South Africa has seen its tourism industry continue to grow in recent years, particularly after the 2010 World Cup saw many cities benefit from redevelopment in varies areas.
The country has a long and varied history, and there are many museums and structures to visit if you are keen to learn more about South Africa’s culture and its people.
If you’re planning to travel to South Africa for your next holiday then make sure you plan ahead, so that you don’t miss out on any great experiences. You should also ensure that you have adequate travel insurance in place so that you are protected in case something goes wrong on your trip.
Do I need a visa and what vaccinations do I need to visit South Africa?
You don’t require a visa if you are travelling to South Africa for tourism or business, as long as you are staying for 90 days or less. If you plan to stay for longer, then you would need to look at getting a visa, otherwise you are likely to be declared undesirable, which could prevent you from entering the country again in the future.
Your passport should be valid for at least 30 days beyond the time that you plan to return from your holiday. Although, it is advised that you should have at least 6 months remaining on your passport when you arrive, as this required by some immigration officials in the country. You should also have a blank page in your passport, or two if you require a visa.
Ahead of your trip you should make sure that you are up-to-date on your vaccinations in the UK, including MMR and the seasonal flu vaccine. The NHS also suggests that you check you have boosters for diphtheria and hepatitis A, while you might also want to consider checking you have had vaccinations for hepatitis B, rabies, tetanus and typhoid. If you are not sure which vaccines you should get, you should speak with your GP for advice.
Malaria is also present in South Africa, it is transmitted by mosquitoes and can become a fatal - there is currently no vaccine. To reduce your risk of contracting malaria, you should try to avoid mosquito bites by wearing clothes that cover your body in the evenings and continually use insect repellent. Many areas are low risk for malaria, so it is worth researching ahead of your trip to see whether the risk is higher in the areas that you plan to visit.
Is it safe to travel to South Africa?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) says that South Africa has a high level of crime, which includes rape and murder. However, in many of the main tourist areas, the risk of violent crime is lower, so you should avoid going outside of major towns, unless you are with a tour guide. The FCO says that only a small number of British people encounter problems while in the country.
There are also risks of robbery and theft, so you should only carry essential belongings with you when travelling alone or visiting isolated areas. You should also be alert to potential fraud and other scams as tourists are known to have been targeted.
There is also a potential risk of kidnap, including British nationals, while theft from baggage claim and at large events and sports matches are also common.
If you have been the victim of theft, you should report this to the necessary authorities within 48 hours and obtain a written report to be able to make a claim, otherwise you may not be covered by your travel insurance.
You can call the police on 10111 or 112 on mobiles if you feel in danger or need to report a crime.
South Africa travel advice
You should carry a copy of your passport data when travelling through South Africa, as you may sometimes be asked to provide proof of identity. It usually advised that you keep your passport and other valuables in a securely locked deposit box when possible.
South Africa has an amazing array of wildlife, which attracts many visitors looking to go on safari and spot them in the wild. There are laws in place that make it illegal to buy, sell or kill any protected wild animals without a permit. If you are found to be trafficking banned goods, you will face prosecution.
Driving in South Africa
If you plan to drive in South Africa then you will need to bring your valid UK driving licence, which allows you to drive in the country for up to 12 months. You are advised by the FCO to stay on the main roads and to park in well-lit areas when you are travelling by car. Hijacking and robbery are common on South African roads, particularly at night. You should keep your doors locked, as you can be vulnerable to attacks at traffic lights or when reaching driveways. Car windows could also be smashed to gain entry, so you should not keep valuables inside your vehicle.
Your travel insurance claims may be invalid if they arise from you driving a vehicle without the appropriate licence or motor insurance policy, and if you weren’t following local safety laws. You should also make sure that your unattended vehicle is securely locked, and your valuables are stored away.
Uber and other taxi services are available, but you should check that you are travelling with a registered vehicle. The Metrorail suburban railway is best avoided according to the FCO as it can be unreliable to use, while there is also a high level of theft and other criminal activity.
