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South Africa: Things to Know Before Traveling

Updated: Jul 9

Knysna - África do Sul

Hello, adventurers on duty! If you, like me, have always dreamed of visiting South Africa, take note of these tips not to be disappointed! Not everything is rosy there, but with some care, the trip becomes the long-awaited spectacle!

Let's dive into the heart of South Africa, a truly magical travel destination. Let's explore everything, stunning landscapes, and an incredible safari. But before that, let's look at practical tips to make your trip an unforgettable experience.

Documents and Visa

Foreigners visiting South Africa must have passports valid for thirty (30) more days after the intended return date from South Africa.

The passport holders of almost all countries are not required to hold a visa for an intended stay of 90 days. Please check here.

We strongly recommend having travel insurance.

Vaccinations Required for South Africa

South Africa Flag
South Africa Flag

South Africa requires a valid International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) documenting yellow fever vaccination ≥10 days before arrival in South Africa. In Brazil, you must present your yellow fever vaccination card at check-in.

It is essential! Without the vaccine certificate, you cannot board! I saw some people stay in the lobby. I am not sure in other countries, but Brazilians over 60 are not required to present the Certificate. Worth checking.

Consult your doctor about other vaccines, such as hepatitis A and tetanus, that may be recommended but are not mandatory!


Although malaria is not prevalent throughout South Africa, there is a risk of contracting the disease in some areas. One of the areas is the Kruger National Park region, especially during the rainy season (from November to April).

When you think of safari, this is the first name that comes to mind, so take some precautions:

  • Before traveling, consult a doctor to discuss the proper procedure. In high-risk areas, follow your doctor's instructions regarding antimalarial medications as prevention.

  • Use insect repellents with DEET or Icaridin on exposed areas of skin and clothing, especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

  • Use insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets to sleep and rest, both indoors and outdoors.

  • Wear long, light-colored clothing to minimize exposure to mosquito bites.


Shamwari Game reserve - Elephant

To avoid prophylactic treatment, we preferred to look for malaria-free reserves for our safari. They had to be on our path and where we could see the big 5!

The big 5 are the most difficult to hunt animals: leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, lion, and buffalo.

We found some game reserves that met these criteria:

We chose the Shamwari Game Reserve, an incredible experience and the highlight of the entire trip.

Add to your bucket list: 10 Best Travel Experiences for 2024

Electricity Outages in South Africa

South Africa has been facing an energy crisis for years, marked by power cuts, known as load shedding. These cuts can last up to 12 hours a day in some cities!

At the hotel in Knysna, we were without power from 8pm until 10am the next day. Charging a cell phone was very complicated. Elsewhere, we chose hotels with their own generator, so we didn't feel the cuts. Check with your hotel before booking.

How to get there

Direct flights to Johannesburg

There are frequent direct and indirect flights by major airlines from destinations throughout Europe and North America.

London to Johannesburg is an eleven-and-a-half-hour direct flight, and London to Cape Town direct is twelve hours of flying time.

Departing from the United States, only South African Airways and Delta Air Lines offer direct flights to South Africa. But you can fly via a European capital with any European carrier.

Create your itinerary and choose the arrival city that best suits you!

Climate and Best Time to Visit South Africa 

Jeep Safari Shamwari
Jeep Safari

South Africa is a country with a temperate climate. The best time to visit depends on what you want to do.

For safaris, the winter months are ideal, between May and September. Vegetation is scarcer, the months are drier, and animals are easier to spot.

We went during the summer and, in the heat, the animals were lazier. But this in no way hindered the experience!

For those who like the beach and outdoor activities, the summer months, from November to March, are perfect, with warm temperatures and sunny days.

Safety in South Africa

Although South Africa is a marvelous country, it has serious crime problems. Everywhere, safety tips were the same:

  • Avoid outskirts with a high number of slums.

  • Avoid displaying valuables and keep your documents in a safe place. Don't carry a camera in sight.

  • Avoid walking alone at night. Opt for licensed taxis or transport apps for getting around at night.

  • Refuse anything offered to you by strangers, such as a taxi service.

  • Be careful when parking your car on the street at night. There are many would-be car keepers. Park in parking lots is safer.

  • There are countless beggars on the street, especially at traffic lights. Some are very aggressive when approaching.

  • Some cities, like Johannesburg, have more security problems. We felt safer in Cape Town, but the care tips were always the same.


