South Africa in detail

Planning Tips


Brand South Africa ( News and information.

South African National Parks ( Information, bookings and forums.

Fair Trade Tourism ( Accommodation, tours and travel map.

Travel Now Now ( Backpacker guides and listings.

BBC ( News and features.

Lonely Planet ( Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Top Tips

  • Don't try to cover the whole of this vast country. Focus instead on one or two areas, such as Cape Town and Kruger.
  • This is a car-driving culture, given the security issues associated with walking the streets and taking shared taxis, so consider renting a vehicle for part of your trip.
  • There's a good network of domestic flights, plus useful public-transport options, including tourist-class trains and two backpacker buses.
  • Don't be paranoid about South Africa's reputation for crime: do as the locals do, take precautions and remain watchful and attuned to your surroundings, and you should have a fantastic time.
  • Most travellers will be at most risk on the dangerous roads: drive cautiously and don't cover too much ground.
  • Avoid the peak Christmas and Easter seasons, when accommodation fills up, prices are highest and roads are the most dangerous.

Pre-Departure Checklist

  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least 30 days after your visit.
  • Organise vaccinations at least a few weeks before departure, and malaria prophylatics if visiting the northeast.
  • For popular areas, book accommodation well in advance.
  • Inform your credit-card company you’re visiting South Africa.
  • Arrange travel insurance.
  • Check airline baggage restrictions.

What to Take

  • Yellow-fever certificate if you've recently visited a yellow-fever zone.
  • Extra documents needed for children to clear immigration.
  • Visa, if required.
  • Practical shoes, for going on safari and walking around Cape Town.
  • Warm evening wear, even in summer.
  • Credit and/or debit card and backup.
  • Sun cream.

What to Wear

If you're going on safari, take a practical wardrobe of shorts and T-shirts, plus some warmer layers for the evenings, when it can be cold in the bush and you'll want to hide your arms and legs from mosquitoes. Light colours, such as khaki, are best to deter mozzies. South Africa is a casual country, where you don't need to worry about fashion, but do pack your favourite outfits for Jo'burg and Cape Town. These are stylish cities with smart restaurants and nightspots, and you'll need to dress to the nines to get through some doors in the likes of Sandton and Camps Bay, where you might find yourself among a glittering crowd of black diamonds, models, movers and shakers.