Author's note: This post was co-authored by Xavier Vale-Buisson.
When you touch down in South Africa— get ready for the trip of a lifetime!—travel arrangements within the country might not be on the top of your list. There’s so much to see and do, but how will you ever glimpse the animals of the Big Five if you can’t see beyond your spectacular glamping destination? Let us clue you in on what's good to know before you head out into the wild.
Luckily, we’ve created a one-stop shop for all the travel info and pro trips you’ll need to make your South African safari dreams come true. You'll be leading the pride in no time!
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Getting there and around
Head up high in the sky and travel to Sub-Saharan Africa. Getting to South Africa by air travel has never been easier. The principal international airports are Cape Town International Airport, Oliver Tambo International, and King Shaka International.
While traveling in South Africa why not try something a little more unique? Head up into the skies at sunrise in a hot air balloon. This balloon has only one destination: Kruger National Park. Soar over the western edge of the park as you scan the horizon for the Big Five.
Bringing you back down to earth for a second, the Baz Bus can be a reliable and fun, everyday method of transportation. This handy hop-on, hop-off idea can get you to Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, all while traveling with fellow explorers. This user-friendly initiative gives you the perfect excuse to discover the stunning beaches of Durban.
If you fancy heading back up into the sky, fear not—domestic flights are super reasonable and are an alternative to the longer Baz Bus routes. Mango and Kulula are two inexpensive airline options, which will get you to major cities quickly and with little hassle. Just kick back and relax, and you’ll be across the country in no time.
Fancy going solo? A 4x4 is highly recommended. Traveling by car will give you a fantastic opportunity to make your own itinerary. Why not visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park? It's one of South Africa’s eight World Heritage sites. This stunning park is home to hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, and flamingos—sure to be an unforgettable experience. Then again...that will likely be the case with your entire vacation here.
Food and Drink
South Africans are world famous for their braai. Such pride is taken in this traditional South African barbecue that it has become an art form. While in South Africa be sure to head to a traditional braai! Of course, no meal is complete without drinks, so be sure to head into the Cape Winelands. This area is famous for spectacular grapes and boasts wine tasting routes where you can savour as many vinos as you could wish for.
South Africa is full of diversity and this is reflected in its cuisine. Trying the traditional South African flavors is a must, but so is sampling the wide variety of other flavors on offer. Durban has close ties to the Indian subcontinent and offers a spectacular array of Indian cuisine. Cape Town offers tantalizing Malay cuisine that is also sure to impress.
History and Heritage
The variety of delicious flavors on offer is testament to the rich and varied heritage of South Africa. This beautiful country has indeed suffered a turbulent history, but there is nothing better to represent its resilience than its rich diversity. From the Mediterranean feel of the Cape coast, to the traditional villages of Zulu Land, and the Gum Boot mining dancers in Durban, you are bound to experience a country that embraces the many influences of its past.
As part of the South African lifecycle week, that will run between March 3rd to March 12th, the Cape Town Cycle Tour will be held in the beautiful city of Cape Town. It is dubbed the world's largest individually timed race and is formally known as the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour. This 109km long time trial will test the keenist of cyclists. It will be a physical challenge that will get the adrenaline pumping for those on or off the track. Cyclists participating in this event will feel like true athletes as they push through the mental and physical challenge that this event presents.
Kicking off in the first week of December is South Africa’s largest street festival. This vibrant festival has many different activities going on. There are a variety of beer tents, music venues, art galleries, and film installations to keep visitors fully entertained. This event takes place in Cape Town and more specifically it takes over the suburb of Observatory.
The National Arts Festival in South Africa is the biggest collective celebration of arts on the whole African continent. This festival is held in Grahamstown, a small town just east of Port Elizabeth. Each year, visitors are treated to new and thought-provoking art forms making every year different from the last. Included in this festival are music, film, and visual arts productions. There really is something for everyone. This event runs from the end of June until mid-July.
SAFETY AND ESSENTIALS
Documentation and Customs Regulations
Let us clue you in before you set off. Our low-down on the ins and outs of documentation is sure to save you a headache at the departure gate.
- In terms of visas, British and American citizens visiting South Africa for tourism purposes can stay in the country for up to 90 days.
- Your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after the return date.
- There must be at least one unused visa page in your passport for the South African Immigration Services.
- A certificate of a Yellow Fever vaccinaction is required of those traveling from countries with risk of Yellow Fever transmission.
- In terms of customs regulations, if you have anything to declare you must fill out at TC-01 form upon arrival.
- A Traveler Card must be filled in before heading to immigration.
- Excess currency, animals and plants as well as their products, medicines, and herbal products all need written authorisation
- It is advised that all your vaccinations are up to date.
- Among others, the vaccinations of tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, and rabies are recommended.
- The tap water is drinkable but not in rural areas.
- Malaria is present, so be sure to take the relevant precautions. These include using insect repellent and mosquito nets.
- For safety, all hiking trails should be completed in groups consisting of a minimum of three people.
- Women should avoid walking alone at night particularly in isolated areas.
- When driving keep doors locked and windows closed.
- Beware of ATM scams. Don’t leave your card unattended and take a friend when withdrawing cash.
- Use ATMs in shopping malls or ATMs with guards.
For comprehensive travel advice please refer to the United States Travel Department.
PLACES TO VISIT
Kruger National Park
South Africa is famous for its stunning wildlife and luscious landscapes. Kruger National Park is the ultimate place to unleash your wild side. Buckle up in your 4x4 and head out into the wilderness. With the help of your safari guide you’ll have the best chance of spotting the Big Five. If you’re ready to push the limits why not see the park from the air? There are mesmerizing hot air balloon rides offering bird’s eye views around the outskirts of the park. This wonderful experience will be sure to create lasting memories of the country’s impressive landscape.
Cape Town is a must see during your visit to Sub-Saharan Africa. This vibrant ocean city sits on the Horn of Africa and is surrounding by the sprawling Atlantic. This far stretching ocean is home to whales and dolphins, which you could even catch a glimpse of. While meandering throw this rambling city be sure to head up to Table Mountain. Trekking up this six-hundred-million-year-old peak won’t only stretch your legs but give you stunning views of the breath-taking city below.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Exploring this nature reserve will be an experience you’re unlikely to be able to replicate at home. As you’re surrounded by unique wildlife such as hippos and flamingos, you won’t be able to help but gaze in awe, while maybe snapping a few photos too. A trip to iSimangaliso Wetland Park is sure to impress while creating unforgettable memories.
Ready for your Sub-Saharan adventure? Take a stroll through our South African wonders here!