South Africa

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.

Quick Facts

  • 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

Tipping Guide

Gratuities are “at your discretion” as a tourist but South Africans’ friendly nature will have you wanting to tip staff.

BarRound up (change)
Valet/Car GuardR5
Hotel StaffR5 – R10
TaxiRound up to nearest 10; up to R20 for out of city
(or negotiate ahead of time)
Safari Drives – ranger and tracker70 R per day per person (more for luxury safari)  

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)

South Africa Map

Check out some of our favorite locations in South Africa via the map below.


South Africa Blog Posts

Read more about the top things to see in this destination.