Ghana Packing Protips


I’m pretty sure it’s a tradition for Junior Fellows to pack incorrectly.  Some do worse than others, but I feel like we all wind up where we’re going – whether Toronto, Ntcheu or Kumasi – either missing something or with a bunch of stuff that makes us scratch our heads and question our life choices.

I was meticulous about packing to come to Ghana.  It was like a gradual, multi-week process.  I was super scared of leaving something behind.  And I think I did pretty good!  I haven’t had too many “Ah damn, I wish I had that” moments.  However I have had a ton of “Man, why the heck did I bring that” moments, and “Who knew this thing would be useful” moments.

In the hope of preventing future packing woes among Junior Fellows or other friends heading for urban Ghana, here are my packing protips.

What I’m glad I brought

  • Emergency sewing kit
    But seriously, you have no many idea how many rips and tears and broken seams I’ve mended with this bad boy since arriving.  Also, fabric is plentiful and sewing is a great creative outlet.  There’s way more thread in one of these kits than you think
  • Food containers
    You can pack liquids in them, and then when you get there, you have containers to put food in! Which can be kind of hard to find.  Also heck ya I got an image of the exact kind of containers I brought off of Google instead of walking upstairs to take a picture.  Judge me.
  • A digital watch
    Handy for those days when the power goes out overnight so your phone alarm doesn’t work.  Also when you’re on safari and don’t want to take your phone out to check the time, bam!  Time on your wrist.  Innovation.
  • Pacsafe bag and money belt
    Sure, it’s dorky as hell, but when you’re travelling through 3 continents in 24 hours, it’s nice to have all your valuables in a money belt and one less thing to worry about.  I use my pacsafe bag here whenever I’m carrying more than can fit in a pocket.  The zippers snap in place, the fabric is lined with metal mesh, it has an RFID blocking pocket, and let’s be real – as travel bags go, it’s not that ugly.  Plus, a purse with water bottle pockets is the best idea anyone ever had.
  • Versatile, durable, NOT TOURISTY pants
    I’m so glad I brought these two pairs of pants.  They are both a style I like, not too tight or too loose, and appropriate for professional or casual life.  Extra tip: if you’re used to machine drying your clothes at home, they’ll stretch a little here when you start line drying instead.  That’s just the way it goes.
  • Light business shirts
    It’s hot here.  You don’t want to be hot at the office.  You also want something with long sleeves in case your office has AC.  You also want to have the option to look nice at the office.  People who work in professional environments here take dressing seriously.  If that’s your office environment, you should too.  It wasn’t mine, but I was glad to still have this option.  A couple professional shirts in a light fabric will serve you well.
  • Skirts of an appropriate length
    Gender roles and expectations are 100% a real thing.  You might tell yourself “I won’t give a heck, watch me wear whatever I want” before you get here, but when you see the funny looks people give you and harassment you receive, you may be singing a different tune.  I like wearing more conservative clothes here because sticking out due to being white is exhausting enough.  I’d rather try to blend in however I can.  PS, appropriate lengths vary greatly by region; in Kumasi, knee length is cool.
  • Ample socks and underwear
    Packed so many socks and underwear, haven’t regretted it once.
  • These shoes
    So I overpacked shoes, but these 4 pairs have proved essential.  Flats and pretty sandals for work and going out, birks for day to day, sneakers for working out.  Invest packing space in good shoes you’ll actually wear.
  • Kindle
    Hours of entertainment, good for the brain, minimal space
  • Multivitamins, painkillers, cipro
    These babies have served me well here.  Cipro will cure anything.  It is not to be messed with.  I am so glad I have a whole bunch on hand.
  • Tampons
    For all my friends who bleed, tampons are scarce here.  As a die-hard tampon fan, I was super glad to have brought enough for 4 months with me.  Bonus benefit that you’re not bringing them home, so you’ll have more room in your bag for fun stuff.  If you’re super into space and waste conservation (which I’m still evidently working on), a diva cup would also be a solid option
  • Bar shampoo
    Light, low-packaging, lasts forever, smells awesome.  Also it may be hard to find shampoo for obroni hair, so it’s nice to bring your own.

