Tropical Sailing Essentials: what to pack for exotic destinations

Tropical Sailing Essentials: what to pack for exotic destinations

Are you going on holiday to an tropical destination? Check out our handy tips on how to prepare and what to pack.

We've already covered what to bring along on your European sailing holiday in previous articles. However, with the winter season drawing many sailors to embark on tropical yacht adventures, we've compiled the ultimate packing list to ensure your sailing bag has everything essential for these unique voyages.

What documents will I need?

Be sure to check the validity of your travel document (passport) well in advance. Often the airlines themselves require it to be valid for at least 6 months after the end of the trip. Also find out whether the visa for your destination needs to be processed in advance or it can be done on the spot. If you are planning to rent a car or scooter, it's also a good idea to get an international driving licence.

Carry an international vaccination card too. This informs local doctors about your vaccination status which is particularly important in an emergency. Another tip is to make copies of all your documents, either on your smartphone or printed copies in a waterproof case. That way, if you lose the original, you'll at least have something to fall back on.

Lastly, we recommend preparing a card that lists all essential phone numbers, including your nearest embassy, your emergency contact, and local police and emergency services. This is useful if your phone is dead, lost or stolen.

YACHTING.COM TIP: In addition to traditional travel documents, check the validity of your skipper's license in the tropical destination. Our sales team will be happy to help you with this. 

Tropical sun is unforgiving

UV filter even for clothing

Never underestimate the intensity of the tropical sun, which can be much harsher than what you might experience in Croatia, Greece, or Spain. The sun's rays are amplified on the water, increasing the risk of sunburn. To protect yourself, opt for lightweight lycra clothing with a UV protection factor when you're in the water or aboard the yacht. Such material not only shields your skin from harmful rays but also dries quickly for added comfort. Always apply a high-SPF sunscreen and remember to protect your lips with a UV-protective lip balm, as they are also susceptible to burns.

Lycra shirt man

Lycra is often worn by water sports enthusiasts to avoid getting burned.

Cover your head

Even though it's windy on the boat, the sun is still beating down. Protect yourself from sunburn by wearing a hat or scarf, ideally with built-in sun protection. Since it's common for items to get lost or blown away at sea, bring extras. So pack two hats and two scarves. The best way to safeguard your eyes is with quality sunglasses that offer UV protection. Avoid cheap market-bought glasses, as they often lack adequate protection and can harm your eyesight.

After-sun care

It doesn't end with a tan or, in worse cases, sunburn. Take care of your skin's health even after sunbathing. We recommend packing an creams such as Panthenol, Bepanthen or other soothing, moisturizing and regenerating products. And for those unexpected moments, white yogurt can serve as a makeshift remedy for sunburnt skin.

burnt female skin in the sun close-up in a blue t-shirt

The incidence of skin cancer has been on the rise in recent years. Don't underestimate the sun.

Monsoon rains: an unwelcome surprise

While many associate tropical countries with beautiful weather, it's easy to overlook the frequent rains. Tropical or monsoon showers can take you by surprise, so we recommend bringing along waterproof clothing. Although we hope you won't need it, it's best to be prepared.

Insect protection: don't underestimate the need for it

Whether we like it or not, tropical destinations often have mosquitoes (at least). We need two things when we come into contact with these annoying insects: protection so we don't get bitten, and care when we unfortunately do. For prevention, mosquito nets are your best bet, especially if you're planning to sleep out in the cockpit or a hammock. Additionally, consider using strong insect repellents available at outdoor sports stores, formulated specifically for these regions. Another proactive measure is getting vaccinated against mosquito-borne diseases common in such areas, like dengue fever or malaria.

If your defences haven't worked and you end up with an insect bite, all you can do is put some antihistamine cream on it and hope it stops itching. Antihistamine cream should also be in your first aid kit, not just for mosquito bites but also for jellyfish stings, as it can help soothe the burning sensation.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Which dangerous creatures can you encounter in tropical destinations and what to do? Check out what to do if you get stung by a jellyfish, how to do first aid if you have a run in with a poisonous fish and how to overcome your fear of sharks. 

Tropical holidays require an extra first aid kit

As a responsible captain, I'm sure you carry your own first aid kit. But what to pack especially for more exotic locations?

