It is no wonder that South Africa is a favorite destination for many. It is a country of great contrasts, from the desert in northern Cape Province, to the fertile soil in the south and stunning mountain scenery in the Northeast. Wildlife, magnificent scenery, beautiful vineyards and big cities; South Africa really has something to offer everyone.
South Africa has 11 official languages, some of which are so different from each other that people speaking these do not understand each other even if they are of the same nationality. English is the official language although it is less than 10% that regard this their native tongue. Most other languages in South Africa have English as a second hand language, which means that most do speak and understand English.
Best time to visit South Africa
The climate in South Africa can vary some depending on where in the country you are located.
The summer months extends from December to March, autumn from April to May, winter from June to August and spring from September to November.
During the winter months (mainly from June to August) it can rain heavily in Cape Town and Western Cape Province, while nothern parts have it considerably drier climate. In other parts of the country, rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year. Winter temperature is around 0 o Celcius, while during the summer can go up to 35 o Celcius in some parts of the country.
Getting to South Africa
South Africa has 10 international airports. The two largest are the Cape Town International Airport and OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. The third largest is Durban International Airport.
From Europe there are direct flights departing from Amsterdam, Madrid, London, Paris and Frankfurt to name just a few. You can also fly directly from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, New York, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Sydney and Perth.
Getting around in South Africa
Car is the great option to get around in South Africa, as long as you don’t need to travel far in a short time of course. There are several international car rental companies that offer their services in South Africa. And the range of cars is extensive whether you are looking for 4-wheel drive jeep or compact cars suitable for city and short distances. Real off-road vehicles are also available if you plan that kind of trip.
It is important to remember that traffic in South Africa runs on the left side. It is the law to wear a seat belt and it’s illegal to talk on the phone while driving. Use the built-in speaker microphone or a hands-free if you have to talk on the phone while driving.
The monitoring of speed limits is extensive and more and more speed cameras have been added along the roads in the country.
South Africa has plenty of good and well-functioning domestic flights between most major locations. There are several airlines from which you could compare prices and times of.
Sightseeing in South Africa
South Africa has something to offer everyone!
Cape Town and the surrounding area are a must to visit on a trip to South Africa. The Waterfront area can be regarded touristy but it’s quite nice with shops, restaurants and beautiful views around the harbor. The view from the top of the Table Mountain are stunning. Rent a car and go on day trips to nearby charming coastal towns and Kaphorn.
South Africa has a lot to offer visitors, but it would be quite easy to just head out to the winelands to visit lots of wineries and enjoy delicious wines, tasty food and amazing lanscapes as well as cozy small villages.
This famous stretch along the south coast offers incredible and impressive vistas and experiences. It’s quite an easy drive along nice roads and stop wherever you feel like it to soak up the surroundings. There are several charming small villages with nice and affordable accommodation along the way.
Safari & Game Reserves
Not as authentic wild as Kenya or Tanzania, but the safari is always an amazing experience and one of the main tourists attractions in South Africa. There are several national parks and game reserves to experience the amazing wildlife up close.
Kruger National Park is a huge national park but expect to drive longer distances between animal experiences. You will not be driving off-road in the same way as you would with a guide on game reserves and will probably not get as close to wild animals since the animals are naturally reluctant to voluntarily come close to busy roads. Kruger counts, however, to one of the better national parks.
Game Reserves have fewer visitors than the national parks since only overnight visitors have access. There are several lodges to choose from where you generally go out on both an early morning safari and an late afternoon / early evening safari included. Professional guides take guests out and customize tours for adapt to visitors’ main interest and tries to let them get to see as many animals as possible; especially all of the “big five” (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard) if possible. With these guides, you can also go more off-road and sometimes even venture out on foot to get really close to some wild animals.
The range of lodges is great and the prices vary greatly. Zululand is an area that can warmly recommended.
It is customary to leave a tip to guide and the staff at the lodge.
Shopping in South Africa
In Cape Town there is a wide selection of shopping, both local boutiques and international designer brands. Most shopaholics will be able to get their apatite fed. But even for those who really like shopping, I must say that South Africa has so much more to offer so don’t get stuck in stores.
Tipping in South Africa
The staff expects 10% to 15% gratuity on the bill.
Often someone offer to keep an eye on your car at parking lots. If you go along with it so you are expected to give at least 2 Rand.
Petrol Stations assistants
At gas stations staff will fill your tank, wash your windshield or offer similar services. They usually will receive tips of with at least 2 Rand.
When you receive help at the hotel is expected to tip 10 to 20 Rand per porter and occasion.
The VISA rules for entry into South Africa changes every now and then so make sure to check for the latest before your trip.
As of 1 June 2015, all children (under age of 18) must have, in addition to valid passport with valid visa, a full birth certificate is required when entering to or departing from South Africa.
Although South Africa is a country with a high crime rate tourists rarely get subject to serious crimes. But as always, you should use common sense and take usual precaution as a traveler. Be extra careful when dusk had settled and only use official taxi cars in the cities. There’s lots of car accidents so be extra careful and observant of other drivers while driving.
Video Camps Bay, Cape Town
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