About South Africa
South Africa is one of the greatest countries in the world. It is vast; it is diverse and it’s full of life. It’s white-sand beaches, star-filled night skies, vast desert landscapes, black-maned lions, rugged mountain ranges, sub-tropical woodlands, vibrant cities and friendly people make South Africa a highly alluring travel destination.
Cape Town is full of unique places to eat suitable for all budgets. Whatever your idea of a perfect holiday or vacation is, South Africa has something for everyone and will not disappoint.
South Africa Travel Info
Language: South Africa has eleven official languages. They are Afrikaans, English, Northern Sotho, Ndebele, Sotho, Tswana, Swazi, Tsonga, Xhosa, and Zulu. Afrikaans and English are the two commercially used languages. Most people are fluent in spoken English, and you will not face any problem in communicating with the locals if you speak English yourself.
Currency: South African Rand.
Visa: For a South African Visa, your passport must be valid for at least six months post your date of application with at least one blank page, a complete visa application, copy of your onward/return journey ticket, a copy of your hotel booking and you may even be required to show proof of your financial stability. A tourist visa for South Africa is valid for a maximum of 90 days.
Electricity: South Africa operates on 220/230V standard supply with a frequency of 50 Hz. Plugs used are mostly 15 amp-3 prong or 5amp-2 prong types with round pins. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
South Africa Festivals & Celebrations
Minstrel Carnival in Cape Town: This is the first celebration of the year and is also called the Kaapse Klopse. Traditionally, it takes place on the 2nd of January. But now, the parties go on for an entire week. Teams of traditionally dressed minstrels march through the city playing jazz and music and attract thousands of visitors each year.
Umhlanga: Also known as the royal reed dance, this festival takes place in September and is the most popular festival of the Zulu ethnic group of Swaziland. About 10,000 maidens of the Zulu tribe wear their traditional attire and March towards their King’s palace singing and dancing on the way.
Knysna Oyster Festival: This festival takes place in the Garden route town each year in the month of July. Celebrities list this event as the finest ten days of winter and pay tribute to the modest oyster. Several events are held that include eating challenges, shucking contest, cycle tours, and forest marathon.
Safety In South Africa
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to South Africa however the place is a moderately safe destination for tourists. Most violent crimes take place in locations far away from tourist destinations. Bag-snatching, pick-pocketing and other scams to take advantage of travelers do still happen on occasion in South Africa. Female travelers to South Africa should be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Based on my own travel experiences in South Africa I would never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your trip.
Top Things To Do In South Africa
See Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain
The table mountain is about 3500 feet above the city of Cape Town, and from here you can get a breathtaking view of the continent’s tip. The flat mountain is typically covered with wisps of white cloud and provides you with an immense panorama to gaze down at. The tourists that are energetic can hike up to the top of the mountain. For the rest can peacefully ride a cable car and reach the top.
Watch Penguins at the Boulders Beach
If you drive for a while from the Downtown Cape Town, you will reach Boulders Beach which houses a colony of penguins. They came and settled here in the early 80s and have been living here since then. The place has now become a sanctuary. Watch them play, get as close as you want but beware, don’t even think about touching or feeding them because penguins bites are a serious injury.
Wildlife spotting at Kruger National Park
Kruger is among the greatest National Parks of the World when it comes to wildlife. The sanctuary is home to an unbelievably large number of diverse species of animals like lion, elephants, leopard, rhino, cheetah, giraffe, buffalo, and Zebra along with 137 species of smaller mammals and more than 500 species of birds. The national park is spread across an area of 19,485 sq kilometers and has an unparalleled charm to it. The park is well connected through roads and can be explored on your own. Guided wildlife activities and accommodation are plentiful, and you can easily spend a few days here.
Go Bungee Jumping
If you are looking for some adrenalin rush, go to the Bloukrans Bridge, get a bungee cord wrapped around your legs, reach the edge of eth 216 meters high bridge and jump. The bridge was once the world’s highest Bungee jump spot and is still the world’s highest bridge bungee jump. This would be among the scariest things that you would have done in your life with your heart in your mouth as you hear three, two, one, and jump.
Visit the Mattanu Game Reserve
This is a private no-kill game reserve that is known for its breeding programs. It is a family run retreat situated in Kimberly in the open plains of Northern Cape Province. The visitors are allowed to take part in tracking, grouping and transferring the animals. It houses a large number of wildlife like roan, impala, giraffes, sable, and buffalos which roam about freely in their habitat.
