South Africa Travel Tips: Everything You Need to Know
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!
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Bio: Jillian and her husband Danny traveled around the world for 20 months, traversing famous overland routes like Capetown to Cairo and the old silk road. They conquered mini-buses on four continents and enjoyed street food in fifty countries, all without a single broken bone or parasite! Jillian and Danny blog about adventure filled travel and the world beyond the computer on their website I Should Log Off. You can catch up with them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.
We loved South Africa and hope to return. I think a safari is a genuine bucket-list item.
I soooo want to go on a safari!
A car makes a huge difference. I went with friends and we were able to borrow an SUV from my friend’s sister — great to do a self-drive through Kruger…
Nice! The big cats are more than enough reason for me to plan a trip here, lovely.
I agree. I love the big cats too.
Great tips on South Africa. You have made me feel more at ease to travel there now. Seems every second article on Africa is about security and how bad it is. As long as you are street smart I guess.
I feel the same way, Anthony. It was great to hear these tips and learn a little more about this country.
South Africa was one of our favourite countries when we cycled for Cairo to Capetown. We will definitely be going back. Great round up.
Good to know you guys liked it so much too. My mom really wants to go, so I’ll make sure she reads this first!
Great interview. SA is on my list of “want to go there.
I LOVE the cheetahs! Amazing photo’s all around. I actually haven’t been to ramped up to go to South Africa until I read this and saw the photo’s. Kudos!
Cheetahs are pretty awesome, aren’t they?! The closest I have come to photographing them is at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It would be cool to see them in South Africa.
Great to hear the positive comments on Tsitsikamma and Storms River. Another spot close to hear is Nature’s Valley which is also beautiful. The Eastern Cape also has some lovely game reserves if you are pushed for time and can’t make it all the way to Kruger. Sorry about the state of our roads it is a real shame. Believe me we moan like crazy here about them.
Love South AFrica. Can’t get enough. Been there twice and desperately want to go back!
I hear that so much, South Africa must really be amazing!
Great overview on South Africa! After watching the World Cup, it was an eye-opening introduction to the country. Plus, I have spent some time talking to Clare Appleyard and it has been great getting to know more about South Africa through her!