Travelling In South Africa? Your Questions Answered

South Africa is a true melting pot of culture, colour, history, and natural beauty. If it is not on your travel radar, it certainly should be, whether you are an adrenaline junkie or someone who lets their stomach lead the way on their adventures. 

But, you likely have some questions about the culture and travelling etiquette in the country. We answer all of these questions and more in our top tips for travelling in South Africa.

Is It Safe To Travel In South Africa?

This is one of the most asked questions about a South African holiday, and the answer is yes – but you must always practice awareness of your surroundings.

There are certain crimes to be aware of, including carjacking, armed robbery, and petty theft. However, this should not deter you from visiting our beautiful country and experiencing all we have to offer.

Follow our useful safety tips:

  • Never leave valuables lying around or out of your sight, especially while driving or parking your car.
  • If you are arriving at one of the airports, make sure that you are using a proper suitcase or lockable hard shell suitcase. Keep your valuables on your person and, if possible, ask for your luggage to be wrapped for added security.
  • Do not keep your camera or cell phone in plain sight when walking the streets. If you need to take a photograph, make sure you can easily store it in a bag afterwards.
  • Avoid hitchhiking at all costs. It is better to rent a car or, alternatively make use of ride sharing applications if you will be drinking and want to avoid driving.

Staying alert and aware is important in any tourist-heavy country, so remember this when exploring South Africa.

Should I Take Out Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance in South Africa is important, and you should certainly make sure your belongings are covered. This is also true if you are renting a car – ensuring that you have the right insurance will cover you for every eventuality. 

For adrenaline junkies, having travel insurance is vital. You might decide to go abseiling, river rafting, or even shark cage diving, and have an accident. Without this insurance, you will have a hefty hospital bill and might have to use the money you saved for your adventure for these costs.

Should I Learn The Language?

Yes! But, this might be a little tricky…South Africa has eleven official languages (Sepedi (also known as Sesotho sa Leboa), Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu). 

While many people do speak English, there have been some twists added to common words in the other languages, so learning some phrases before your holiday to South Africa can help you to speak to the locals:

  • Howzit: This is a common greeting used instead of “Hello, how are you?” It is largely informal, but used in almost any setting.
  • Eish: A Khoi-San expression used to express shock or surprise. It is used by almost all races and cultures because it is so expressive.
  • Braai: A braai is a barbecue – but it is also so much more. It is truly a cultural experience and you will often be invited to a braai during a sports game, to celebrate a holiday…or just because it is a sunny Saturday.
  • Now Now: This is used to mean right away or in the very near future, or as soon as possible.
  • Just Now: This can be highly confusing if you are not from South Africa. “Just now” does not mean “right now” – it can mean anything from an hour to an entire day.
  • Robot: A robot is a traffic light – remember to keep this in mind when asking for directions.

Luckily, most establishments have staff who speak English, so you will not need to learn a new language to ask for help.

Do I Need To Research Anything?

Researching day trips in South Africa and self-drive safarisas well as the COVID-19 regulations in South Africa can certainly help you to make a decision on what activities you want to take part in and what provinces you want to visit.

You should consider when and where you would like to visit, especially as some attractions are only available or active during certain seasons, and how long you would like to stay for. Performing proper and realistic research of where you want to go, how long you would like to spend there, and what you would like to do will help you to plan your budget and time wisely.

Should I Tip?

Unlike many parts of Asia and some European countries, tipping is considered normal in South Africa. 

Tipping at restaurants is normal, but you will also be expected to tip other service industry workers, such as car guards (people who watch your cars for safety in parking lots – however, this is not a law, just good practice), petrol attendants, tour guides and tour guide drivers, and fast-food delivery people.

Most restaurants do not include a service charge on the bill. The tip should, at minimum, be 10% of the bill. You will also see an additional 14% VAT added to the bill, which can be confused for the tip.

Have Fun

Travelling in South Africa can be both exciting and daunting if you are unaware of some of the nuances of the country. It is perfectly safe to travel in the major cities, provided you protect your valuables and keep aware of your surroundings – also, ensure you have travel insurance for yourself and belongings.

Learn some of the lingo, look up where to go, and rent a car with Star Car Rental and you will be well on your way to having a fantastic adventure.

Is Cape Town Safe For Travelling?

Cape Town is one of the most popular – and coolest – places in South Africa for tourists to visit. 

