South Africa Travel Guide
Written by Joeri Van Overloop
Why Visit South Africa?
South Africa is an incredibly diverse and mesmerizing destination that offers something for every traveler! From the stunning mountains of Mpumalanga to the breathtaking coastline of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa has many landscapes to explore. Whether you are looking for a cultural exploration, thrilling outdoor activities, or simply a relaxing beach holiday, this South African travel guide will provide you with all the information you need to make your trip unforgettable.
South Africa is an incredibly diverse and unique destination that is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit. Here are a few reasons why you should consider a holiday to South Africa:
Natural Beauty: From its breathtaking landscapes to its abundant wildlife, South Africa boasts some of the most awe-inspiring natural beauty in the world. Whether it's a safari through the Kruger National Park or a hike up Table Mountain, there's something for everyone.
Adventure Activities: From surfing, to bungee jumping, to sky diving, South Africa is an adrenaline junkie's dream destination.
Cultural Diversity: South Africa is home to a rich and vibrant cultural heritage, with a mix of African, European, and Asian influences. From the colorful townships of Cape Town to the traditional villages of the Zulu kingdom, there's always something new to discover.
Food and Wine: South Africa is known for its world-class cuisine and excellent wine. From Cape Town's top-notch restaurants to the traditional braais (barbecues) of Johannesburg, there's no shortage of delicious food and drink to be enjoyed.
History and Heritage: South Africa has a rich and fascinating history, from the days of colonialism and apartheid to the country's recent transition to democracy. Visitors can explore the past through visits to historical sites and museums, as well as engaging with local communities and learning about their cultural heritage.
Beaches: With over 2,500 km of coastline, South Africa boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Whether you're looking for a secluded spot to relax or a lively beach town with plenty of nightlife, there's something for everyone.
Wildlife: South Africa is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino), as well as many other species of birds and animals. A safari is a must-do experience while visiting the country.
Affordability: South Africa is an incredibly affordable destination, with a favorable exchange rate, low cost of living, and a wide range of budget-friendly accommodations and activities. With so much to see and do, a holiday in South Africa is a great value for money.
Frequently Asked Questions When Travelling To South Africa
What Is A Good Budget For A Trip To South Africa?
The cost of a trip to South Africa will vary greatly depending on your travel style, the time of year, and the activities you choose to do. However, as a general guideline, a good budget for a trip to South Africa could be around $50 to $150 per day, excluding airfare.
For budget travelers, it's possible to find affordable accommodation, such as backpacker hostels or budget-friendly guesthouses, for around $15 to $30 per night. Eating out at local restaurants or street food stalls can cost around $5 to $15 per meal, and public transportation is generally cheap and easily accessible.
If you're looking for a more luxurious experience, you can expect to spend significantly more, with high-end hotels, fine dining restaurants, and more expensive activities such as safaris and wine tastings.
In terms of activities, it's important to note that many of South Africa's top attractions, such as national parks and wildlife reserves, have entrance fees, which can add up over the course of a trip. However, there are also many free activities to enjoy, such as exploring local markets, hiking, and beach walks.
Overall, a good budget for a trip to South Africa should take into account your travel style and budget preferences, as well as the current exchange rate and cost of living in the country. By being mindful of your spending, it's possible to have an amazing and memorable trip to South Africa without breaking the bank.
Accommodation: The cost of accommodations in South Africa can vary greatly depending on your budget and the type of accommodation you prefer. Here is a general overview of the costs of different types of accommodations in South Africa:
- Backpacker Hostels: Budget-friendly hostels in South Africa can cost anywhere from $10 to $25 per night for a dorm room and $30 to $60 for a private room. These types of accommodations are a great option for travelers who are on a tight budget.
- Budget Hotels: For those looking for a step up from backpacker hostels, budget hotels in South Africa can cost around $30 to $80 per night for a standard room. These types of accommodations usually offer basic amenities such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and private bathrooms.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Mid-range hotels in South Africa can cost anywhere from $80 to $200 per night, depending on the location and level of comfort. These types of accommodations usually offer more amenities and a higher level of comfort, including swimming pools, fitness centers, and in-room dining options.
