll need for South America
Car adapter - so you can charge on the move
Tablet or laptop
Straighteners or curlers - if you can’t live without them

* Brazil depending on region might be 115v or 127v or 220v
**Agentinia is 220v and you'd need a Type 1 plug adapter. Do check before you go.

Written by Stuart Cooke, Blog Editor at luggage delivery specialists helping travellers all around the world.

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