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
This beautiful reserve is spread across an area of 260 sq kilometers on the Blyde River Canyon. You can see some magnificent rock formations towering above the lush green slopes in this canyon which is the largest in the world. This canyon is also among the most beautiful natural sights in South Africa. You can drive along the edge of the canyon and if you are not short of time, explore the magnificence of the canyon on foot.
Look for the ‘Big Hole’ in Kimberley
The deserted diamond mine of Kimberly with its teal colored water is a perfect picture opportunity from several vantage points. The best view is the aerial one from a helicopter. You can also explore the deserted mine and imagine how things would have been 150 years back when the mine was operational.
Check out the exhibits at Constitution Hill
In Johannesburg, lies one of the most significant sites in the country, The Constitution Hill. The exhibitions here are profoundly moving and extremely inspirational and are divided into four locations: the old fort constructed in 1892, which was an infamous prison for white males, Number 4 Jail for nonwhite males, women’s jail and the last one for those awaiting trial. These have mostly been demolished now and in their place stand the Constitutional Court. If you take a tour, you will get to know the exact history of the place.
Explore Robben Island
Behind the fun-filled and lively exterior of South Africa stands its troubled and chaotic history which must also be explored by the visitors. The best place for this is the Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 20 years of his life in prison. The tour is both captivating and sad; especially you will get all the gory details of the civil war by tour guides, who are men who had spent a large part of their lives here in the prisons for standing up for the rights of their countrymen.
Bask in the glory of the Cape of Good Hope
This section of the Table mountain National park is spread in an area of 77.7 sq kilometer and has rich landscapes, superb bird watching, incredible walks, and deserted beaches. If you want to go on the Gape of Good Hope trail, you need to make bookings. This is a 33.8-kilometer route where you spend the night in a hut. You will be able to spot rare species of birds including Ostrich and cormorants.
Other than these top things to do in South Africa, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible because sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems.
What To Eat In South Africa
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in South Africa are listed below.
Biltong and Droëwors: Before the invention of fridges, the native tribes of the country used to preserve meat by a method called dry curing. Biltong and Droewors are traditionally consumed as snacks and are made of beef or game, like springbok. Meat is cured with salt, vinegar, spices, and sugar and then dried. Sometimes, chili and garlic are added to enhance the flavor of the meat.
Boerewors: The traditional sausage of South Africa is made of beef, mixed with lamb or pork and flavored with spices. These are called Boerewors and are traditionally coiled shaped. They are further cooked on a barbeque.
Cape Malay Curry: Cape Town was inhabited by the French and the Dutch in the 17th century. They brought slaves from different countries with them who came along with their recipes and spices. When they combined this with the local produce some very flavorful stews and curries were made which still dominate the South African cuisine.
Braai/Shisa nyama: Shisa nyama stands for ‘burn the meat’ in Zulu. This is one eating experience that must not be missed. The origin if Braai is from Johannesburg where on weekends, butchers set up barbeques outside their shops and sell grilled meat as street food.
Malva Pudding: This dessert was brought in by the Dutch. It is a sticky, sugary sponge pudding which is made of apricot jam and is served with hot cream sauce. You will find it in many restaurants but is mainly baked for Sunday lunch at home.
Where To Stay In South Africa
South Africa is an incredibly affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in South Africa is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget. Hostels and dormitories make travel to South Africa affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
If you’re traveling to South Africa during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. South Africa is a popular year-round destination you know.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in South Africa.
If you’re backpacking in South Africa or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Africa very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
South Africa Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit South Africa
The best time to visit Kenya depends on where in South Africa you’re visiting.
South Africa Travel Budget
South Africa is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to South Africa really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $25 to $35 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $60 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in a city like Cape Town then budget about $60 to $150 plus a day.
- Budget: $10-25
- Mid-range: $25-$60
- Splurge: $60+
Meal For One
- Budget: $1.00-$5.00
- Mid-range: $5-$15
- Splurge: $15-$50+
South Africa Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to South Africa, like most other places in Africa, is a breeze because it’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing.
Be prepared for the occasional cool evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater just in case. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need in the larger cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg or Pretoria.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to South Africa include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to South Africa check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Africa Packing List For Female Travelers.