When travelling to the beach, you should be wary of strong currents, as many of the high-risk areas don’t have warning flags to notify visitors of the dangers. It is safer to visit busier tourist beaches where lifeguards are present.
Homosexuality is legal in South Africa and there is legislation that bans discrimination because of sexual orientation. It is also legal to change your gender, while same-sex marriage and adoption are also recognised.
The most common language in South Africa is Zulu, which is spoken by around a quarter of the population. In total, around thirty-five languages are indigenous to the country, while there are ten official languages in total. English is also a common language and it is the first language of an estimated 4.8 million South Africans.
Things to do in South Africa
South Africa offers plenty of unique experience for visitors to enjoy, as well as affordable restaurants and bars to relax in the evenings.
If you are looking to get an adrenaline rush on your trip, Bloukrans Bridge offers one of the highest commercial bridge bungy jumps in the world, which sees you drop 216 metres. It can be found in the Tsitsikamma area between the Eastern and Western Cape. Bungee jumping is covered as part of the 150 sports and activities that are included for free in all Columbus Direct travel insurance policies*.
The Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn are among the most popular caves in the country and they attract large numbers of visitors each year. They have a long history and provide stunning views of dripstone formations, while tour guides can tell you about the history of the caves and what they tell us about human history.
Robben Island can be found on the west coast of Cape Town, and it is where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years of his prison sentence. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its history as a place for political prisoners’ to be held dates back to the 17th century. The island is now open to the public, with tours available to show you around the prison, including the cell where Nelson Mandela was held.
In Johannesburg there is the Liliesleaf Farm, which was used by African National Congress activists and leaders during the 1960’s as a secret meeting point. It is now a museum that shares the history of the site, while the buildings have been restored to reflect their previous condition. Visitors can learn more about the police raid in 1963 that lead to the arrest of 19 African National Congress members.
Safaris in South Africa
One of the biggest tourist attractions in South Africa is the ability to go on safari and see various animals in the wild. Some of the animals that many tourists hope to spot include the ‘big five’ – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos.
There are many tours that you can join and various parks that you can visit, including Shamwari, a private game reserve, and Kruger National Park.
Safari trips on foot or in vehicles are also included in the 150 sports and activities that are included when you get travel insurance with Columbus Direct, as long as they don’t involve the use of firearms.
*Bungee jumping has no cover under the Personal Accident section.
Where to go in South Africa
Cape Town is the capital of South Africa and it is one of the most popular destinations to visit, offering tourists plenty to enjoy with its unique sights and experiences.
The city’s Boulders Beach provides a unique opportunity to see the African penguin colony that lives among the white sand and boulders. They are now classed as an endangered species, but visitors can still see many of them in the water and along the coastline.
Cape Town also has Table Mountain, which is a popular tourist attraction, and you can either hike or use a cableway to get to the top of it. The mountain offers a good option for a family day out, with stunning views of the city, as well as shops and restaurants, and the option to abseil down a cliff face.
Johannesburg is another place that attracts a lot of tourists each year, and it is the biggest city in the country. The Apartheid Museum offers insight into the segregation and oppression that existed in South Africa between the 1940’s and 1990’s.
Constitution Hill is an important historical site that used be the location of the Old Fort Prison which was built during the 1890’s. It remained as a prison until 1987, and the area then opened as a museum in 2004, while the new Constitutional Court was also built there.
Durban is considered to be another good spot for visitors. The east coast city experienced lots of redevelopment in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup, including big improvements to the beachfront. The golden mile has a newly built boardwalk and the beach is a family friendly spot to enjoy the sun and go for a swim.
Tourists can also enjoy Marine World, which includes an aquarium and an outdoor water park. It is also possible to visit the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which hosted several 2010 World Cup fixtures, including the semi-final between Germany and Spain.
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