The Ultimate Central and South America Packing List

Planning a trip to South or Central America? Time to start getting ready!  One of the most important things is to determine what you'll be taking with you for your journey. We've put together a clear and comprehensive packing list for you. This way, you'll be well-prepared and won't forget anything.

Climate and Travel Seasons

Central America largely features a tropical and subtropical climate, with consistently high temperatures throughout the year and minimal temperature variations. However, there is a rainy season that typically runs from late May to mid-November. This varies across countries and regions. Even outside this season, it's often dry, but there can still be short, intense rain showers in certain areas.

There are also differences in altitude in Central America, leading to considerable temperature drops in some places. During your travels, you'll often visit both very warm areas and high-altitude spots where it can get quite cold, especially at night. That's why it's practical to dress in layers, opting for long, thin clothing instead of thick sweaters or jackets. This allows for easy adaptation to temperatures and saves space in your suitcase or backpack. Temperatures can vary between 10-30°C (50-86°F) throughout the region.

In South America, diverse climates abound. For instance, in the southern part—Chile and Argentina—winter falls during our summer, and temperatures can drop below 5°C (41°F) during the day. Traveling through the high Andes Mountains, temperatures due to altitude can be extremely low, especially at night. Additionally, a significant amount of rain falls in most parts of South America.

During a journey through Central and South America, you're guaranteed to encounter rain and experience lower temperatures at high altitudes. Therefore, it's always advisable to bring along rain gear and clothing for layering on your trip.

Traveling with a suitcase or backpack

The first choice you have to make when you go on a trip is whether you opt for a suitcase or a backpack. There are advantages to both, and the best choice depends on your travel itinerary, the activities you'll be doing, but mostly on your personal preference.

The biggest advantage of a backpack compared to a suitcase is that you can carry it on your back. In South or Central America, you won't always find good sidewalks and paved roads, especially when traveling to more remote places outside of major cities, so a backpack can be the obvious choice. On the other hand, traveling with a suitcase is much more comfortable. You don't have to carry a suitcase on your back, making it more relaxed for longer walks.

An important difference is that a suitcase is heavier than a backpack. With a suitcase, you quickly reach the maximum weight for checked baggage. A backpack can be packed heavier, but it often has less space than a suitcase.

A backpack offers a lot of flexibility, but in most places, you can travel just fine with a suitcase. For example, in locations with only unpaved roads, you can usually take a taxi. It may be challenging to move your suitcase only in places where there are no taxis and no paved roads. So, consider your route carefully and choose what's best for you.

We often travel with our Eastpak travel bags. These have all the benefits of a suitcase, but they are essentially wheeled bags. This results in a lower weight than a suitcase, allowing you to bring more.

Tips for Your Packing List

  • Don't pack too many clothes. While traveling in Central or South America, you can easily and inexpensively have your clothes washed at your hostel, hotel, or at a laundry service found everywhere.
  • Avoid bringing thick sweaters or jackets, but pack clothing that can be layered for higher-altitude places where it can get cooler in the evenings.
  • Think carefully about whether you really need everything. For example, we recommend not bringing expensive watches or jewelry to Central or South America.


  • Passport + copies
  • Visa
  • Credit card(s) (with sufficient monthly limit)
  • Debit card (worldwide)
  • Cash
  • Medical passport
  • Vaccination passport
  • Copies of important documents such as health insurance, travel insurance, emergency numbers, contact information for family/friends
  • Passport photos
  • Boarding pass
  • Backpack/Daypack
  • Rain cover (for backpack/daypack)

Tip: Withdrawing cash abroad using your local bank card or credit card can be expensive. When withdrawing in a different currency, you often face unfavorable exchange rates and additional transaction fees. Our solution is Wise. For a one-time fee of $9 USD, you can open an account and receive a VISA debit card. You can hold and convert money in more than 50 currencies, always at a favorable rate. Additionally, you can spend money in over 170 countries without any extra charges.




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Check out all our articles with the best tips to discover the most beautiful places in the world.

Do you want to read more?

Check out all our articles with the best tips to discover the most beautiful places in the world.

About the authors

How nice that you are on our website and that you have read this article! We are Mirte and Matthew, two Dutch adventurers with a passion for traveling, discovering cultures, and gaining new experiences. We've translated our love for the world into this website. We hope our articles inspire you to go on adventures! You can learn more about us through the button below.
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