South Africa travel

Nina

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our local South Africa travel expert
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Wild animals, panoramic nature and tasty wine

Do you love wild animals, diverse nature and lively cities? Then you’ll wan to go on a South Africa travel adventure. With her diverse natural wonders, you can go on safari in the famous Kruger National Park, walk in Drakensberg, visit vineyards and drink wine in Stellenbosch, relax on the beach in Cape Town and get to know a varied mix of cultures. You can even rent a car and discover the most beautiful places of the country at your own pace. The perfect South Africa travel experience.

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South Africa Travel Blog

Read some tips on how to interact with the locals in South Africa

Inspiration and travel tips

A South Africa travel experience

In search of the Big Five on safari

South Africa and safari are almost synonymous. So a South Africa travel adventure without safari would be incomplete. The country boasts numerous beautiful wildlife parks where you can go on the most beautiful safaris. Don’t miss the famous Kruger National Park where, with a bit of luck, you can spot the Big Five. Addo Elephant National Park is known for its large herds of elephants and in Hluhluwe National Park you spot many animals in a hilly, green landscape. There is also a large number of private game reserves where you stay in special, small-scale accommodations. Right among all the animals!

Discover Stellenbosch and Drakensbergen

When deciding on where to go for your South Africa trip, then definitely visit the Stellenbosch wine region. The surroundings with the endless vineyards are beautiful and the wines are worth tasting. Take a bike ride through the various wineries and enjoy the best wines of South Africa. Do you enjoy a good walk? Then make sure you include Drakensberg in your South Africa travel programme. This mountain area is stunningly beautiful and allows for the most awesome hikes.

Sightseeing in South Africa

Beyond safari parks, South Africa has many more things to see. Take for example the bustling city of Cape Town where you can easily spend a couple of days exploring. Climb Table Mountain, take a cooking workshop in the colourful district of Bo-Kaap and discover the sights in the area. One of the most special South Africa travel experiences is the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of the African continent. The penguins on Boulders Beach are also worth a visit. At the end of your trip, you can drive back to Cape Town via the spectacular Chapman’s Peak Drive, the most beautiful drive in the country.

South Africa travel tips

In addition to South Africa’s incredible nature, the country is also a melting pot of cultures. Getting to know these various cultures is an amazing learning experience.You can sleep in homestays where you meet and stay with local families. In KawZulu-Natal you can do a Zulu tour where you will get to know the unique culture of the Zulus. You can also go on a township tour and learn how it is to live in a township. Nina, our South Africa travel specialist, is happy to help you design your own tailor-made trip around South Africa. Are you travelling to South Africa with children? Then she will happily help you compose a great trip for both parents and children, such as this family trip.

Share your travel wishes with Nina and she will send you a tailor-made proposal

Know Before you Go

General Information and Insider Tips
Visa

Residents of the US, UK, Canada and Australia do not need a visa for travel to South Africa of 90 days or less. New Zealand nationals, however, do need a visa. For other countries, check visa requirements here.

Your passport must be valid for at least six months prior to arrival in South Africa, and have two blank visa pages. It is your own responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of valid and correct travel documentation.

Insider Tip: If you are travelling with children under 18, they need to take an unabridged birth certificate with them. Since 2015, this has been the new regulation set in place to curb human trafficking. Any children under 18 must carry this document with them to enter Namibia. For more information, have a look here.

Vaccinations

There are no particular requirements for South Africa, but make sure all routine vaccinations are up to date (MMR, polio, tetanus, etc.). Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. Depending on where you’re traveling, Hepatitis B and rabies vaccines may be recommended. Malaria is a potential threat, so seek the advice of a medical professional about whether or not you need prophylaxis. We recommend all vaccines be completed at least six weeks prior to travel.

If traveling from a country that has yellow fever, you will be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination.

Remember to use a Steripen with our refillable Dopper bottle when in uncertain areas.

Insider Tip: Treat safari clothes with permetherin before your trip to repel mosquitos. It lasts for six weeks or six washings.

Safety

The safety of our clients is of the utmost importance to us, and our local experts are always well-informed about the current situation in South Africa. For up-to-date information about safety, security and travel warnings, please refer to the US State Department, UK Foreign Travel Advice, or your local government resource.

Insider Tip: Johannesburg has a unique hand signal system for hailing minibus taxis. Because rides are shared, these signals tell the driver where you’re headed. This system has been commemorated via sculptures, art exhibits and postal stamps.

Electricity

230V/50Hz

A variety of sockets can be found in South Africa, so it is advised to bring adapters. This includes the two-pronged round (Type C) and various three-pronged round (Type D, M and N). Power outages are common and electricity isn’t always available in your room out in the bush, so it is advised that you bring a flashlight/torch and portable USB charger.