It has one of the most memorable and identifiable landmarks in the country, Table Mountain, and is famous for being a unique cultural melting pot.

But, is Cape Town safe for Travelling, especially in 2021?

While there are some safety issues that occur in most large metropoles, Cape Town is generally safe for travelling – of course, there are COVID-19 regulations in place that must be followed to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure. 

Below we break down how safe Cape Town is for travelling in terms of COVID-19 and in general.

What Travellers Need To Know About COVID-19 In Cape Town

Before you plan your Cape Town holiday, it is important to know how South Africa is handling tourists.

If you are an international tourist, when you arrive at the Cape Town International Airport you will need to provide a negative COVID test that is not older than 72 hours, from the time of departure of your country. 

Upon arrival at the airport, you will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms or if you have had any contact with someone who may have suffered from the virus recently. You will also need to provide proof of an address where you will be staying for the duration of your trip to Cape Town. 

South Africa is currently in adjusted Alert Level 2 of lockdown, and the restrictions are as follows:

  • Wearing face masks is mandatory (excluding children under the age of six years) when in a public place. If you fail to comply with this rule, you are liable to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or to both a fine and imprisonment.
  • There is a curfew from 23h00 until 04h00, unless you have arrived on a flight or are travelling to or from an airport during these restricted hours of movement. In these cases, you must be in possession of a valid boarding pass as proof of flight or a copy of the airline ticket.
  • Establishments will be closed at 21h30 or 22h00 at the latest, to allow for their staff to arrive home before the curfew starts.
  • If you are attending a gathering or party, you must wear a face mask and maintain social distancing. Indoor events are limited to 100 persons or less and indoor events are limited to 250 persons or less.
  • For those who enjoy eating out, restaurants and bars are limited to a maximum of 100 people for indoor venues and 250 people for outdoor venues. All people must maintain one-and-a-half metres while socialising and must wear a mask (unless eating or drinking).
  • Hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, timeshare facilities, resorts, and guest houses are allowed full capacity of the available rooms for accommodation, but all guests must wear face masks and practice social distancing in common spaces.

These measures might sound strict, but they have been put in place to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. 

So, how safe is Cape Town for travelling during COVID-19? Judging by the measures in place, we would say, pretty safe!

General Safety

As with any major city and tourist attraction, there are safety issues to be concerned about when travelling in Cape Town. However, if you have some tips to follow to ensure your safety, your Cape Town holiday can be fun and safe. 

  • Look for tourist areas: The tourist areas are generally the safer areas of Cape Town, as there are more people around and higher levels of security. These areas are the V&A Waterfront, Camps Bay, Sea Point, Green Point, Constantia, Muizenberg, and Kloof Street. Loop Street is a popular backpacking area but be sure to remain alert when walking through this busy area.
  • Keep your belongings safe: When walking around the streets or from your car to a restaurant or shopping centre, make sure that your belongings are safe. Avoid wearing trousers or skirts that have easy-to-reach pockets where your cellphone or wallet can be removed, and rather keep them in a bag or backpack that is kept closed.
  • Use a rental car: One of the best ways to maintain safety in Cape Town is to hire a car as transport. Not only will you be able to drive to and from your destinations easily, but you can also avoid using public transport, which can be unsafe at times. Always keep windows wound up and doors locked at traffic lights, and make sure you have your route planned.
  • Save emergency numbers: Knowing who to call in an emergency is vital, so make sure to save the following numbers to your phone:
    • Emergencies from a mobile: 112
    • Emergencies from a landline: 107
    • South African Police Service: 10111
    • Medical & Fire Emergencies: 021 535 1100
    • Table Mountain NP Emergencies: 021 480 7700
    • Sea & Mountain Rescue: 021 948 9900
    • National Sea Rescue Institute: 082 911
    • Baboon Monitors: 071 588 6540
    • Shark Spotters: 078 174 4244
    • Ambulance: 10177

Remember to be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone at night. Any city at night can be unsafe, so it is best to avoid being out too late in the evening.

Safety in Cape Town should not put you off exploring this beautiful city. Hire a car and start your next big South African adventure with Star Car Rental.

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What Car Rental Insurance Do I Need?

Car rental insurance in South Africa is an absolute necessity when visiting the country.

But it can be confusing if you are not fully aware of everything involved, which can lead to you choosing an option which might not provide you with full cover. 