- Luxury Hotels: South Africa is home to many luxurious hotels and resorts that can cost anywhere from $200 to $1000 or more per night. These types of accommodations offer top-notch amenities, such as spa services, gourmet restaurants, and scenic views.
- Guesthouses: For a more unique and personal experience, guesthouses in South Africa can be a great option. These types of accommodations can range from $50 to $200 per night, depending on the location and level of comfort.
- Bed and Breakfasts: For those looking for a homely experience, bed and breakfasts in South Africa can cost anywhere from $50 to $150 per night, depending on where you stay and the level of comfort you want.
Food and drink: The cost of eating out in South Africa will vary depending on the type of restaurant, location, and your budget. However, here is a general overview of the costs of eating out in South Africa. South Africa is home to many street food vendors, where you can find delicious and affordable meals for around $3 to $5. These street stalls offer a variety of dishes, such as spicy sausages, grilled meats, and other local specialties.
Casual dining restaurants in South Africa offer a more relaxed atmosphere, with a range of menu options that can cost anywhere from $5 to $20 per meal. These types of restaurants are a great option for those looking for a more budget-friendly dining experience.
For a more upscale dining experience, fine dining restaurants in South Africa can cost anywhere from $20 to $100 or more per meal, depending on the location and level of service. These types of restaurants offer gourmet cuisine, elegant settings, and top-notch service. Fast food chains, such as KFC, McDonald's, and Nando's, are widely available in South Africa, and meals can cost around $5 to $10.
Transportation: The cost of public transportation in South Africa varies depending on the type of transport, location, and distance traveled. Here is a general overview of the costs of different types of public transportation in South Africa:
Buses are a common form of public transportation in South Africa, and fares can range from $0.50 to $5 or more, depending on the distance traveled. Long-distance bus services are also available, connecting major cities, and fares can cost around $10 to $40 or more.
Metered taxis are widely available in South Africa, and fares are based on the distance traveled. On average, metered taxi fares can cost around $3 to $10 for a short trip within a city, and up to $100 or more for a long-distance trip.
Minibus taxis are also a popular and affordable form of public transportation in South Africa, particularly in rural areas. Fares can cost around $1 to $5 for a short trip, and up to $20 or more for a long-distance trip.
South Africa has a well-developed railway network, and train travel can be an affordable and convenient option for getting around. Fares can range from $5 to $50 or more, depending on the distance traveled and the type of train service.
Renting a car in South Africa is another option for getting around, although it's generally more expensive than other forms of public transportation. Car rental costs can range from $30 to $100 or more per day, depending on the type of car and the length of the rental period.
Activities and Excursions: The cost of activities and excursions in South Africa will vary depending on the type of activity, location, and season. However, here is a general overview of the costs of different types of activities and excursions in South Africa:
- Wildlife Safaris: Wildlife safaris in South Africa are a popular activity, and prices can range from $50 to $500 or more per person, depending on the type of safari, length, and level of luxury.
- Adventure Activities: South Africa offers many opportunities for adventure activities, such as bungee jumping, zip-lining, and surfing. Prices can range from $30 to $200 or more, depending on the type of activity and location.
- Cultural Experiences: South Africa has a rich cultural heritage, and there are many opportunities to experience local traditions and customs, such as traditional dances, music, and art. Prices can range from $10 to $50 or more per person, depending on the type of experience.
- Scenic Drives and Hikes: South Africa is home to stunning natural landscapes, and there are many scenic drives and hikes to enjoy, such as the Garden Route and Table Mountain. Prices for scenic drives and hikes can vary, and entrance fees to parks and nature reserves may apply.
- Winery Tours: South Africa is known for its wine industry, and there are many wineries and vineyards to visit for tastings and tours. Prices can range from $20 to $100 or more, depending on the type of tour and location.