  • Allergy medicine (for a reaction to pollen, exotic fruits or insect bites)
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Antibiotics (until you can get professional medical help)
  • Antidiarrheal medicine (exotic foods can mess with your gut)
  • Tweezers (for pretty much everything)
  • Eye drops (because even water in exotic countries can inflame)

YACHTING.COM TIP: For more insights about illnesses and first aid, take a look at our guides on what to do if someone gets sick while sailing or suffers an accident or injury. Don't be caught off guard in an emergency.

Dealing with the unpredictable in tropical countries

Prevention is key, especially when it comes to safeguarding your investment in an exotic holiday. In remote destinations, we recommend more than anywhere else to take out insurance. At, we can arrange both travel insurance and trip cancellation insurance when you book your yacht. This is especially valuable with tropical holidays as they can be more expensive. Basic deposit insurance is a must; it covers your deposit if issues arise with the boat at check-out. For comprehensive coverage, consider opting for the EXTRA option, which includes liability insurance.

Why do we recommend insurance all the more in exotic destinations? The need for insurance is even greater due to cultural differences and potential complications. Issues such as deposit disputes with charter companies, or challenges in flight and charter cancellations, are more complex than in more familiar destinations like Croatia. Access to medical assistance can also vary greatly.

So our advice is simple — take out insurance. Don't try to save money at all costs, because you'll be left high and dry in an emergency.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Did you know that offers different price packages? For example, with the Premium package, deposit insurance is included in the price. 

Tropical paradise, idyllic Caribbean beach with sailboats, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Don't let preventable situations spoil this idyll

Card or cash?

If you're accustomed to the convenience of credit cards, mobile payments, and reliable high-speed internet, keep in mind that these amenities are not universally available. In remote destinations, such as small atolls in the Caribbean or areas in Southeast Asia, traditional payment methods like cash are more common. While large supermarkets and resorts might accept modern payment methods, local vendors, markets, and small shops typically do not. Therefore, when heading to these exotic locations, it's a good idea to carry plenty of cash, preferably in universally accepted currencies like dollars or euros, in addition to some local currency. This cash can often be withdrawn from ATMs or exchanged at the airport.

The same applies with your SIM card and calls. In many cases, buying a local SIM card upon arrival at the airport is more economical, offering better access to data and calling options, usually at an affordable price..

Stock up before setting sail

At the very beginning of your tropical yachting holiday, be aware that you might not come across any large stores during your journey. Stock up on food and, most importantly, drinks and drinking water. Make sure to purchase sufficient quantities of these necessities at the home port before setting sail

How to enjoy your stay below deck

During the peak of summer, for your comfort in exotic destinations, we suggest opting for a boat equipped with air conditioning. However, in the event that the air conditioning is not operational, it's a good idea to have a backup plan. Bringing along a portable fan can be a lifesaver, particularly at night when cooler air is essential for a good night's sleep

Capturing your memories

The underwater world of tropical destinations is a kaleidoscope of colour and life. Remember to pack your snorkelling gear – a mask, snorkel, and fins – as well as an underwater camera to capture the breathtaking beauty. And don't overlook the practicality of an 'ABC kit' – it's invaluable for tasks like threading a rope through a propeller or checking the anchor

YACHTING.COM TIP: If the life beneath the waves appeals to you, check out the our 50 top places in the world for sailing and snorkelling. Plus, you can find plenty more tips for tropical destinations in our complete guide to snorkelling in Thailand and, to what lives on the coral reefs of the Caribbean

Snorkeling in exotic

Snorkelling in the tropics is a great experience. It's like an open-air aquarium.

Land-based excursions

If you intend to make landfall during your journey, it's wise to ensure your rabies vaccination is up-to-date. Stray animals like dogs and monkeys can be carriers of this serious disease. For excursions into towns, consider using a waist bag or neck pouch to discreetly and securely carry your documents and money. These can be purchased at specialized outdoor stores. For the more adventurous or survival-oriented travelers, carrying a machete or sharp knife can be useful for navigating jungles or even for practical tasks like cutting coconuts from palm trees.


Crack open your own coconut. Coconut water is great.

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