Not sure where to start with rental car insurance in South Africa? Below we look at the most asked questions and provide easy-to-understand answers.

What Happens When I Damage A Rental Car in An Accident?

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If you are involved in an accident, you will need to obtain the names and details of the other parties involved in the accident. You will also need to provide them with your details, as well as the name of the car rental company. 

If the accident does involve another party, you must report it to the nearest South African Police Service within 24 hours. This will provide you with a case reference number, which is required by the rental company for the hire car insurance claim. 

You must report the incident immediately to your car hire company, as well as advise them of your location, contact details, and the details of the damages to enable a replacement vehicle to be sent if required. 

Take as many photographs of the accident and damages as possible for the insurance claim.

What Happens If A Vehicle Is Broken into Or Stolen?

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Vehicle theft is an unfortunate reality in South Africa, so it is important to know what to do in terms of car hire insurance. 

You must report the incident immediately to the nearest South African Police Services and obtain a case number. Once you have done this, contact the rental car company immediately and provide them with the police case reference number. 

You will also need to advise the rental car company of your location and contact details so that a replacement vehicle can be sent to you.

What Happens If My Rental Vehicle Breaks Down?

Star car what car rental insurance should you get blog car hire in Cape Town

It is always best to be prepared for a breakdown situation, which is why you need car rental insurance in South Africa. 

In case of a breakdown, your rental contract will have an emergency contact number listed. You should keep your contract with you while driving so you have easy access to this number. 

You will need to phone that number and provide them with your location, your contact number, and describe what the problem is with the vehicle. You must make a note of the name of the person you speak to. 

Contact your car rental company as well so that they can follow up on their side to ensure proper protocol is followed. 

A replacement vehicle will be dispatched to you as soon as possible.

What Happens If I Lose My Keys?

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If you lose your car rental keys, there is no need to panic if you have car hire insurance. Contact your car rental immediately to provide your contact details and location of the vehicle. 

A replacement vehicle will be arranged, but you will be charged a fee. It is best to keep the keys for the rental car in a safe, secure place when they are not in use.

Can Someone Else Drive My Rental Car?

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The answer to one of the most common questions, “Can someone else drive my rental car?” is no. Only people who are listed as drivers on the contract may drive the rental vehicle.  

If an unlisted driver is involved in an accident, you will be held responsible for the total loss, which may even be greater than the value of the vehicle.

You can add an additional driver, if necessary, by going to the depot where you received the vehicle, together with the additional driver, who must have their licence and passport with them to update the insurance for the car rental. 

The vehicle needs to be checked at the depot for damages, prior to adding the additional driver.  If in any doubt, contact Martin or Denise at Star Car Rental for advice.

What Third Party Damage Coverage Do I Need?

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Third party damage insurance will cover you for damages to other vehicles or property that have been damaged in an accident. 

Injury or death to persons involved in an accident is covered by the state-owned Road Accident Fund legislation. This is not covered by the Car Rental companies insurance.

Not knowing exactly what you are covered for can lead to a significant financial cost if you are involved in an accident in your rental car. 

Many companies offer the bare minimum of third party and accident cover, and that is often reflected in the lower daily rates offered.

Be sure to establish what exactly is covered and more importantly what is not.Make sure to read over all the exclusions in the insurance documents for your car rental. 

Live online quotations will often not provide any of the finer details. You need to do some digging. Most companies also limit the total third-party damage cover to a capped amount.

Star Car Rental quotations supply exact details of what is included in your daily rate. Feel free to ask us any questions.

What Does TLW And CDW Mean?

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There are some car rental insurance acronyms that might be confusing, so let us break them down. 

TLW means Theft Loss Waiver and CDW means Collision Damage Waiver

By accepting these waivers, your liability is limited to the amount of the excess, which is payable by you in the event of accident or theft of the vehicle. This is known as the excess portion.

Star Car Rental offers the options of a Nil excess at a slightly higher daily rate. 

If you decline to accept the waivers, you will find that most car rental companies will not conclude a contract. 

Most car rental companies will also not allow you to use your credit card insurance cover, and this is common in several other countries. You cannot contract out of insurance cover without depositing the full replacement value of the vehicle you are hiring.

Ensure You Are Insured

Understanding car rental insurance in South Africa will not only make your trip run smoothly, but it will save you from incurring costs that you could easily have avoided. 

