South Africa travel guide: Everything you need to know before you go

With its supermodel-like coastlines, extraordinary video game reserves and extensive incredibly hot summers that start off just as the Uk is plunged into darkness, it is no surprise South Africa is regularly voted just one of the top locations for British holidaymakers. Come for ridiculously photogenic views, delicious (and extremely cost-effective) wine, extended lazy lunches underneath the oak trees and the possibility to spot the Large 5 from your bedroom window.

Latest travel constraints and entry needs

Travellers arriving in South Africa need to have to present 1 of the next: evidence of vaccination a restoration certification or a damaging PCR take a look at (taken inside of 72 hrs of departure) or a adverse lab-performed Quick Antigen check (taken in 24 hours of departure). Masks are no for a longer period a necessity in public places.

Most effective time to go

Cape Town and the Back garden Route have a Mediterranean weather with scorching, dry summers (December to March) and awesome, damp winters (June to September), while the rest of the country is somewhat heat year spherical. February to April is unbeatable and created for lazy times on the beach: the Indian Ocean is wallow-prepared right after a summertime of sun and Cape City is gloriously wind-absolutely free. Up in the Kruger Park, you are going to hit rutting year – large cats in individual are thrillingly effortless to spot when they’re enjoying the mating recreation.

Major regions and towns

Cape City

Get your bearings by heading up Table Mountain early in the early morning when the ubiquitous summertime wind is least probably to blow you off your ft. If you are sensation sporty, climb Platteklip Gorge, the oldest and speediest route, which will take you straight up in about 3 hours. Afterwards, bypass the crowded seashores of Camps Bay for pint-sized Bakhoeven, and 50 {e9f0aada585b9d73d0d08d3c277fd760092386ec23cac37d50f4b8cd792b062a}-pint-sized Beta, which boast great views of Lion’s Head.

If you have at any time been given a postcard from Cape City, chances are it will have been emblazoned with the jewel-coloured homes of Bo-Kaap – head there for lunch in 1 of the Cape Malay dining establishments. Get up early one early morning and wend your way alongside Chapmans Peak Generate to penguin-packed Boulders Seaside, and really do not miss out on a wander down the Treetops Walkway in Kirstenbosch, which – with 10-foot vegetation reaching above the rails and baboons chattering in the distance – feels closer to the Rwandan rainforests than your standard botanical garden.

The winelands

Knock back a lot more wine, this time in the shade of a historic Cape Dutch Residence. The extremely fairly, appeal-major town of Franschhoek is set right in the heart of the winelands, an hour from Cape City. 1 of its most spectacular wine farms is Boschendal – keep in their enchanting Orchard Cottages and have a boozy picnic in the shady, flower-filled grounds. Explore the famously lovely, cactus and herb-filled gardens at Babylonstoren and lurch from 1 wine-drenched meal to the upcoming.

Plettenberg Bay

Cape Town’s beaches are beautiful, but dip just one toe in the icy water and you could possibly cry. If you fantasise about floating in the Indian Ocean, then hightail it down the Back garden Route – 5 hrs by car, or fly to George in 40 minutes. Set amid lagoons and sea is Plettenberg Bay, in which the drinking water is a mouth watering 24C and times are used snoozing on buttermilk-yellow sand. Gulp down oysters at just one of the numerous beachfront dining places and opt for from a range of pretty accommodations to spend the evening in.

The Kruger Park

The sight and smell of hundreds of wild animals is extraordinary, but expenditures can skyrocket, so mix it up with self-travel times and swanky stays. Verify into Lower Sabie, a cozy state-run lodge established on a crocodile-crammed river that fees less than £80 a evening, and discover the bushveld with your very own automobile – you’ll be harmless if you avoid bull elephants or moms with their calves. If you are finding the sport somewhat elusive on your very own, splash out on one of the lots of dreamy personal camps in possibly Kruger or the neighbouring Sabi Sands – most boast their individual concessions as nicely as wonderfully romantic bedrooms, shady pools and professional guides to keep track of down the Large 5.

Ideal less than-the-radar places

The Hemel en Aarde Valley

In the folds of the blue mountains powering the Cape seafront village of Hermanus, you will come across the Hemel en Aarde Valley (it fittingly implies heaven and earth in Afrikaans). This exceptionally rather section of the world has also grow to be some thing of an oenophile’s paradise, with a amount of South Africa’s most acclaimed wine farms now clustered alongside a single dust road on the fynbos-enriched soil.

The Wilderness

Drag by yourself out of the potent undertow of the Wilderness sea and you’ll facial area a under no circumstances-ending extend of treacle-colored beach to the east and an impenetrable forest to the west. Stay for a evening or two in this Back garden Route village, and if you’re drained of battling the tempestuous sea, retreat to the close by forests, wherever there are placid lagoons and even a shady waterfall to swim under. The moment you’re beached out, get an hour-prolonged push inland to the hushed, neat elegance of the Cango Caves and admire the extraordinary limestone formations and prehistoric cave paintings, and to Oudtshoorn, which is dwelling to Africa’s major colony of farmed ostrich.

The Swartland

Although Franschhoek could be property to the most beautiful Cape Dutch wine farms, it is in the Swartland and alongside the West Coast where pioneering wine-makers are making some of the most interesting new vintages in the country. If you pay a visit to in September, you are in for an additional special treat simply because the complete location is briefly carpeted with millions of ice-cream coloured spring bouquets. If you are seeking for somewhere to keep, check out the nearby coastal city of Paternoster: a cluster of minimal white homes perched powering a vast deserted seaside.


