Why should I travel to South Africa

South Africa travel tips: Important information & experiences for your first South Africa tour

Plan your own individual trip to South Africa

After eight trips to South Africa, it's time to write down my best South Africa travel zips. For me, South Africa is by far the easiest country to travel to in southern Africa. Every time I come back, I long for it to be back.

Are you currently planning an individual trip to the most beautiful end of the world and still have questions about it? Hopefully you will find all information and answers here. From immigration to accommodation to safari. I have summarized all of my tips here.

From routes for a round trip, the packing list, information about national parks and travel destinations. Tips for a safari to the packing list.

All useful South Africa travel tips

Are you planning your own trip to South Africa? Here are some more tips you need to plan:

All information for regions and cities:

Why go to South Africa?

One travels to South Africa to To experience adventure, Sighting animals or just to switch off. Cape Town for me is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. World-class cuisine is offered here at affordable prices.

South Africa is the southernmost country on the African continent. The rainbow state offers a change that I haven't seen before:

Fantastic beaches on the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, seemingly endless sand dunes and nature and Quiet in the many National parks (for example in the West Coast National Park). There are numerous ways that Big Five in national parks Safaris (actually game drives) to watch live. Especially around the Kruger National Park there are numerous ways to get very close to animals.

In contrast, there are modern cities like Cape Town and the often underrated Johannesburg. Don't be afraid to visit the township. That is South Africa too.

South Africa is an ideal destination for an individual trip by rental car.

The whole world in one country

The advertising slogan of the South African Ministry of Tourism is "The whole world in one country". Even after the first impressions, the slogan was confirmed for me: The country is huge, offers you a wide variety of landscapes, regions and cultures. The variety of destinations and attractions seems unlimited.

It is difficult to choose the route. Before my first trip, I also pondered for a long time what we would like to see and which places we would have to delete due to lack of time.

So that you are not surprised by fully booked tours or accommodation, I have briefly summarized how we prepared our trip to South Africa.

View the most beautiful routes for a round trip in South Africa here

General travel information, all travel reports and tips such as the best travel time, travel guide, language, entry, etc. for your trip can be found here at an overview for South Africa.

Best travel time to South Africa

The first thought when planning a trip to South Africa is this: when is the best time to go to South Africa? Summer, autumn, winter or spring?

South Africa is basically a destination that you can visit all year round. Since the recommendations differ depending on the activities and regions, I wrote a separate article about it.

Best travel time for South Africa

Short and sweet:

  • Cape Town, Cape Peninsula, Western Cape: all year round, even in winter mild.
  • Northern Cape: spring, summer, autumn. Very cold nights in winter.
  • Kruger National Park: All year round, but best for me in summer (February).
  • Garden Route: All year round, from November whale season.

Detailed information in the article for the best travel time with climate in South Africa

Arrival to South Africa

Book flights to South Africa

There is no such thing as the best direct flight at the cheapest price. I prefer direct flights, even if they are often a little more expensive. I think night flights are even better. You will save the most money if you book at least 6 months in advance of your departure. There are hardly any last-minute bargains these days.

Flights to Cape Town

Direct flights to Cape Town are currently only offered by Lufthansa and Condor. The latter are cheaper, but those who value quality should fly with Lufthansa.

Tip for Condor: If you value legroom, I recommend booking Premium Economy Class. Due to the lack of a time difference (only +1 hour in winter) you do not have jet lag and can start immediately upon arrival.

Several airlines fly to Cape Town with a stopover. South African (Johannesburg), Air Namibia (Windhoek) or British Airways (London), to name just a few.

Read my tips here to find and book cheap flights

How much time should you plan for a South Africa tour?

How long are you staying in South Africa? According to statistics, a trip to South Africa takes an average of 10-14 days. Tourists often visit Cape Town with Table Mountain and Cape Peninsula for 2-3 days and then drive along the Garden Route.

Or you can fly on to Johannesburg to explore the Kruger National Park. The main attractions of South Africa are located in these regions.

I have now been to South Africa eight times. Here you will find an overview of the most beautiful routes for round trips in South Africa (all traveled by me).

Itinerary for South Africa

I have already made eight individual tours in South Africa by rental car. There is no end in sight, the night's journey is being planned.

If you travel to South Africa for the first time, you will find that the beautiful travel destinations in the country are endless. You are overwhelmed with planning the route.

I definitely advise you to travel by rental car. Driving in South Africa is quite easy, despite left-hand traffic.

Our tip: Book fork flights: Starts in Cape Town and flies back to Germany from Johannesburg.

Here comes my suggested route for my first trip to South Africa.

