The ultimate Worldpackers South Africa travel guide

A South Africa travel guide with helpful tips and recommendations for traveling to South Africa, including where to go, when to go, what to do, what to eat, and general cultural and practical information.


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Gabrielle

Sep 23, 2019

I am a 24 year old from the USA, currently living and working in Australia. I love writing about my travel experiences in Europe, South America, an...

South Africa travel guide

South Africa is one of the most diverse and intriguing countries I've ever visited.

The landscape ranges from white sand beaches to rugged cliffs and mountains to rich green valleys. Locals thrive in bustling cities, off-the-grid eco farms, and traditional rural villages. 

One day you'll be on a four wheel drive in a private game reserve watching elephants, giraffes and wildebeest roam around the vehicle, and the next day you'll be lounging on the beach watching dolphins and whales splash in the waves.

South Africa is raw and rugged. Many villages, towns and cities have found a balance between traditional culture and the modernized world. Tourism is booming, and cheap backpacker hostels are scattered all over the country making travel in South Africa extremely affordable.

If you are interested in traveling to South Africa, you may be overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude of places to visit and things to do. With this South Africa travel guide, I'll do my best to summarize some of the highlights of travel in SA, while providing travel tips and useful things to know about South Africa before visiting. 

I'll provide some general South Africa tourist information as well as advice on where to go, when to go, and just overall travel tips for a trip around South Africa. I'll also explain how to travel deeply and cheaply using Worldpackers experiences in South Africa... so keep reading until the end!

I won't be able to cover everything, but I hope some of my own research and personal experience will help future travelers navigate this gem of the African continent.


Penguins in Cape Town, South Africa

General overview of South Africa

Maybe you've just stumbled across this article and never heard of anything about South Africa at all. South Africa is actually a country? It's not just the name for the bottom of the African continent? 

Conveniently enough, South Africa is actually the southernmost country in Africa. It is a parliamentary republic with a population of 56.72 million, and it is a British Commonwealth country. There are actually two separate countries to visit in South Africa: Lesotho and Swaziland. So if you're driving aimlessly through South Africa and suddenly find yourself at border control, you're probably about to enter one of these tiny nations.

Here are a few useful pieces of knowledge about South Africa:

Capital City: This country has three official capital cities. Pretoria is the administrative capital, Cape Town is the legislative capital, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.

Language: There are 11 official languages in South Africa, and there are many others in addition to these. The most widely used languages are English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and South Sotho. The other official languages are Ndebele, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, and North Sotho. Luckily for most tourists, English is pretty commonly used unless you go to small, remote villages.

Currency: The currency is the South African Rand. To put the value into perspective, 1 US Dollar is equal to 14.82 Rand, 1 Euro is equal to 16.40 Rand.

Religion: The main religion is Christianity, though there is a huge range of diversity within that category.

Visas: You normally do not need a visa if you are staying less than 90 days. When arriving in South Africa, the immigration officer will grant you a free entry permit if you come from any Commonwealth countries, western Europe, Japan or the USA. If you come from any other countries, you can still get a free entry permit you just need to apply online a few weeks in advance.


Panorama of Cape Town, South Africa

Brief history of South Africa

The history of South Africa goes insanely far back, with ancient nomadic tribes and hunter gatherer people roaming the land before civilization. One of the oldest known tribes is the San People, who occupied South African lands as far back as 28,000 years ago.

Other notable groups of people in the area include the Khoikhoi, the Xhosa, the Zulu, and the Bantu speaking tribes. These groups spread their roots in present day South Africa, and other African people from around the continent migrated to the south throughout history.

Once the Dutch and British colonizers arrived, turbulence and tension struck the country as the Europeans clashed with the locals. Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, white colonizers imposed themselves upon the land and created conflicts with the locals over territory and social and political rights.

Apartheid, which basically translates to "the state of being apart", plagued the nation from 1948 until 1994, separating white and black people physically, socially, and economically.

