These essential South Africa travel tips will guide you on where to go, the best time to visit, budget tips, where to stay, and so much more!
Welcome to the Around the World Interview Series on Ordinary Traveler! Every couple of weeks we will have a new guest who has either lived or spent an extended amount of time in a particular country. Each guest will give valuable insights and tips to a different destination around the world.
I Should Log Off shares their South Africa travel tips!
South Africa Travel Tips: Everything You Need to Know
How long did you travel in South Africa?
We spent a lot of time in South Africa on our RTW. Including a few days in Swaziland and Lesotho I think we were close to 60 days.
Budget tips for South Africa?
South Africa isn’t as budget friendly as we thought. The rand is quite strong at the moment and the economy has strengthened because of the World Cup. We ended up renting a car for a month through Tempest Car Rental & extending our rental period. That worked out really well for us as we could save money by camping and driving the national parks on our own.
We camped 99% of the time in South Africa- their facilities are plentiful and really great. It was also much cheaper renting a car than taking the Baz bus (a backpacker transport) which would have limited our itinerary as well. Intercity public transportation can be difficult. We were really glad to have our car, and even the little economy size didn’t prove to be a problem in the national parks!
Favorite places or favorite experiences in South Africa?
We went to nearly every National Park in South Africa, and truly they are incredible! They are really diverse and absolutely spectacular! Our favorite was the Kalahari Transfrontier National Park, it was rather remote and we felt like we were in the “bush” the whole time. We fell asleep to the sound of lions roaring on night (outside the camps electric fence). It was terrifying, but so cool!!
What is the food like in South Africa?
We ate really well in South Africa. They have a great mix of cuisines, but you have to try the Cape Malay food in Cape Town, it’s delicious. We also enjoyed Potjies and of course a good braai! You should have bunny chow (curry) in Durban and Peri-Peri Chicken. Maybe that’s too many suggestions… we loved the food!
Dos and don’ts regarding customs in South Africa?
It’s got such a variety of people, it’s hard to say anything on customs. I think in any situation the best you can do is to be polite and act like an ambassador from your own country. We found South African’s to be really friendly and overwhelmingly hospitable.
The best place to stay in South Africa?
Besides the one where we fell asleep listening to lions? I highly recommend any of the National Park campgrounds, they are really well equipped (often with a cook stove and refrigerator) and have great bathhouses. We camped at a number of backpackers (hostels) and found they often weren’t really set up for camping, even though they offered it.
At those places we usually slept on the lawn and used the dorm toilet facilities inside. We had a few iffy places, but if you get a coast to coast guide (free at any hostel) it will list tons of backpackers so you’ll definitely have a choice.
Must-do activities or must-see sites in South Africa?
Oh so many! You must-do a safari. We loved going on safari, every park was different and by the end we had seen everything we wanted! I also would say hiking table mountain in Cape Town and visiting Tsitsikamma & Storms River are must-dos. We loved the natural beauty of South Africa, it was so breathtaking!
We didn’t go cage diving with the great whites, that’s a popular activity, but they often chum for sharks, a practice we weren’t comfortable with!
Safety tips, warnings or things to be aware of in South Africa?
We never had a problem with safety in South Africa, but you certainly have to take care of yourself.
Many shopping centers have car guards that you are supposed to tip in order to protect your car. I hated that! Like many places, avoid traveling late at night, if you’re in a car in rural areas the roads are often in poor condition or there are animals and people on the roadside that aren’t easy to see. In urban areas you have to be vigilant about pickpockets.
Avoid walking around with flashy things or leaving them in view on a car seat. I think the best advice is to ask someone at your campground/hostel before setting out, they’ll have the best information! There are definitely scam artists, but a little common sense will keep you out of their way!