South Africa is a beautiful country where you can see lions in the wild, penguins on a beach, and drink some of the world’s best wines. One of the top things to do in South Africa is of course a safari where you can see all of the Big Five – lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros – on a game drive. From there, travel to gorgeous Cape Town where you can climb to the top of Table Mountain (or take a cable car), tour the famed V&A waterfront, or visit the luxurious beaches. Nearby are the famous winelands where you can sip some of the top wines at Stellenbosch or Franschhoek.
This is definitely a country for your travel bucket list.
- Language = Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
- 11 official languages
- English spoken in most areas
- Money = South African Rand
- Credit cards widely accepted
- Current exchange rate is great for tourists – you’ll find most things relatively cheap. Safaris – especially luxury lodges – are an exception to this and are quite expensive, so a travel agent may be able to get you a better rate.
- Transportation = Uber is best in cities (taxis available, but must negotiate rate)
- Johannesberg (O. R. Tambo International Airport) – The main airport that most international flights from U.S. will arrive, this is also where you’d fly in for a safari. You will most likely have to transfer to a smaller airport to get to your lodge (such as FedAir Terminal which charters small planes to get to your safari destination).
- Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport – Smaller than Johannesburg, this airport is also easy access to many safari lodges within Kruger National Park. It’s outside of the park so it’s still a bit of a drive from the airport to wherever you’re going within the bush.
- Cape Town International Airport – The second busiest airport in South Africa, this airport is your destination for the city of Cape Town and the surrounding winelands.
- Best Time to Visit = year-round
- For beaches = December-March
- Whale watching = July-November
Things to Note
Overall, South Africa is a safe country but you must stay alert and keep belongings close to you, especially in cities. After dark it’s best to take a taxi to anywhere you are going.
- Foods to Try
- Bobbatie – The traditional African dish with various minced meats, spices, and with an egg-based topping.
- Biltong – Like their version of beef jerky, made with varying types of meats
- Amarula – A cream liqueur that can be drank on the rocks or mixed into coffee.
- Pinotage – South Africa’s signature red wine, it’s a grape that crosses Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (“Hermitage”)
- Top 3 Must-See Spots
- Safari (Kruger National Park or surrounding private game reserves)
- Cape Town
- Cape Winelands (Stellenbosch or Franschhoek)
Gratuities are “at your discretion” as a tourist but South Africans’ friendly nature will have you wanting to tip staff.
|Bar||Round up (change)|
|Hotel Staff||R5 – R10|
|Taxi||Round up to nearest 10; up to R20 for out of city
(or negotiate ahead of time)
|Safari Drives – ranger and tracker||70 R per day per person (more for luxury safari)
Geo Travel Guide
Check out some of our favorite locations in South Africa via the map below.