Make yourself a gift and visit South Africa – a fascinating country full of surprises and be prepared to be delighted by its beauty and charm.
The landscapes here are just stunning, the people are very welcoming and kind, the food is delicious, and there is an astonishing diversity of wildlife.
For us, South Africa was a pleasant surprise and it is now one of our favorite holiday destinations.
We tried to answer in this article to all the questions that have been asked about South Africa.
About South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is located in the south of the African continent and is the African state with the most developed economy.
All the people we met there spoke English, as English is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa.
79.5% of the population is represented by the black African population (Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Venda, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi, and Ndebele).
Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected President. He fought against apartheid and racial discrimination and he received the Nobel Prize. Nelson Mandela published his autobiography in the book “The long walk to freedom” – the book we chose to read on holiday, and we totally recommend it.
When to visit South Africa?
South Africa is a year-round destination, but there are activities that you can enjoy only during a certain period.
Winter + spring – dry season (May – September)
It is considered the ideal season to visit the nature reserves, because the vegetation is not very rich, and you will have better visibility.
Winter is the dry season in South Africa, which is why you always have the chance to see animals near the permanent water sources.
Unpaved roads in parks are easier to access during the dry season.
There are fewer mosquitoes and the risk of contracting malaria is lower (a small part of South Africa is on the malaria-risk map).
Lots of wildflowers are blooming (August to September) in a spectacular display of color, especially in the western part of the country.
Whales are present around the coast of South Africa from July to November.
South Africa is visited by fewer tourists this season and the price of accommodation tends to be cheaper.
Summer + autumn – the rainy season (October-April)
Due to the rains, the vegetation comes to life and nature turns green. The waterfalls are richer and the landscapes more beautiful, especially Blyde River Canyon which is the largest green canyon in the world.
It is the best season to watch birds because during this period the migratory birds return to South Africa.
Between November and may, you have the chance to see the turtles laying their eggs on the beach (especially in iSimangaliso Wetland Park).
We visited South Africa in winter and the temperature in eastern South Africa was very pleasant (suitable for t-shirts and shorts), but in the west, it was quite cold. For this reason, summer would be a better season to visit western South Africa, especially if you want to spend more time at the beach.
Do you need a visa to visit South Africa?
Driving license and the roads in South Africa
In South Africa, you drive on the left side of the road.
According to the terms and conditions of the companies we rented the cars from, if the driving license is not written in English, it will have to be accompanied by an International Driving Permit.
We had the International Permit with us, but nobody asked us to show it, either when we picked up the rented cars or when the police stopped us.
South Africa is the ideal destination for a road trip because the infrastructure is very well developed.
There are several toll roads in South Africa, and the toll is payable directly at the counters on these roads.
The speed limits are (generally) 120 km/h on freeways, 100 km/h on a public road outside an urban area which is not a freeway, and 60 km/h on a public road within an urban area.
It is very important to respect the speed limit, as there are police and many radars on the roads.
If you exceed the speed limit by more than 40 km/hour you can be arrested.
We received a speed fine in the first hour after leaving Johannesburg (on our first day in South Africa) because we were driving at a speed of 92 km/hour on a road where the speed limit was 80 km/hour.
You will not receive a fine if you exceed the speed limit with less than 10 km/h.
The cop who stopped us was extremely friendly and polite, so we didn’t feel sorry for the fine we paid. In the next 3 weeks, we made sure to always respect the speed limit.
Is any vaccination required before visiting South Africa?
You do not have to get a mandatory vaccine before visiting South Africa. The yellow fever vaccine is only required for those who come from a country where this virus exists or have visited such a country before entering South Africa.
Malaria in South Africa:
There is no malaria vaccine yet, but there are pills that can help you fight malaria. The pills must be taken before visiting a malaria-risk area.
You will receive the prescription for the anti-malarial pills from the epidemiologist.
Because malaria is transmitted only by mosquito bites, protect yourself using insect repellent (every 4-6 hours) and anti-mosquito bracelets. Cover your arms and legs in the morning and towards evening with light-colored clothing to cover exposed skin.
What is different in South Africa?
In South Africa, you drive on the left side of the road.
