As I sat atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the vast Kenyan Serengeti, I looked down to realize there were black tiny spots all over my jeans. A closer look revealed…pepper ticks. EEEEKK! Thank goodness for the duct-tape I had around my water bottle for emergencies. A little duct-tape over the jeans and good-bye pepper ticks!

In addition to clothes, shoes and toiletries there’s a lot more that goes into packing for a developing country. Being prepared is key and will make for a more comfortable experience. Each country is different, but this is a general list of the EXTRAS in my bag for countries off the beaten path.

#1 Rule – Research the country you are visiting! Find out the weather, customs, travel bans, medical infrastructure, etc. and pack accordingly.


  • Travel/Medivac Insurance – if you need to evacuate for medical reasons, this will save you
  • Travel vest/pouch/zippered bag to keep cash, passport and cards – if you use a bag make sure that it zips shut and stays close to your body, preferably in front. Even better are the travel vests with inside pockets or travel belts under your clothes
  • Adapter and Converter – you won’t get very far without charging your phone and batteries
  • TSA Travel Locks for bags – it’s ALWAYS a good idea… if only a deterrent
  • Small bag of common medications at least 1-2 doses – you’ll thank me if you ever come down with the flu in the middle of the night in a foreign country!

Pro Travel Tip: make a visit to your local travel doctor to see if any vaccines or additional preventative medicine is in order for the country you are visiting. ie. Malaria medicine for Africa

  • Anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer – USE IT! Religiously.
  • Fruit pouches and protein bars – they hold up fairly well and come in handy when you need a pick me up
  • Scan and email yourself a copy of your passport – also an extra passport photo can greatly expedite the process of replacing your lost or stolen passport in a foreign country

Travel Pro Tip: Keep your passport with you at all times. FYI There’s always a master key to your hotel safe… In developing countries keep your passport on your person in an inside/undetectable pocket separate from cash and credit cards. If all you have left after an unfortunate incident is your health and your passport , you will be thankful.


  • Extra collapsible duffle bag – I don’t know about you, but I like to shop! If you buy anything overseas use your second bag to bring it home.

Pro Travel Tip: Always weigh your bag before you go to the airport! Please don’t be the one holding up the check-in line because you have to re-arrange luggage to avoid fees.

  • Extra socks to throw away – there are numerous places you cannot wear shoes ie. Buddhist temple sites, Muslim temple sites etc.. An extra pair of socks will save you from going barefoot
  • Cooling neck tie – the BEST thing EVER if you are in a hot climate
  • Mosquito repellent/sunscreen/after sun cream
  • Plastic bag for dirty laundry and 1-2 packets of laundry detergent – in case you fall in the gutter in India……don’t ask…so gross
  • Collapsible water bottle (packs easier) and water filter – for places where the drinking water is really scary
  • Extra batteries/chargers for your electronics – electricity can be dicey in certain places so I take extras and then more extras
  • Kleenex
  • Ear plugs – elephants are really loud…so are trains….and snoring room mates
  • Eye cover – for the light sleepers
  • Pocket knife – comes in handy in many a situation
  • Duct tape – because why not? I usually wrap some around a water bottle or sunscreen bottle to save space


  • Drink only bottled water with a reputable name from a store, not street vendor – otherwise don’t cry to me when you get sick
  • Eat only cooked food – if you are in a developing country and worried about getting sick eating only cooked food will help you avoid foreign stomach bugs
  • Stay in at night (in general everyone but especially females. It’s a good rule to live by in developing countries. There are so many stories and reasons but go with your gut instincts)
  • Rubber door stop – a lock on your door may not stop an intruder but a rubber door stop placed into your closed door will be more of a hindrance
  • No valuables – try not to carry any valuables. If you do, keep them on your person. Do not talk about money or how much your camera is worth etc…ever


  • Don’t give handouts to children, for soooooo many reasons. (My advice. Buy school supplies in the country you visit and give them to a specific school, or go to a school an ask what they are in need of)
  • Appropriate modest clothing and head scarf if needed (in developing and Muslim countries I generally wear clothing that covers my shoulders to at least mid-arm and legs to the ankle. It’s courteous and you will be treated better- true story)

Travel Pro Tip: Know local customs and taboos. Some countries require that you give and accept with a certain hand. In other countries it is extremely rude to point. Showing your shoulders is sometimes taboo. Know where you are going and please be courteous!

Happy Travels!

How to pack for a developing country by Shelley Coar

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