Route for 3 weeks

On the first trip we canceled the Drakensberg in favor of St. Lucia and the Hluhluwe National Park. We chose Knysna instead of Plettenberg Bay. We would do exactly the other way around today.

Routes for other trips to South Africa:

  1. Travel: Round trip South Africa with Cape Town, Westcoast National Park, Winelands, Johannesburg, Panorama Route, Kruger National Park, Swaziland, St. Lucia, Hluhluwe National Park, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Tsitsikamma National Park, Knysna, Mossen Bay, Swellendam, Hermanus and Cape Town.
  2. Travel: Cape Town and Cape Peninsula with Winelands
  3. Travel: Kapastadt
  4. Johannesburg, Soweto, Panorama Route, Kruger National Park
  5. Travel: Cape Town, Cape Peninsula, Sutherland, Kagga Kamma, Springbok (Namaqualand), Augrabies Falls National Park, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Upington.
  6. Travel: Cape Town, Cape Peninsula, Addo Elephant Park, Tsitsikamma National Park, Plettenberg Bay, Robberg Nature Reserve, Mossel Bay, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Hermanus, Cape Town.
  7. Travel: Johannesburg, Hoedspruit, EcoTraining in the Kruger National Park.
  8. Travel: Johannesburg & Ranger training at Eco Training

Where will the next trip take me? I do not know yet. The Drakensberg and large pieces of the Wild Coast are still missing. Just like many places in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I liked it so much that I really want to go back.

Nevertheless, I am always drawn to Cape Town, to Table Mountain and the Kruger National Park. Every time there are new travel destinations.

Entry to South Africa

It is easy for German tourists to enter South Africa as a tourist.

Do i need a visa for South Africa?

To enter South Africa, you only need a passport that is valid for at least the duration of the trip (we recommend at least 30 days after the end of the trip).

A tourist visa is valid for 90 days. If you stay longer in South Africa, you can extend the visa on site by 90 days.

Vaccinations, first-aid kit and travel insurance for South Africa

If you are traveling from Europe, no vaccinations are required for normal tourists in South Africa. For trips to rural areas, the standard vaccinations tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, rabies and typhoid are recommended.

A vaccination against hepatitis B is recommended for long-term stays (e.g. studying). Always consult a doctor for more information and advice on vaccinations. You should generally check your vaccinations before each trip and refresh them if necessary.

Packing list for first-aid kit

When traveling to South Africa, I always have the most important medicines with me. Even if you can certainly get everything in South Africa, we didn't want to leave anything to chance in the event of illness. I always want to have the most important medicine to hand quickly. That's why I had the following with me in South Africa:

  • Nasal spray (always in hand luggage)
  • Sinupret (for chronic sinus problem)
  • Hand disinfectant gel (as a water substitute, as there is often no soap) - you can also buy it on site.
  • band Aid
  • Sun cream LF 50
  • Electrolyte glucose powder, e.g. Elotrans
  • aspirin
  • Perenterol forte, Lopedium and Imodium acute (for diarrhea)

View my first-aid kit with PDF for printing

Do I need malaria prophylaxis?

Again and again I get e-mails and the question: Malaria prophylaxis for South Africa? I always advise consulting a doctor. Everyone has to come to terms with the topic for themselves. I do not take malaria prophylaxis for South Africa.

The Addo Elephant National Park and the private reserves along the Garden Route are malaria-free.

Which travel insurance for South Africa?

Many holidaymakers only ask questions about travel insurance shortly before departure. But then it is often too late. If you fall seriously injured while doing sports or at work shortly before your trip, then a lot of money may be wasted.

To ensure that this does not happen to you, you can read here which travel insurance makes sense in advance (luggage, travel interruption insurance, ...).

Money, currency and credit cards

The South African currency is the Rand (ZAR). One euro is around 18 rand (fluctuates). Download an app on your smartphone to get the latest prices, e.g. Currency for iOS.

Credit cards are almost always accepted. Use a credit card that does not charge any fees when paying or withdrawing from ATMs abroad. All in all, that saves a lot of money.

Change money in Germany?

Never, because the courses are worse, and fees are due. Immediately upon arrival Credit card (DKB as an active customer is our tip) Withdraw money in local currency. This not only saves going to the bank in Germany but also money.

Danger: In some regions far away from civilization you have to expect to only be able to pay with cash. Usually this does not apply to the Garden Route.

More tips on the best travel credit cards we use.

Sim card for mobile phones

Has the best coverage in the country Vodacom. You will receive SIM cards upon arrival at Johannesburg or Cape Town airports. You can't miss the stores. Alternatively has MTN in remote regions (Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) the better reception.

If you don't want to buy a SIM card, we recommend an eSIM via app. Providers are among others Ubigi. Log in to the app and book one of the tariffs offered.