At each gas station there are attendants who fill your tank, clean the windows (sometimes), check the tire pressure and try to help with directions if you need it. We didn’t get out of the car at all at the gas stations and we tipped the attendants 10-20 Rand in cash for the service.
The pedestrian crossings are very rare, and people cross the street everywhere; they are usually very careful, but it is good to be careful when driving.
Many people are traveling on foot between 2 neighboring localities, especially on regional roads, and they are not very easy to see at night, so it is good to drive cautiously.
The areas where you may encounter domestic or wild animals on the street are marked with signs.
The tip is 10 – 15% of the bill value and you write it on the bill.
In some parking lots from some tourist sights there are people guarding cars, and if you want you can pay 5 or 10 Rand for this service.
You will notice near the cities the Townships where people live a modest life. They live in makeshift houses in a crowded neighborhood, where they arrived as a result of unjust history and it will probably take some time before their situation changes.
What did we learn on this holiday?
A very good friend asked us what we learned from this experience.
Well, we learned not to be prejudiced and not to have wrong impressions about places and people before seeing or knowing them personally.
Before we visited South Africa, we heard people saying that it is dangerous to travel to this country. Other people said they have visited South Africa countless times and it is a safe holiday destination.
We didn’t know exactly what to expect before we got there, and we carefully planned our route so that we didn’t have to drive after dark. When we got there, we relaxed and even drove an hour or 2 a day after dark, but generally only on highways or other main roads.
The only difference we felt, compared to some countries in Europe, was the fact that the infrastructure is much better there.
How safe is it to travel to South Africa?
Many people have asked us if it is safe to travel to South Africa.
We spent 3 weeks in South Africa and traveled about 5000 km by car, and the whole trip was enjoyable and safe.
We didn’t have any unpleasant events and we didn’t see anything suspicious around us.
Because we visited South Africa in winter, and it was already dark at 6:30 pm, the night caught us on the roads, we drove for about 2 hours after dark every day and everything was fine.
In this country, the road conditions are very good, the highways are busy, but not crowded, and the people are very friendly.
The only thing we avoided was to walk in the city after dark, except for some areas in Hermanus, St. Lucia and Cape Town.
How you can get to South Africa?
There are direct flights to Johannesburg or Cape Town from most countries in Africa but also from many cities on other continents, such as New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Rome, London, Sydney, Perth, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt am Main. Amsterdam, Vienna or Zurich.
The most convenient and comfortable option for us was to fly from Cluj Napoca to Johannesburg and back from Cape Town to Cluj Napoca with Turkish Airlines, one of our favorite airlines.
Both flights had short layovers for only 2 hours in Istanbul.
You can book all your tickets in one transaction with the multi-city option on the Turkish Airlines page.
Which companies have we chosen for Domestic Flights?
In Africa, we visited 3 areas and chose to fly from one area to another. Of course, you can rent a car from Johannesburg or Cape Town and cross the country from east to west or vice versa.
From Johannesburg, we flew to Durban with FlyMango – a South African airline we recommend you use for domestic flights, as ticket prices are very good and include a 20 kg checked baggage. We paid only 65 euros/2 people.
Between Durban and Port Elisabeth, we flew with FlySafair because there was no flight available with FlyMango. Unlike FlyMango, tickets were a little more expensive (165 euros) because we had to purchase the checked baggage separately.
Our favorite restaurants in South Africa
Our favorite restaurant in South Africa is Cattle Baron. We ate in this restaurant in Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant Park, and Tsitsikamma Park and each time the food was delicious.
We also liked the Vivaldi Restaurant in Cape Town because of the artistic performance offered by the waiters (they were singing).
We often had breakfast at Wimpy. We really liked the dessert – Donut Dunkers – a kind of donut wrapped in sugar and cinnamon served with caramel sauce and ice cream, and we even reinterpreted the recipe when we got back home.
How much does a vacation in South Africa cost?
The cost of a holiday in South Africa depends very much on how much time you spend in this wonderful country, what you visit, the activities you undertake and what are your expectations for accommodation.
South Africa is not a very expensive holiday destination, we spent 5458 Euro / 2 persons (+ 485 Euro deposit for the rented cars – an amount that we received back after returning the cars) for a 3-week holiday in South Africa.