Nelson Mandela famously fought for the freedom of all people in South Africa, and eventually became the first president of the Republic of South Africa in 1994 at the first free elections. Mandela's push for progress was so vital to the country that his face is even imprinted on the currency notes.

South Africa has had a complicated history, where traditional African culture struggles against the imposing European influence. There is still lots of work to be done in terms of economic equality, but the social, political, and civil rights situation in South Africa has improved immensely since the age of Apartheid.


Bo Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa

Practical and cultural things to expect

Culture shock can strike at any time, to any person visiting a foreign country. To try and prepare people for traveling in South Africa, I've listed some noteworthy aspects of the culture and lifestyle.

Practical information

People drive on the left side of the road, as most Commonwealth countries do.

The electrical outlets are two circular prongs, like Europe.

When eating out, you generally leave a 10% tip.

Also be prepared to tips any locals that provide you some sort of small service. For example, when filling your car at a gas station, the attendant will usually clean your windshield and windows for you. Or when looking for parking in the crowded streets of Cape Town, someone will lead you to an open space and watch over your car for you. In both of these cases, you should tip these locals for their help. Even if it's only a few coins, any little bit helps.

Wildlife

You'll definitely encounter some wildlife while traveling around South Africa. Watch out for animals when driving, walking, or hiking. You'll probably see a few dassies, which are adorable rodent-like creatures that are usually scared of humans but get accustomed to them and scavenge for food in touristy areas.

You'll also see lots of baboons, which are famous for stealing food and sometimes getting aggressive in the process. There are plenty of road signs warning against baboons and recommending everyone to lock their car doors. You can even get fined for feeding them, so just watch and laugh at them from afar but don't interact with them.

Though you won't see any lions or elephants roaming around freely, you still need to watch out for cows, sheep and goats crossing the road. Most big game animals are now located in private game reserves or on private land, but livestock is still on the loose.

Culture and economy

Countries aren't always exactly how they appear in magazines or on Instagram. Here are a few important things to know about South Africa's culture and economic state that will prepare you for your travels.

Throughout the country there is a very diverse mix of people with different languages and cultures, though most people are super friendly and outgoing.

Look out for popular slang words, like Broo (similar to "bro" or "homie" and Lekker (good, cool, fun, basically used in any positive situation).

South Africa is pretty modernized, especially in more populated areas. You can find shopping malls, casinos, fitness centers, and lots of popular fast food chains like KFC and McDonalds. To escape this commercialism, you'll have to venture to smaller towns and villages.

The country also has relatively stable infrastructure, with paved roads and highways, and wide spread internet and phone signal. Again, this will change in more remote areas.

Once you reach these remote areas, you'll find very high levels of poverty. The economic disparity in South Africa is intense, meaning there are very rich people and very, very poor people living quite close to each other.

Sometimes all it takes is a short drive outside a city center to see the townships, which are congested communities of small dwellings, many of them quite dilapidated. During the age of Apartheid, townships were reserved for minorities and non-whites, and this type of racial segregation is still visible today. 38% of the entire South African population lives in townships, so much of the country is still stuck in these underdeveloped, poverty-stricken communities.

When viewing or interacting with poor communities in South Africa, just remember to have empathy. The world is full of poverty and people born into unfortunate situations, but we are all still just people. Regardless of wealth, race, social class, or any other factor, every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Some of the poorest people in the world are the happiest because they are free from the obsession with useless material possessions.

No matter where you are in South Africa, or in the world, treat everyone with kindness and try to understand their point of view. You will have a much richer travel experience if you focus the similarities between yourself and people around the world, rather than dwell on the differences.


Panorama Route, Three Rondavels View Point, South Africa

How to get around

South Africa is huge, and the easiest, most flexible way to explore is to rent a car. There are tons of car rental companies, including the big international ones like Hertz, Budget and Avis. Do a bit of research online as you can sometimes find smaller companies that have cheap deals. Just remember, many cars are manual transmission, and you drive on the left side.