If you know what to do if you damage a vehicle, if the vehicle is stolen or broken into, or if the vehicle breaks down can help to ensure no major issues crop up on your holiday. 

Scheduling in your next adventure to sunny South Africa? Choose Star Car Rental for affordable, easy car rental.

Car Rental Insurance

3 Real Life Lessons About Car Rental Insurance You Need To Know

You obtain a great cheap quotation that includes full car rental insurance. The quote is far better than other quotes you have received so you are feeling more than confident and you go ahead and book your rental car.

During your trip you accidentally collide with the rear of a top range Mercedes but happily breathe a sigh of relief that not only are there no injuries, and that you have full car rental insurance cover.

You report the accident to the Rental Company and then you find out about the harsh realities about Car Rental Insurance…


The rental company explains that you agreed to the terms and conditions of the contract, that in the event of your hitting another vehicle from behind, you are not covered. It is there in black and white and you signed it! Suddenly you are liable not only for the damages to the rental vehicle, but to the owner of the Mercedes you collided with.

That could land you with a liability that could easily run into a couple of hundred thousand Rands. Within a short few moments your trip went from idyllic holiday to real-life nightmare and you have no idea how you will ever repay this huge debt.

Car Rental Insurance




A beauty therapist hired a rental vehicle taking the highest possible insurance. Her first ordeal was swerving to avoid an animal in the road and she swerved off the road crashing into a rock face. Her second was realising that despite taking the highest accident and loss waiver available, she was not covered for the damage.

Unfortunately the exclusions she had agreed to kicked in and because her accident had not been caused by her physically hitting something she had no protection. She now owes some R300 000 for a written off rental car and some R50 000 for legal fees.

Ironically had she hit the animal she would have been fully covered.

Sunday Times on 27.9.2015 by Megan Power


An unnamed holiday maker was involved in an accident and caused damage amounting to some R150 000 and the insurers wrote the car off. The car was valued at R225 000. Again they took full cover insurance but were informed that their third party cover was limited to a maximum of R50 000. That meant that they were liable for the balance of some R175 000.

The small print of this particular rental company clearly showed that cover is limited, but like 90% of the average renter, few ever read the small print at the back of the rental contract.


Another unnamed holiday maker hired a sedan vehicle and on the spur of the moment and decided to travel to a game farm where one often encounters some terrible farm roads which result in severe damage to the undercarriage of the vehicle.

On returning the vehicle they found that they were liable for the total damages caused of some R30 000. Again because of the exclusions they agreed to, their contract clearly showed that any undercarriage damage was excluded.


People hate contracts and hate small print even more, so it is a known fact that maybe one in every hundred people ever take the time and trouble to read them. When something goes wrong then all hell breaks loose.

We all tend to look at the price and opt for the lowest possible one. The old saying is “you get what you pay for” and it is generally very true whether you are building a house, booking a holiday or renting a car.

Remember that rental companies rent similar vehicles, pay the same prices for the vehicles and have much the same operating costs so when a price is cheap there is a reason.

Car Rental Insurance


1. Keep in mind that car rental companies are not insurance companies and are not permitted to sell insurance in any event;

2. Each car rental company is different and while most will offer full insurance to inbound travelers, keep in mind that full insurance generally only means the highest waiver offered in terms of the rental car but there are always exclusions which you must check;

3. Find out most importantly what the extent of third party cover is. This means damages caused to other vehicles or property by your actions.  It varies between zero and unlimited in my research.

4. Check what damages are excluded from the car rental insurance cover? Water damage; undercarriage, non-accident damage; negligence; accidents involving no other vehicles; damage resulting from driving on unsuitable roads and the list goes on…

5. Very important to note is a common clause which gives the rental company in its sole discretion, the right to entertain a third party claim. If there are any breaches to the terms and conditions contained in the rental contract, the renter may well find himself fully liable for all the third party claims.



  • Opt for the best possible Car Rental Insurance cover that is available even if it does cost more.

  • Never take the lowest price without comparing the proverbial apples with apples.

  • Insist on your quotation containing all the information you want and never be hesitant to ask.

  • NEVER EVER, allow anybody else to drive the vehicle who is not registered as an additional driver.

  • Drive carefully, never recklessly, keep to the speed limits, stay sober and adhere to the terms and conditions of the car rental contract carefully to keep your risk as low as possible.


Star Car rental wishes you happy and safe motoring in South Africa.