Where is South Africa: Southern Tip of Africa. South Africa is neighboured by Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana. Swaziland and Lesotho are both landlocked in South Africa.
Size:1,22 million km²
Population:56,72 million (last consensus 2017)
Capital: The official capital is Pretoria but the cities of Bloemfontein and Cape Town are considered as unofficial capitals.
What is South Africa best known for: South Africa has a diverse landscape offering everything from indigenous forests, savanna, mountain ranges, and beautiful beaches. South Africa’s most popular city to visit is Cape Town which sits on the southernmost tip of Africa and was once a pivotal port for dutch traders. The Cape is well-loved for its exceptional wine route and Table Mountain which is a world UNESCO site.
South Africa is the birthplace of Nobel prize winners such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. The locals refer to their country as The Rainbow Nation as it is made up of a diverse selection of cultures, tribes, and nationalities.
South Africa is home to all of the Big 5 which can all be found in the famous Kruger National Park. The Drakensberg mountain range spans a large portion of the country and is an excellent place for hiking and other adventure sports.
South Africa is also home to some of the best whale watching in the world near Hermanus and the garden route is one of the most popular road trip destinations worldwide.
Located on the east coast of South Africa is the city of Durban. The city is well-known for its Zulu and Indian heritage and its beautiful beaches on the Indian ocean. It was once the hub for English traders who brought in many workers from Indian and has a deep-rooted Indian culture with its own Indian flair cuisine.
Accommodation: Accommodation is easy to find and the standards are quite good. Accommodation is quite affordable depending on where you are staying of course. Johannesburg is cheaper than coastal areas whereas staying a wildlife reserve can be costly. Check out bookings.com and Airbnb for great options. Use this Airbnb linkand get €25 off your home booking and €9 off an experience.
What To Do in South Africa: South Africa is well-known for its diverse range of activities. In most areas hiking and cycling is popular. You will also find great hot air ballooning, shark diving, whale watching and game drives that are excellent in South Africa. If you are an adrenaline junky there is bungee jumping and canyoning available as well as some great sky safari’s. Check out GetYourGuide for great tours for everyone.
Getting Around South Africa: Uber is available in all major cities including Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. Johannesburg has a speed train known as the Gautrain which will take you to all the major stops as well as the airport. In Cape Town and Durban there are reliable buses that can be used. Many other destinations require you to hire a car unless the establishment that you are staying at includes shuttle services, which many do. Keep in mind if you’re renting a car that they drive on the left side of the road.
Safety: Safety is something that concerns many no matter where they are traveling to. South Africa is known for petty crime so be aware of pickpockets. In the cities, it is best not to walk unaccompanied at night and you should always check with your hotel or host which areas are safe to walk in. You should always be vigilant no matter where you are traveling to.
If you are visiting a game park make sure to NOT LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE UNLESS A GUIDE INSTRUCTS YOU TO. It is very dangerous and forbidden in all wildlife parks in South Africa unless otherwise stated.
Best Time to Visit South Africa: The most popular times to visit are during spring and autumn. From February to late April, it is still warm but the summer heat starts to dissipate. You can enjoy temperatures ranging from around 30 – 25 degrees in most places. The northern areas are usually hotter even in Autumn.
Spring is also a popular time, ranging from late August to October as the weather starts to warm up after the temperate winter (which doesn’t get very cold as there is only isolated snow). In springtime, you can expect the weather to range from the low 30’s to the mid-’20s in degrees. It is also the season where the first rainfall usually occurs after the dry winter months. Summer is a wet season, but keep in mind that South Africa does not see copious rainfall.
Time Zone: GMT+2
Official Languages: Officially South Africa has 12 national languages including sign language. But English is widely spoken all over South Africa as a first language.
Drinking water: Although the tap water is drinkable, bottled water is more commonly used. Depending on where you are staying, the quality of water can vary. Find out from the establishment you are staying at about tap water. It is common in South Africa for establishments to have their own filtration systems to purify tap water.
Vaccinations: You should ensure that you have your normal vaccinations done such as chickenpox and polio (there are no cases of polio but it is still advised). You should also consider vaccinating for diseases such as yellow fever, rabies, and malaria. Especially if you are visiting rural areas or are planning on a safari vacation. You should also be aware that if you have traveled through a WHO designated yellow fever country you will have to have a yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days before entry in South Africa.
What to eat and drink: Right now in South Africa craft gin and beer are trendy so be sure to try at least one local brand. The most popular beer in South Africa is Castle Lager and they even make a non-alcoholic option. South Africa is famous for its cape wines so make sure to at least try one while you are visiting.
Because of South Africa’s cultural diversity, you will find more international food than locals in most places. If you are in Cape Town make sure to have Malay style fish, crayfish curry and Koesisters (a syrup-soaked cake-like dessert dipped in coconut). In Johannesburg make sure to try out Moyo’s, it is great if you want to try African delicacies in style. They even serve Mopani worms, a hairy worm that is loved by South Africans and considered a high source of protein. If you’re adventurous enough for that then you should try out traditional “walkie talkies”. These are chicken heads and feet famously eaten by locals.
Where Germany has its Bratwurst, South Africa has its Boerewors. No South African braai (barbeque) is complete without boerewors.
Currency, cash & cards: South Africa’s currency is the Rand (ZAR). There is no problem finding ATMs in South Africa and you can easily exchange your currency at your hotel or at a bank nearby (they are in all major shopping centers). It is best not to carry large amounts of cash unless absolutely necessary. Paying by card is common even for locals and advisable.
Tipping: South African restaurants usually do not include a service charge (unless otherwise specified) on restaurant bills. The minimum amount for a tip is 10% of your bill but more is always encouraged.
Wifi: Wifi is easily found in South Africa. Most hotels, restaurants and coffee shops offer free wifi to their customers. Most of the big shopping centers and malls also allow public access to wifi. If all else fails, you can always find a Starbucks near you.