If you would rather take public transport as a way to explore South Africa, there are a couple hop-on/hop-off buses that travel to all the popular tourist spots in the country. Baz Bus is popular among backpackers, and Mzansi offers independent bus travel options where you can create your own travel packages.

Other classic public bus companies include Translux, Intercape and Greyhound, which you can use for traveling between major cities around South Africa.

Local buses are very cheap, but they travel slowly and don't run frequently. You can get affordable and efficient minibus taxes for traveling longer distances. Just ask your hostel or local friends about where to find these and if they're available for the destinations you want.

As for flights, check Skyscanner for the cheapest day to fly to or around South Africa. Book farther in advance for cheaper prices.

When to go

If you're already thinking "I want to go to South Africa" and are taking mental notes for your trip, you'll be happy to know that there is no bad time to visit South Africa! But there are some distinct seasonal changes so I'll describe them briefly.

Summer in South Africa can get very hot and sometimes humid in more mountainous areas. These summer months, between December and February, are also winter for most of the northern hemisphere, so touristy places get more crowded.

Winter is pretty mild, though it gets really cold up in the Drakensberg and at other high elevations. These winter months, between June and August, are prime time for wildlife viewing and for surfing.

Shoulder season (September through November and March through May) is a nice middle ground, with good chances of nice weather and reasonable crowds.

Regardless of time of year, the ocean weather is pretty consistent. Near Cape Town, the water is super cold because the Benguela Current rolls in from Antarctica and runs up the west coast. Near Durban, the water is always warm because the Agulhas Current from the tropical Indian Ocean runs along the east Coast. You can see where these two currents meet at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the African continent.


Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Travel deeply and cheaply using Worldpackers experiences in South Africa

A great way to save money and interact with locals in South Africa is to do a work exchange. The South African people are so warm and welcoming; the best way to get to know the culture and its beautiful people is through living and working alongside them.

Worldpackers has lots of amazing work exchanges in South Africa on offer, and all you have to do is browse through the website to find them.

You can bartend in a hostel along the Garden Route, in places like Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay. There are lots of work opportunities in Cape Town, where you can work in reception, maintenance, social media, marketing, data analysis, and painting. You can also work in reception in Jeffrey's Bay and surf world class waves on your days off.

Any volunteer experience where you can live for free and learn about the culture from the locals is worthwhile. South Africa is overall really cheap, but accommodation is the biggest expense. Most hostels cost around 150-200 Rand per night, which adds up quickly while traveling. So if you can volunteer in a hostel and explore on your days off, that is a huge win for your wallet.

Where to go in South Africa

No South Africa travel guide can cover everything; the country is too huge and diverse! There are nine different provinces offering different landscapes and cultures to travelers, so it can be overwhelming planning a trip around South Africa.

I'll list a few of South Africa's best places and explain why they are so popular. Bear in mind, this is my own personal opinion and there are many other places in the country worth visiting as well! 

To plan the absolute best trip to South Africa, it's worth also doing your own research. Check out a South Africa travel guide book, or a South Africa tourism guide!

1. Cape Town


Cape Town, South Africa

If you're wondering where to go on holiday in South Africa, Cape Town is a must.

Most tourists begin their South African adventure here, as it has a popular international airport and is a great gateway into the country. Cape Town is a busy city full of cool architecture, hiking opportunities, and lots of suburbs that provide different activities outside the city centre.

Learn to surf at Muizenberg Beach and enjoy the colorful beach huts along the sand. Drive along the coast and absorb the scenery, from the surf hub of Kommetjie up to the picturesque Chapman's Peak Road. Visit Simon's Town and see the adorable penguin colony at Boulder's Beach. Take the ferry out to Robben Island and learn about Nelson Mandela's imprisonment there, or hike up Signal Hill and watch the sunset over the city.

While in the city center, explore the colorful neighborhood of Bo-Kaap and stroll along the V&A Waterfront. You can easily stay in Cape Town for weeks and never run out of things to do. But there is so much more of South Africa to see, so one week is plenty of time in the capital before you head onwards.