Nelson Mandela Square - Joanesburgo

Avoid staying in a hotel in the city center. We stayed in the Sandton neighborhood, 20 minutes by car from the center, at Da Vinci Hotel. We didn't even know it, but the hotel was inside a shopping mall with several restaurants. Which was excellent!

To visit the city, we took a guided tour through Viator. They picked us up and brought us back to the hotel. The tour is a full day, taking you to places like Soweto, the local slum.

I confess that the tour was long, with stops in places of no interest, such as a water tank from where they do body jumping. But we felt safe!

Only go to Johannesburg if you really want to, or go on a safari in that region. The city has no attractions other than the Apartheid Museum. The museum tells the story of racial segregation during Apartheid, with a strong focus on Nelson Mandela!

We were not interested in visiting Pretoria, the Administrative capital of South Africa. The country has 3 capitals, Cape Town being the legislative capital and Bloemfontein being the Judicial capital.

The ideal would have been to go straight to Cape Town.

License and Left Hand Driving in South Africa

 If you plan to drive in South Africa, remember that they drive on the left side of the road. Which can be a little uncomfortable. It takes a while to get used to it!

An international driver's license may be required, even though it is not requested when renting a car. I was stopped at two police stations, frequent on the roads. The first time, I was treated well, with friendliness and kindness.

The second time, the policeman wanted my African permit (!?), saying that the Brazilian one was useless. He opened the trunk and almost went through all the suitcases. I had an international license, but he didn't know what it was either. Luckily, the supervisor confirmed that the strange paper was, in fact, an international letter.

Taxi and Uber

Uber works well in South Africa, making it a good option for getting around! Remember to check the driver's identity before entering the vehicle.

Regarding taxis, it is more complicated.

Upon arriving at the airport, we were harassed by people claiming to be official taxi drivers. They chased us in the airport lounge. We asked a police officer what the official company was, and he directed us. But the car was old, not maintained and broke down in the middle of the road!!

I suggest hiring the service of well-known companies like Welcome Pickups, to pick up from the airport or get around cities. Super efficient!

For road trips like the Garden route, rent a car to explore at your leisure. Choose the best option on RentalCars. One of the best car rental platforms.


África do Sul Mapa

The distances between cities can be huge. From Johannesburg to Cape Town, the ideal is to fly. Use the local low-cost FlySafair, and you will have a ticket at a very reasonable price! We used FlySafair on 2 legs without any problems!

Accommodation: Where to Stay

There are options for all budgets. Hotels, inns, guest houses, resorts. We research and book hotels on the platform.

These are the hotels we stayed at:

  • Johannesburg: we stayed in Sandton neighborhood, 20 minutes drive from the center. Da Vinci Hotel is very well located, inside a shopping center, with several restaurant options. The rooms are great.

  • Cape Town: Victoria hotel Manor House, right in front of the promenade, where everything happens. Super comfortable rooms, great breakfast, swimming pool, and parking.

  • Knysna: we stayed at a bed and breakfast at Candlewood Lodge. The room was spacious, and the view was sensational. The breakfast was well served, but after 6pm, there were only guests at the hotel and no further assistance if needed. There was no power from 8pm until 10am the next day, so there was no point in having a microwave and coffee maker in the room.

  • Shamwari Eagles Crag: a super exclusive and luxurious hotel. Expensive but worth every penny! The room is spectacular and has a private pool. Game drives in the morning and afternoon are included in the rate, with very professional rangers! The vehicles are open and comfortable. A great way to appreciate the view. All meals are included, as are all drinks. A unique and unforgettable experience!

Tips in South Africa

Tipping culture in South Africa is quite common. In restaurants, a 10-15% tip is expected. On safari, you tip the ranger (the guide) and the hotel staff!

Tip the ranger US$5 to US$10 per person/day.

What is the currency of South Africa?

The local currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). Bring dollars or Euros to exchange or an international Credit/Debit card. They accept it without any problem.

What languages are spoken?

English and Afrikaans are the official languages. Everyone speaks English, making it easy to communicate in this language.


Sockets in South Africa are type M. You may need an adapter if your devices use a different plug. We bought one at the airport, in the same store where we got a local E-SIM.

We hope this guide helps make your trip to South Africa a delightful experience. Remember, adventure is out there waiting for you!


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