How much did the flight tickets cost?
Total: 1670 Euro for 2 people
- Cluj Napoca- Johannesburg and Cape Town – Cluj Napoca with Turkish Airlines: 1440 Euro
- Johannesburg- Durban with FlyMango: 65 Euro
- Durban – Port Elizabeth with FlySafair: 165 Euro
How much did we pay for the rented cars?
Total: 531 Euro / 20 days + 485 Euro deposit + 70 Euro One Way Fee
- Nissan Micra – Johannesburg Airport – rented from Thrifty Car Rental: 141 Euro/5 days with insurance included + 125 Euro deposit
- Ford Figo – Durban Airport – rented from Tempest through Rentalcars: 130 Euro/3 days with insurance included + 175 Euro deposit
- Suzuki Swift – Port Elizabeth Airport (and drop off in Cape Town) – rented from First car Rental through Rentalcars: 260 Euro/12 days + 185 Euro deposit + 70 Euro One Way Fee
How much did we pay for the gasoline?
Total: 300 Euro / 5000 km
The price of one liter of gasoline in South Africa is 0.97 Euro.
Kruger area: 100 Euro
We traveled around 2000 km (round trip Johannesburg – Kruger + 2 days self-drive safari in Kruger + one day on Panorama Route) and the gasoline cost us only 100 Euro.
St. Lucia: 80 Euro
We landed at Durban airport and headed for St. Lucia where we went on a self-drive safari for one day in Hluhluwe – Imfolozi Park and one day in iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
We traveled about 1000 kilometers and the gasoline cost 80 euros.
Port Elizabeth – Cape Town: 120 Euro
We traveled the route from Port Elisabeth to Cape Town in 12 days and visited a lot of very interesting sights on this route.
We did a total of 2000 kilometers and the gasoline cost only 120 Euro.
Total: 35 Euro
- Johannesburg – Hazyview: N4 – 93 + 62 = 155 Rand
- Hazyview – Johannesburg: N4 — 93 + 62 = 155 Rand
- Malalane – Nelspruit: N4 — 70 Rand
- Durban – St. Lucia: N2 — 7.5 + 11.5 + 46.5 = 65.5 Rand
- St Lucia – Durban: N2 — 46.5 + 13.5 = 60 Rand
- Port Elizabeth -Knysna: N2 — 53 Rand
How much did the accommodation cost?
Total: 1005 Euro / 19 nights
Kruger National Park: 285 Euro
- Kruger Adventure Lodge – Hazyview: 130 Euro / 2 nights
- Belvedere-on-River – Malelane: 135 Euro / 2 nights
- AuraZest – Airbnb: 20 Euro / 1 night
St. Lucia: 65 euros
- Monzi Safaris Backpackers: 65 Euro / 2 nights
Port Elizabert – Cape Town: 655 Euro
- Addo Dung Beetle Guest Farm: 80 Euro / 2 nights
- Hide Elephant: 160 Euro / 1 night
- 47th on Howard: 70 Euro / 2 nights
- Die Fonteine Guest House: 35 Euro / 1 night
- The Nantucket: 50 euros / 1 night
- aha Simon’s Town Quayside Hotel: 130 Euro / 2 nights
- Signature Lux Hotel by ONOMO, Waterfront: 130 Euro / 3 nights
How much did we pay for the food?
Total: 800 Euro
We did not cook at all and we had 2 meals almost every day at the restaurant. Everything we ordered was very well cooked and with an exceptional taste, and the prices were more than acceptable.
For a dinner at the restaurant (including drinks), we paid between 20 and 35 Euro/2 persons, and for breakfast between 15 and 20 Euro.