2. The Garden Route


The Garden Route, South Africa

This scenic stretch of coastline begins in Mossel Bay and ends in Stormsriver, and is one of the most-traveled routes in South Africa (and one of the most scenic road-trips in the world!). The route snakes along the south coast of the country and is full of luscious forests, white-sand beaches, and endless opportunities for fitness and adventure.

Some of the main towns along the Garden Route are Wilderness, George, Plettenberg Bay, Knysna. In these towns you can spend your time hiking, bungee jumping, bird-watching, diving, kayaking, swimming, river-rafting, whale-watching, surfing, canoeing, and pretty much any other outdoor activity you could dream of.

Take a quick detour from the coastline and head inland to the town of Oudtshoorn, where you can visit an Ostrich Farm and tour the stalactites and stalagmites of Cango Caves. On Saturdays, stop in the town of Sedgefield for their huge market selling unique, handmade goods and organic fresh food. If you want to immerse yourself in nature and spirituality, head 30 minutes inland from Knysna and spend a few days at Pachamama Forest Retreat.

3. Transkei (Wild Coast)


Transkei, South Africa

The Transkei region of South Africa's Eastern Cape is also known as the Wild Coast, with good reason. Here is where you'll find traditional, rural African culture still thriving, untouched by commercialism and still new to tourism and technology.

The landscape is rugged, with cows, goats, sheep, and pigs running wild over the hills. Be super careful when driving here, as most of the roads are rocky dirt tracks and some are completely gauged away by potholes.

Once you conquer the roads and make your way to the coast, you'll find some breathtaking, untouched paradise. Most of the little villages have one or two backpacker lodges, and the towns are separated by big green hills and rocky coast. You can't drive directly along the coast from village to village as the roads don't connect until you get back inland to the main road. But you can hike to different villages. A popular hike is from Bulungula to Coffee Bay, which can be done in eight hours.

I definitely recommend staying at Bulungula Lodge if you're in the Transkei. This beautiful, beachfront lodge is completely run by the local community, so it provides the locals with jobs, teaches them about working in hospitality, and brings all the income from tourism back to the community. Different locals run different activities for tourists like horseback riding, canoeing, sunrise pancakes on the beach, tribal drum lessons, and learning about natural herbal remedies from the local medicine man.

Coffee Bay is another popular stop in the Transkei, though it's a bit more touristy and commercialized than the smaller towns. Hike three hours from Coffee Bay to Hole In The Wall, a rugged natural rock formation on the ocean. Mdumbi has some of the best waves in the region, so surfers love to stop here as well.

4. Durban


Durban, South Africa

This is one of the best South African cities to visit, and has the largest population of Indian people outside of India. Durban is famous for its year-round warm water which is perfect for surfing, swimming, and snorkeling. Walk, bike, or jog the "Golden Mile", a long stretch of sidewalk along the beach.

Visit the Durban Botanical Gardens to see fossils and trees dating back to dinosaur times, or follow along the Inanda Heritage Trail to learn about important historical places in the area, such as where the country's first democratic elections were held in 1994. And definitely treat yourself to some authentic Indian food, as it's the best you can find outside India.

5. Johannesburg


Johannesburg, South Africa

As the largest city in South Africa, and the second biggest city in all of Africa, Johannesburg has a lot going on. More commonly known as Jo'Burg, this city is quite young and progressive, but it has incredible history just outside the metropolis. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, "Cradle of Humankind", is home to about 40% of the world's fossils that provide evidence of human origins, and this site is just outside the city center.

If you don't like busy, big-city vibes then you may want to skip Jo'Burg. The top attractions are all related to infrastructure and commercialism, though it does make a good base for visiting Kruger National Park or the Drakensburg (both of these to be explained later on).

If you like the hustle and bustle of cities, here are some fun things to do in Jo'Burg. You can visit the famous Apartheid Museum, catch a thrill the amusement park known as Gold Reef City, or explore the Maboneng Precinct, known for its art galleries and trendy cafes. Take walking tours or guided bus tours to learn about the city's history as a gold-mining district. Or head out to the bars and clubs at night and listen to the vibrant sounds of Kwaito, a new genre of African house music.

