Let’s Travel to South Africa

Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

In 2013, after graduating as a Radiation Therapist and before settling down into my career, I decided I wanted to do some traveling. I didn’t know why, but I was very drawn to Africa and so that was where my adventure would begin. My friend Stephen joined me in our backpacking journey and I was VERY lucky to have him, not only for the company, but he had traveled throughout these countries before! 

I thought that it would be nice to put a post together to give you guys an idea of different ways you can travel within South Africa. I reached out to a couple of people who also traveled in South Africa and we all did it on different budgets. 

I did not use a travel agency when I went but if I were to go back, I would be traveling around the country more and would for sure use one. We stayed in Cape Town the whole time, whereas, my friend traveled for a month and used a travel agency to plan her honeymoon. She used the Travel Butlers and highly recommends them! You tell them your budget, time you want to go and a rough idea of things you want to see or do and they do the rest! 

Language: Afrikaans, English and Xhosa.

Money: Rand (R) 1R=$0.094 Canadian

When to Go

Depending what your highlights will be on your trip to South Africa, travel is great year round! Click here for a great resource for when to travel to certain areas depending on what you want to see when you are there. 

Best way to see the highlights

Rent a car!! This will maximize your experience and allow you to see what YOU want. Driving the Garden Route is an experience in itself and something that shouldn’t be missed. Some more information on the Garden Route is here

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Flying into Cape Town

Cape Town

How to Get Around

When we arrived in Cape Town, we took the public bus to the area of our hostel. If Stephen wasn’t with me I would have arranged for someone to be waiting at the airport for me to take me to my hostel. The public bus wasn’t complicated or scary but I just wouldn’t have known how to navigate it. If you decide to use an Uber, make sure you have added international cellular data to your plan beforehand. If a taxi is your preferred method, before you get in, make sure you negotiate with the driver what your fare will be. You will want to have an idea of what you should be paying prior to getting into the car. There are websites and apps that can help you understand what is a fair price. Another option would be to hire a driver for the day or however many days that you are planning on touring around. There are many different services that can provide you with this with a varying price range. Typically you can ask to have it arranged by your hotel but I would make sure to ask for the company name and read the reviews prior to booking. Lastly, you could rent a car. If you plan on touring around, this is a fantastic way to do it because you can decide when and where to stop on your way. I would urge you to never leave anything in the car while it is unattended but driving in Cape Town is safe. 

  • Public Bus ($)
  • Uber ($$)
  • Taxi ($$)
  • Private car hire ($$$$$)
  • Rent a car ($$$$)

WHERE TO STAY

Depending on which type of accommodations you decide, there are hostels, Airbnb, hotels, and luxury suites. The most budget friendly would be the hostels because you can choose what type of rooming that you want but it is also a great way to meet other travellers. They can start anywhere from $25-$150/night. If you want a quieter stay, I would suggest either an Airbnb or hotel which you can find starting at $50/night. If you choose to go luxury, it can range from $500-$2000/night depending on what is included in your stay. 

GREEN POINT AREA – This area is great because it is walking distance to the waterfront, the botanical gardens, the downtown core and longer walk to Camps Bay. 

TAMBOERSKLLOP AREA – This area is also perfect because it is just outside of the City Centre and at the bottom of Signal Hill. 

HOUT BAY AREA – This area is off the beaten path if you want to be away from the hustle and bustle but still be about a 30 minute drive into the City Centre. If you are looking to spoil yourself, this would be the spot! Make sure to look into Tintswalo Atlantic for a 5* experience! 

**Click here for printable PDF maps of Cape Town, as well as, maps of cycle trails, craft beer maps, wine routes and community hoods. 

WHAT TO DO + SEE

  • Sunrise hike of Lion’s Head (FREE)
  • Hike Table Mountain
  • Boat ride to Robben Island
  • Tour the Botanical Gardens
  • V&A Waterfront
  • Camps Bay
  • Self-drive or tour ($60CAD) to the Cape Peninsula stopping in Hout Bay, a small fishing village and Simon’s Town to Boulders Beach to see the penguins

 Franschhoek

If you are a lover of wine, this is a must for you! This small village is set at the bottom of a valley in the heart of the Cape Winelands and one of the oldest towns in South Africa. It is roughly an hour drive from Cape Town and best if you either rent or hire a car.

My friend stayed two nights at  La Fontaine Boutique Hotel which is just up the road from the main attraction of the quaint town, the Franschhoek Wine hop-on hop-off tram. You pay $40/day and the tram stops at various wine estates along the way. When you get off, you get 1 hour at the winery. 


Oudtshoorn

This small town is known for its Ostrich Show Farms. If you are going to stop in this town, make sure not to skip on lunch! Head to the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge for lunch. It overlooks an active waterhole so while you are enjoying your A la Carte authentic Karoo cuisine, you can watch as various animals stop at the waterhole. 

Something else worth taking in are the Cango Caves. The caves are located in a limestone ridge at the foothills of the Swartberg range just outside of Oudtshoorn. 


Knysna (“Nysna”)

Knysna is a lively holiday town with an active waterfront area. You can spend your days on the Brenton-on-Sea white sand beach, hike and kayak in the Tsitsikamma National Park, take a sunset cruise, or take the plunge and go bungy jumping off of the world’s tallest bridge (Bloukrans Bridge). 

