South Africa is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. From the stunning Table Mountain to the Kruger National Park, home to an abundance of wildlife, there is something for everyone in South Africa.

South Africa is the perfect place for you if you’re looking for a country with a rich history and diverse culture. With its unique mix of African, European, and Asian influences, the country has a lot to offer regarding food, music, and art.

South Africa is also a great place to go on safari. Its many national parks and reserves provide the perfect opportunity to see some of the world’s most iconic animals up close. So whether you’re looking for adventure, culture, or a beautiful place to relax, South Africa is sure to have something for you.

Listed below are ten tips to help you make the most of your first visit to South Africa:

1. Safety

Before doing anything else, familiarize yourself with the local laws and customs to avoid any potential trouble. Understanding the local laws will also help you to be respectful of the local culture and traditions. It is also essential to be aware of your surroundings. It is vital to ensure safety in any country you visit and is especially important in a new place. Taking simple precautions such as not walking alone at night, keeping your belongings close to you, and being cautious of people who approach you asking for money can help reduce the chances of becoming a victim of crime. 

Remember not to flaunt your valuables in public. When traveling to a new place, it is common for people to want to show off their new purchases, but this can make you an easy target for thieves. Keep your valuables hidden when you are out and about, and only take them out when you need them. South Africa is safe, but it’s always better to be prepared.

10 Tips for Your First Visit to South Africa
Lion cub cuddling a safety sign in a South African national park | @hamman_prinsloo_wildlife

2. Public transport (Use Uber vs. Hire a car)

While South Africa’s public transport system is generally safe, it’s always better to be cautious.

Some tourists opt to use Uber when traveling as it is a safe and reliable way to get around. Uber is also a cost-effective option, as it is usually cheaper than a taxi. It is suitable for solo travellers and couples but can become expensive if you are traveling in a group. If you want to hire a car, it is best to use a reputable company such as Avis or Hertz.

Read the rental agreement carefully before signing, and ensure you understand the insurance coverages offered. It is also advisable to purchase your car insurance policy to supplement the coverage provided by the rental company. Hiring a car in South Africa will allow you to explore the country at your own pace. In addition, you will not be reliant on public transport, which can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if traveling during peak hours. However, it is essential to remember that driving in South Africa can be challenging as the roads are often in poor condition, and there is a high rate of car accidents. If you are not confident in your driving skills, it may be best to stick to using public transport or Uber.

If you decide to use public transport, be sure only to use official taxis or buses, and avoid hailing down cars on the street as this can be dangerous. It is also essential to agree on a fare before getting into a taxi as some drivers may try to overcharge you if you are not familiar with the local rates. Avoid using minibus taxis, as they have been known to be involved in crime. It is also advised to avoid using public transport at night.

10 Tips for Your First Visit to South Africa
Bo Kaap and Lion’s Head in Cape Town | @simigoes

3. Tipping

In South Africa, giving tips is not mandatory, but service workers often appreciate it. How much you tip will depend on the quality of service you received. For example, if you had a good meal in a restaurant, it’s common to leave around 10% of the bill as a tip. If you’re staying in a hotel, it’s common to leave about R20 (+-$1.2) per day for the maid service. Giving tips is a great way to show appreciation for good service and can also help you get better service in the future.

10 Tips for Your First Visit to South Africa
Jacaranda-lined streets in Johannesburg | @garethpon

4. Buy a local sim card

If you’re planning on using your phone while in South Africa, buy a local sim card. A local sim card is a great way to stay connected while in the country. It will give you access to cheap data rates and local call rates. It’s also a good idea to download offline maps of the area you’re visiting to use them without data. Having a local sim card with you will also help you to stay in touch with your family and friends back home.

10 Tips for Your First Visit to South Africa
Sunny evening in Clifton, South Africa | @tom_the_turtle95

5. Keep cash on you

While credit and debit cards are widely accepted in South Africa, having some cash on hand is always a good idea. It is especially true if you’re planning to take any taxis or public transport. Having cash with you will also help you to avoid any potential fees associated with using your credit or debit card. When withdrawing money from an ATM, take out smaller denominations so you can make smaller purchases.

Stargazing in the mountains | @jaycabozlandscapes

6. Visit neighbouring countries

If you’re planning on visiting South Africa, be sure to take the opportunity to visit some of the neighbouring countries as well. There are many great places to see in Africa, and by visiting multiple countries, you’ll be able to experience various cultures.

What countries to visit?

