We have visited South Africa twice in the past two years, and every visit has been unique and wonderful. As a result, we have gained some valuable information for first time travellers when visiting the country. South Africa is one of our top three favourite countries, just because it never fails to impress us no matter how many times we visit. However, first time travellers commonly have no idea what to expect when landing in either Johannesburg, Cape Town or other major cities. So we want to make sure you don’t make any common rookie mistakes whilst there. As a result we have produced 10 useful tips to know before travelling to South Africa.
1. Don’t be flashy
To be honest, we have never had any trouble with safety or crime whilst visiting. However, South Africa still has a fairly bad reputation for crime and safety issues, therefore we recommend keeping expensive jewellery and clothes to a minimum. There is no need to attract unwanted attention to yourselves. Don’t flash large sums of cash around in public, as again petty thieves will notice you’re fairly privileged and you’ll have a higher likelihood of getting robbed.
Some people forget just how big South Africa is! Comparing it to the size of the African continent it does look small, however it is the 25th largest country in the world. Make sure to plan your routes carefully beforehand, as exploring South Africa can take months if you want to cover it all.
This is one of the reasons why we love South Africa so much. Its full of so much diversity, with safaris, vibrant cities, skiing (yes you heard that correctly!), vineyards, canyons, the list just goes on. We highly recommend taking a safari at Klaserie Sands River Camp, it was honestly our most memorable travel experience so far!
South Africa often ends up in the news for the wrong reasons. We hear about frighteningly high crime rates and the high number of people who are HIV-positive and we think that it’s not a safe country in which to travel. To dismiss the very real issues with crime in South Africa would be foolish, but smart travellers can enjoy trips to South Africa without being in a constant state of worry. Like we have said previously, we have never had any trouble with safety in the past, and we have never felt uneasy or worried. The locals are so friendly and will help you with anything. Even when you’re on your own, you’ll have an exceptionally good time, so don’t let the issue of safety stop you from visiting this awesome country!
5. Theres more than just safari (but a safari is still a must!)
Don outfits that sport every shade of khaki and beige and set off in an open-top 4×4 by all means, but be sure to leave room in your itinerary for other regions of South Africa. We recommend visiting Cape Town for Table Mountain. Which is believed to be one of the oldest peaks in the world and is also well worth the hike (or the cable car journey) for unrivalled, panoramic vistas over the Cape Peninsula. The country is also home to the second highest waterfall in the world, Tugela Falls, and the earth’s third largest gaping canyon at Blyde River.
6. Make sure to hire a car and road trip
You may be thinking, no way! But honestly it is the best way to travel around the country. They are so cheap to rent around 20 to 30 USD a day including insurance! The whole country is full of amazing drives, scenery and nature it would be silly not to hire a car. Remember to keep small change in the car for tolls on major roads and cash to avoid being caught between sparse petrol stations that don’t accept credit cards.
We were also surprised how amazing the roads were! Better than England and Germany in most cases. They were quiet, smooth and so easy to drive!
7. Check the entry requirements
Dull? Yes. But we’ve all been there. Making sure you know the nitty gritty entry requirements will save you a lot of time and stress when compared to arriving unprepared. If you’re lucky enough to hold a passport bursting with an array of exotic stamps from far flung, tropical places across the globe, make sure you’ve got enough space before you get too smug about adding South Africa to your enviable collection. You’ll need two blank pages to present to immigration when you enter South Africa.
But the good news is that, once you’ve made it past the arrivals lounge, South Africa offers myriad unforgettable experiences. From the people to the landscapes and the wildlife, you’re practically guaranteed an extraordinary adventure!
When most people think of South Africa, they think of a hot and dry climate. But during winter temperatures can drop to as low as 0ºc in the cities, and below freezing in mountainous regions! So make sure you check the weather forecast before you go, otherwise you may be packing the wrong clothing!
South Africa has very different plugs to anywhere else in the world. They are three pinned with a thick top pin. Make sure to buy one online before entering the country. If you’re unsure you can see a picture of it here.
South Africa has 11 official languages, a head-spinning mix of European and tribal dialects that span the entire spectrum of human tonal capability. Here’s a quick guide on some of the most useful and common words that many South Africans use:
– Howzit?: How’s it going, contracted. The standard greeting throughout South Africa, and the easiest and most immediate way to demonstrate that you’re paying attention.
– Lekker!: Cool! Nice! Great!
– Braai: barbecue or grill.
– Bra/bru: Terms of basic male endearment, along the lines of brother or dude.
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