The East Head Cafe comes highly recommended for lunch or dinner. It is located on the rocks of the famous Eastern Head which looks out through the Knysna Heads. This is a must if you love food and amazing views. 


Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth is known as the “Friendly City”. It is a holiday destination due to its gorgeous coastline and vast sandy beaches. PE is the end of the Garden Route and has its own airport for easy transfer back to a major hub.  

V&A Waterfront

Flying into Johannesburg

Another couple that I reached out to did their trip a little bit differently. They flew into Johannesburg and hired a driver to take them to the town of Pretoria. Here you can catch up on some sleep after your long flight before jumping on The Blue Train which will take you on a journey to Cape Town over the span of two days.

The Blue Train is a luxury train that has two different suites available. All meals are included, as well as, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Prices start at $1700CAD. The journey is an experience in itself, boasting with amazing views all along the way.

Hout Bay, South Africa

Plan a Safari

There are many different game reserves in South Africa that you can choose from and they all offer similar things but your experience can be very different with each. When it comes to booking a safari a lot of it has to do with personal preference and budget. For example, how much do you want to “rough” it versus a luxury stay? Do you want a tracker/guide? How many nights do you want to spend? These are all things to consider when booking your safari. In my opinion, this is one area on your trip that you should spend some money. If you have time, I suggest doing both an intimate game reserve and the self-drive in Kruger National Park, however, if you only have time for one, I would do one of the others mentioned below instead of Kruger.

Kruger National Park

The first one that will pop up on any google search will be Kruger National Park which is a self-drive safari experience. You can rent a car, pay the Daily Concession Fee and drive throughout the park. The park has both tarred and gravel roads that you are not allowed to veer off of. There are many signs throughout the park to help with ease of direction.

If anyone is reading this from Canada, Kruger National Park is roughly the size of Nova Scotia so the driving routes are endless. One of the downfalls in this park is that there are many many other cars in the park at the same time so it has a less authentic feel to it. When there is a sighting of something exciting like a lion, there can be upwards of 25 cars waiting to experience the same thing as you. The other thing that is a downfall when doing a self-drive is that you’re not getting the information about the different animals in the park as you see them.

Accommodations in Kruger National Park are very basic and there is not a lot to choose from but they run about $50/night. My friend stayed at Satara Rest Camp and Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp.

Klaserie Game Reserve

A friend of mine and her husband stayed for 3 nights at the nThambo Tree Camp ($$$) in the Klaserie Game Reserve and said it was an experience of a lifetime! It is a smaller reserve which makes it a more intimate setting with only 20 other people there. They had two game drives a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. The guides were very knowledgable and they saw the “Big Five” while at this reserve.

Madike Game Reserve

The Madike Game Reserve is one of South Africa’s largest game reserves and is located in the North West Province bordering Botswana. This reserve enforces strict rules on the amount of lodges in the area so that you have a more authentic experience. Travellers said that after an hour of driving, they may only see one other vehicle. The reserve is over 40 miles East to West so there is a lot of ground to cover, making your game drives more interesting when you’re not going down the same roads over and over again.

There are a few different options for accommodations ranging from $80/night to the luxury $1600/night. An African safari is something that I think you should splurge on. If you want a luxury stay, the Molori Safari Lodge ($$$$$) comes HIGHLY recommended. There are only five suites in the entire place and each comes with your own private infinity pool. If that doesn’t sell you, there is a whiskey bar that overlooks an active waterhole!

When you go on your game drives, they keep it at a maximum of 4 people per Jeep but if the lodge isn’t full, then chances are you will have your own private Jeep.

Scenic drive to Cape Peninsula
Road used in Mazda commercial “Zoom Zoom”

Hazyview

If you decide to go to Klaserie or Kruger Game Park and want to stop somewhere for some exercise, Hazyview is the place! The Rissington Inn will bring you a sense of calm and relaxation before and after you venture to Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the word. It boasts of panoramic views of lush greenery and scenic waterfalls. While in the area, you can opt to go on various hikes, bike rides, white water rafting, horseback riding, hot air balloon rides, boat trips, and fly fishing. This is a must-see if you are in the area!!

Safety

I would like to guess that most people who have had safety issues while traveling in any country were targeted because they were not taking precautions while touring around. I have traveled to all kinds of countries, whether it be first or third world countries and have never had any issues. However, there were times that I did feel unsafe but because I took the proper precautions, I did not become a victim. Some safety measures that you can take when traveling are: leave any flashy jewelry at home, do not flaunt expensive camera or gear, act like you know where you are going, do not walk alone at night (some countries do not go out at night at all) and lastly, if you can help it, try to tour around with someone instead of being alone.

View from Cape of Good Hope
Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town, South Africa

There are many more things that you can do in South Africa but I touched on some of the highlights. The places, accommodations and activities mentioned above are reviewed by either myself or friends that I trust. There are MANY more budget options that you can easily find on the internet but just make sure to read the reviews carefully. Planning a trip of this magnitude without any help can be stressful so if you have it in your budget, I highly recommend using a travel agency and The Travel Butlers did not disappoint for my friend and her husband.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I hope that you enjoyed learning about the amazing South Africa!!