What I brought and didn’t need

  • Coloring pencils and book
    Thought I would use them a bunch, haven’t used them once.  I always end up reading or working out in free time instead! Ya live and ya learn.  Also I just brought a stupid amount of pencils to begin with.
  • Too many notebooks
    This isn’t all of them.  Realistically I should have brought one, maybe two, and I have like six.  They’re just heavy and a hassle to carry around.
  • A foldable water bottle
    It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I threw a real water bottle in my bag last minute and I’m so glad I did.  Maybe I’d use this if I didn’t have the real one.  Moral of the story: bring things you’re used to and will actually use.
  • A rain jacket
    Despite it being rainy season here, you can’t feasibly wear a rain jacket.  It’s too warm.  Plus, the rain generally comes in short, vicious attacks – you can just duck inside and wait it out.  And if you get stuck in it, hey!  It’s water.  It’s warm.  You’ll dry.  Don’t bring a raincoat to Ghana.  Bring an umbrella if anything.
  • Thermal underlayer & knit cardigan
    Honestly what was I thinking.  Maybe I thought my office would have AC on blast all the time.  That must have been it.  But yeah, it’s too warm for these here.  I have a lighter cardigan and a denim shirt that I do wear when I need a little extra warmth.  These were overkill though.
  • Androgynous pants
    I brought these thinking they’d be good travel pants and comfy casual pants.  Again, gender roles are a real thing here.  Haven’t worn them once.  I could wear them, it would be fine, but I don’t need to get harassed any more than I do now.
  • A gazillion extra chargers
    All of these are spares.  I had a fear that something would break when I got here.  Don’t know why.  If something had broken, I also would have been able to find a replacement for it.  Electronics are pretty easy to find in little stalls and shops on the streets if you know where to look.

What I wish I brought

  • Portable charging block
    This would be so handy to have during dumsor.  At first, not having power sometimes is funny.  Then it’s a little off-putting.  Then it’s annoying.  Not having power can seriously impede your productivity and even your safety in some situations – think about your phone dying on a tro at night because you couldn’t charge it during the day, and you feel like the tro is driving in the wrong direction.
  • My USB drive with movies and shows
    While I don’t watch movies/TV often, it is nice to have a movie night sometimes.  Currently Alex and I have two movie options between us.  Having Harry Potter with me would have been a huge plus.

Thanks for reading! All in all, I think I packed pretty well.  Hindsight is 20/20.  I’m just hoping to save some poor JF the trouble of buying a packable water bottle.  Till next time! 🙂



4 thoughts on “Ghana Packing Protips

  1. Oh I love this (may copy). I feel you on so many things – I ran out of tampons and had the pleasure of asking Thom to look in Lilongwe, a search which was unsuccessful and clearly very fun for him. I also did not bring enough socks and they are all constantly black with dirt (gross, I know) BUT OF COURSE I brought a literal toque and a plethora of stuffed animals. You don’t want to know how close I was to bringing rubber boots.

    Ps the “androgynous pants” cracked me up
    Pss I’m going to pretend that your comment re: hang drying is wrong and that my pants are obviously shrinking rather than my butt growing
    Psss Ntcheu appreciates the shoutout


  2. Hi Alycia! Seen the post on my facebook timeline and just spent ages reading this and the other posts! You’re so inspiring!
    What got me to comment was your note on the tampons/diva cup thing. You have to try it!! I travel loads (and am a bit obsessed with being as eco-friendly as I can without being obnoxious) and the cup is a game changer. You can usually leave it in for an entire day (12hrs) without even noticing/worrying about TSS (I’ve always been so paranoid about this) etc. Long trips, plane rides, and even just daily life, all made so much easier when you don’t have to worry constantly… Ok I’ll leave it at that, have a wonderful rest of the summer and I am looking forward to reading about your next adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww Lenka!!! Miss you roomie, you’re the sweetest ❤ Noted on the diva cup!!! My sister has also been trying to convince me to try it for a while now. The more I travel the more I see how useful it would be – thanks for the tip!! You have a wonderful rest of summer as well xox 🙂


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