• Christine, Digital Nomad, Travel Expert

South Africa travel guide

Updated: Feb 13, 2021


South Africa Ultimate Travel Guide


South Africa is a top travel destination in Africa - a charming country boasting a diverse landscape of golden savannahs, craggy mountains, haunting deserts, and sub-tropical forests.


South Africa is a haven for travelers who prefer an ‘all in one’ destination. Whether you want to go on an African safari, exploring cultural-rich cosmopolitans or you’re yearning for a desert retreat, you’ll be spoilt for choice.


Here is a simple travel guide to help plan your next trip in this part of the southern hemisphere.


The Best Attractions to Visit in South Africa


1. Kruger National Park



Spanning across 19,485 km² of land, Kruger is among the largest national parks in the globe and a wildlife sanctuary hosting all iconic safari species.


It’s also one of the most accessible national parks as you can visit via road or fly to Skukuza from either Cape Town or Johannesburg.


In addition, the park boasts five vegetation zones each with its own flair and diverse array of species.

Although you can spot a leopard or two in most African safari destinations such as the Masai Mara and Serengeti, Kruger has the densest population of these agile creatures!


2. Table Mountain National Park



Table Mountain’s bizarre yet bewildering flat top is the first thing that will capture your attention as you descend into Cape Town.


There are a dozen reasons to admire this majestic attraction towering above the city including multiple trekking trails but the picturesque landscape views from the summit are what make Table Mountain a popular spot.


After a hike up 1089 meters above Cape Town, you can take a five minutes cable car ride down the mountain and enjoy views of Robben Island, the harbor, as well as the pearly beaches on the Clifton area. The cable cars are one of their kind in Africa!


The Table Mountain is also popular for being a host to 900 species of fynbos, vegetation endemic to the region.


3. The Drakensberg Mountains



The highest peak in South Africa, the Drakensberg Mountains located in KwaZulu-Natal offer a wonderful escape from the bustling city life.


Standing at 3,482 meters in height, this 200 km long mountain range offers striking natural beauty to outdoor enthusiasts.


In addition to the beautiful countryside scenery, nature lovers and thrill-seekers will enjoy the sight of the second-highest waterfall in the world, the Tugela Falls, and the phenomenon amphitheater, a 5-kilometer long cliff - two of the most famous attractions in the park.


4. Soweto



Soweto Township has over the past few decades become a must-visit locale in South Africa probably because of its diversity – 33 different townships with a mix of African cultures and a single place where you’ll hear all the 11 languages of South Africa being spoken.


Besides being among the most important cultural centers in the country, Soweto is also famed for its historical significance as it was the main playground in the struggle against apartheid.


Today, you might not find a ton of modern attractions here, but this vibrant hub is one of the best places to interact with the locals and get a taste of South Africa’s day to day life.


Major Cities in South Africa


Johannesburg

Cape Town

Durban

Port Elizabeth


The Best Places to stay in South Africa


Despite its popularity, South Africa is a great-value destination especially when it comes to accommodations. With the countries weak currency, visitors from western countries can dine and stay like kings!


Luxury


· Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa


Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and flanked by the Twelve Apostles ranges and Table Mountain, this seafront hotel is a secluded haven situated just a short drive from Cape Town.


With astounding views of mountains and close enough to the crashing waves of the ocean, Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa’s 15 luxurious homey suites and 55 rooms are the ultimate hubs for a wellness getaway.


In addition, the hotel offers free transfers to Victoria &Alfred and Camp Bays.


· Royal Malewane


To completely delve into the African wilderness, luxurious details are often overlooked in favor of remote, pristine surroundings. But in Royal Malewane, manage to combine a touch of opulence with an unrivaled safari setting.


With over 29,000 acres of a private game reserve to explore and extra pampering after every game drive, this accommodation is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to enjoy nature in style.


Mid-range


· Drostdy Hotel


Situated in the heart of Graaff-Reinet, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Drostdy offers a comfortable stay at a bargain for both leisure and corporate travelers.


This boutique hotel features a stunning spa, an outdoor pool, and an on-site restaurant. From the hotel’s location, you can make the most of everything the city has to offer.


Budget


For budget accommodations, you’ll have lots of options with B&B and guesthouses.


· Chartfield Guesthouse, Cape Town


With rooms starting from only $35 per person per night, Chartfield Guesthouse offers holidaymakers stunning sea views, comfortable rooms, and inventive breakfast.


This simple yet elegant guesthouse is a perfect option for anyone who would trade city life for an artsy, laidback seaside village.


The restaurants are just a short stroll away and Cape Town’s attractions are easily accessible with a short drive.


How to Get Around in South Africa


South Africa is vast – among the top ten largest countries in Africa.


Luckily, there is a wide variety of reasonably priced ways to get around the country and it by far has the best infrastructure in the continent which makes it relatively easy to get around.


· Bus


Several bus companies run across the country such as Intercape, Greyhound, and Baz Bus.

Most of these runs route between major cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town with multiple stops along the way.


· Car Hire


If you’re spending a little bit more time in South Africa, car hire might be the best option for you. You can either drive yourself around or hire a car with a driver.


Not only will you be able to enjoy every bit of the country at a leisurely pace but it’s also a cheaper option compared to taxis.


· Shared Taxi


Shared taxis are super common, and are used by the majority of commuters. Although they’re a little bit expensive compared to buses and trains, they’re also the most efficient especially if you’re traveling over short routes.


· App-based transportation


There are over five app-based taxis in South Africa including Uber, Bolt, and Indrive. To avoid getting ripped off by taxis, app-based transportation is a good option to avoid those unpleasant surprises


Travel Packing List and Tips for South Africa


· Filtered water bottle – avoid drinking tap water in South Africa.

· Travel insurance

· Sunscreen

· Mosquito and bug repellent

· Wet wipes – wet wipes in South Africa have a bunch of uses – not all bathrooms will have water and soap, and you can use the wipes to freshen up a little if you have a hot dusty ride around the country.

· Hand sanitizer

· Toilettes


Must-try Food in South Africa


· Bobotie

· Biltong

· Boerewors

· Cape Malay curry

· Malva pudding

· Chakalaka & pap

· Braai/Shisa nyama

· Bunny chow

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