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South Africa Travel Guide

Before you set off on your journey to one of the most breathtaking countries here is a guide to help make your visit a trip of a lifetime!

South Africa is located at the southern tip with a population of 59.89 million and 11 official languages. South Africa is fairly unique compared with other countries as it has three capitals: Cape Town, Pretoria and Bloemfontein. The most popular languages spoken here are Afrikaans and English.

South Africans are known worldwide for their skills in sports such as rugby, cricket, golf and soccer. They are also passionate about music and often use singing and dancing to express social and political ideas.

The Best Time to Visit

This country offers a brilliant spot for tourism due to its beautiful beaches, stunning views, world-class food, incredible wildlife and gorgeous weather. A Cape Town holiday is best during peak summer from December to February. For first-time visitors, a minimum of 10–14 days is recommended for a stay in South Africa. This time frame allows you to explore the country's highlights without feeling rushed.

A cheaper time to visit would be between the winter months which is June to September however, this is the perfect time to visit the safari and you are more likely to witness the big five. The weather also becomes more bearable with cooler evenings. For more in-depth information about the best time to visit check out our page.

South Africa safari

Must Visit Destinations

South Africa stands out as one of the world's most diverse and captivating destinations. It offers something for everyone, including game reserves, national parks, white-sand beaches, and lively cities. With countless incredible places to visit, South Africa has much to offer. We're here to share our top recommendations.

Cape Town

Cape Town is one of the best places to travel in South Africa. If you love the outdoors, this is the place for you! Cape Town is a dream destination and a great place to enjoy several bucket list adventures– ascend the mountain in the cable car for breathtaking views from the top, go shark diving and whale watching, commune with the penguins while soaking up the sun, ride an ostrich or enjoy a wildlife safari a few miles outside of the city. And that’s just a taste of what’s in store! Our favourite place to visit in Cape Town is Boulders Beach. Here, you can swim with penguins!

We believe the ideal time to visit Cape Town is between October and April when the weather is warm and sunny, perfect for exploring the city and nearby beaches. For those looking to avoid peak season, consider travelling in the shoulder months of September or May. Though there's a higher likelihood of rain, you'll find more affordable hotel and flight options.

Cape Town is well connected. The nearest airport is Cape Town International Airport (CPT). It’s a 15-minute drive from the city centre. There are daily international flights to and from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as domestic flights within South Africa to destinations such as Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and George.


Johannesburg is South Africa’s most diverse, progressive and energetic city, There’s nowhere better if you want to see the face of modern South Africa and get a sense of how far the nation’s come and where it’s going next. Johannesburg buzzes with entertainment and is a popular tourist attraction with lots to do such as shopping, tours and museums. Not to be missed is the live music- Johannesburg offers the best nightlife in South Africa, attracting top musical performers from around the country and abroad.

The best time to visit Johannesburg depends a bit on what you want to do, but here's a breakdown of what you can expect. Spring, September, October and November, is one of the best times to visit Johannesburg. The weather is mild, with daytime temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). We recommend avoiding the winter months such as June to August unless you are visiting for indoor activities as Johannesburg is mild and dry, with temperatures between 4°C and 20°C (39°F to 68°F).

There are two airports in Johannesburg. Johannesburg O.R Tambo International Airport is one of the main airports in the country, with domestic and international flights to/from the airport. Johannesburg Lanseria International Airport is a smaller airport, which only has a few services from a small number of airlines.

 Cape Town Boulders Beach

Kruger National Park

If you’re wondering where to visit in South Africa for a safari, we highly recommend Kruger National Park. You may even be lucky enough to spot the big five! This vast expanse in the northeast of the country is home to 140 species of mammals, including giraffes, cheetahs, elephants, lions, and rhinos.

The best time to travel to South Africa for a safari is during the winter, between May and September. These months offer dry and sunny weather, and you’ll have a higher chance to spot the Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhino) at this time. This is because there is less vegetation than during the rainy summer season, and animals gravitate towards waterholes and streams.

