How to Prepare for Your Trip to South Africa
Are you thinking of visiting South Africa for the first time? Then check out this guide. Here you’ll discover how to prepare for your trip to South Africa.
Ever dreamed of exploring the Rainbow Nation of South Africa? Well, this dynamic country truly has it all.
With an eclectic mix of cultures and customs, including 11 official languages, breathtaking landscapes, wildlife, fine wines, and amazing cuisine, South Africa has something for everyone.
South Africa is a country rich in diversity, making it one of the world’s most fascinating countries to explore.
If you’re looking for the ultimate guide on planning a trip to South Africa, just keep on reading…
Preparing for Your Trip to South Africa
In order to truly enjoy your time spent exploring a new country, a little preparation can go a long way!
Here a few must-know tips in order to prepare for your trip to South Africa.
1. You Don’t Need a Visa
South Africa welcomes tourism, and as such, makes it relatively simple for foreigners from all over the globe to visit.
Most countries do not require a visa when planning a trip to South Africa, however, if your stay exceeds 90 days, a visa will then be required.
It’s important to note that your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after your intended return date as a US citizen.
Make sure your passport also contains at least one blank page for the customs entry stamp upon arriving in South Africa.
2. The Exchange Rate is in Your Favor
In South Africa, the local currency is known as the Rand.
The American dollar is king in South Africa, with the exchange rate fluctuating between R12 and R13 to the dollar at present.
Upon arrival into the country, you can exchange American dollars for Rands at all international airports, otherwise you will be dispensed Rands if you wish to withdraw cash from an ATM.
However, it’s advisable that you do the bulk of your cash exchange at the beginning of your trip to South Africa, as ATM transaction fees can add up!
Alternatively, most major credit cards are accepted far and wide throughout South Africa. Just remember to notify your bank you’ll be using your credit card in a foreign country.
If you are traveling to the more rural regions of South Africa, such as a bush safari or township tour, credit card and ATM access may not be available. In this instance, make sure you carry cash with you in a safe and unobvious manner, such as a money belt that can be worn under your clothing.
3. Plan Your Budget for Safaris
While the exchange rate may in your favor in South Africa, many safari rates are catered to the fact that you are paying with American dollars.
In this case, make sure you budget relatively big if you plan on doing a three-star or more safari experience.
There are definitely budget-friendly safari options throughout South Africa. But if you want a comfortable safari experience, all-inclusive rates begin around the $400 mark.
Generally, these all-inclusive safari experiences include luxury accommodation, meals, game drives, experienced safari guides, and transport.
4. South Africans are Multi-Lingual
One thing you really don’t have to worry about on your trip to South Africa is a language barrier.
Most South Africans speak more than one language. In fact, it is compulsory in most schools for children to learn at least two languages, one of them being English.
While the country is home to 11 official languages, you will find that 99% of South Africans speak English and will be able to help you where ever you go.
That said, English is only the fifth most common language spoken in most homes in South Africa. isiZulu, isiXhosa, and Afrikaans as the most popular home-spoken languages.
5. Vaccine Requirements
The short answer is you don’t require a vaccine to visit South Africa.
However, if you have been traveling through the ”Yellow Fever Belt” in Africa, you will be asked to present proof of a Yellow Fever vaccine. The Yellow Fever Belt of Africa includes popular countries such as Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Angola, and Ghana.
If you have previously traveled through any of these countries, you’ll be asked for proof of a Yellow Fever vaccine certificate.
Also, if you are planning on going on safari, you may be required to take anti-malaria medication prior to your trip, depending on the region. You must do a little research on this region and discuss with your doctor the best medication to take as a precaution.
6. South Africa Is Safer Than You Think
In terms of major, violent crime, you are relatively safe as a foreigner in South Africa.
In major cities such as Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, muggings are a reality, but this is only common in the shadier regions of each town.
If you are walking the streets of any of these major cities, make sure to keep valuables out of sight, such as cell phones, flashy jewelery, and cash wallets. If you plan on heading out after dark, avoid walking the streets, and opt for a taxi or Uber service to take you to your destination.
As with any city across the globe, making yourself vulnerable to opportunists can land you in hot water. There’s no need to be fearful while traveling South Africa, just remember to remain alert to your belongings and your whereabouts.
7. Getting Around – Taxis and Uber
South African roads are overrun with local taxis, typically characterized by mini-buses crammed to capacity with local commuters.
These local taxis are not recommended for getting around, but metered cabs and Uber will get you to your destination.
If you are a solo traveler, especially a woman, avoid traveling in cabs at night, however. Uber is a safe option and very reasonably priced.
Car rental is also a popular and convenient option when exploring South Africa. The country has a great road network, which is well sign-posted. Just be vigilant and don’t leave valuables in the front of the car when parked. Either stow them in the trunk or carry them with you.
10. Understand Local Lingo
With 11 official languages, it’s no wonder that South Africans have a few weird and wonderful local phrases, such as:
- ”Lekker” – derived from the Afrikaans language, this means something is great!
- ”Robot” – South Africans refer to traffic lights as robots!
- ”Zebra crossing” – black and white-striped crosswalks are known as zebra crossings in South Africa.
- ”Haibo!” – derived from Zulu, this translates to a dismissive ”no!” or exclamation of surprise or disgust.
Learn the lingo and you may just feel like a local!
Explore South Africa with Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Known as South Africa’s most prestigious game reserve, Sabi Sands is situated in the world-renowned Kruger National Park.
The reserve consists of over 65,000 hectares of land and is well-known for its leopard and lion sightings, luxurious accommodations, great cuisine and amazing staff.
Explore this breathtaking region of South Africa, and visit Sabi Sands Game Reserve online for more.