Sunday, February 10, 2013

Things to Take to Africa

Before coming here, I did some research about things I needed to bring to Africa. Most of the lists I found were for the safari or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. They were helpful but thing is, I'm here to live and work for at least a year, not just to travel. So if you, dear reader, intend to visit or move to Tanzania, here's my list of things to bring OR consider bringing. Most of the things I've listed are available here but if you have space for them, just bring them with you because for a developing country, shopping for certain things in Tanzania can be pretty expensive.
  1. toiletries - You're like, "What? Don't they have toiletries there" Yes, of course, they do. People brush their teeth, shampoo their hair and use soap in Africa. I'm just saying, if you're particular about the brands of things you use, some of them might not be available here. Also, a lot of the things here are imported and the biggest tube of toothpaste that cost $1 in Vietnam and $2 in the Philippines, costs $4-5. While that doesn't sound like it'll break the bank, sunscreen, moisturizer and other similar products cost a pretty penny. A bottle of Coppertone can cost around $30. Tampons can also be hard to come by, so bring plenty if you haven't switched to menstrual cups yet.
  2. insect repellant - Again, yes, they're available here, but you might have more choices wherever you are, especially if you want one with natural ingredients.
  3. extra pairs of contact lens and contact lens solution - To date, contact lens are still very hard to find here or they're very expensive if you do find them, so if you intend to stay here for a while, bring enough to last you the rest of your stay. Of course, you can always ask other people to bring you some when they visit, but it would still be good to have extra pairs in case you lose one.  
  4. plug adapter + extension cord with outlet strip - Check if your current plugs match the ones here. Tanzania uses Type D and G, but most places just have the latter. If you're staying in a nice hotel, you might not have to worry because their power sockets accept most plugs. In any case, bring at least one plug adapter and a power strip with at least 3 sockets. I bought a power surge protector here, plugged in my adapter and outlet strip and I can charge my electronics which mostly have Type A plugs, only my netbook has a Type C plug. Oh yeah, it's 230V here so you may want to bring a power adaptor if you have electronics that run on 110V. 
  5. power surge protector - There are frequent power cuts throughout the year, sometimes three times in a day. You would want to protect your electronics with a quality surge protector. Paired with a power strip, you'll be all set. Yes, I said I bought one here, but I don't really trust its quality. I might have to get my friend (Yoohoo Richie) to bring me a better one from the UK.
  6. blanket/pillow case - I got this from someone, and I have to say it's quite nice to have a bit of home when you're settling in a new place. I probably could've brought more clothes or something else but while those are easy enough to buy, my blanket and pillow case from home helped my room have an instant homey feel.
  7. SIM ready phone - Do I really need to explain this?
  8. solar charger - With the power cuts, you might want one. What better way to make use of the year round sunny weather (if you're going to the south)?
  9. pocket/purse-sized flashlight and head lamp - Good for power cuts and also for walking around at night. Most of the time, the roads aren't paved and streets aren't well-lighted either. I have a mini rechargeable flashlight that I love to bits. While all of my purchases are great, this the one I've used the most often since I moved here.
  10. Steri-pen - This is something I've been itching to purchase. This can come very handy when travelling to rural areas where drinkable water is scarce. Of course, one can buy bottled water in cities, but I feel guilty with all the plastic bottles.
  11. a penknife or better yet, a Swiss Army knife
  12. e-reader - If you're a bookworm like me, you better have one because a couple of paperbacks won't last you very long. Books are available in the cities but again, they can be quite expensive and you won't be able to bring them with you when you leave. Here's the part where I thank my awesome sister and her fantabulous other half for getting me a Kindle as an early birthday present. Thanks!!!
  13. duct tape / sellotape / sticky tack --- You'll find a use for them. I "mended" the vanity table chair that's in my room with sticky tack.  
  14. at least one pair of sturdy and comfortable walking shoes/outdoor sandals and dress/work shoes --- Again, you can buy them here but bring what you can for the sake of choice, price and quality. Unless, of course, if you have tons of money (to buy shoes that break apart quickly or to pay for cabs to take you everywhere) or don't intend to walk around. Remember what I said about unpaved roads? People at work have been moaning and groaning about the need for shoes because the ones they have are falling apart and they can't find what they want/need here.
Of course, there are a lot of other things you should take with you if you're moving or travelling, but that would depend on your needs and personal preferences. Nevertheless, I hope this list will be of some help if you're coming my way any time soon.

Last piece of advice which would be good for travelling anywhere -- Expect everything to be different, and when they're not, the familiar will be a pleasant surprise that will make you feel at home.