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.