Admission tickets and day trips:
Total: 892 Euro / 2 persons
Kruger area: 315 Euro / 2 persons
- Ndebele Cultural Village: 620 Rand = 38 Euro
- Full Day Open Vehicle Safari – Kruger Adventure Lodge: 2100 Rand = 130 Euro
- Kruger Park entrance: 744 Rand / day * 2 days = 91 Euro
- Shangana Cultural Village: 400 Rand = 25 Euro
- Panorama Route (for all the visited sights): 508 Rand = 31 Euro
St Lucia area: 94 euros / 2 persons
Hippo & Croc Boat Cruise — 600 Rand = 37 Euro
Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Park: 480 Rand = 30 Euro
iSimangaliso Wetland Park: 27 Euro
- Maphelane — 110 Rand = 7 Euro
- Cape Vidal — 163 Rand = 10 Euro
- Charters Creek — 163 Rand = 10 Euros
Port Elizaberth – Cape Town: 483 Euro / 2 persons
- Addo Elephant Park — 614 Rand = 38 Euro
- Tsitsikamma National Park — 470 rand = 29 Euro
- Kayak & Lilo Adventure — 1200 Rand = 73 Euro + Wetsuits to Hire — 180 Rand = 11 Euro
- Monkeyland & Birds of Eden —- Combo Ticket (any 2 Sanctuaries): 820 Rand = 50 Euro
- Knysna Elephant Park — 640 Rand = 39 Euro + Elephant Snack Bucket — 90 Rand = 6 Euro
- Robberg Nature Reserve — 100 Rand = 6 Euro
- Cango Caves – ADVENTURE TOUR — 440 Rand = 27 Euro
- Safari Ostrich Farm — 292 Rand = 18 Euro
- Walker Bay Sea Kayaking – Hermanus – 900 Rand = 55 Euro
- Stony Point Nature Reserve – Betty’s Bay – African Penguins Watching – 100 Rand = 6 Euro
- Boulders Beach Penguin Colony – Simon’s Town – 304 Rand = 19 Euro
- Cape Peninsula — 606 Rand = 37 Euro
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden — 150 Rand = 10 Euro
- World of Birds – 260 Rand = 16 Euro
- Table Mountain Aerial Cableway — 660 Rand = 40 Euro
- Chapmans Peak Drive — 50 Rand = 3 Euro
Other expenses: 155 Euro
- Gateway to Kruger – Map & Guide – 100 Rand
- Travel insurance — 32 Euro
- Visa tax — 86 Euro / 2 persons
- Map Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden — 10 Rand
- Vodacom SIM card — 459 Rand — 28 Euro
Where to stay in South Africa?
If experiences are more important to you and you want to invest more in the activities, then you can save a lot on accommodation.
Where you can stay if you visit the Kruger National Park?
Read about the Kruger National Park and how to book your accommodation inside the park in this article.
Unfortunately, we did not find anything free in the campsites on the south side of Kruger Park, so we stayed in Hazyview and Malelane, 2 cities near the entrance gates to the park.
Kruger Adventure Lodge – Hazyview
The hotel has several accommodation options including tents, safari tents (our choice) or bungalows. You can book from them a safari in Kruger or a day-trip on Panorama Route.
Belvedere-on-River – Malelane
This is one of our favorite hotels we stayed in South Africa and it is our recommendation for those who want to stay near Kruger National Park. The location is excellent, just a few minutes’ drive from the entrance gate to Kruger – Malelane Gate.
The hotel is very clean and tastefully decorated, the rooms are large, the breakfast is delicious and from the terrace, you have an exceptional view over the Crocodile River and Kruger Park.
AuraZest – Airbnb Witbank
Because we wanted to spend the last day fully in Kruger, and our flight from Johannesburg was the next day early in the morning, we chose to stay in Kruger until 5:00 pm and then headed for Witbank.
Witbank is a small town located 125 km from Johannesburg Airport.
We rented it through Airbnb and Petro (the host) is an extraordinarily friendly person. The house is beautiful, it has covered parking in the yard and the rooms have a separate entrance.
Where you can stay in St. Lucia?
Monzi Safaris Backpackers
In St. Lucia, we chose a different type of accommodation. We have seen such types of accommodation in several locations in South Africa and wanted to see what they are like.
We stayed in a big tent, which has a double bed, bedside tables and a fan inside, at Monzi Safaris Backpackers which meanwhile changed its name to Budget Tented Village @ Urban Glamping.
The tents are positioned on the roof which we found quite interesting, they have a lock and it is good to close them because sometimes there are monkeys around and they will take every opportunity to enter the tent.
To our surprise, we slept unexpectedly well although it was the first time we slept in a tent since we started dating.
