South Africa is a country that in some ways is still little known and when we decided to leave many people asked us “wow how nice, but isn’t it dangerous?!?”. Now that we have been there we can tell you that it is a fantastic country and that, with due care, there is nothing to be afraid of.
Therefore here are some tips to care about if you are planning a tip to South Africa.
As indicated in the web, in the country there is criminality and it is concentrated above all in the big cities but this we believe is worth a bit for all the countries of the world.
In Cape Town we have always toured independently without encountering any kind of problem, by day we moved on foot while in the evening we preferred to take a taxi (well organized and cheap service). Even in all the villages on the southern coast where we have been (Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, etc.) we could easily go around.
The south africans we met proved to be very kind, ready to help us and willing to give us advice on how to best enjoy our experience in their country.
What is absolutely positive and to underline is the fact that they all spoke very good English (one of the numerous official languages of the country) and we never had any problems communicating or understanding what they wanted to tell us.
To move out of Cape Town we have chosen to rent a car.
The most complicated thing was getting used to driving on the left but, after the first moments of uncertainty and some laughter, everything went well.
To go with the flow, it is enough to follow the other cars and with a little care everything will come naturally.
To drive in South Africa it is strongly recommended to have the international model license Vienna Convention 1968 (attention, it is not the same that is used to drive for example in the USA). Not all car rentals require it when the vehicle is delivered, but it is better to have it if you are stopped by the police or in the event of an accident.
On several occasions local people have reminded us to always respect the speed limits because for this kind of infringement the police are very strict. We therefore followed the advice and did not find it particularly difficult as the limits there are very high compared to those we are used to in Italy.
Safaris can be done in different parts of South Africa.
Depending on the reserve where you decide to go, it may be advisable to follow antimalarial prophylaxis (the malarial risk also varies depending on the season of the year). Especially for families with children it is advisable to choose a malaria-free reserve; in these reserves, game drives and ad-hoc activities for children are often organized. We did the experience at the Madiwke Game Reserve.
As soon as we arrived at the airport we changed a few Euros (EUR) in Rand (ZAR) but there is no need to change a lot of money because for most of the payments credit card is accepted almost everywhere (from hotels to small supermarket, from petrol to excursions we have always used the credit card).
Local banknotes and coins can still be useful to leave tips (not mandatory but always welcome) or to pay tolls on some toll roads (very few compared to the total kilometers traveled).
Before leaving, remember to check if there are any special holidays during your stay in South Africa (some are the same as ours, while others are completely different) so you can organize yourself in order to plan excursions, make purchases, etc.
The Reconciliation Day (December 16th) was very heartfelt and very special. In 2013 it was obviously dedicated to the unforgettable Nelson Mandela.
You can find other useful information and interesting facts about this country on the website of the South African tourist board.