Of course, these are more expensive than local SIM cards. Sometimes you are still too lazy to change your SIM card. Then Ubigi is great.

Tip

The service is in Restaurants rarely included. Service staff live from your tips. We gues 10 – 15 % of the amount to be given in restaurants.

At the Refueling you don't have to get out of the car. For this achievement you should 2 - 5 margin Leave a tip. Often the Washer cleaned.

Guard in parking lots Car Guards your car. They are also happy about you small obulus.

Electricity & electricity

As with us, the voltage is 220 volts. However, you will need a three-pin adapter. You can get this on arrival (Vodacom Store) or in advance from Amazon.

Tips for accommodation for South Africa

Especially during the main travel season in December / January, it makes sense to book accommodation well in advance. Then it's summer vacation in South Africa too. Accommodation in the official rest camps in the Kruger National Park or in the Tsitsikamma National Park were almost all booked out when we were planning (in August for December).

Tip: Accommodation for South Africa (especially in the national parks) at least 6 months in advance, much better to book 1 year in advance.

You can find accommodations for South Africa on agoda.com and booking.com. On both portals you will find a large selection of accommodations for South Africa.

I compared all portals with each other before booking. If an accommodation was fully booked on agoda.com, it was often still bookable on booking.com. A comparison is also worthwhile in terms of price.

We love to book apartments through airbnb. The minimum stay is often 2 nights.

Accommodation in national parks in South Africa and Swaziland

Accommodation in the camps of the national parks can be booked via the official website sanparks.org, even if it is unfortunately very confusing.
Tip: Book at least 6 months in advance. It is also worth staying overnight in a private game reserve at least once.

We stayed at the Earth Lodge in Sabi Sabi and the Plains Camp (luxury tent) including a sleep out in the tree house by Rhino Walking Tours. The difference to the official sanparks rest camps is huge.

→ Difference between rest camp and private game reserve using the example of Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

Book a rental car and, if necessary, domestic flights in South Africa

There are comparison portals for rental cars such as Sunny Cars (favorite), Billiger-Mietwagen.de, Check24 (German) or RhinoCarHire.com (English). There you will usually find better prices than directly on the websites of the car rental companies.

Our rental cars for South Africa have over on all seven South Africa tripsSunny Cars booked from Germany. It was uncomplicated and the cars were relatively new (the first had only 700 km on the clock) and in top condition.

The good thing about Sunny Cars? You always have the additional driver included. So there are no additional fees. In addition, all important insurances are always included. It couldn't be better!

Here you can find my tips for booking a rental car and here tips for driving a car in South Africa.

Are you going to Lesotho or Swaziland?

If you are planning a detour through Lesotho or Swaziland, please let your rental company know. You will receive a document that you have to show at the border upon entry (with us to Swaziland).

For the route between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town we were only 3 and took a smaller car (enter your car) without an automatic gearbox. When we picked it up, the car reserved for us was gone and we got a Honda with an automatic gearbox. Super.

Travel tips: One-way rental when renting a car

If you rent the rental car at one location and return it to another, a so-called “one-way rental” is due in South Africa. A round trip was not an option for us, so we accepted the fees.

Example:
A fee of 920 ZAR (approx. 65 euros) and 1241 ZAR (approx. 78 euros) was charged for the rental in Port Elizabeth and the drop-off in Cape Town at the airport.

Here you can find my tips for booking a rental car in South Africa

Plan excursions and activities for your South Africa trip

Tickets for popular destinations and activities must be booked in South Africa before traveling.

We especially like to book special tours with Airbnb Experiences. Here you will find exclusive tours that you will not find anywhere else.

Examples:

Take a look, it's really worth it!

You need to plan tickets for Robben Island in advance. Nothing happens spontaneously here, because the tours are of course also very popular with locals.

Tip: We took a combo tour with a visit to a township and Robben Island in one day. You can book this tour here:

In St. Lucia I was lucky to get 2 places for a night turtle tour. At Heritage Tours and Safaris you can check in advance whether tours are taking place (depending on the tides) and secure one of the coveted spots.

We had the very rare luck of spotting an endangered leaterback turtle laying eggs. The tour was fully booked and ran from 10pm - 5am. It was worth it!

Is it worth taking a wild card for the national parks in South Africa?

If you are planning to visit several national parks in South Africa, one might be worthwhile Wild card. You then pay a one-off lump sum and you don't have to pay a new fee at each gate.

The card is not always worth it. It depends on whether you are traveling alone, as a couple or as a family. Then there is the number of parks to be visited.
Read my experience report here whether it is worth buying the Wild Card (with sample calculation)

How safe is South Africa?

