As its name implies, South Africa is the southern-most country on the continent of Africa. But its remote location does not detract from its status as one of the important countries in Africa. South Africa is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic society. It has a long history of being a Dutch and then British colony, with large populations of the settlers they brought with them from all corners of their empires shaping the country. It is impossible to talk of South Africa without mentioning apartheid, and the impact is has had and continues to have on the country we see today. Everyone knows of Cape Town and Johannesburg, however, visitors to South Africa will also be able to discover one of the richest and most varied landscapes in the world - from deserts, canyons, coastal roads and wild savannahs. South Africa is also famous for its nature reserves, the most famous being Kruger National Park, and it is one of the best destinations for the Big 5 game tours in the world, as well as a wealth of other flora and fauna. Bordered by two oceans, Cape Town sits at the southern point, and from this bustling coastal city, you can easily reach the famous vineyards. It is a destination not to be missed!
IMPORTANT - As some of our South Africa tours also travel into Zimbabwe, please ensure you also check the requirements for entry to Zimbabwe, as they differ to those for South Africa.
Your passport should be valid for at least one month beyond the period of stay, however many immigration officials will still request a minimum of 6 months beyond the date of departure from South Africa, so it is advisable that your passport has this length of validity. You will need 2 clean, consecutive pages in your passport. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
N.B. – For any passenger continuing their tour into Zimbabwe, it is advised to ensure you have at least 6 blank pages in your passport! You will require two pages to transit South Africa in each direction, and two pages to enter Zimbabwe. South African officials take this requirement very seriously and will not permit entry in the case of insufficient pages.
US, Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealand citizens may enter South Africa for up to 90 days for tourist purposes without a visa. All other nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For up to date entry requirement please visit this site.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Pretoria, including those for the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. There are also a number of consulates located in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. However, embassies for other countries, including are located in other African cities, offering coverage to South Africa. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour. Insect bites have been very minimal within previous groups, however please come prepared with your insect repellent spray/plug-in just in case.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints, but please note, whilst in rural areas, doctors and medical supplies are few and far between. If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The South Africa Tours are an Activity Level 2 and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you.
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
There are currently no specific certificate requirements under International Health Regulations however please take note of the malaria information below:
• Malaria: While most of South Africa is malaria-free, this mosquito-borne disease is prevalent throughout the year in the Kruger National Park and the low-lying areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal so please consult a healthcare professional about a suitable prophylactic.
The old adage ‘prevention is the best cure’ also holds true. Use repellent and cover up at dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes are most active by wearing long trousers, long-sleeved shirts, shoes and socks, if possible. If you develop a bad headache, have aching joints, and recurring fevers and chills after your trip, advise your doctor that you have been in a malarial area. Malaria symptoms can sometimes be confused with flu symptoms.
- • Yellow Fever Certificate. Depending on the area you are visiting, or areas you have previously travelled to, you may need a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate to show you have received said vaccination prior to travel. Check whether you need a Yellow Fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis, Rabies and Yellow Fever may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
Due to the vast size of the country and the various place we will visit, the weather in South Africa will be variable. You will need clothes for hot weather as well as a warm, waterproof jacket and some layers, as it may be cooler in the evening. For the safaris it’s wise to pack khaki-coloured clothing as it blends better into the bush. Pack light and remember the basic essentials. We would also recommend a good pair of lightweight binoculars.
Insect repellent and sun cream are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
South Africa & Zimbabwe Tours – These tours include internal flights in South Africa and Zimbabwe. You are permitted one piece of hold luggage per person, at a maximum weight of 23kg (50lb) per piece and dimensions of 158cm (62inches) per piece. You are also permitted to carry one piece of hand luggage per person up to 8kg (18lb), with maximum dimension of 56cm(L) 36cm (W) 23cm (H), so that it fits under the seat in front of you or in the overhead lockers. Additionally, one small personal item (e.g. a small purse, small laptop case) is also allowed. Larger laptop bags and standard/bulkier briefcases will NOT be considered a personal item and will count as the normal piece of hand baggage. These luggage restrictions apply equally for flights within South Africa and to Victoria Falls.
Luggage handling is not included in our South Africa tour. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry services may available in some hotels on the tour.
South Africa is a multilingual country and there are 11 official languages, namely: English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Although only about 10% of the population has English as its mother tongue, English is the language most widely understood, and is the second language of the majority of South Africans.
The time zone in South Africa is GMT+2, 2 hours ahead of London GMT. There is no daylight-saving time.
South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, so it is summer there when it’s winter in Europe and North America. Our South Africa tours generally operate during their shoulder season, at the end of summer and beginning of autumn. South Africa is known for its long sunny days, hence the title, ‘Sunny South Africa’. Most of the nine provinces have summer rainfall, except for the Western Cape, which experiences winter rainfall. Average day temperatures in summer range from a minimum of 15°C to a maximum of 28°C (59°-82°F), depending on your location. In winter, average day temperatures are 19-23°C (66-73°F), although it can get chilly at night, especially at altitude. Cape Town’s best seasons are spring and autumn. Autumn offers a respite from the summer heat and the vineyards of the Cape Winelands are starting to change colour.