6. Drakensburg


Drakensburg, South Africa

This breathtaking mountain range in eastern South Africa was recommended to me by every local I met. The views are just too insane to pass up when traveling through South Africa.

The Drakensburg Mountains can roughly be separated into three sections, with too many different hiking trails to list. The south gets the most rainfall, so it's very luscious and green. "Sani Pass" is the most famous spot in the southern Drakensburg, which also stretches into Lesotho.

The central Drakensburg is known for "Cathedral Peak" and "Giant's Castle", two gorgeous spots for hiking and photography. Southern and Central Drakensburg are both only 2-3 hours drive from Durban, so that makes a good starting point for venturing into the mountains.

Northern Drakensburg is best visited from Jo'Burg, as it's only a 3 hour drive. The famous "Amphitheater" — one of the most impressive cliff faces on earth — is the most popular place to visit in this part of the mountains.

You can take buses to the Drakensburg, though having a rental car is much easier and more convenient for exploring the mountains at your own pace.

What to eat in South Africa

South Africa is a very interesting country when it comes to food. It doesn't have an overall, standard cuisine as the country is so multicultural these days. In any big town or city you can find different restaurants offering international foods like pizza, burgers, seafood, and sushi. Durban is best known for its authentic Indian food; you must try "bunny chow", a hollowed out loaf of bread stuffed with curry.

The best foods to try in South Africa vary on which area you are in. If you are in the Wild Coast, home to the Xhosa people, you have to try Xhosa bread. It's super thick and heavy, with a bit of sweetness and its delicious.

If you are near big farming regions, like the Garden route and in the outskirts of East London, try some of the organic produce. Free range eggs, fresh raw cows milk, butter and cheese are also of great quality in smaller farming areas. You'll pass lots of adorable farm stands along the Garden Route, and they often have fresh pies and homemade breads and jams, so definitely stop in a few if you're road-tripping.

Staples of the South African diet are not main-courses, but are the extras you eat throughout the day. Biltong, dried and seasoned raw meat, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Malva Pudding is a classic South African dessert, and consists of a dense cake-like pudding served with custard or ice cream.

Another unique South African delicacy is rooibos tea. Though you can buy this hearty, almost caramel-tasting tea all over the world, it is native to the Western Cape and is much fresher here. You can even get "red cappuccinos" in coffee shops, which is a cappuccino with Rooibos tea instead of a shot of coffee.

Must have experiences in South Africa

There are some things that you simply have to do on a South Africa trip. I'm not saying you have to do all of these, but at least one or two of them will deeply enhance your South Africa travel experience.

1. Go on a Safari


Safari, South Africa

Going on a safari is a classic African experience for tourists. Sometimes safaris are the main reason for travelers coming to Africa. 

South Africa has world-famous game reserves and national parks where you can view elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, hippos, rhinos, wildebeest, and more gorgeous wildlife in their natural habitat.

There are a few ways to do a safari, and you'll have to do a lot of your own research to find what suits you best. Of course there are many private game reserves with luxury accommodation and five-star service. Some of the pricier game reserves require you to stay overnight to view the wildlife, so just inquire beforehand if you want to do a day trip.

For budget travelers, there are plenty of other safari options besides fancy private resorts. You can easily do a full day or half day game drive from any major cities around the country. 

In my experience, Aquila Game Reserve in the Karoo Region made a great day trip from Cape Town, and Schotia Game Reserve was an easy day trip from Port Elizabeth. Both day trips cost between $150 and $200, which is pretty affordable for an epic day of driving through the wilderness with delicious food included and a knowledge guide to teach you about the animals.

The most famous wildlife park in South Africa is Kruger National Park, located in the northeast corner of the country next to Mozambique. This huge park is roughly the size of Wales, and offers everything from luxury lodges, to budget accommodation, to camping options. 

