What to Know as You Plan a Trip to South Africa

There are a lot of reasons to add South Africa to your travel bucket list. To name just a few:

  • The wildlife is amazing, and you can visit sites like Kruger National Park with private and group safari tours. You may have the opportunity at Kruger to see lions, giraffes, and elephants.
  • South Africa is often described as the adventure capital of the world because of available activities including cage diving with sharks. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you should get your fix in South Africa for sure.
  • While South Africa may seem wild and adventurous, it’s also at the same time refined and chic. South Africa has some of the best food and wine in the world.
  • The beaches are beautiful and in particular, the beaches of Cape Town.
  • There’s something for everyone in South Africa, including in terms of budget. Accommodations, food and other options can range from budget-friendly to very high-end

So, with that in mind, what should you know about planning a trip?


Whether or not you need a visa to go to South Africa depends on your nationality, as well as how long you plan to stay and why you’re going.

More than 100 countries do require a visa to go to South Africa as a tourist, and New Zealand is one of them.

New Zealand is currently part of a pilot project allowing visitors to get a South Africa eVisa. This means these travelers won’t have to personally interact with personnel from immigration.

If you’re from the United States as well as much of Europe and Canada you don’t need a visa if you’re going to South Africa for up to 90 days. There are 48 countries in total where visitors don’t need a visa for tourism.

The Language

There are eleven official languages in South Africa, which can sound somewhat overwhelming.

Luckily, English is one of those languages, and most people in South Africa do speak it. You should be able to communicate fairly easily with people.

Getting Around

South Africa is extremely large. It’s around twice the size of France, making it difficult to see it all unless you have an extended period of time.

For the most part, you may stick with the bigger cities if you only have a week or so, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Public transportation isn’t as advanced as in some countries, so renting a car tends to be a viable way for travelers to get around.

While there are remote areas of South Africa, it is largely considered a developed country. In the big cities, you’ll see high-end restaurants and hotels, malls, museums and more.


While South Africa has a lot to offer, it’s important to be vigilant about safety. Sometimes South Africa gets a poor reputation because of murder rates, but for the most part tourist areas don’t see a lot of crime beyond petty theft.

If you’re in tourist areas, the safety guidelines are the same as visiting a big city anywhere in the world.

While tourist areas may be fairly safe, there might be a bit of a shock when you first arrive in South Africa.

For example, there are many security guards including at private homes, barred windows, and electric fences. It does take some adjustment for people from countries like America.

Also, even though you might take similar precautions as you would in big cities elsewhere, in reality, the crime rate is much higher than most other places.

Travelers to South Africa often feel that with common sense and being aware, to see one of the most beautiful places on earth is worth it.

If you do rent a car, you need to be extremely careful about your belongings because car break-ins are common.


Finally, when you’re visiting South Africa, the currency is the Rand. There can be pretty big fluctuations between the value of the Rand to the U.S. dollar.

There are ATMs in cities and other areas, but they do charge a transaction fee, and if you’re going somewhere rural such as on a safari, you should consider getting additional cash.

Most places, especially in big cities will take credit cards.

Tipping takes place, but usually less so than in the U.S in terms of amounts. For example, a restaurant tip may be around 10%.

There are also car guards in public areas, and if you tip them, they will protect your car. Usually, around $1 U.S. is considered a good tip.