Things You Need to Know
South Africa Travel Blog› entry 12 of 27 › view all entries
Having been to Africa several times, as well as to South Africa, I wanted to share a few items worthy of mentioning as you plan your travels to this country.
#1) The most important fact to know about South Africa travel is that immunizations can be mandatory before arrival. Diphtheria, yellow fever, tetanus, and hepatitis A are strongly recommended and, for some South Africa locations, possibly malaria and typhoid. These inoculations will need to be administered four to six weeks prior to any South Africa vacations, so be sure to check with your physician for exact details well ahead of your trip.
#2) A valid passport is required for your South Africa travels, and must have been issued at least 30 days prior to your travel. One crucial detail to note is that your passport must contain a minimum of two blank pages for the entry stamp. It is crucial because lacking this requirement will mean an immediate forced return to your home country. On the positive side, visas are not required for US travelers to the country. For other nationalities, please check on visa requirements.
#3) A fully comprehensive health travel insurance policy is strongly recommended for South Africa vacations. While cities have medical care that is quite good (most of these are privately operated), outlying areas will most likely be inadequate. Cash payment up front is required by both doctors and hospitals. A travel insurance that includes homeland return for medical reasons is suggested in case an emergency situation arises.
#4) There is no getting around the fact that most African countries have a higher level of risk and danger for travelers. South Africa, in particular, has a deceptively ‘Developed World’ appearance that lulls a visitor into believing he/she is in the developed world. In Africa such conspicuous wealth floats on a deep pool of corresponding poverty, so don’t be fooled, and take nothing at face value. Something I have observed just about everywhere during my travels in Africa are the razor wire fences and iron gates securing such places as backpacking lodges, hostels and hotels...people must recognize that such lavish security is not there for no reason at all.
So here's my advice: travel with a group and always stick together. Avoid travel after dark, especially in any city center. Awareness, of course, is the key. Don’t be stupid. Don’t tempt fate. Don’t think because the KNZ coast looks like Southern California that it is. Don’t think because Capetown is so clean and ordered, so cultural and sophisticated, that it is fine to whip your iPhone on your wrist as you stroll downtown in the sensual twilight. If you hire a car don’t have a picnic on the side of the freeway, or take an unscheduled diversion into the local favella for the sake of authentic local color. All of these will get you into trouble. South Africa is a fantastically well organized country, and every travel contingency is provided for by one operator or another. From the Bazz Bus to the Blue Train, from wildlife safaris to whale watching and shark caging, there is nothing that cannot be done both safely and professionally, and it is this that needs to be borne in mind at all times.
So lock up your cash, keep your electronics hidden, and get, and adhere to, local advice from your lodge or hotel wherever you go. Most importantly, however, get on that plane, and come to South Africa!
#5) The South African currency is called the RAND and has steadily decreased in value for years, so if you are traveling on a stronger currency like the Euro or British pound or US Dollar you might be pleasantly surprised by the low prices...which helps balance things out somewhat after paying the steep prices for airfare to South Africa!
#6) If you're a typical North American anglophone with no language abilities whatsoever, don't worry! Practically everyone you meet will speak English, as well as Africaans (Dutch-based) and possibly some of the other 9 or so official languages of South Africa.