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From palm-lined beaches lapped by the waves of two oceans to lush forested mountainsides, vast expanses of arid desert to star-studded night skies, South Africa has something for everyone. Whether you are looking for a relaxing seaside break, a once-in-a-lifetime safari experience, or a fine food and wine fiesta, visiting South Africa will leave you with nothing but lasting memories.

Check our fantastic guide to planning a trip to South Africa.

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Morning light paints the peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, with the Tugel
The Drakensberg mountains see hoards of visitors throughout the year to its famous Amphitheatre—impressive cliff faces, over 5 kilometers in length.

The winter season in South Africa runs from June to August when it gets bitterly cold. The northern parts of the country, like Gauteng and the North West province, see dry and clear days during this time. Meanwhile, down south in the Western and Eastern Cape, the weather is rainy while the temperature is slightly milder. Winter is also the best time to visit South Africa for a safari experience, as clear sunny days offer ideal conditions for wildlife spotting.

If you are fond of beaches, the summer months between November to March are perfect for you to visit South Africa. Beach fanatics will also love the southern parts of South Africa if they visit between September and April, which also happens to be a perfect period to witness the wildlife birthing season up north.

The September-October spring season in South Africa offers clear, sunny days and warm temperatures across the country. If you do not like hot weather and crowded attractions, this is your time to visit the country.

More information:

South Africa in January
South Africa in February
South Africa in March
South Africa in June
South Africa in July
South Africa in August
South Africa in September
South Africa in October
South Africa in November
South Africa in December

What Not to Miss in South Africa

Johannesburg city skyline and Nelson Mandela bridge with moon in the sky
Once a mining town, Johannesburg, at present, is the South African business center with an outstanding reputation for quality and affordability.
Cape Town as seen from Table Mountain
Climb Lion’s Head early in the morning to capture a beautiful sunrise and a bird's eye view of Cape Town.

South Africa is packed with an array of amazing places to see and things to do, no matter the season you visit. Here are a few of the very best things to see and do:

  • Explore the Mother City: Head down to the Western Cape to experience the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Cape Town and spend the time soaking up the sun on the stunning blue-flag beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton. Take a cable car ride to the top of the iconic Table Mountain for a panoramic view of the city below. Or climb Lion’s Head early in the morning to capture a beautiful sunrise.
  • Wine tasting: Explore the valleys of the Cape Winelands and taste some of the world’s best wines. Begin your Winelands ramble in Paarl, renowned for its haunting scenic beauty and deep viticulture and fruit-growing heritage, before heading to the Francophile village of Franschhoek. From there, visit the oak-lined streets of Stellenbosch, the heart of the wine industry. You can also explore the lesser-known areas, such as Ceres, Elgin, McGregor, and Montagu, which have produced many award-winning wines.
  • Glorious Garden Route: The rugged Garden Route coastline is fringed with old-growth forests, picturesque lagoons, tranquil lakes, white sandy beaches, and mist-covered mountains. Watch pods of Southern Right Whales in the pretty bays of Hermanus and Stilbaai. Head into the Outeniqua Mountains to enjoy a range of outdoor adventures from hiking to kloofing.
  • Safari experience: Sprawled across more than two million hectares in the northern part of South Africa is the famous Kruger National Park, home to over 1,000 bird and animal species. Take a guided tour to spot the Big Five—rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, and leopard.
  • Explore the dreamy Drakensberg: Explore the dreamy landscapes of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. Forming the boundary between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, this protected area is famed for its tumbling mountain streams, cascading waterfalls, and hundreds of caves with ancient rock paintings.

How long to stay in South Africa

Include a trip to Gauteng Johannesburg while planning a trip to South Afric
Be amazed by the museums, galleries, and historical battlefields, or relish the world-class restaurants, shebeens, shopping malls, and music venues on your visit to Gauteng, South Africa.

You will need at least two weeks to capture the full beauty and essence of South Africa. This will give you plenty of time to explore the major cities like Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and some other spectacular sites.

