© 2019 by Michelle Reed. 

  • Seashells

South Africa Travel Guide

Updated: Aug 25, 2019

South Africa is a popular choice on a lot of people’s bucket lists, and for good reason too. It’s seen as a dream destination for many as there’s so much to do there, from amazing wildlife, beautiful scenery and stunning beaches. This country offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience things that you couldn’t in others.

You can experience a variety of things, for example, a lot of people travel to South Africa to experience a safari. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see wildlife up close in their natural habitat, and can be an eye opening experience for many. You can see things like elephants, lions, rhinos, buffalos and leopards. But as much as this is a major tourist attraction, this is not all that South Africa has to offer. You can also taste the South African cuisine. There are some beautiful vineyard located Northeast of Cape Town called the Cape Winelands which offer lovely restaurants and vineyards. Cape Winelands is a 45 minute drive from Cape Town.

If you are an adrenaline junkie, you can hike to the top of Table Mountain, which is one of Cape Town’s most recognisable features. Here you can get an amazing view of the city. There are also cable cars available if you don’t want to walk. Secondly, if you really want to get your adrenaline high, you can bungee jump off the Bloukrans Bridge which offers stunning views on the way down.

Another major tourist attraction for sports lovers is the surfing. South Africa offers a few beaches you can get good waves on. The beaches are popular with surfers all year round and can be used from beginners all the way up to the elite. Very rarely there are reportings of shark attacks, but this is unlikely, and there are always risks whilst going in the sea. There are many beaches you can surf, Eland’s Bay, located a three hour drive away up the shore line of Cape Town, is a spot for more experience surfers, along with Dungeons (Hout Bay, Cape Town) where the Red Bull Wave competition is held. Dungeons is only accessible by boat.

Jeffrey’s Bay, a popular destination for surfers, is better for beginners as it is considered safer. It is situated in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa as has been named one of the best surfing destinations in the world. Jeffrey’s Bay offers a great surf, with rides up to 800 metres long. Whatever you want to do here, you will have your eyes opened to a new culture.

A few key points

  • Legally, South Africa doesn’t have only one capital. There are three capitals that host a different part of the nation’s government of including; Cape Town (legislative Capital), Pretoria (administrative Capital) and Bloemfontein (judicial Capital). The National Parliament buildings are in Cape Town.

  • The currency is South African Rand.

  • South Africa does have a crime problem and struggles with a high rate of violent crime, however many tourists travel here without any incident and a lot of the South African people are some of the friendliest people you can meet. Crimes happen mostly in the areas that tourists tend not to go and overall it is pretty safe as long as you use common sense. Just keep valuables hidden away to stay safe.

See: Female Travel Safety Tips

  • South Africa is a developed country; there are many museums, lovely restaurants and stunning hotels.

  • It is easy to get mobile data in South Africa.

  • It’s best not to speak about political beliefs as they vary in South Africa and some people tend to feel strongly about their views, even views on Nelson Mandela can be varied.

  • South Africa is a very large country, and can take months to explore the whole thing.

  • For the best weather, visit during the Summer months between November and February.

  • There are 11 official different languages spoken in South Africa.

  • Most shops and restaurants will accept credit cards as payment, there are ATM’s at petrol stations and shopping centres.

  • Tipping around 10 - 15% percent is very common in South Africa, this includes the country's car guards who will expect a tip as well.

  • Tap water is very clean in South Africa and is drinkable. Always remember to stay well hydrated as it can get very warm during the Summer months.

Top foods

  • Chakalaka

  • Biltong

  • Durban Chicken Curry

  • Milk Tart

  • Apricot Blatjang

  • Malva Pudding

Top places to visit in South Africa

Cape Town

Cape Town is the city most people think of when it they hear the words ‘South Africa’. Being one of the Capital cities of South Africa, it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to activities for all ages. Cape Town is beautiful; it’s a huge city full of delicious cuisine and lively nightlife. You can fly into Cape Town into the international airport here.

The architecture and colour in Cape Town is well known and common in many Instagram photos. It has a very happy vibe about it. Also, the beaches are stunning, you can head down to Boulder’s Beach to do some penguin spotting. The reason it is called Boulder’s Beach is because it is situated between two boulders (funnily enough).

There is also the stunning V&A Waterfront which is situated on the Atlantic Shore. The Waterfront attracts 23 million visitors a year. It features 450 retail outlets and plenty of restaurants.

If you are daring, you can fly around Cape Town via helicopter to get a scenic view on the pretty city.

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the best places to go on a safari in South Africa. It Is a once in a lifetime experience. The population of Kruger’s Park is around 70,000 for the main animals including lions, leopards, buffalos, elephants and black rhinoceroses, with elephants being around 17,000 of them.

Other animals include rheboks, steenboks and oribi. With so many animals roaming around this park, there’s a huge chance you will witness some amazing sights. You can visit the park all year round as there is always something happening in each season. The dry winter months are known to be the best time for game viewing and the Summer months are best known for new-borns, and migrant birds.

If you are a fan of bird watching, this park has over 500 species of bird. It is the bird watcher’s dream. You can also catch a stunning sunset here. This is a must see attraction for any who visits South Africa, especially if you are only here for a short period of time. Kruger National Park is a 3 hour flight from Cape Town.


Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and has a cool vibe about it. Johannesburg can sometimes get lost behind Cape Town when it comes to tourist favourites, but this town has so much to offer. If you are into history, you can visit Nelson Mandela's house and get a real feel for how he lived. You can also take a tuk tuk tour if you don't fancy walking.

If you are a lover of shopping and delicious food, you can visit Maboneng Precinct which has so many outlets you could spend days browsing it.

if you are an arts lover, you will see art everywhere. Graffiti is actually legal in Johannesburg, so a lot of local and international artists come and paint the walls.

Johannesburg will feel closer to home than you think. Human ancestors have lived in Maropeng for over 3 million years. You can go to the official visitor centre for the Cradle of Humankind. In 2015, there were two cavers who accidentally discovered a new hominin species which changed the whole way we see human history today. A team of all female archaeologists extracted bones from underneath the ground. These bones are on public display today.


Durban is one of the cities in South Africa that often gets unnoticed. But if you want to experience more of South Africa than meets the eyes, Durban is a great place to go and is one of South Africa's best kept city secrets.

One of the best things about Durban, is it has a long beachfront that was redeveloped for the 2010 World Cup. Durban's beaches is one of the only beaches where all kinds of people come together, for example; surfers, pensioners, kids and all kinds of people wanting to enjoy the gorgeous sands.

Another attraction in Durban is the Moses Mbhida Stadium. This stadium was also built for the World Cup. it's worth the visit even when there isn't a match on. You can also go to the top of the arch, where you can get a spectacular view of the city.

The Garden Route

The Garden Route is a beautiful, scenic route that you can drive through. It is one of the most famous driving routes in the country. It stretches over 190 miles and has some stunning scenery. It features amazing coastlines, beautiful mountains and stunning forests. If you don't want to do the garden route in one day, and want to pace it out, you can get accommodation along the way.

The route starts in Mossel Bay (5 hour drive from Cape Town) and ends in Storms River.

This is a route like no other in terms of variety and natural beauty. It's also a paradise for people who want to be around nature and wildlife.

Don't let the bad reputation of South Africa put you off travelling here. It is definitely worth the trip.