Insider Tip: Although it looks like the European-style two-pronged plugs will fit in the three-pronged outlets, they often aren’t compatible. Further, most world plugs don’t include these less-common types, so play it safe and make sure you have an adapter specific to this region.

Flights

At Better Places Travel, you book your own international flights. Your travel expert will gladly advise you on the best option. Read here for more information and tips.

When to go

South Africa has a subtropical climate with ocean breezes from both sides of the country. It has four distinct seasons with arid deserts, tropical coastlines and snow-topped mountains. Depending on where you’re visiting, summers can be hot, with April and May as generally the most temperate. The country is famous for its sunshine, and the rain it does get generally falls in the summer months (November-January).

Peak season in the coastal areas is December-January, particularly around Christmas and New Year. May-August is the best time for Kruger National Park. Read more about the best time to travel here.

Insider Tip: If you are traveling during South African school holidays, book far in advance as accommodations fill up quickly and prices are at their peak

Language

The most widely spoken national language is Zulu.

While English isn’t the most spoken language, it regarded is the lingua franca, and used most often in business and media. You’ll hear it spoken in urban areas.

Hello = Sawubona (singular)/Sanibonan (plural)
Goodbye = Hamba kahle (to a person leaving)/Sala kahle (if you are leaving)
Please = Ngiyakucela
Thank you = Ngiyabong
Excuse Me= Uxolo
Yes = Yebo
No = Cha

Insider Tip: South Africa has ELEVEN official languages and most residents speak more than one. Number of speakers in descending order: Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, SiSwati, Tshivenda and Ndebele.

Culture

South Africa is a multicultural country and so are different etiquette among demographic and ethnic groups. Religion is a strong thing and Christianity has big following so be sensitive when conversing about the same. As a former British colony, some English customs and traditions are still observed in South Africa, like afternoon tea. They are a liberal nation with gay marriage legalized in 2006, although rural areas tend to be more conservative. Elders are highly respected. The pace of life is a little slower, so punctuality in social situations is a little loose.

Insider Tip: Some rural villages frown upon women drinking alcohol, so consult with your local guide to understand cultural norms.

Money

The local currency is South African Rand (ZAR).

Each rand is broken down into 100 cents. ATMs are available most everywhere—even in rural areas (except for nature reserves). Credit cards are also widely accepted, with Visa being the most commonly used. There is a high incidence of credit card and bank fraud, however, so only withdraw cash during the day (preferably from a bank with a guard), and don’t let someone take your credit card out of sight for processing; it should be done in your presence.

The rand is also accepted in Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia, although you will receive change in the local currency. The value of each is the same as the rand. US dollars are easiest to exchange, so it is advisable to carry some with you in case you have issues with the ATM.

Insider Tip: A Unique Rand Card (URC) is a safe money option for tourists as it’s a pre-paid debit card loaded with rand at a fixed rate. You can get a URC card from banks and some foreign exchange offices. Because it’s not linked to your bank and only has limited funds, it can help guard against fraud.

Tipping

  • Restaurants –  If a service charge isn’t added to your bill, 10-15% is customary.
  • Cabs – No tipping, but you can round up the change.
  • Hotels – Tip bellmen $1 USD per bag.

Insider Tip: Most lodges will advise on tipping guidelines for safari guides, drivers, rangers, trackers, etc. Your local guide can also provide recommendations based on your specific package.

Packing

What you pack will depend on when and where you visit. Summers can be hot (milder on the coasts) and winter temperatures in the country’s interior can fluctuate. Layering is generally a good practice. Dress is generally casual, although you’ll want nicer evening clothes for going out in the cities (higher-end restaurants, shows, etc.).

Must-pack items- entire country

  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Sunglasses
  • Simple medical kit with over-the-counter drugs and first aid (including anti-diarrheal and stomach meds)
  • Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
  • All prescriptions
  • Flashlight/torch for possible power outages
  • Tissues in case toilet paper is unavailable

Must-pack items- coastal areas and cities:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Flip flops or sandals for beach areas
  • Light sweater or jacket for evenings (something heavier for winter)
  • Swimsuit
  • Microfiber towel or sarong for beach-going
  • Shorts, t-shirts, casual pants, sundresses, etc.
  • Nicer evening wear
  • Umbrella for occasional summer thundershowers

Must-pack items- safari:

  • Comfortable closed-toe shoes or hiking boots
  • Light jacket or fleece for cool mornings
  • Warm jacket if traveling in colder months
  • Daypack
  • Wide-brimmed safari hat
  • Light-colored clothes (khaki is best; white will get dusty and dark will attract mosquitos)
  • Binoculars for wildlife spotting
  • Telephoto camera lens

Insider Tip: Many nightclubs have a dress code, so be sure to pack footwear other than sneakers or flip flops for an evening out.

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