Your itinerary should include the tour of Cape Town, wine tasting in Franschhoek or Stellenbosch, Kruger National Park safari, the Drakensberg, and the drive along the Garden Route.

If you have limited time, head to Cape Town to enjoy its beaches and experience the local lifestyle. Spend a few days in the port city before heading towards the Winelands, where a day’s stay should suffice, followed by a safari at one of the nearby game reserves.

More information:
How many days to spend in South Africa?
7 days in South Africa
10 days in South Africa
14 days in South Africa

How to get to South Africa

Tourist family walking through passageway in airport.
South Africa has two major airports in Cape Town and Johannesburg, where most major airlines operate.

South Africa has two major airports in Cape Town and Johannesburg, where most major airlines operate. For in-country travel, there are several smaller airports in cities like Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London, and George. The most popular domestic airlines for internal travel around South Africa are Airlink, which flies through 17 airports, as well as FlySafair, and Lift, with about half a dozen destinations each.

Getting around

Decide how you want to travel while planning a trip to south africa
South Africa has two long-distance bus services connecting almost every city.

Flying is certainly the easiest and the fastest way to travel while traveling within South Africa, but it is expensive. So another great way to explore the country is by coach. The country has two long-distance bus services, Intercape and Translux, connecting almost every city. Backpackers, budget, and solo travelers can join a tour bus like Baz Bus, which offers a ‘hop-on, hop-off’ travel pass that allows you to travel in your own time.

Alternatively, you can also take the train service to travel around the country. The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa offers relatively basic, but comfortable tourist-class sleeper service between the main cities and towns on the Shosholoza Meyl, as well as an upgraded Premier Classe. If you prefer to travel in luxury, then go for the deluxe Blue Train. And of course, you can also rent a car to get around South Africa. For inner-city travel, there are ride-hailing services like Uber.

Budget and money

Colorful handmade bracelets, bangles at local craft market in South Africa
The Zulu bracelets are worn to guard against evil spirits or the harsh South African sun.
Counting money south african rands
South Africa brought the rand into use by replacing the pound in 1961.

Expect to spend between *USD15 and USD20 per night for a bed in a hostel; between USD48 and USD75 per night for a budget hotel, and anything upwards of USD125 per night for an upscale hotel. South African cuisine is a mix of British, Dutch, Indian, Malaysian, and indigenous culinary traditions.

Fast-food chain meals cost between *USD3 and USD8, while casual restaurants range between USD 15 and USD25 per person for a two-course meal with drinks.

*Note: The prices mentioned above are as of July 2022 and are subject to change.

What you didn’t know (But should)

sampling cuisines while planning a trip to South Africa

South Africans love meat and their favorite pastime is braai—an open-air barbeque.

  • South Africa is the only country with three capital cities: Cape Town , Pretoria and Bloemfontein.
  • South Africa has 11 official languages: English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu, isiNdebele, Xitsonga, Setswana, Sesotho, Sepedi, Tshivenda, and SiSwati.
  • South Africa has the world’s highest bungee jump point at a dizzying 216 m on the Bloukrans Bridge in the Tsitsikamma region.
  • South Africans love meat and their favorite pastime is braai—an open-air barbeque.

Safety

Tourists in Kruger National Park
Consider a few safety tips to ensure the best from your trip to South Africa.

South Africa gets bad press about safety, but it is generally safe if you follow a few essential tips:

  • Never leave your luggage unattended.
  • Store valuables in the safety deposit box at the hotel.
  • Do not wear expensive jewelry, or carry cameras and other valuables when wandering around the city.
  • Stick to well-lit, busy streets and always plan and avoid dark, isolated areas at night.
  • When driving, keep the car doors locked at all times, park your car in well-lit areas at night, and never pick up strangers.

Dubbed ‘the world in one country,’ South Africa certainly lives up to its name. Its rich wildlife, natural beauty, and culture leave an indelible mark on travelers. Connect with our travel experts in South Africa for a tailor-made trip to South Africa, or check out some of our amazing South African tours.

Tour Options in South Africa

Published by Will Cooper, updated on July 26, 2022

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Plan a trip to South AfricaWe offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to South Africa.
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