Guests have access to a shared kitchen and bathroom and can relax by the pool or in the small green garden of the complex.
Read in this article why it’s worth visiting St. Lucia.
Port Elizabeth – Cape Town:
We wrote about the sights on this wonderful route here.
Where you can stay if you visit Addo Elephant Park?
Addo Dung Beetle Guest Farm
It is a farm with a huge orange plantation located just a few minutes’ drive from the entrance gate to the park.
We chose the most rustic accommodation option. Our bush cabin was located in a remote area, away from the other cottages and was surrounded by vegetation, so we enjoyed full privacy, considering that the shower and toilet were in the yard.
We really recommend staying at this farm because everything is very tastefully decorated and is a very quiet area.
Where to stay in Knysna?
It is a romantic accommodation, suitable for couples or honeymoon trips. The cottage we stayed in had lots of windows and a great view over the city and the Knysna lagoon. This is the most expensive accommodation we booked for this vacation, but we really enjoyed it and would love to go back there to spend more days.
The hotel looks great and is surprisingly cheap. It has a swimming pool, parking, a very nice dining area and the rooms are very spacious. Breakfast is included (cereals with yogurt, bacon eggs, juice, tea and coffee).
Where to stay in Outhoorn?
It is a farm located in a very quiet area between Oudhoorn and Cango Caves. We really liked the beautiful decorated garden and the tranquility of this place.
Optionally you can have breakfast and dinner here for a fee.
Where to stay in Hermanus?
In Hermanus, we stayed in a villa located in a quiet and select neighborhood. The rooms are very clean and beautifully decorated.
The owner is a very kind person who knows South Africa very well and gave us many useful tips.
Where to stay in Simon’s Town?
The hotel is located right next to the port and some rooms have an amazing view over it. The staff is very friendly, the rooms are large and very clean, and the breakfast included is fabulous.
Where to stay in Cape Town?
Signature Lux Hotel by ONOMO, Waterfront
The hotel is a 5-minute drive from the Cape Town Waterfront. Considering the location, the price is extremely good. The rooms are quite small but very clean.
You can rent only the room or choose the option with breakfast included, which is served at the Vivaldi restaurant.
Vivaldi’s restaurant is very interestingly furnished, with furniture that seems to be part of the old palaces. We had dinner at this restaurant and enjoyed the show offered by the waiters. Every few minutes, one of the waiters stopped serving and started singing.
What you should visit in South Africa?
With stunning landscapes, exotic animals and a captivating underwater world, South Africa is a holiday destination suitable for anyone.
Kruger and Panorama Route
Kruger National Park is the largest nature reserve in South Africa and our favorite park. It’s a huge park with lots of animal species including the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and cape buffalo). We dedicated a separate article to this park, and you can read it here.
In South Africa, you can make a self-drive safari through the national reserves with your own car (the most beautiful experience we had so far).
Panorama Route is a route full of waterfalls and breathtaking scenery and is just an hour’s drive from Kruger. We wrote in this article about the attractions on the Panorama Route.
St. Lucia, Hluhluwe – Imfolozi Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park
St. Lucia is a beautiful city in southeastern South Africa. The city is situated close to St. Lucia Estuary, which is why it is visited every night by hippos who go out to graze.
St. Lucia is the starting point for Hluhluwe – Imfolozi Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park nature reserves. Parks where you can go on a safari to see the Big Five.
Hluhluwe – Imfolozi Park is the oldest reserve in Africa and was set up to protect the endangered white rhino.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the place where you can see the Big Seven (the Big Five + whale and white shark). The landscapes of this park are very varied: savanna, mountains, endless beaches, sand dunes, and coral reefs.
You can read more about St. Lucia and these wonderful 2 parks in this article.
The route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town
In this article, we have detailed the route we traveled and the sights we visited between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
There are countless activities you can undertake on this route and it is no wonder that this region is a very popular holiday destination among tourists.
We went on safari in Addo Elephant Park, we went kayaking on the river and on the sea, we saw seals, ostriches, whales, and African penguins, we visited the place where the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet, and we enjoyed incredible landscapes and beautiful beaches in the west of the country.
There are many other wonderful places to explore in this beautiful country and we promised to return to South Africa soon.