As you are walking through vast areas of veld seeing the sun slowly set and turning the sky into gold, you turn your head sideways. An ostrich has appeared only a few meters away from you, it is looking right at you. You freeze, not knowing what to do. It then slowly moves forward, crosses the path you are on. It increases its speed, it is now running. You can only see the ostrich getting smaller and smaller the further away it runs into the veld. On the other side of the large cliff which you are walking on, the ocean is roaring. You can see where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic meet, clashing into each other. You try to spot the ostrich, but it has disappeared into the golden sun. And with this spectacle of nature and its inhabitants, you realize how special this country is. You see the beauty and amazement of South Africa.
Young travelers as well as short trips etc. chose to go to the Rainbow Nation a lot. Thanks to a weak currency ( 1€ = 15 ZAR, July 2018), South Africa is inexpensive. Accommodation varies though. You can find hostels with a 10-20 bed dorm for 110- 150 ZAR per night and double the price for half the people in a room. Hotels will cost you at least 800 ZAR. When I was in South Africa, we had booked an apartment on the outskirts of Cape Town, a city called Strand. The price was absolutely humane and it was nice to live outside the city and get to know another place whilst also getting an extra amount of exploring when trying to get around.
Transportation in South Africa is, let’s say tricky. But do not hitchhike! Public transportation systems are not completely reliable. If you want to travel by bus, I would recommend using Greyhound and Baz Buses. They are fairly reliable and take you from one city to another. A bus from Johannesburg to Cape Town will cost you about 500 ZAR. Trains are less common but a lot more comfortable. Try to avoid the main stations though in the cities – they are home to a lot of homeless people and drug addicts. If you want to travel and explore a lot, renting a car is probably the easiest and best thing to do. A small car costs as little as 250 ZAR per day including insurance. We traveled the Western Cape of South Africa by car and found the most beautiful places by coincidence 🙂
And it is not called ‘The Rainbow Nation’ for nothing. South Africa has amazed me with its variety. You can find wineries with endless green in the country and breathtaking mountains with extraordinary forms, in the country or just on the coast (such as Table Mountain). You have cliffs but also plains, rocks and beaches. You have two world seas clashing together at the Cape of Good Hope, showing the heartbreaking beautiful brutality of the ocean. And the people, oh my. Their humor is one of its kind. And you have so many nations living together. I was at the food market at the Waterfront in Cape Town and it was like a song to me. You could hear people talking English, then others German, some Dutch were also among the crowd, others spoke to each other in Afrikaans and then switched into English when talking to a customer just to then continue talking in another African language. To me, Cape Town is where the world meets.
Yet, South Africa has a dark past. And you cannot fully know all the facets of a country without also seeing the other side of the medal. Apartheid was a very dominant topic, reaching its peak in the 20th century. Freedom and civil rights activists such as Nelson Mandela (South Africa’s most important man as many would say) helped the black people gain more or less equal rights. You should not leave Africa’s southest country without having entered an Apartheid museum and having learned about the history. Only after acknowledging the past, you will be able to understand the present and be able to see that some differences are still exisiting.
Food is also quite cheap. A nice dinner costs about 150-200 ZAR. For comparison: a beer costs around 30 ZAR and a bottle of water 10 ZAR. If you want to save money, grocery shopping is a good alternative to eating out. Yet, be “careful” when buying food because chicken, meet, cheese etc. is quite expensive. And due to the fact that hotels do not always offer free breakfast, malls always have breakfast places – with typical occidental meals, very similar to the US.
South Africa is, in contrast to e.g. Europe, not endangered by terrorist attacks. Yet, it is not the safest country either. This should not keep you from traveling to South Africa, though. If you keep following things in mind, it should be alright: Do not stay in the streets past 6 P.M. As soon as it gets dark and it is past 6 P.M., it is not safe to walk the streets of South Africa, no matter where in the country you are. I am sorry to say this, but ignore homeless people, beggars, hitchhikers etc. They are often working together with other people who stay hidden until they have the chance to rob you. Do not show your money in public, talk about where you want to spend your money, wear (expensive) jewelery or do anything else which attracts attention as you are then more likely to mugged.
- Restaurants: 10 – 15%
- Taxi: 10%
- Guides/Staff: 20 – 50ZAR (depends on whether or not it was full-day)
- Make sure your taxi driver starts his meter at the beginning of your ride, they often want to take someone for a ride – quite literally 🙂
- As in every occidental country, proper table manners are expected.
- Do understand that South Africa is somehow a dangerous country, respect and follow the tips other people give you in order to stay safe.
- Women in more rural areas are barely seen smoking or drinking in public.
- Do not make any comments disrespecting other skin-colors, especially white people harassing black people is not acceptable (nothing in this way should ever be). South Africa has a difficult history regarding Apartheid.
- Do not stop on roads. Stopping cars are a popular target to steal, injure people etc. It is even written on the billboards that you should not stop on roads.
- Screaming or any loud behaviour should be avoided when visiting National Parks and being near (dangerous) animals.