For the savvy budget travelers, you can even drive your own car through the park, which is the cheapest option. It is recommended to try and do guided tours if its your first safari, however. That way you can explore with the experts, who know where to find the animals and know generally what to expect from them. Baz Bus organizes Kruger National Park tours, which can be helpful if you aren't renting a car and you are already using Baz Bus to get around the country.

For other organized safari tours, you can use one of the many tour companies in South Africa that specialize in safaris. There are too many to list, but I'll mention a few good tour companies that run out of Cape Town, since most backpackers begin their journey there. African Budget Safaris located in Hout Bay, Detour Africa located on Long Street, and Nomad Adventure Tours located on Castle Street are all reputable options for booking a guided safari tour.

There are also lots of smaller wildlife reserves where you can see specific animals for cheaper prices than a game drive. Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth has over 600 elephants and is super easy to just drive in and explore for a few hours. There are also lots of cheetah sanctuaries that safely breed and protect these mysterious cats, including The Cheetah Experience in Bloemfontein.

2. Have a braai


Traditional braai, South Africa

To truly feel welcomed into South African culture, you must have a braai with some locals. Similar to a barbecue, a braai consists of local meats grilled over the fire with lots of drinks, snacks, and good conversation.

A common beverage at a braai is black label beer, and locals often nibble on popular packaged snacks like ghost pops and simba chips. Sometimes a braai will have nice sides like salad, veggies, and potatoes, but garlic bread will almost always be served to accompany the meat.

3. Surf Jeffrey's Bay


Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa

Surfers travel from all over the world to surf this right hand point break on the southern coast of South Africa. In between the Garden Route and Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey's Bay is the surf capital of the country. The beach stretches all along the town, with wave after wave just begging to be surfed. Supertubes is the spot where all the experienced surfers go, and the World Surf League even had a professional surf contest there in July.

For beginner surfers and those who want to learn, Dolphin Beach has nice small waves for practicing. There are tons of surf schools in Jeffrey's Bay where newbies can learn how to surf as well.

I recommend staying at Beach Bums Backpackers, which is located right next to Supertubes and costs only 150 Rand per night for a comfy dorm bed and a free pancake breakfast.

Eat at Nina's Restaurant to refuel after a full day of surfing. They have an incredibly long menu with cuisines from all over the world and lots of vegetarian and vegan options.

4. Hike Table Mountain


Table Mountain, South Africa

One of the new natural wonders of the world, Table Mountain is the crowned jewel of Cape Town. The majestic mountain with a flat top towers over the city, and when it's covered in clouds the locals say it's wearing a tablecloth.

Hiking Table Mountain is a highlight of visiting Cape Town. You can take the cable car to the top, but those who are able should definitely hike. It's great exercise, and you feel euphoric once you climb to the top. The most straightforward hike is through Platteklip Gorge, located just next to the cable car station. The hike takes anywhere from one to three hours, depending on your fitness level.

Upon reaching the top, you get to enjoy some of the most incredible views over Cape Town and the ocean. Walk along the tabletop to reach Maclear's Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain.

Another hiking option in Cape Town is Lion's Head Mountain, which is a bit smaller and takes only an hour to hike. Because it's a quicker journey, this is the perfect place to hike before sunrise. I recommend trying to hike both mountains, as the views are a bit different but stunning on both.

5. Dive with Great White Sharks


Diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa

For thrill-seekers and marine life lovers, South Africa is the perfect place to get up close and personal with great white sharks. But don't worry, there will always be a sturdy steel cage protecting you from these massive ocean predators.

Shark cage diving is very popular in the Western Cape, and there are lots of tour companies in Cape Town, Gansbaai and Mossel Bay that offer affordable day trips. Apex Shark Expeditions, Marine Dynamics Shark Tours, and African Shark Eco-Charters are just a few of the reputable tour companies you can use for your shark viewing experience.