Botswana

A country known for its vast desert and wildlife reserves, Botswana is a great place to visit if you’re interested in seeing some of Africa’s animals. You can get there by flying into Maun Airport and then taking a bus or renting a car.

Namibia

Namibia is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a place to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Namibia is a great place to unwind with its coastal towns and desert landscapes. You can get there by flying into Windhoek Airport and then taking a bus or renting a car.

Lesotho

A country located entirely within South Africa, Lesotho is a great place to visit if you want peace. Lesotho is a nature lover’s paradise with majestic mountains and stunning waterfalls. Here you can find plenty of hiking trails to explore. You can fly into Maseru Airport and then take a bus or rent a car to get there.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a country located in southern Africa. It’s known for its Victoria Falls, as well as its diverse wildlife. You can find many animals in Zimbabwe, including lions, elephants, and buffalo. To get there, you can fly into Victoria Falls Airport and then take a bus or rent a car.

Swaziland

Swaziland is a small country located in southern Africa. It’s known for its scenic mountains and valleys and its traditional culture. Swaziland is different from the others on this list because it’s a monarchy, with the king having ultimate power. You can fly into Manzini Airport and then take a bus or rent a car to get there.

7. Buy travel Insurance

No matter where you’re traveling, buying travel insurance is always a good idea. It will cover you in case of any medical emergencies or lost luggage. Read the fine print to know what’s covered and what’s not. Travel insurance is essential if you’re planning on doing any adventurous activities, such as hiking or scuba diving. It will protect you in case of any accidents or injuries that may occur. It will also give you peace of mind to enjoy your trip without worrying about what could go wrong.

A male lion watches over his young cub | Nicolas Genoud

8. You can drink the tap water

In South Africa, tap water is safe to drink. Their water treatment plant meets high standards, and the water is regularly tested for safety. They made sure their water was clean by using chlorine to disinfect it. It means you can save money by not buying bottled water, and you can help to reduce plastic waste. However, some people may still prefer to drink bottled water, especially in rural areas. If you’re unsure about tap water quality, ask your hotel or hostel staff. They will be able to advise you on whether or not it’s safe to drink.

Mac-Mac Falls, South Africa | @wanderwithiana

9. Learn the local slang and customs

South Africa has a unique form of English spoken by the locals. If you want to be able to communicate with the locals, it’s a good idea to learn some of the essential slang words and phrases. For example, “howzit” is a standard greeting, and “lekker” means “good.” There are also many different words for different people, such as “coloured” for a person of mixed race. Learning the local slang will help you to understand the culture better and make new friends. One way is to buy a phrasebook that includes common slang words and phrases. You can also ask a local friend or family member to teach you some basics. Another option is to sign up for a language class so that you can learn more about the culture and history of South Africa.

When traveling to a new country, respecting the local customs and traditions is essential. In South Africa, there are many different cultures and religions. Most of the population is Christian, but there are also many Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. It’s essential to be respectful of all religious beliefs and practices. In addition, tourists should also respect many different tribal customs. For example, in some cultures, pointing your finger is rude. Instead, it would be best if you used your thumb. Ask a local friend or family member if you’re unsure about a particular custom. They will be able to advise you on what is appropriate and what is not.

Picturesque Farmlands in South Africa | @samwphoto

10. Dress conservatively and comfortably

When visiting South Africa, it’s a good idea to avoid wearing anything that could be perceived as offensive. For example, avoid wearing shirts with political slogans or images. If you’re unsure what to wear, it’s always a good idea to ask a local for their opinion. It is always best to err on caution and dress conservatively when in doubt. It will help you to avoid any potential problems or offensive situations.

But on occasions like visiting safaris or going for a hike, you might want to consider what will be comfortable for you. So pack light, breathable clothing that can protect you from the sun and insects. Wearing comfortable shoes is also essential, as you will be doing much walking. Dress codes are usually relaxed in South Africa, but it’s always a good idea to check with your hotel or tour guide before you travel.

Dappat se Gat in Koggelbay, South Africa | @laurent_truong

Conclusion

These are just a few tips to help you plan your first trip to South Africa. Be sure to take the time to learn about the local culture and language, and dress conservatively to avoid any potential problems. Do not forget to have fun and enjoy your time in this beautiful country – explore its safari, go on a hike, visit the beach, or take a trip to Cape Town.

And most importantly, don’t forget to buy travel insurance! It will cover you in case of any unforeseen problems, such as lost luggage or medical emergencies. You can have a unique and memorable experience with little research and preparation. Considering these tips will help you enjoy your first visit to South Africa. Thanks for reading, and have a safe trip!