What You Need to Know Before Going to South Africa

South Africa is a country that needs to be visited at some point. There is a rich history and many wonderful experiences to have. While you can find some of the classical “African” stereotypical safari, elephants, adventures and like, there is so much more to South Africa than that. If you want to see beautiful nature and meet wonderful people, book a ticket as soon as you can and come down to this side of the world. Here are some things to keep in mind before you get there:

How Long Can You Stay?

If you are coming in from most countries, you won’t need a visa if you want to stay less than 90 days. The best thing to do is to check online whether or not you need a visa, because you want to make sure you have that in order before getting on the flight. Your passport must not expire within a month before the date you want to return if you are from the United States. But generally, things happen, so make sure your passport is up to date in any case.

How Do You Pay For Things?

The local currency is the Rand. You can take out money when you get to the airport. In the last couple of years, USD has been about 9-15 Rand at a time so you can check before you go in order to make sure you are not spending more than you intend. ATMs are going to give you rand wherever you go. Just make sure that you get to the bank before it closes early, most of them are done by 3:30 in the afternoon or until noon on weekends (if they are not closed altogether Sundays). Also, they are only available in the cities so if you want to go into a local safari, you may hard pressed to find one.

You can use your card but sometimes your bank may reject payments because you are too far away. Make sure to set a travel alert. Otherwise, make sure to have cash on you, just in case. It never hurts to be prepared. A lot of places take your card, especially if you are in a big city but it’s good to avoid ATM fraud as well as this is a big problem that comes up.

Traveling Around the City

You can rent a car to get around the city; the roads work pretty well and are easy to navigate. You can even get a GPS if you think you may get confused. If you take this route, make sure to plan ahead and get a 4×4 for areas that may be a little rougher. Otherwise, you can travel with a group tour and go around with a bus as well. There are plenty of places with holiday package plans. If you want to get around, there are plenty of taxis in big cities and metros in places like Johannesburg if you need. Other than that, public transportation is not the most reliable, so you are better off taking a taxi.


There are as many as 11 languages that people speak because of the sheer diversity. English is spoken everywhere but is only the fifth most common language. Most people speak isiZulu or isiXhosa, and a lot of people also speak Afrikaans as well.

Good Habits

Tipping is big in South Africa, but not the way it is in the United States. 10% is usually the rule of thumb when you are out to eat and a dollar for someone who has carried your stuff. Sometimes your tip is added into the bill at restaurants. Make sure to tip if you got good service.

There are many people guarding cars in areas. You can tip them around a dollar to watch your car for you and to make sure nothing happens. You don’t have to, but if you want to develop a good rapport and keep your stuff safe, it’s worth the dollar (or 10 rand).

Going Out

You can drink everywhere in the country for the most part and clubbing is huge in cities like Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Durban. You won’t be at a loss for bars and restaurants either. You have to be 18 to drink so most people go out. You may get charged a cover for clubs while you are there. Like the United States, most drugs are illegal there but you may find it in certain places, so keep an eye out for people excessively using and stay safe.

Staying Safe

You won’t need a vaccine like many other countries but you should probably keep yourself up to date just in case. Unless you go through countries that have a yellow fever outbreak, you won’t be required to get the vaccine. Get travel insurance just in case something happens, but this is true for most countries. Cape Town has a high crime rate when it comes to getting mugged but you can stay safe by traveling in groups and not hanging about at night. Keep your cell phone safe and in sight; don’t wear headphones while walking around. Leave your passport and jewelry in your hotel room. Act the way you would in less safe cities at home. Of course, the other cities in South Africa don’t have the same rates of mugging.

Water in hotels is usually heavily filtered and safe to drink. But if you are out in the wild, take your chances or bring in filtration tablets. Otherwise, get yourself some bottles of water in case you cannot find filtered water at the lodges where you may be staying. Fresh food in South Africa is absolutely delicious, whether you are shopping in the grocery stores or eating out at restaurants. You won’t be at a loss.

South Africa is a wonderful country to visit and you are guaranteed to have a good time. Make sure to follow these tips and you won’t regret the time you spend there. It’s a wonderful experience.

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