6. Go Wine Tasting


Vineyard, South Africa

South Africa is a rising star on the global stage of wine production. Known for their crisp sauvignon blancs and amazing red blends, South Africa's wineries make some truly delicious and high quality products. It's definitely worth doing a few wine tastings in the country, because tasting the wine is like tasting the beauty of the land itself.

Some popular wine regions in the country include Worcester, Robertson, Karoo, Swartland, Walker Bay, Wellington, and Tulbagh, most of which are located in the Western Cape. Stellenbosch is another big wine region, which is only 45 minutes outside Cape Town. Two of my favorite wineries in Stellenbosch are Lovane, the smallest boutique winery in the region, and Spier Winery, which offers a wine and chocolate tasting for 70 Rand.

Bikes 'n Wines is a great tourism company that offers bike tours of the wineries outside Cape Town so you can cycle through the vineyards on a sunny day. If you have a car, you can do the tour on your own by simply driving from winery to winery. Just be sure you have a designated driver if you plan on sampling lots of wine.

South Africa safety tips

Overall, South Africa is very safe. People are usually friendly and happy to give advice to foreigners, but of course use basic street smarts when approaching strangers.

In general, rural communities are safer than big cities. Small villages are very tight-knit and everyone looks out for each other, whereas big cities are more crowded so crime can easily go unnoticed.

Johannesburg used to have a reputation for being a dangerous city in South Africa, but recently locals agree that Cape Town has surpassed it. Simply because Cape Town is so touristy, and tourists make easy targets for petty crime like theft, there has recently been more attention towards the crime in Cape Town.

To stay safe while traveling in South Africa, just use general knowledge and wisdom that you would use at home. Don't leave valuables in the car and always lock your car doors. 

Store your valuables in the safe at your accommodation, and use luggage locks for your bags. Don't walk around alone, especially at night. 

Locals have also warned me about driving at night, mainly because of potholes and loose animals on the road. So try to drive during the daytime only.

Find people you can trust, like your hostel staff, and ask them what areas are safe or not. They will definitely tell you the truth, and they'll make sure you stay safe.

When I was staying in Cape Town, I told a few locals that I planned on hiking Table Mountain and Lion's Head Mountain, which are two famous mountains right in the center of Cape Town. Thinking they were touristy and easy, I planned to go alone. But the locals told me to never hike alone in Cape Town, even so close to civilization. 

So they linked me up with another local friend who planned on hiking so I had someone to go with. I probably would have been fine hiking alone considering how many tourists were hiking as well, but I trusted the local opinion and felt grateful that they were looking out for me.

South Africans are always nice and willing to help out and answer questions, so never hesitate to ask if you are unsure of anything.

Don't forget about health safety when traveling to South Africa. Get reliable travel health insurance before you go. Visit your doctor before you go to make sure you are up to date on any vaccines and immunizations.

Malaria is present in the northeast areas of the country, near Kruger National Park. Wear insect repellant, sleep with mosquito nets, and take medication to prevent against malaria before you arrive in the country.

Tap water is safe to drink all over the country. Bring a refillable water bottle to prevent buying plastic bottles and creating waste.

Final thoughts: do's and don'ts

  • Don't forget about health safety when traveling to South Africa. Get reliable travel health insurance before you go. Visit your doctor before you go to make sure you are up to date on any vaccines and immunizations.
  • Malaria is present in the northeast areas of the country, near Kruger National Park. Wear insect repellant, sleep with mosquito nets, and take medication to prevent against malaria before you arrive in the country.
  • Tap water is safe to drink all over the country. Bring a refillable water bottle to prevent buying plastic bottles and creating waste.

Most importantly, don't forget to enjoy yourself. Be a mindful traveler, and have fun! Use Worldpackers to find work exchange opportunities that will help you have a more authentic experience in South Africa. If you have any questions about using Worldpackers to travel in South Africa, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Happy adventuring!


69d45c4b61a7e3db73346c009be8ff22

Gabrielle

Sep 23, 2019

I am a 24 year old from the USA, currently living and working in Australia. I love writing about my travel experiences in Europe, South America, an...


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