For many travelers, South Africa is the gateway to Africa – their first and most important point of contact with this great region. South Africa is an all-around great destination to visit, with its warm hospitality, temperate weather and delicious food. Yet when it comes to traveling to Africa, many of us have a list of questions that we’d like answered before setting our mind on a specific destination. Scouring the web for relevant information on the destination of choice can sometimes be like searching for a needle in a haystack – difficult and as close to impossible as you could imagine.
When is the Best Time to Visit South Africa?
In general, South Africa is great all year. However, there are months that are wetter than others. If you are coming from North America, do take note that the seasons in South Africa differ from the Northern hemisphere. Summer in South Africa occurs at the end of the year from mid-October to mid-February. These months are great for game viewing as animals often gather at watering holes to quench their thirst and cool themselves off. However, if you are planning on going on a South African safari during the summer months, do note that the parks, particularly Kruger National Park, will be crowded. To avoid disappointment, book your safari tours as early as you can!
The winter months are from May to July, where some parts of South Africa will experience winter frost and snow. Cape Town and the Western Cape will experience winter rainfall between June to August. During these months, you will experience cold mornings and nights so pack accordingly!
Is it Safe to Visit South Africa?
Safety is the issue on many travelers’ mind when it comes to South Africa. Over the years, the country has earned a bad reputation thanks to a high number of crimes that occur yearly. Most government travel advisories advise its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when it comes to traveling in South Africa.
However, it is important to note that incidences of crime are much lower in areas where tourists frequent and serious crimes mostly occur between locals in dangerous neighborhoods. More often than not, tourists fall victim to petty crime – which can be avoided if you follow the same safety rules you would at home.
Safety precautions include:
- Don’t venture out at night even if you travel in a group. Limit your travels to daytime.
- If you want to visit local neighborhoods, hire a guide who knows the place well.
- Travel with as little jewelry or accessories (watches, etc.) as possible.
- Always be aware of your surroundings and exercise extra caution when out and about.
- If you are traveling solo, always let family members or friends know your location.
Is South Africa Suitable Place for A Family Holiday?
If you are traveling with your children, South Africa is definitely a great choice. Much of South Africa is malaria-free, allowing you to worry less about bringing your children outdoors.
The roads in South Africa are also well maintained and easy to navigate, thus giving you the option of going on a self-drive trip. Traveling with young children can often be unpredictable, with many changes to existing schedules due to unforeseen circumstances (tantrums, anyone?). Being able to tour the country at your own pace with the privacy of being with just your family will take away the added stress of a family holiday and make it a truly enjoyable one.
If you are traveling with children under the age of 18, it is important to note that South Africa has introduced regulations requiring parents to provide unabridged, original birth certificates of individuals below 18, so be sure to pack that in before you go!
Is South Africa Expensive to Visit?
While traveling to South Africa may not be as cheap as traveling to Southeast Asia, prices are still relatively reasonable, especially if you’re traveling on stronger currencies.
Accommodation costs will set you back between 120 ZAR to 450 ZAR, depending on the type of accommodation you select. Food is reasonably priced as well, ranging between 50 ZAR (for a meal at a fast food chain) to 225 ZAR (for a 3-course meal at a nice restaurant). While activities like safaris may be costly, there are many tour groups in South Africa that conducts transactions in the local currency as opposed to the US dollar or UK pound, which works out to be much cheaper.
Where Should I Go in South Africa?
In Africa, it is almost a rite of passage to experience a safari, and what better place to enjoy an adrenaline packed safari trip than in South Africa! There are many great national parks that one can go on a safari at, but by far the most famous one is Kruger National Park. One of Africa’s largest parks – spanning over 19,633 km in surface area – Kruger National Park is also a family-friendly park, great for the young ones to visit and learn about wildlife in a fun way.
Aside from Kruger, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is also a great destination when it comes to viewing wildlife. The iSimangaliso is South Africa’s third-largest protected area and features incredible ecosystems with lakes, forests, and coastal dunes. iSimangaliso is situated on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, which is known for warm temperatures year round and mild winter months!
With the Cape vineyards just a half an hour drive outside Cape Town, wine lovers will surely not want to miss out on going on a wine tour! The vineyards outside Cape Town are known as the largest winemaking region in South Africa and, aside from a spectacular scenery of vineyards lining the field amidst a backdrop of mountains, a visit here would guarantee you an unforgettable gastronomic experience. Here, you are not only able to test your palate with elaborate wine tastings, you will also be able to indulge in fine dining at superb restaurants found around the area.
One should not leave South Africa without learning a little about the history of man. 50km northwest of Johannesburg lies the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site – the world’s richest hominin site with over 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils! There are 15 fossil sites in the core area, with the Sterkfontein Caves being the most famous one. If you are interested in ancient animal fossils, do check out the caves at Kromdraai, where evidence of several species of saber-toothed cats has been found!
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