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South Africa is home to large national parks where you can go on safari such as the Kruger National Park, cities surrounded by mountains and overlooking the ocean such as Cape Town, wild peninsulas where eared seals and penguins live such as the Cape of Good Hope.

A holiday in South Africa is the dream of many travellers and many ask themselves: is it possible to organise a trip DIY South Africa? Our answer is absolutely yes, and in this article we give you some useful tips for visiting South Africa DIY and info to organise your trip!

9 tips for South Africa DIY Trip

A trip DIY in South Africa is an unforgettable experience, although you may have some legitimate doubts at first, especially about safety. When we decided to go on a 10-day South Africa DIY trip, we did some research and gathered some information, and in this article we give you some tips for planning a DIY trip to South Africa from our fantastic experience in South Africa!

DIY South Africa travel tips: How to get there

Cape Town and Johannesburg are the main airports in South Africa and the ones most frequently served by international flights. There are many airlines flying to both airports, including Emirates, Qatar Airways, British Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines and many others.

These airlines offer slightly different prices, but there is no significant difference: a return ticket to Cape Town from Europe currently costs an average of €1,000-1,200, while to Johannesburg it may cost slightly less as the distance is shorter.

The cost of the ticket varies depending on the airline, but there is usually no significant difference. However, at the moment the cost of a return ticket is around €1000-1200 per person for those coming from Europe.

For our DIY South Africa trip, we opted for a multi-trip flight with Emirates: we landed at Cape Town airport for the outward journey, and at Johannesburg airport for the return journey. The whole trip took about 20 hours (including a couple of hours stopover).

If you are willing to extend your travel time slightly, you may find cheaper options. With careful research, you might even find interesting combinations from some European cities that offer direct flights to South Africa, such as from Luxembourg, Paris, London, Amsterdam and Brussels.

If, on the other hand, you come from America, there are direct flights with some airlines such as United Airlines and Delta Air Airlines and the average minimum cost is $2,000-2300.

If you come from Oceania, you are better off arriving at an Asian international airport, such as Istanbul or Singapore, and from there take a direct flight to South Africa.

South Africa DIY: How to get around the interior

There are basically two options that we recommend for getting around different parts of South Africa: by car or by air. Obviously, the choice between the former and the latter will depend on the distances you need to cover during your DIY trip to South Africa and how much time you have at your disposal.

For example, if you want to drive the entire Garden Route, which follows the coast from Cape Town inland and perhaps into the Kruger National Park, you will need at least two weeks, allowing for a few days in Cape Town and the Kruger National Park.

On the other hand, if you do not have much time and would like to visit both the southern and northern parts of South Africa, we recommend that you book an internal flight with South African Airlink.

There are several car rental companies at the airport, we used Avis for Cape Town and Firefly for Nelspruit. If you are planning to explore the Kruger National Park on your own, we recommend that you choose an SUV as it gives you better visibility and is better suited to the park’s dirt roads.

The cost of car rental starts from around €30 per day and can even exceed €60 depending on the type of car chosen.

Viaggio in Sudafrica fai da te - viaggio in macchina per le strade del Sudafrica - South Africa DIY

South Africa DIY trip: By car on the roads of South Africa

Tips for visiting South Africa safely

Let’s deal immediately with one of the most important topics for those who want to embark on a DIY trip to South Africa: safety. First of all, before you leave, we advise you to check the website of your embassy of reference to see if there are any restrictions and points of attention in particular (without getting anxious about reading everything that is listed there!) . In general, our experience is that we have never found ourselves in situations that put us on our toes and that making a South Africa DIY trip is not a dangerous experience.

During our South Africa DIY trip we visited three areas: Cape Town, Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Here is what we can tell you about safety in these three places based on our experiences:

  • Cape Town: The tourist areas such as the Old Town and especially the Waterfront do not present any particular security problems. The areas to avoid are the outskirts, such as Mitchells Plain, Matroosfontein, Epping and Philippi, but we can assure you that they are easily recognisable (these are the so-called townships, i.e. slums) and it is very difficult to get past them. Around Cape Town, as well as the Cape of Good Hope, Kirstenbosch and Table Mountain, we had no problems;
  • Mpumalanga: this inland area of South Africa is quiet and there are no particular problems with crime;
  • Kruger National Park: inside the Kruger you can be safe, but there are two gates where it is better not to go, as there have been incidents of theft and violence: the Phabeni Gate and the Numbi Gate.

In general, there are some basic rules that you must observe wherever you are:

Do not leave objects in sight in the car, including clothes as theft can occur;
Do not wear flashy jewellery or carry cameras around your neck during the evening hours and in uncrowded areas;
In the evening, travel by car and not on foot, especially in cities;
Carry a ‘second wallet’ with some money in it to hand over immediately in case someone stops you to rob you (this advice was given to us by some residents, but we have never been in situations that alerted us).