Looking for flights to Kruger National Park? The nearest major international airport is O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB). From here, you can take a regional flight to Hoedspruit Airport (HDS), a short drive from Kruger National Park. Cemair and Airlink offer daily flights from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. 

Garden Route

The iconic South African Garden Route reaches from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, along one of the world's most breathtaking coastlines. Here are some must-visit places along the Garden Route

  • The Garden Route is also famous for the iconic wineries which date back to the 1700s with world-class Sauvignons and Shiraz. You can browse through the scenic vineyards and enjoy wine tasting. It's also a great place to visit if you'd like to honeymoon in South Africa.

  • The Whale Watching Capital of the World is also part of the Garden Route which is the sleepy seaside town of Hermanus.

  • The Garden Route is home to a selection of top-class golf courses. There are several challenging and well-maintained courses (a total of 13). Indulge in a round of 18 holes while still benefiting from all the other appealing features of the area.

  • Addo Elephant National Park stretches to the coast and is also an important protected area for birdlife, penguins, seals and other marine life, not least whales. Given that this park is home to both the largest land mammals and sea mammals, as well as rhino, buffalo and zebra, Addo is not somewhere to dash through.

  • The Garden Route’s year-round temperate climate means this is a destination made for the great outdoors. Temperatures are highest in summer (November to April) but be warned that the area gets very busy over the Christmas school holidays.

George Airport: ideally located for combining Cape Town with the Garden Route but without the big drive between them, this airport is located at the start of the Garden Route and is also served by flights from Johannesburg.

Port Elizabeth Airport: positioning itself as either the end of the Garden Route or as the gateway to the Eastern Cape‘s private Big 5 reserves, Port Elizabeth Airport is served by flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Cape Town South Africa Beach


Knysna is a small town on South Africa’s Garden Route, filled with charming cafes, waterfront restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops. Surrounded by ancient forests to the north and the Knysna Lagoon to the south, the town offers endless activities and attractions.

We suggest spending three nights in Knysna to fully soak in the town's relaxed atmosphere and explore its surrounding natural beauty. This duration also allows you to take a day trip to Plettenberg Bay. Plett is home to some of South Africa’s most beautiful beaches, including Lookout Beach, Robberg 5, and Keurbooms Beach. 

Plan to visit Knysna between December and March during the summer months. The weather is warm and sunny, ideal for outdoor activities, beach days, and exploring South Africa’s Garden Route.

The nearest airport to Knysna is George Airport (GRJ), a one-hour drive from the town centre. You can fly to George from major cities across South Africa, including Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Bloemfontein with airlines including FlySafair and Airlink.

For international travellers, we advise flying to Cape Town International Airport (CPT). It’s a large hub with regular flights to and from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.


Stellenbosch is one of the most beautiful places to travel in South Africa. This charming town is renowned as one of the world’s most famous wine regions, with some vineyards dating back to the 1600s. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape variety in Stellenbosch, and numerous vineyards offer the opportunity to sample local wines.

In addition to its renowned wines, Stellenbosch is a fantastic destination for food enthusiasts. Often referred to as the gourmet capital of South Africa, it boasts a wide array of restaurants, bars, and picnic spots to satisfy all tastes. We recommend The Table at De Meye, which offers exceptional farm-to-table cuisine.

The best time to visit Stellenbosch is between September and April. The weather is warm and dry at this time. The nearest airport to Stellenbosch is Cape Town International Airport (CPT), a 30-minute drive from the town centre.

Landscape in South Africa

Activites and Attractions

South Africa has a brilliant reputation for having lots of exciting activities for everyone to get involved. Popular activies and attractions in South Africa include wildlife safaris, shark cage diving, wine tasting, hiking and surfing. If you're looking to make this trip unforgettable here are some suggested activities and attractions.