The Karoo is a hot, arid, and hauntingly beautiful section of South Africa that feels a entire world absent from the nearby coast. Outdoors of midsummer, when temperatures can be debilitating, it is effectively truly worth a pay a visit to – keep in the heart of Matjiesfontein at the Lord Milner Lodge, a prettily adorned, customarily South African place with a deep, awesome pool set under shady pepper trees and two great restaurants that specialise in Karoo lamb. Matjiesfontein was a well-known end stage for travellers on the Cape-to-Cairo road and an significant stronghold in the Boer War, so look at underfoot for old bullets and food cans from the 1899 war.

Finest items to do

A driving tour of the Backyard Route

Travel the Backyard Route and lurch from a extensive, boozy lunch on an award-profitable wine farm to a swim in just one of black lagoons that drift slowly and gradually into the Indian Ocean. Spend your early morning seeing elephants scratch their backs on the scorching gum trees and your afternoon lying on the beach with your toes in the drinking water. It is these wild contrasts that make the Backyard garden Route this sort of a luxurious put to check out — so choose 10 idyllic times to slowly and gradually discover the 400 miles between Hermanus and Port Elizabeth.

A going for walks safari in the Kruger Park

The greatest difference in between a strolling and match-generate safari is that the Large 5 are no longer in the spotlight. If you arrive throughout them, it is heart-stopping – but a wander is about going through the bush at a substantially more personal pace. When you are on foot, you set down the mental checklist of Lion King figures and target on 100-calendar year-previous tortoises, waddling ground hornbill and chattering vervet monkeys. You also get big Bear Grylls details, and going on a strolling safari suggests you have a talking issue at dinner get-togethers for many years to appear.

Stop by the artwork galleries of Johannesburg

The significant hub of the nation can be a tricky put to stop by as it’s nor especially very, extra dangerous than other sections of the state, and there are few inexperienced areas or public locations to wander all around in. Do not always make a precise excursion but, if you are remaining overnight, be sure to visit the Apartheid Museum, the Everard Read gallery and Arts on Major.

Consume some bunny chow in Durban

Bunny chow is a unusual-sounding identify for a bizarre-looking concoction: a loaf of white bread hollowed out and filled with curry, chutney and bay leaves. But this quirky dish is also Durban’s most well-known export and no vacation to the town would be total without having at the very least just one bunny chow evening meal. Capsicum Restaurant in the Britannia Hotel is a colonial-model gem in the outdated city and is famed for serving the very best chow in Durban—choose in between beef or rooster and wash it down with sweet nearby tea.

Having all over

Covid wiped out lots of of South Africa’s reduced-value airways – the most inexpensive and the best is now FlySafair, or else Airlink also does a few routes. The state is bigger than you feel it is and driving from Johannesburg down to Cape City will consider about 14 hours, of which only about six are beautiful – so it’s easiest to fly concerning these towns. For the Backyard Route, retain the services of a vehicle and push, and if you are going to Kruger you can possibly fly to Nelspruit (an high-priced route) or drive from Johannesburg. The train method is regretably unwieldy and not normally protected.

How to get there

If you’re heading on safari in northern South Africa, then fly into Johannesburg. It is cheaper than Cape City, and whilst internal flights to Nelspruit (the gateway to the bush) are expensive, you can drive there from OR Tambo in 5 several hours. Reduced-value airways this kind of as FlySafair give low-cost inside flights down to Cape Town, George and PE, and South African Airways, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic all fly instantly to Joburg from London. If you’re only going to the Cape, then the desire solution is to fly direct on British Airways from LHR – but it can be eye-wateringly pricey and fortunately there are a selection of more economical oblique carriers like Emirates. After you are there, you will need to hire a car except if you want to rely on Uber as community transport is poor.

Cash-conserving tip

The exchange amount implies that outside of resorts, day-to-working day life in South Africa is going to experience pretty inexpensive – and even the fantastic Cape City eating places are unlikely to at any time price tag more than £35 a head. The only cost is lodging – whilst costs in the Cape fall exterior of the summer season season, and fantastic specials can be located in little bed and breakfasts alternatively than massive hotels.


What is the weather like?

South Africa is produced up of a number of climates: the east coast is tropical with heat winters and muggy summers, the Kruger Park has sunny wintertime times, ice chilly wintertime nights and incredibly hot summers, even though Cape City and the Backyard garden Route have a traditional Mediterranean local weather.

What time zone is it in?

South African summer time time (our winter season) is GMT+2 whilst South African wintertime is GMT+1 and operates from March to the finish of October.

What forex do I require?


What language is spoken?

English may well be just one of 11 countrywide languages but luckily for us for people it is by far the most broadly spoken and used during the region.

Is it safe and sound?

Central Cape Town is usually secure to wander all around in by working day, although be smart: no pricey jewellery or designer purses, please. At night time, it is dodgier – just take an Uber, or if you’re driving, park as near as you can to the restaurant. Driving down the Yard Route is completely protected in the day, and the exact same mostly applies to driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger Park if you only prevent at petrol stations. You do need to have to be far more watchful in Johannesburg – if you’re driving yourself, make guaranteed you have planned your route, only use registered taxis or Uber, and check out to stroll outdoors as minor as attainable.