Tips for South Africa DIY trip: when to go

Generally speaking, there are two periods in South Africa: one when rainfall is more likely and temperatures are high, and another when rainfall is at its lowest and temperatures are slightly lower. Of course, the climate varies depending on where you are: the climate on the west coast is different to that on the east coast, as is the weather inland and in more northern areas such as the Kruger.

In general, if your South Africa DIY trip includes a visit to both the coast and the hinterland, we recommend the spring season, when temperatures are still pleasant and rainfall is not frequent. Also, if you are planning to go on safari in the Kruger National Park, the vegetation is less dense and the chances of seeing the Big Five are higher.

In any case, bear in mind that the maximum rainfall in South Africa is not high, but quite low, so other months may be a good choice.

Viaggio in Sudafrica fai da te - Waterfront a Cape Town - South Africa DIY

South Africa DIY trip: Rainy day at Waterfront in Cape Town

Viaggio in Sudafrica fai da te - Spiaggia Diaz al Capo di Buona Speranza - South Africa DIY

South Africa DIY trip: Sunny day at the Cape of Good Hope

Tips for visiting South Africa DIY: Currency and Payments

The official currency of South Africa is the South African Rand and the current exchange rate is approximately 5 cents to 1 Rand. Remember that credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, so we recommend that you only change or withdraw small amounts of money.

You can change money directly at the airport or at banks or bureaux de change if you are visiting the cities. Our advice is to withdraw money from an ATM.

Tips for South Africa DIY trip: the language

English is the predominant language in South Africa, spoken in tourist facilities, restaurants, shops, etc. and by the majority of the population.

In families and communities, local languages, such as Zulu, may be spoken.

Tips for visiting South Africa DIY: the driving

If you are planning a South Africa DIY trip, our advice is to plan an ‘on the road’ itinerary and enjoy the beautiful, scenic coastal and inland roads.

Here are some driving tips for your DIY South Africa trip:

  • To hire a car in South Africa, you will need an International Driving Licence, which can be obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Although some car hire companies do not check whether you have one, we advise you not to drive without it: in the event of an accident or simply a police stop, you could be in serious trouble;
  • South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road: if you are not used to driving on the left-hand side of the road or do not feel confident doing so, it is advisable to rent a car with an automatic gearbox;
  • Do not drive in the evening as it is not uncommon for an animal to be on the road. If you are in the city in the evening, opt for an Uber, which is widely used in South Africa;
  • Obey the speed limits as there are many speed cameras along the roads and not all of them are well signposted;
  • We spoke to some locals and it turned out that in some areas there are some ‘problems’ with police checks (this never happened to us): if they stop you, they may ask you for money. For this reason, we were advised to have a second wallet with us, to be delivered in case of “request”.

Tips for South Africa DIY trip: the phone SIM

If you are planning a South Africa DIY trip, we recommend a local phone plan with data available for surfing and not relying on wifi alone.

Major phone companies, such as Vodacom and MTN, offer special tariff plans for tourists at a cost of between EUR 10 and EUR 20, which include call minutes, surfing data and messages. We recommend that you buy a local SIM directly upon arrival at the airport.

In general, signal coverage is always very good, both in the cities and in inland areas.

Viaggio in Sudafrica fai da te - Elephant Whispers in Sudafrica - South Africa DIY

DIY South Africa travel tips: Elephant Whispers

Viaggio in Sudafrica fai da te - Bourke's Luck Potholes - South Africa DIY

DIY South Africa travel tips: Bourke's Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga

Viaggio in Sudafrica fai da te - Leonesse nel Kruger National Park - South Africa DIY

DIY South Africa travel tips: Lionesses in Kruger National Park

Tips for South Africa DIY trip: the food

As Italians, we are a bit spoilt when it comes to ‘good food’, but we can assure you that we have eaten very well in South Africa!

South African dishes are mainly meat-based and the most popular are braai (meat grilled over a fire), bobotie (a meat pie) and potjie (a meat stew). You will find all kinds of meat, from chicken to beef and plenty of game.

In places along the coast you will also find many fish dishes, such as shellfish and freshly caught blue fish.

We recommend that you accompany your meal with a good bottle of South African wine: the wines produced in the cellars of Stellenbosch and Constantia are now world famous and we can assure you that they are of excellent quality.

With this article, we hope we have provided you with valuable tips and useful information for planning your South Africa DIY trip! A DIY trip to South Africa is an incredible experience, allowing you to visit unique places and experience exciting moments on safari or while visiting the beautiful coastline of this state.

If you want to learn more about South Africa, don’t miss the related articles and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment on our article, we will be more than happy to answer them! Stay connected with us via the newsletter and social channels and, as always…trip to try!

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