What do I need to pack?
Yay! You've decided to hop aboard the Tazara train after all! Now let's make sure you are fully prepared for the next 45-60+ hours :).
Most likely, Tazara is just a small part of a larger journey. Whether it is a RTW trip or a few weeks trekking through Africa, we want you to be comfortable as well as respectable on the train. Time of year will also also affect what you pack. We traveled in August and can tell you that it was warm (but not unbearable) during the day but we were both freezing at night (we also kept our window open. More on this here.
Normally I would wear yoga pants on a journey like this, but I decided to wear loose fitting jogger pants and loose fitting shirts during the day and a sweater in the evenings. One night we even wore our Patagonia jackets. I wore flip-flops around the train, and when we were in our cabin, I would wear slipper socks. If you have been traveling for awhile, I'm sure you will have collected a few pairs of Buddha pants or something similar. I lived in mine. If you want to purchase something from the states, I really like the Uniqlo Drape Jogger Pants. They barely take up any room and they are great for travel. I hate wearing jeans when I travel but obviously this would be another option too.
Each bed will have a flat sheet, a pillow, and a heavy blanket. Since we had all four beds to ourselves, we used one of the heavy blankets as our base and used the other when we were cold. This turned out to be a great combo. We also kept all of our things on the top bunk as storage and slept on the bottom to keep things open and organized (I'm a sucker for organization and clean spaces).
During our trip we traveled with our Cocoon sleep sacks and decided to use them, but in all honesty I don't think they are necessary. We also had these pillow covers but didn't end up using them here (however they did come in handy a few months later).
Food!! My favorite part! We heard horror stories about the train running out of water and food, so we wanted to be fully prepared. Again, in the end, we were lucky with minimal delays, but we were still glad to have everything we brought. We ate a total of 2 lunches and 2 dinners on Tazara, but the options were pretty limited. We enjoyed daily meals of beef stew, fish, and nshima (a mixture of maize flour and water which resembles, but tastes nothing like, mashed potatoes). By lunch on the final day we were so sick of nshima that we decided to finish off the rest of our snacks.
Some of the other options were fried chicken, a T-bone steak, chips, and rice and cabbage. You can also buy a variety of local beers, water, and soft drinks. They have a few snacks too but we never purchased any. The prices were pretty reasonable. Lunch and dinners were never more than $4USD and beers were around $2.
The Grocery List
(Because we all know snacks are life. And let's be honest, have probably saved my marriage)
- Six 2 liter bottles of water
- 1 jar of instant coffee (plus powdered milk - we were able to find hot water but I can't remember if we paid for it!)
- 1 bottle of wine (although I wish we had bought two (three))
- 2 cans of Pringles (we were so sick of Pringles but they are easy to travel with and you can find them everywhere)
- A couple packs of cookies (I think oreos and tea biscuits)
- A bag of cashews and another bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit
- Fruit (oranges and apples)
- A jar of Nutella (because why not)
- Paper towels and toilet paper (I always had some form of toilet paper with me)
- Instant noodles (And If you can find instant noodles, this would be a great addition too!)
Here are some extra things we packed that helped make our journey more pleasant! Also we kept all of our shopping bags and used them as trash bags during the journey.
- Microfiber towel
- Babywipes: used for personal hygiene but also to clean around our little cabin because I'm insane and clean constantly
- Earplugs: Zambian pop music will be playing constantly throughout the train. There is a switch in each cabin to turn it on/off. Our neighbors must have gotten off at an earlier stop and forgot to flip their switch. It was not pleasant.
- Eyemask: I always travel with one and this is my favorite brand
- Cards (we love playing cards and played a lot during the 40 hour journey
- Headlamp: you'll need these if you go to the bathroom during all hours of the night like us
- Cups: we ended up cutting the top off our water bottles and using them as cups and bowls
- Converter for outlets
- Travel locks and chain: you can, and should, lock your door every time you leave your cabin. There is a guard assigned to each car and he has a key to let you back in; however, often times we couldn't find him so Brian started locking our cabin himself. More on this in Safety.
- Travel speaker: we love speaker and still use it today
Disclosure: While our little blog doesn't make much (read: any) real income, some of the links below are affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission if you click through our links and make a purchase. Thanks, friends!