Overall, the cost of activities and excursions in South Africa will depend on your interests, budget, and personal preferences. It's important to research and compare prices to find the best options for your trip.
How Many Days In South Africa Is Enough?
The answer to how many days is enough to travel South Africa depends on several factors, such as your interests, budget, and the type of trip you're planning. Here are some guidelines to help you determine the ideal length of time for a trip to South Africa. If you're short on time, a 5-7 day trip to South Africa can still provide an introduction to the country's main attractions and highlights. This could include visiting Cape Town and its surrounding areas, such as the Cape of Good Hope and Table Mountain, or taking a wildlife safari in a nearby game reserve.
If you have a specific interest or goal in mind, such as visiting a specific game reserve, exploring a particular region, or experiencing the country's culture, you may need 7-14 days or more to fully immerse yourself in the experience. If you want to see as much of South Africa as possible, and have a longer time frame, a 14-21 day trip or more is ideal. This will allow you to visit several different regions, cities, and attractions, and take part in a variety of activities and experiences.
What Is The Best Way To Tour South Africa?
The best way to tour South Africa depends on a variety of factors, including your interests, budget, and the length of your trip. However, here are some options to consider when planning your tour of South Africa.
- Renting a car and driving yourself around South Africa is a great way to see the country at your own pace. This option gives you the flexibility to visit areas and attractions that are off the beaten path, and to stop and explore whenever you like.
- Taking a guided tour is a convenient and hassle-free way to see South Africa. Guided tours offer a structured itinerary and a knowledgeable guide who can provide insight into the country's history, culture, and wildlife.
- Taking a rail journey is a unique way to see South Africa and its beautiful landscapes. The most popular rail journey is the Blue Train, which offers a luxury train experience between Pretoria and Cape Town.
- If you're looking for an active and adventurous way to tour South Africa, consider taking an adventure tour. This could include activities such as kayaking, surfing, or bungee jumping, as well as wildlife safaris and scenic drives.
- If you're looking for a luxurious way to tour South Africa, consider taking a luxury tour. This could include staying in high-end hotels, taking private wildlife safaris, and enjoying fine dining experiences.
What Is The Best Time To Visit South Africa?
South Africa is well-known for its diverse landscape and culture, making it an ideal destination to visit all year round. Whether you love beaches or mountaintops, the ‘Rainbow Nation’ caters to all kinds of travelers. The best time of year to visit South Africa will largely depend on what kind of experience you are looking for and what part of the country you plan to explore.
If you’re planning a beach vacation, the warmest months in South Africa are February and March, when temperatures can reach up to 30°C (86°F). If your heart is set on catching some waves, head down to Cape Town between May and August for some good surf.
If your main goal is to see wildlife, the best time to visit South Africa is during the dry season, which is from May to September in most regions. This is when animals are easier to spot and game reserves are at their busiest. The best time to visit South Africa for whale watching is from June to November, when whales migrate along the country's coastline.
What Are The Dos And Don’ts In South Africa?
South Africa is a diverse and friendly country, but there are certain cultural norms and customs that should be respected when traveling there. Here are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind when visiting South Africa:
- Respect local customs and traditions, such as taking off your shoes when entering someone's home.
- Learn a few key phrases in Zulu, Xhosa, or Afrikaans, the country's main languages, as a sign of respect.
- Be mindful of wildlife and follow park rules and regulations when visiting game reserves and national parks.
- Support local communities by purchasing souvenirs and products from local artisans and craftspeople.
- Try new foods and be open to local culinary experiences.
- Avoid wearing revealing clothing in rural or conservative areas, where modesty is highly valued.
- Don't photograph people without their permission, especially in rural communities.
- Don't litter or leave trash in national parks and wildlife reserves, as this can harm the environment and wildlife.
- Don't engage in illegal activities, such as buying or selling protected wildlife products.
- Don't underestimate the power of the sun. Wear sunscreen and a hat, and stay hydrated when exploring the country.
By following these dos and don'ts, you can ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience while visiting South Africa.