Arguably the best thing about going on safari is the wildlife. From the glorious Big Five (lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard) to hundreds of extraordinary bird species, visiting Africa is a treat for animal lovers. Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat is an experience you'll never forget.

In all, South Africa has 19 national parks and countless private game reserves, each offering an unforgettable wildlife experience where no two days are ever the same. Safari parks are a bucket list experience that everyone can do. Not only that but it's also an opportunity to see the big five.

Kruger National Park is the prime game park, with 19,485 sq km of bushveld, tropical forests, savannah and mountains teeming with more than 140 mammal species. Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape is the world’s first Big 7 Conservation Area, home to the traditional Big 5, plus the unique marine additions of the great white shark and southern right whale.

Plan your trip from June to September for optimal wildlife viewing. Animals tend to gather at watering holes during these drier, cooler months.

Shark Cage Diving

There are only a handful of places in the world that allow you to participate in this adrenaline-pumping adventure and South Africa is one of them. Only a two-hour scenic drive from Cape Town, Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai is without a doubt the most exhilarating experience not to be missed. While cage diving can be experienced year-round, breaching expeditions only take place during the winter months, from June to September.

If you're feeling brave enough to swim with these majestic creatures then South Africa is definitely the best place to do it!

Zebras in the Safari Park

Wine Tasting

There are many contestants for the world’s most beautiful vineyard prize, but South Africa is ten leaps ahead of the rest! Nowhere is this truer than in the legendary Western Cape. In Stellenbosch (the country’s premier fine wine region), brilliant green pastures sandwiched between the mountains and the sea expand into the breathtaking Franschhoek Valley.

This is the perfect place for those wanting a relaxing trip but also to make the most out of the culture South Africa has to offer. Not only do you get to see stunning landscapes but you also get to enjoy a glass of wine, what more could you want?

This is a very popular attraction for tourists as all wineries in South Africa have their own story to tell, winemaking techniques, and unique wines to offer their guests.

Cable Cars

Your visit to Cape Town isn't complete without a ride on the cable cars. It’s rare to find a mountain right in the middle of a city, especially one towering to 1,000 metres (over 3,500 feet) as Table Mountain does. Hopping into the cable cars that travel up and down the side of the mountain. This way you get to experience a breathtaking view that extends across Cape Town although we wouldn't recommend it if you're terrified of heights.

Vineyard South Africa

Whale Watching

Every year between June and December, southern right and humpback whales can be seen along the south coast from Cape Town to Mossel Bay. During this period, both species are frequently seen with calves, as they use South African waters for calving and rearing their young. This has become a huge tourist attraction and Hermanus in South Africa is considered to be the world's premier site for watching whales and the many people who flock there during the Whale season.

You also have the option to swim with the whales. Guided boat tours or shore-based whale-watching excursions allow you to witness these gentle giants frolicking in Walker Bay, with the chance to swim alongside them in designated areas.

Cango Caves

If you are into your history then this excursion is for you! The Cango Caves are located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The principal cave is one of the country's finest, best-known, and most popular tourist caves and attracts many visitors from overseas.

The Cango Caves is a cultural and natural landmark in South Africa. The 20 million-year-old Cango Caves system consists of a series of hidden chambers cut deep into a thick limestone rock layer.

There are two different tours you can take part in. The first one is the Heritage tour which is an easy walk through the first six largest and most spectacular halls and continues through to the "African Drum room". The second tour is the adventure tour which is more challenging, with exciting passages and narrow tunnels, requiring a degree of fitness. If you're more on the adventurous side then add this to you're list!

Whale Watching in South Africa

Practical Information

There are a few things you need to know before visiting South Africa such as visa and passport information and how to stay safe.

Depending on your nationality and your reason for visiting South Africa, the required documents will vary. Generally, if you're flying from the US, UK or Europe, you'll need a passport, proof of return ticket, travel insurance, proof of sufficient funds and if you're travelling for more than 90 days then a visa. Before entering South Africa, make sure you have all of the necessary vaccinations required. The official currency of South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR). After arriving in South Africa, you need to think about your safety, security and health for the best experience possible.

