SOUTH AFRICA, DOS AND DON’TS (SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL GUIDE, part I)
South Africa was probably my favorite trip ever. Why is that? Yes, I’ve seen the whitest beaches, the highest mountains and tried the best gourmet food in other places. But what South Africa has, is everything in one place. If you’ve ever though about going here, you are right, YOU HAVE TO.
I’ve taken sooo many pictures on my trip. But none of them can show you just how beautiful it is. You just have to experience it yourself! What I can do, is tell you the do’s and don’ts in South Africa. Because as you’ve probably heard, there are plenty of them.
Hanging out with penguins at Boulder’s Beach
What to think about before your trip
Where do you want to go? Make an itinerary and think about how you will get there. If you are renting a car (which I would recommend), mark out petrol stations so you know how far it is between them. We made the mistake of underestimating how far it could be between petrol stations (and ended up in a very stressful situation). Also, even though the distance on the map is not very far, there are not a lot of road signs and it might be hard to find your way. Add some extra time to your schedule in case you get lost (and for stopping to take pictures. Trust me, you will!).
What is important to you? There are also sooo many places to see. Try to limit your trip by prioritizing the most important activities and stick to them. It is better to come back, then to stress through your trip just to be able to do everything you want to do.
Accommodation Look at different locations. Do you want to be close to the beach? Close to shopping? Are you prepared to pay a lot more to stay on the beach or are you ok with taking a taxi/car/uber/bus there to save some money? I would recommend AirBnb as it is an affordable option with endless locations. You will also get the benefit of feeling like a local! If you don’t like AirBnb or if you prefer hotels, I would recommend browsing Hotels.com.
Arrival city Flights from Europe to South Africa are usually quite expensive. But by searching Momondo every day for a couple of weeks, you learn when the cheapest time to book your flight is. Also try to alternate airports. We tried all the major airports in South Africa and came to the conclusion that Johannesburg was our cheapest option. We flew into Johannesburg (return) and took a domestic flight straight from the airport to Cape Town (airline: Safair). From what I’ve heard (not experienced myself), it’s not a great idea to wander around in Johannesburg without someone who knows the area.
Sunset at Camps Bay, one of the most expensive locations to stay in Cape Town
When you have decided everything and packed your bags, it’s time for take off! The most exciting part!
Arriving in South Africa: 5 dos and don’ts!
- In South Africa they drive on the left hand side. But don’t worry if your’re not used to it! Drive around the parking lot a couple of times. It’ actually not as hard as it sounds.
- If you haven’t rented a car, Uber is suuuuper affordable (we never paid more than €10 for an Uber ride). It’s also safe, don’t worry!
- Lock your car doors, whether you are in a taxi/uber or your own car. It’s just in case! There are lot’s of people trying to sell you things in the middle of the street.
- Even though most restaurants have wifi, it’s nice to have data on your phone. Try Vodacom’s (or other phone provider) wifi dongles. It’s a small wifi router you can take with you at all times. That way you can connect your phone or even computer to your wifi on the go. But be careful! Ask them to limit the data so that you don’t have to pay for additional data when you run out of your package (we did this mistake and had to pay an additional R8900..). You can get the dongles at the airport (and return them at the same spot).
- SUNSCREEN! Do not even leave the airport without wearing sunscreen. The sun is really strong and if you’re not wearing sunscreen, you will burn! (We learnt the hard way..)
The amazing Garden Route is breathtaking! Plan lots of time to stop for pictures
Short Facts about the country
- Currency: The South African Rand. 1 Rand is about 0,07 Euros (as of March 2017). I used ATMs everywhere and didn’t bring much cash. XE is a good website/app to check the currency on the go!
- Language: SA actually has 11 (!) official languages! But you will get around everywhere with just English. Occasionally (especially on the countryside) you will come across Afrikaans.
- Payments: The majority of restaurants and stores accept debit/credit cards.
- Climate: We went to South Africa in high season (December-February), which was hot but not too hot (around 26-28 degrees Celsius). Second time I went during Autumn. That was definitely colder (17-19 degrees) but could also have hotter summer-like days. I’ve heard that the winter months can get pretty cold. So be prepared if you want to go in that period. Also, the ocean (at least the Atlantic ocean) is VERY cold. If you want to go out for a longer swim/surf you need a wet suit. If you’re a mermaid and want to stay in the water for longer times, I would recommend to go to Plettenberg Bay or the area around the Cape.
The beaches also get pretty windy in Cape Town. Do look for a spot with cover (rocks/trees etc).
A walk along the beach at sunset is a must
The low clouds turn pink and the surrounding mountains create majestic shadows
Read part II and III for destination, food and activity tips!