Ultimate South Africa Travel Guide: Tips and Preparations! If you’re travelling to South Africa, you’re in the right place!
This year, I’m heading to South Africa for the second time, so it’s about time I write about it. During my first visit, we explored around Cape Town, but this time, I’m heading to Johannesburg.
South Africa is a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage, stunning natural landscapes, and diverse wildlife. Here are some valuable tips to help you plan your trip.
When to Travel to South Africa?
The best time to visit South Africa depends on your interests and preferences. As a general rule, the Southern half of the country is more suitable for visiting during our winter, from November to February, as this is summertime in South Africa. It’s an excellent time for coastal destinations and enjoying the beaches.
However, if you’re interested in safaris and wildlife observation, the Northern half of the country, including Kruger National Park, is more suitable for visiting during our summer, from May to September. During this time, it’s dry and less green, making it easier to spot wildlife gathering around water sources.
It’s essential to consider regional climate variations in South Africa when planning your trip.
Safety in South Africa – South Africa Travel Guide
South Africa faces some security challenges, so it’s crucial to be prepared. Here are some tips:
- Pay attention to your personal belongings and avoid carrying too many valuables with you.
- Stay away from dark, empty streets, especially at night.
- Consult with locals and tourist information centres regarding safe and unsafe areas.
- Avoid visiting so-called ‘Townships’ on your own. Township in South Africa refers to impoverished urban settlements primarily inhabited by low-income local residents.
- Choose accommodations and hotels known for safety and a good reputation. Check reviews from other travellers and, most importantly, the security of the location.
- When driving, lock your vehicle’s doors and close windows, especially in urban areas. Park in secure, well-lit areas. Use official taxis and avoid unregistered transport providers.
- Be mindful of places where thefts or robberies may occur, such as public transportation, markets, traffic intersections, and tourist attractions.
- Safeguard copies of essential documents, such as your passport, driver’s license, and accommodation reservations.
- Verify that you have adequate health insurance covering potential emergency medical expenses during your trip. We recommend SafetyWing Insurance with flexible plans, global coverage, and 24/7 support, SafetyWing provides peace of mind and financial security for travellers worldwide. Whether you’re a frequent traveller, digital nomad, or vacationer, SafetyWing has you covered. For ages 10-39 years a four-week coverage costs only 45.08$! CLICK HERE and get your coverage now!
Payment and Currency – South Africa Travel Guide
Paying in South Africa is typically straightforward, given the country’s well-developed banking infrastructure. Most places accept credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and Maestro, making it very convenient to use cards for payments at restaurants, hotels, and shops.
However, it’s always advisable to carry some cash with you, especially for small purchases from local vendors or in places where ATMs may not be readily available. In larger cities and tourist areas, you’ll find plenty of ATMs where you can withdraw the local currency, the South African Rand (ZAR).
It’s essential to note that tipping is a common practice in restaurants and for services at hotels and safari guides. In most cases, a tip of 10% to 15% of the bill is expected. Be cautious, as some restaurants may include service charges in the account.
When travelling to more remote areas or reserves where there may be limited access to ATMs or card terminals, it’s advisable to have enough cash on hand to pay for local services and purchase local products.
When making payments in South Africa, be mindful of security, carefully check your bank statements, and use PIN protection when withdrawing cash from ATMs.
I withdrew all my money from ATMs, but for the most part, I was paying with my card.
Visa Requirements for South Africa
If you’re planning to visit South Africa, it’s essential to understand the visa requirements and application process, as they can vary depending on your nationality and the purpose of your visit. Here’s an overview of the visa requirements for South Africa:
South Africa has visa exemption agreements with many countries, allowing their citizens to enter the country for tourism or business purposes without a visa. These exemptions typically allow for a short stay, usually up to 90 days. However, it’s essential to check the specific requirements of your country before travelling.
Visitor’s Visa – South Africa Travel Guide
If you’re from a country that doesn’t have a visa exemption agreement with South Africa or you plan to stay for an extended period (more than 90 days), you’ll likely need a visitor’s visa. This type of visa is suitable for tourism, family visits, business meetings, and other short-term purposes.
Electricity and Outlets
In South Africa, electrical outlets and plugs of type M are used. They have three round prongs and are somewhat different from the plugs used in most other countries.
Voltage in South Africa is 230V at a frequency of 50Hz. Before your trip, make sure your electrical appliances are compatible with South African outlets, and if necessary, obtain the appropriate adapters to charge your devices and electronic equipment during your visit to South Africa.
Load shedding (or ‘load shedding schedule’) in South Africa refers to planned power outages in specific areas to prevent overloading the electrical grid. This means that the electricity supply is intentionally cut off for a set period in designated areas to maintain a balance between demand and electricity production. In Cape Town, we experienced power outages for at least two hours once a day
Food – South Africa Travel Guide
South Africa is renowned for its diverse and delicious cuisine. Try some local dishes such as braai (South African barbecue), bobotie (a spiced meat dish), boerewors (sausage), and various types of game meat. Seafood options along the coast are excellent as well. In regions like Stellenbosch, you can explore excellent wineries and enjoy their fine wines.
Transport and Driving
For getting around cities, Uber is definitely the best choice! The Uber app is easily accessible and allows you to book rides with qualified drivers in various cities across the country, including Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. Uber is a convenient option for city travel, offering various ride options from standard cars to luxury vehicles. Passengers can pay through the app, which is safe and convenient.
Rent A Car
If you plan to rent a car and drive in South Africa, be cautious on the roads and respect traffic rules. This time, we rented a VW vehicle with full insurance for five days, which cost me 120€. We opted for an SUV as we plan to visit Kruger National Park on our own. Driving in South Africa offers a diverse and exciting experience, but you should consider some important tips:
Left-hand driving: In South Africa, you drive on the left side of the road. Pay attention to this, especially if you’re not accustomed to left-hand driving.
Roads and road conditions: South Africa’s road network is well-maintained, but road conditions can vary by region. Rural roads may be narrower, while cities can have heavy traffic. Pay attention to road signs and traffic rules.
Safety: Some areas of South Africa pose safety challenges. Stick to main roads and consult with local residents or tourist information centres about safe and unsafe areas.
Driving in the wilderness: If you plan to go on a safari, you may encounter driving on unpaved roads. Follow your guide’s instructions and stay on designated paths.
Speed limits: South Africa has speed limits that must be observed. Speed enforcement is common, so drive carefully and within the legal limits.
Fuel: Petrol stations are plentiful, but fuel prices can vary. It’s advisable to always have enough fuel, especially on longer journeys where petrol stations may be less frequent.
Driving in South Africa allows you to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and natural beauty, but always be vigilant on the roads and follow safety tips to ensure your journey is safe and enjoyable.
South Africa Travel Guide
These are just some basic pieces of information to help you plan your trip to South Africa. Before departure, we recommend consulting with the South African Embassy or Consulate for the latest visa and safety information and following local safety advice during your visit.
South Africa offers an incredible variety of experiences, from wild safaris and stunning natural landscapes to diverse cuisine and a rich cultural heritage. As you plan your journey, don’t forget to consider safety tips, obtain the necessary documents, savour local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the country’s rich wildlife. Stay open to new experiences and respect the country’s nature and culture to ensure you enjoy an unforgettable adventure in South Africa.