What Are The Visa Requirements For South Africa?
The visa requirements for South Africa vary depending on a traveler's country of origin, length of stay, and purpose of visit. Here is a general overview of the visa requirements for South Africa:
- Tourist Visas: Most travelers visiting South Africa for leisure or tourism purposes will require a tourist visa, which allows for stays of up to 90 days. Some countries have visa-free agreements with South Africa, and citizens of these countries do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
- Business Visas: Travelers visiting South Africa for business purposes will require a business visa, which allows for stays of up to 90 days. Business visas can be extended up to a maximum of 12 months.
- Study Visas: International students who want to study in South Africa will require a study visa, which allows them to study in the country for the duration of their course. Study visas are typically valid for the duration of the student's course of study, plus a few months for exams and preparations to return home.
- Work Visas: International workers who want to work in South Africa will require a work visa, which allows them to work in the country for a specified period of time. Work visas are typically valid for the duration of the worker's employment contract.
It is important to note that visa requirements can change frequently, and it is best to check the South African Department of Home Affairs website for the most up-to-date information.
Do I need Travel Insurance To Visit South Africa?
Travel insurance is not a legal requirement to travel to South Africa. However, as a travel expert, I would highly recommend it to all travelers to South Africa as a way to protect themselves from a wide range of risks and emergencies that may arise during their trip.
While South Africa is a safe and welcoming country, it is always a good idea to have comprehensive travel insurance to provide financial protection in the event of an illness, injury, lost or stolen property, flight delays, cancellations, and other unexpected events.
How To Stay Safe In South Africa?
South Africa is generally considered safe for travelers, but with caution. Like any destination, there are certain areas and situations that travelers should be aware of and take steps to avoid.
South Africa has a high crime rate, and travelers should be aware of their surroundings and take steps to protect themselves and their belongings. This includes avoiding walking alone in isolated or poorly lit areas at night, being vigilant when using ATMs, and avoiding carrying large amounts of cash or expensive jewelry.
There have been instances of political unrest and demonstrations in South Africa in recent years, particularly in major cities. Travelers should be aware of these events and take steps to avoid large gatherings and protests.
The country is home to a large number of wild animals, including lions, elephants, and rhinos, which can pose a threat to travelers in certain areas. Visitors should take care to follow the advice of local authorities and guides when visiting wildlife reserves and national parks.
Despite these potential risks, South Africa remains a popular destination for travelers from around the world, and the vast majority of visitors have a safe and enjoyable trip. By taking the necessary precautions and being aware of potential dangers, travelers can help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to South Africa.
Where To Stay In South Africa?
The Best Booking Resources For South Africa
These are the companies I use predominantly when I travel to South Africa. They offer great customer service and the best value, consistently outperform their competitors, as they always have excellent deals. I rely on them the most, and they are the starting point in my search for travel deals.
Booking.com - This is the best travel partner when it comes to planning your vacation in South Africa. With over 28 million listings in more than 200 countries and territories, you'll have no problem choosing from the world's most comprehensive selection of accommodations - from exotic villas to cozy apartments! Booking.com offers a secure and convenient way to book your next holiday, with unbeatable deals that will make sure you get the best value for your money when travelling to South Africa.
Skyscanner - This is the perfect tool for finding the best flights at the best prices to South Africa. With a comprehensive selection of airlines to choose from, you can compare prices and routes in seconds - saving you time, stress and money. Skyscanner's intuitive search engine makes it easy to find great deals on domestic and international flights. Plus, you can easily customize your search preferences so you get results that fit your budget and destination needs.
Get Your Guide - Are you looking for ways to make your travel experiences more memorable? With GetYourGuide, you can book amazing activities, tours and attractions all over South Africa. Whether it’s a tour of an iconic city landmark or unique experience that’s off the beaten path, GetYourGuide offers something spectacular for any traveler. With thousands of things to do and see in different cities around South Africa, this platform simplifies the search process with user-friendly filters.
More South Africa Travel Resources