5 Tips for an Even Better Visit to South Africa

5 Tips for an Even Better Visit to South Africa

Why is South Africa so amazing? Well, it has a national park the size of a country that houses some of the most beautiful animals in the world, there are beaches where penguins hang out all day, the wine is to die for (and cheap!), and it’s home to some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

I was there 22 days and it still wasn’t enough for me, but in those 22 days I learned a bit about how I would experience it the next time. If South Africa is on your must-see list, be prepared to say “Howzit?” to almost everyone you pass, eat lots and lots of grilled meat at a local barbecue or braai, and see wildlife you have only seen in National Geographic before.

While there are endless reasons to visit South Africa, there are some things you should keep in mind before getting there.

5 Tips for an Even Better Visit to South Africa

1. Don’t be too flashy

First and foremost, safety is always the most important, and you should know what you should and shouldn’t do wherever you travel. Be mindful of what kind of gadgets you’re flashing while you’re walking around the city, especially at night. Theft and robberies are the most common crimes in South Africa. Don’t carry a huge designer bag or show off your expensive camera with a telephoto lens. Instead, carry something like a wristlet with only enough cash for the day in big cities like Johannesburg.

2. Bring something warm

Even in the dead of summer, especially along the Garden Route, South Africa gets chilly. I hadn’t prepared for very cold nights and cloudy days and was left shivering until I could find a shop where I could buy a last minute fleece. Even during the night in Kruger Park it gets chilly enough to throw on a fleece.

3. Book your accommodation well in advance

Especially in the high season (South African summer), it’s a very good idea to try and book for your accommodation at least a month in advance. Things book up very quickly, and some stops along the Garden Route will only have a few choices for guesthouses and hostels. We learned this the hard way. You don’t want to be crammed into a mixed dorm as the only woman with the guy below you snoring like a chainsaw and the guy next to you releasing all kinds of smells throughout the night.

4. Decide how you’re going to travel

A lot of people choose to rent a car while in South Africa, and it’s a good idea if you want flexibility and are comfortable driving a manual vehicle. The road signage is very clear and the roads are, for the most part, smooth. However, if you’re like me and can’t drive a stick shift and don’t want to worry about the responsibility of a car, you have options, such as the Baz Bus—a backpacker bus that will pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation. It’s great because you don’t have to worry about navigating and you get to meet fellow travelers and swap stories. It’s also relatively cheap when you consider fuel prices, insurance, and rental fees. But, you are stuck to their timetable.

5. Don’t expect your safari to be like a zoo

The beauty of going on safari in South Africa is fulfilling your childhood dreams of seeing the animals you saw in the Lion King in their natural habitat. A lot of people expect to see the Big Five right away, but it’s not realistic. If you’re able to see a lion, a rhino, or a leopard just once you will be very lucky. Keep in mind that a lot of these animals are nocturnal, so you may drive around for a while until you see something beautiful, perhaps just waking up for a snack. Try to go on safari for at least a few days, to optimize your animal spotting game. Even if you don’t see a stealthy leopard or Mufasa up close and personal, you’re almost 100% guaranteed to see zebras, giraffes, and elephants. Which, in my book, is still pretty cool.

Visit to South Africa

Are you planning a visit to South Africa? We’d love to hear how it goes. For information about sharing your story email us at editor@pinkpangea.com.

About Kaitlin Kimont

Kaitlin KimontKaitlin is based in Bangkok, Thailand currently working as a freelance writer and English teacher. She’s making her way around Southeast Asia one country at a time, all the while gaining a subconscious, perhaps conscious, addiction to MSG and Thai milk tea.

Follow her on twitter @kaitlinkimont.

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