20 things you need to know before travelling in South Africa

South Africa is vast, so when planning a visit you’ll need to weigh up what you can and can’t squeeze in. Check out Wanderlust readers' top tips for making the most of your trip...

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Tips for eating out in South Africa

Try a meal cooked on a braai (Dreamstime)

Try a meal cooked on a braai (Dreamstime)

Make sure you taste a meal cooked on a braai when travelling in South Africa. It’s basically the local version of a barbecue, typically involving lots of meat (lamb, steak, boerewors sausage), though vegetarians can expect corn on the cob and butternut squash. It’s also the finale of most game drives, days rounded off with the scent of woodsmoke and charred meat in the air.

— Jenny Aitken, Tucan Travel

"South Africa is more than safaris and sauvignon blanc. Start your day in Cape Town by heading down to the V&A Food Market for breakfast."

— Sidrah Arif

"Take the tram from Franschhoek to tour the Western Cape’s wine estates. Boschendal had some of the best food I have ever eaten."

— Gill Bond 

"Head to Cape Agulhas – it is well worth the detour on­ the Garden Route drive. The food in nearby Struisbaai, a cool, artsy small town, is also lovely."

— Jenna Maghie

How to find peace and quiet in South Africa 

Roam the coastal trails of Tsitsikamma National Park (Tamsin Sealy)

Roam the coastal trails of Tsitsikamma National Park (Tamsin Sealy)

Tsitsikamma National Park is often overlooked in favour of Knysna or nearby Plettenberg Bay, yet it has so much: beautiful forests; fine coastal trails such as the one at Storms River; a truly terrifying bungee at Bloukrans Bridge; Birds of Eden sanctuary and the big cats of Tenikwa Wildlife Centre. Plettenberg is a short drive away, while stays at Hog Hollow Country Lodge afford fantastic views

— Tamsin Sealy

"Go kayaking in the Knysna River. We went early morning, and saw birds nesting in the banks, monkeys swimming, fish eagles and countless other birds and animals. We were the only people kayaking there. It was completely calm and quiet."

 Saskia Howard

"If heading to Hermanus to see the whales, stop off at Betty’s Bay for its penguins – it’s less crowded than the better-known Boulders Beach."

— Joy Fowler

"Take a helicopter tour in Cape Town.  You'll go over the stadium, round Table Mountain, along the coast, and even go as far as the Cape. It was a small helicopter that seated up to five people - it was like flying in a glass bubble - not cheap, but worth every penny."

— Judith Isherwood

Tips for seeing wildlife in South Africa

Hippo encounters are guaranteed in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal (Shutterstock)

Hippo encounters are guaranteed in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal (Shutterstock)

River cruises on the iSimangaliso wetlands guarantee hippos, and on a one-day safari in the game park we saw cheetahs, rhinos and elephants – all at close range

— Dawn Taylor 

"Try a horseback safari. It gets you closer to the wildlife. We went to Ants Nest and had many close encounters with the rhinos."

— John Graham 

"Try the cage diving at Shark Alley o­ff Gansbaai – the great whites are amazing.”

— Sharon Spencer 


"I recommend you buy a Sanparks Wildcard which enables cheaper visits to over 80 national parks for 365 days. " 

— Steve Haley 

What to pack when you're going to South Africa

What to pack when you visit South Africa (Dreamstime)

What to pack when you visit South Africa (Dreamstime)

Pack light. We took loads of different types of clothes with us that we never used or needed. T-shirts and shorts is what we wore most of the time.

— David Nicholson 

"Take out cash in the airport when you arrive, the exchange rate is usually better than at home."

— Jennifer Cryans


"Make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen and a big hat."

— Andrea Farrar

"Pack for all weathers, one minute it may be scorching hot, the next, heavy rain, be prepared." 

— Leanne Smith 

Where to find South Africa's best views

Hike the ridges and gorges of the Drakensberg in Kwazulu-Natal (Caroline McCann)

Hike the ridges and gorges of the Drakensberg in Kwazulu-Natal (Caroline McCann)

The Drakensberg escarpment is simply breathtaking. Hiking tours are simple to organise, with stays in mountain huts, campsites or the caves that line the escarpment all easily booked with the national park. Waking up in a cave here, watching the sun shade the mountains a deep pink, is magical.

— Caroline McCann

"Take a couple of days to visit Lesotho via the Sani Pass – the scenery en route is jaw-dropping, particularly the 27-corner zig-zag 4WD climb up the mountain pass through the clouds to the border, not forgetting to stop off at the highest pub in Africa." 

— Ewan Savoury

"There’s a great walk in Hermanus along the cli­ffs, with just pretty fynbos and cheeky dassies (rock hyrax) for company."

— Tommy Brundin

"To see the real South Africa, jump on the Shosholoza Meyl train in Jo’burg and rattle your way past golden hills, unpronounceable towns and moon-like expanses as you cross the Great Karoo en route to the Winelands and Cape Town."

— Joe Olding

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