The same resolutions apply as in other large cities. Do not wear jewelry or valuable items openly. Especially not in townships. The guides will point this out to you on these tours.

Otherwise, don't be afraid, it's not that bad. Not as dangerous as many think. Nothing has ever happened to me in seven trips.

South Africa is no more unsafe than other travel destinations.

Again and again we were advised not to drive in the dark. I now know where to go at night. In Cape Town, for example, I have no problem driving in the dark. Avoid the “dark corners” of Woodstock and the townships on your own.

Most importantly, do not leave any objects open in the car. Only now have we seen so-called "spotters" in Cape Town even on busy streets and parking lots on beaches (Muizenberg). They don't do anything other than look inside cars. If it is worth it, the “spotter” will let his comrades know.

These spotters often have transmitters in hand and walk along the parked cars. They check which one they can open through these transmitters. We saw this in Cape Town on a busy street.

It's safe outside the cities. In some regions you should refrain from driving in the dark. Not because you could be robbed, but because obviously drunk (white) South Africans drive through the area drunk (our landlady in St. Lucia had warned us against this).

Otherwise, I advise you: do not be afraid, you will not be "simply shot" here. Dare to be in townships. I had my best encounters in Soweto and Khayelitsha.

You should read the latest safety information and travel warnings at the Federal Foreign Office.

Everything about safety in South Africa summarized

The most common question we are asked is about safety.

Cape Town and the sights are quite safe thanks to video surveillance. We have never gotten into a strange situation. Use your common sense and observe the following rules:

  1. 1Avoid the obvious wearing of jewelry.
  2. Ask locals which neighborhoods to avoid after dark. Drive from A to B with UBER. Even short distances that you would normally walk.
  3. Avoid hiking on Table Mountain. The number of raids is increasing.
  4. Never go to a township without a tour or locals.
  5. Be self-confident and don't stare at city maps in the street without a plan.
  6. Do not leave any objects open in the car.

What does a trip to South Africa cost?

Since I keep getting questions about the budget for planning the South Africa trip, I started to write down all expenses of all trips. This list is constantly being added to, as I am in South Africa once a year to keep exploring new regions.

Cost & budget for South Africa

More South Africa travel tips for your road trip

You need an international driver's license

On site, only the rental company wanted to see my international driver's license. Many think that you don't need any more at all. Since I don't feel like talking to the police, I had an international driver's license issued for 16 euros in advance.

You can find more information in my tips for driving a car in South Africa.

Save money by having the right credit card

In South Africa you can pay with all major credit cards. I use a free VISA card with no fees for withdrawing and paying. You can find my tips on money when traveling and my favorite credit card here in detail.

Make sure that the credit card limit is not too tight. When renting a car, you have to leave a deposit. On-site expenses add up quickly if you hardly pay with cash.

Back up your important documents

I printed out all of the booking confirmations before I left. In some areas there is neither electricity nor internet. To be on the safe side, I scanned all the important documents about the trip as well as copies of my passport and driver's license and saved them on Dropbox.

South Africa packing list

For South Africa you should pack some things that you can neglect on other trips. In the mornings and evenings - especially with game drives - it can be very cool and, depending on the travel time, rainy. Bring at least a warm sweater and jacket. Clothing in muted colors (no bright or white clothes) should be taken with you if you want to go on a lot of game drives. Animals don't like bright colors like pink and red.

There is an increased risk of malaria in the Kruger Park and the eastern Mpumulanga region from October to May. If you want to be absolutely sure that nothing will happen to you, pack Malarona (or alternatives) as prophylaxis. It is also helpful to bring the clothes with you No bite for clothes spray. Mosquitoes like black. Pay attention to light-colored clothing (including your socks) and wear long clothing.

I didn't have Malarone with me and sprayed myself with normal Autan Tropical. It was completely enough for me.

If you don't have a camera with a telephoto lens, this is one Purchase of binoculars makes sense. Binoculars have proven their worth especially in the Hluhluwe National Park, where you will find wonderful viewpoints with wide valleys.

You should also pack a USB charger power bank with an integrated flashlight for your mobile phone, the batteries of the GoPro and additional batteries for your camera. In South Africa and also in Swaziland we had No electricity for 3 days at a time.

Have you thought of everything else and does your equipment cover the most important things? How many kg of luggage are allowed and which pieces of luggage do you take from me?

Here you can get mine View checklist and also print it out to tick off. A detailed packing list for safaris in Africa can be found here.

Ticked off packing list?

Have you ticked all of the points on your checklist? Then let's go! I wish you a lot of fun and an unforgettable time!

Are you currently planning your trip to South Africa? You can find more travel tips here:

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