To find out more about passports, visas, exchanging currency and common crimes to watch out for head to our page on South Africa travel advice so you don't miss out on any important information!

houses in South Africa

Food and Drink

As well as endless adventures there is also there's a wide range of delicious food to try while you're in South Africa.

There’s nothing that says ‘South African food’ more than braai. Braai means ‘barbeque’ in Afrikaans, but to be considered a braai the food must be grilled over fire, and not gas. They’re usually very meat-heavy with sausages, steaks and skewers, though fish is popular along the coast. Getting together with family and friends for a braai is a huge part of South African culture.

South Africa is fast becoming one of the most interesting wine-producing regions in the world. Quality has risen steeply in the past decade so be sure to enjoy a glass (or two) of the region’s world-class reds. Surrounded by orchards and mountains, it's also a beautiful place to soak up the scenery.

Flanked by two oceans – the Indian Ocean and the Southern Atlantic – South Africa boasts some of the best seafood dining experiences you’ll ever have. From an indulgent oyster platter overlooking the ocean in Cape Town to a spicy seafood curry in Durban, the seafood here is fresh, cheap and flavoursome.

This quintessential South African snack tends to divide people. Some find this preserved, spiced meat snack impossible to refuse, and others simply can’t stand the smell – let alone stomach it. Looks like you’ll need to make up your own mind on this one!

South African food

Cultural Insights

South Africa has been famously referred to as the Rainbow Nation because it is made up of so many diverse cultures and religions. The country has 11 official languages and many more unofficial languages. This colourful mix of cultures is what gives South Africa its nickname “Rainbow Nation“.

The Cape Town Jazz Festival stands as a pinnacle of musical excellence, drawing artists and aficionados from around the globe. Set against the stunning backdrop of Table Mountain, this festival offers a diverse blend of jazz styles, from traditional to contemporary. This is typically held over the last weekend of March or the first weekend of April and creates an immersive experience for everyone!

Heritage Day, fondly known as Braai Day, celebrates the cultural heritage of South Africa. Across the nation, communities come together to partake in the tradition of braaing (barbecuing), bringing people from diverse backgrounds together through food, music, and camaraderie. It’s a day to honour and embrace the unique identities that contribute to the Rainbow Nation’s collective story.

In 1652, the Netherlands established the southern city of Cape Town, and Dutch farmers, called Boers, began settling in the areas around the city. In 1806, wars in Europe left the British in control of the Cape Town colony. In 1910, the British united four colonies in the region and created South Africa. There are lots of popular museums located in South Africa where you can learn more about this.

Durban South Africa

Tips for Travellers

Before you set off on your journey to South Africa here are a few traveller tips that will give you the knowledge you need to navigate the country with confidence:

  • Staying hydrated is so important as dehydration is a common risk in hot and sunny countries like South Africa.

  • If you don't want to be restricted to certain routes offered by domestic flights, buses and trains, why not hire a car instead? You'll get more flexibility and freedom to explore South Africa at your own pace, allowing you to reach the most remote destinations that aren't easily accessible by public transport.

  • Did you know that South Africa has 11 official languages? The two most important languages spoken in South Africa are Afrikaans and English.

  • South Africa is a diverse country known for its relaxed and casual atmosphere. While there is no strict dress code, it's important to maintain a sense of modesty, especially when visiting rural areas.
South Africa road trip

Are you ready to explore South Africa?

After reading this comprehensive travel guide, you should now be prepared for your adventure to South Africa. With a bit of planning and this guide by your side, you're all set to experience the trip of a lifetime!

Flights to South Africa

If you haven't booked your flights to South Africa yet, you can do so right here with Alternative Airlines. We ticket over 600 airlines, including South African Airways and more, on our site and offer over 40 different ways to pay, including Buy Now Pay Later! Simply use our search form at the top of the page to start searching for flights to South Africa.

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