South Africa Travel Advice
Best Time to Visit South Africa
There is no “best time” to visit South Africa due to its varying climate conditions between the different regions. It all depends on what you plan to do while you are visiting.
Summer occurs between October – April, and winter between May – September.
The Western Cape experiences winter rainfall and hot, dry summers, whereas the Eastern Cape can experience rain anytime during the year. The remainder of the country, which includes some of the best game viewing destinations, experiences summer rainfall and cool, dry winters.
The winter months are the best time to go on safari to one of the many Game Reserves in South Africa as it is dry and the wildlife accumulates around the water sources, making them easier to spot, especially as the bush has is less dense during this time.
If you are visiting Cape Town it would be in your best interest to go during the summer months as the days are sunny and hot, allowing for more outdoor activities and sight-seeing, as well as days spent on the beach. Although should you wish to see the Southern Right Whales, who make their way closer to the coast to breed on an annual basis, then July – November is the best time to go.
Should you wish to visit the Kwazulu Natal Coast for a beach holiday you can rest assure that anytime during the year you will experience sunshine, with the winters being mild compared to the rest of the country.
Summer temperatures range between 20°C and 35°C while winter temperatures can drop to 0°C and rise to 25°C.
Rainy season: October/November to March/April
Flights & Getting Around to Major Cities
Getting around South Africa is relatively easy, with all cities and big towns having their own airports, as well as a large variety of charter companies who will fly to the many game lodges which often have their own airstrips.
The 3 major international airports in South Africa are: OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), Cape Town International Airport (Cape Town) and King Shaka International Airport (Durban) as well as 90 regional airports including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) in Nelspruit, Hoedspruit Airport (Limpopo), Port Elizabeth Airport (Eastern Cape) and George Airport (Garden Route).
With its extensive road infrastructure, South Africa is an ideal destination for self-drive holidays as the many major highways and secondary roads link all major tourist destinations within the country. There are also a number of transfer companies who will transfer you between your chosen destinations in clean and comfortable vehicles.
Visa & Passport Requirements
All visitors to South Africa require a passport valid for six months from date of departure as well as at least one completely blank page in your passport, excluding the final page.
Visitors from the USA, most Commonwealth countries (including the UK and Australia), most Western European countries and Japan don’t require visas but will be issued a free entry permit on arrival valid for up to 90 days.
Visitors of nationalities other than those listed above will need to obtain a visa prior to travel from a South African embassy or consulate.
As with all travel it is advisable that you take out adequate medical insurance before travelling. Although relatively safe as far as health issues are concerned, there are still a number of health concerns that you should take note of:
Should you be travelling to South Africa from a yellow fever destination, such as the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America, you will be required to obtain a yellow fever certificate to prove your inoculation status before entering the country. Please note that it is recommended that you have the required inoculations 4 – 6 six weeks before travel.
Malaria is common in certain areas of South Africa during the summer months and should you be travelling to these regions (Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and northern Natal), it is advised that you consult your medical doctor for malaria prophylaxis before travelling. If you prefer not to take the prophylaxis then make sure you cover up in the early mornings and evenings and have sufficient supply of mosquito repellent.
As South Africa has a hot, sunny climate, please make sure to make use of sun block to protect yourself from the sun, as well as a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Other health issues that may arise are:
HIV/Aids – Always take precautions when having sex.
Tick bite fever – Ticks may carry tick bite fever, check for ticks on your skin after walking in the bush.
South Africa’s national currency is the South African Rand. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaus de change and many hotels, but most travellers simply draw cash at ATM’s which you’ll find throughout all towns and cities.
Carrying large amounts of cash on your person is not advised, but most major credit cards (Amex, Mastercard, Visa and Diners) are widely accepted in shops, restaurants and hotels. You can claim back the VAT (the 14% value-added tax) on products you purchased in South Africa and are taking out the country (provided the total value of purchases exceeds R250) so be sure to keep your tax invoices and claim your cash back at the airport when you leave.
Tipping is customary throughout South Africa but is entirely at your discretion. Hotels and lodges will often leave an envelope in your room for a general tip that will be divided amongst all the staff members, but you may give separate tips if you prefer. You usually tip your guide separately from the general staff members. At restaurants and bars, the standard gratuity is 10% – 15% of the total bill.
What to Pack
During the summer months and whilst on safari, lightweight clothing is advised. You will also need to pack a warm jacket for early morning and evening game drives as it can become cool. Should you be visiting the coast you will need to pack plenty of sunscreen, swimming costumes and casual wear for the day, plus a couple more smart-casual items for the evenings if you’ll be spending time in the cities of Cape Town or Johannesburg. If you are visiting South Africa in the winter, pack a few warmer layers, a coat and a pair of boots – it can get surprisingly chilly, especially during the June-August months