South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It charms you with its beauty , and beckons you to return with its charm. Hardly will you find a country with such great wildlife, undulating valleys and mountains, ravines and gorges rich history, diverse ethnicity and some wonderful tourist attractions. It also has some fantastic cities which includes Cape Town and Johannesburg, and provides fascinating experiences for the tourists. In this blog I provide you the 10 things you should know before you travel to South Africa. I had recently been to South Africa ( Aug 2018) for a 10 day trip. In this post you will find the 10 things to know before you travel to South Africa. I am sure that they will come in handy.
Ten tips for you before you travel to South Africa
- Extreme drought conditions
- Stay away from the streets after sundown
- Self drive inside Kruger National Park
- Whale watching and shark cage diving
- using a local Sim card
- book ahead for your tickets
- Convert your currency from local stores
- Keep car doors locked at all times
- Enjoy great road trips
- Braai and Paap
- Using a local Sim card
South Africa is going through extreme drought conditions
First and foremost is to be aware of the critical water shortage and drought that South Africa is experiencing. Water scarcity is a very serious problem both n cities and in the rural areas. It isn’t that you wouldn’t find drinking water, but usage and needs are to be controlled. Thus you are expected to save water during showers and rinse in kitchen sinks using buckets and basin tubs. I was shocked intitally when I found that Johannesburg airport toilets were running waterless, but soon got habituated to the crisis. You will find that most public toilets are waterless, they use sanitized hand-wash and tissues, which are usually available . Hotels do not encourage the usage of dishwashers or individual washing machines. Usually laundry services are prescribed.
Stay away from Streets after sundown.
The issue of Safety in South Africa is a real one. I believe that you must have read about the muggings, killings and looting which happen in most cities of South Africa already, especially at Johannesburg and Sun City.
Yes, its a fact, that Johannesburg was one of the most unsafe cities in the world around mid 90’s. To say the least, though situation has improved in these last twenty years, but still, there exists some localities which are wiser to avoid as a tourist. Stay around Sandton or Rosebank localities if you are at Jo’berg or near the Victoria and Albert Wharf area if in Cape Town.
My advice, when you are in these big cities is to stick to the touristy places and not to go around walking the streets aftersundown. There isn’t really much to enjoy from Johannesburg night life. Stay indoors, stay safe.
Pick hotels with safe parking if you are travelling on your own / rented vehicle as we were. Do not brandish your watch, pearls, currency wad, diamonds and gold chains , or the latest smartphone gadget to the general public. Let them stay inside pockets or under wraps when in Johannesburg. Cape Town is much safer when compared to Joberg but if I were you I would follow the basic rules of safety everywhere. Hermanus and Simon’s Town on the southern coast is pretty safe.
Self driving inside Kruger National Park
If you have been to Masai Mara or Kenya, you would know that self drive inside the Mara forest or the Amboselli National forest is a strict No-No. But for Kruger National Park, which is the largest and most well known park in South Africa, self drive tour is a commonly availed position. We had gone for a self drive tour to Kruger and it is a very enriching and exciting experience. Do not be hesitant about driving inside a national park infested with African Big 5 and lots of other animals. It is perfectly safe if you stick to the rules.
in order to stay inside the Kruger National Park you need to book your accommodation through South Africa National Parks website. Most camps have a diner-restaurant, a store for your necessities, and a petrol/ gas station for refilling. Roads are well marked and forest rangers are pretty active. A word of caution here : Do NOT step off the car under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES inside Kruger National Park and Do NOT drive on unmarked roads. There would be no support and any insurance you carry, and it can lead to fatalities at any instant. Mind you , you are touring through one of the most well known wild life sanctuaries in the world would be null and void.
Book ahead for your tickets and accommodation
South Africa is one of the most frequented destinations in the world, and tourists flock to this beautiful country all year round. Thus getting hold of accomodations at the last moment is a challenge. Especially to book an accomodation inside one of the more well known Game parks in South Africa needs to be done months ahead of your journey. SanParks.org is the official site to book these accomodations. One shoud also book morning or afternoon conducted game drives and bush walks ahead.
Similarly, for the attractions around Cape Town such as Robben Island, Table Mountain and KirstenBosch and Constantia Wine Country I advice you to book ahead. Webtickets site is the official service provider for all such tours.
In case you are not able to avail the trips, the tickets stay valid for a week, and after that it gets cancelled and the money credits back to your card.
Whale watching and shark cage diving
Whale watching and shark cage diving are common activities at the Southern Coast of South Africa. Experience a close encounter with these magnificent sea creatures at different towns on the South African coastline. Gansbaai and Mossel Bay are a favorite for shark cage diving expeditions, while Hermanus is known for watching the whales.
Please book such activities ahead of schedule especially if you are visiting on a weekend or a public holiday. Seats and services are limited. We went for whale watching and the experience is fabulous. The giants swim around your boat, wag their tails and throw jets of water through their nozzles. It is absolutely worth the price.
Amazing Road drives around Cape Town.
Though we had driven from Jo’berg to Kruger, a distance over 400 kms, the drive was not varied. It was mostly through flat vegetation-less corridor with some industrial towns in between. But to enjoy South Africa one must also enjoy the scenic marvels througha road trip.
There is a 100 km odd stretch of a Panoramic Route close to Kruger National Park which is not to be missed. It has such varied nature as canyons, rivers, water falls , ravines and hill tops that one should couple this stretch with any trip to Kruger.
The other amazing Road drives in South Africa, are around the Cape Town peninsula. One is between Hermanus and Simon’s town through Betty’s Bay and Gordon’s Bay. Both of these towns are also great to stay for a night or two. The other drive is between Simon’s Town and Cape Town and is known as Chapman’s Drive. Very scenic both of them, the later one is more famous, but for me the earlier one was more attractive.