South Africa travel guide & travel tips

Before traveling to South Africa it is useful to inform yourself of some facts. On this page you will find some more tips on food, tipping, safety and language issues. We recommend buying a good travel guide before you leave for your South Africa journey.

Food

food dining south africa

While travelling in South Africa you will quickly notice that many dishes are meat oriented. When staying in lodges, you will encounter many different kinds of meat, including game. We were often surprised by delicious meat of for instance kudu and springbok. Vegetarians will generally have no problems, although the offer is somewhat tedious (lots of spinach and pumpkin). Many restaurants, especially in bigger cities like Cape Town, but also at other tourist locations along the Garden Route, offers a varied European cuisine. From Italian and French, to restaurants specialising in seafood. It can be great fun trying some of the local specialties, such as "koeksusters" (syrup covered doughnut) or delicious "melktert" (comparable to custard tart).


Language

afrikaans language south africa

South Africa has eleven official languages​​. There is a large variety of beautiful African Languages, of which isiXhosa (with typical "click"), isiZulu and isiNdebele might sound as familiar names. We recommend learning a few local words: it will be highly appreciated and will open many doors. Of course, you will be able to communicate in English throughout your holiday: South Africans mostly speak English as their second language. Interesting is that you'll come across another European language when travelling in South Africa. Afrikaans is spoken by approximately 13% of the population. Afrikaans is strongly influenced by the Dutch language, so be sure to encounter some funny names en route. In contrast to Namibia (where a very crisp Afrikaans is being spoken), Afrikaans in South Africa has a wide range of dialects. In other words: Afrikaans in the Western Cape sounds very different from Afrikaans spoken near Johannesburg.


Population & society Zuid Afrika

society zulu south africa

South Africa has about 50 million inhabitants (2009 estimate) in an area of approximately five times bigger than the UK. South Africa is a much less densely populated country than the UK. The country has a large diversity of population groups (which also can be based on the number of official languages). The largest of these ethnic groups are Zulu, Xhosa and Basotho. About 80% of the population is Christian, and as such can be considerated quite conservative. South Africans generally behave modestly, dress nicely and have great respect for family and the elderly. The majority of the population lives in small rural villages which are focused on relationships between family and tribe. The elected village leader is responsible for all local affairs, including how to deal with common land.


Travel safety Zuid Afrika

In general South Africa is safe country for travelling, there is no restrictive travel advice in effect from the Foreign Office. For more information please consult the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website. As is common in many countries we recommend being vigilant in large cities. Ask the hotel staff for advice and preferably make use of taxis when going out at night.

Money, passports and other important documents are best kept is the safe in your room. Almost all hotels on the South Africa Chic! website provide safes in the room, or at the reception area. Do not leave any valuable documents lying around in your rooms. Do not bring any items of personal nature that you cannot afford to loose when travelling.

Wild animals in game reserves and national parks are dangerous by definition: their behaviour is not easily predicted. Do not disembark from your vehicle, even though the area seems safe and no animals can be seen. African (predatory) animals are real masters in hiding in unexpected locations. The rule is simple: if a leopard does not want to be seen you will not see it, even when it's only two metres away from your car. Only disembark in designated areas. Make sure to bring a good telezoom lens when you wish to make impressive wildlife images. For more information please read more on our South Africa safaris page.


Time difference South Africa

In wintertime South Africa is two hours ahead of GMT. In summertime there is a one hour time difference.


Power in South Africa

The voltage on power outlets in South Africa varies between 220-240 volts. Almost all rooms where you'll stay during your luxury South Africa holiday have power sockets. If this is not the case you can charge your aplliances at the reception of your lodge. Especially when staying in a game reserve or national park, we recommend bringing multiple batteries for your camera so you don't have to go without power unexpectedly. In South tripod sockets are used. These are not readily available from your local travel shop. We recommend buying an adapter upon arrival in Johannesburg or Cape Town, or borrow one from the reception of your accommodation when there is adapter plug in the room.


Phoning in South Africa

Mobile phones generally have good reception throughout South Africa. If you deviate from the beaten paths it will obviously be less. The country code for the UK is 44. If you want to use your mobile phone while on your luxury South Africa holiday, ask your provider about costs and options. It is also possible to buy a local SIM card in South Africa upon arrival. In most shops and petrol stations you can top up your "airtime": a lot cheaper than normal roaming rates.


Tipping

It is common in restaurants, when food and service are satisfactory, to add about 10% on top of your bill. If you are very satisfied you can make this 15%. It is good to realise that many off the staff are dependend on your tips. When you encounter a good guide during an activity in a game reserve, you may also decide to leave a tip. When staying more than one day in a lodge there usually is a box for tips available at the reception.


Back to previous page or read more about our suggested luxury South Africa holidays

South Africa Chic! video

View our inspirational video

Literature South Africa

Want to acquire some more in depth knowledge before boarding the airplane? South Africa Chic! gladly provides some book tips. About Nelson Mandela no book better than his own autobiography appeared up to now. It is titled "Long Walk to Freedom". The beautiful historical novel "Islands" was published by Dan Sleigh in 2004 (originally written in Afrikaans). It tells about early Dutch settelement at the Cape of Good Hope and on the island of Mauritius. Impressive and touching is Antjie Krog's "Country of my Skull". In the book she reports about her involvement in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission installed shortly after the fall of the apartheid regime.

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