In South Africa, the standard voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz. South Africa uses a number of plugs, but the most common are the European-style 2 prong plug, or a 15 amp 3-prong plug (Types C, M and N). You will need to bring an adaptor and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you. With a few exceptions (in deep rural areas), electricity is available almost everywhere but South Africa has power outages and so it is wise to carry a torch with you.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
South Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Pay-as-you-go airtime is recommended for tourists and sim cards can be purchased almost anywhere, for as little as R3. The main operators Vodacom, the biggest and most popular, MTN, Cell C and Virgin Mobile. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide free WIFI. Please check data roaming charges for South Africa with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The currency of South Africa is the Rand R (ZAR). Credit cards are widely accepted at, but it is advisable to carry money in cash with you as well. ATMs are widely available in cities, but not so in smaller villages.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. South Africa is well known for credit card scams, and often transactions are blocked. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip.
Important Note - A prepaid currency card, used in the same way as a standard credit card can be a good idea. You can load it with money in the currency of the countries (more than one is possible) you are travelling to and has the advantage of not being linked to your bank account in case of loss/theft.
Due to the often-good exchange rates for foreigners when travelling in South Africa, prices can seem better than in other comparable countries. Due to the nature of the tour, a large number of meals, as well as transport and entrances are already included in your holiday price. As each traveller’s spending habits are different, you should bring an amount with which you are comfortable. As a guide, you can expect to pay anything from R100-500 for individual curios, R50-80 for a single takeaway meal, R100-200 per person for a restaurant meal plus 10% tip. A bottle of wine will generally cost R75-100 whereas a cocktail would be about R30-60 and R15-25 for a beer at restaurants.
• Bank Opening
Bank are short, especially in summer. Banks in South Africa are usually open 9am – 3.30pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am-11am on Saturdays.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
South Africa boasts excellent fresh produce, meat, fruit, wines and seafood. Types of dishes served include sosaties, a type of kebab, bobotie a curried mince dish, crayfish, biltong seasoned dried meat, and potjiekos, a casserole cooked for hours in a three-legged iron pot. You should also try some traditional African and Afro-fusion dishes. South Africa’s local beers, Cape wines, brandies and liqueurs are renowned the world over. The traditional beer -umqombothi - is a home-brewed sorghum beer sold in many African townships.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
The tap water in urban areas of South Africa is usually of high quality and safe to drink. It’s quite safe to have ice in drinks and to eat salads. However, when travelling to remote rural areas and the bush you should drink bottled water only. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Shopping in is a very popular pastime for South Africans. International visitors are often attracted to goods that are proudly South African. The attractive exchange rate against many other major currencies means souvenirs can often be picked up for a song.
Gold and diamonds are among South Africa’s most-famed resources. Buying jewellery and gemstones is often high on international visitors’ shopping lists. Shoppers are often attracted to blue-coloured Tanzanite, a rare stone from Tanzania which is expertly crafted into dazzling pieces. South African wines are another sought-after purchase, and most wine estates and dealers will make arrangements to ship your selection abroad.
Colourful curios and carvings, representing a myriad of South African and African cultures, are also popular purchases. They include wooden and soft stone carvings, beading, weaving, pottery and basketwork. Articles imaginatively made of ostrich eggshell, wire and recycled goods are sought after.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 9am – 5pm Monday–Friday, and 9am-1pm on Saturdays. However, some larger malls and shops in tourist areas may stay open longer. Some shops are open on Sundays, with reduced hours.
• VAT/Tax Refund:
Numerous shops in South Africa offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question. Customs in South Africa stipulates that individual travellers are entitled to a duty-free allowance of R5 000 per person, where no duties or VAT apply. These allowances may not be pooled and only apply on a per person basis.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Whilst crime levels in South Africa can be quite high, most tourist trips are trouble free. As with most countries in the world, there’s a risk of petty theft especially bag snatching and mugging, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. Don’t walk around alone at night-time and avoid carrying large amounts of cash and don’t wear expensive watches, jewellery or items of sentimental value. Keep car doors and windows locked at all times. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
Most visits to game reserves are trouble-free. However, as you can imagine, with wildlife, there is always an inherent risk associated. Always follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke.
About 80% of South Africa's population is Christian. Other major religious groups include Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists. A minority does not belong to any of the major religions. The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship.
South Africa offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card!
ARRIVAL IN SOUTH AFRICA
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
Please also check the Travel Tips for Zimbabwe as some of our tours to South Africa cross into Zimbabwe. Different entry requirements apply, and you may need a visa! For other countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated November 2019