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Do-it-yourself travel in South Africa: 5 practical tips

South Africa has a lot to offer.

However, in order to visit it at its best, it is important to know the best time of year to book your flight, what to see, what documents are required, what vaccinations are recommended, what other recommendations to follow to protect your safety, and many other interesting facts.

Let’s take a look at 5 practical tips for organising a do-it-yourself trip to South Africa.

1 – When to go?

Although the seasons in South Africa are reversed from ours, the climate is generally mild almost all year round and heavy rains are rare. This means that you can visit this country with pleasure at any time of the year.

South Africa is, however, a very large country. Its different geographical areas are therefore subject to different micro-climates. As a result, each region will have a time of year when it has better weather and climate conditions.

In general, if you want to get around a bit, the best time to travel to South Africa is from April to May, during the austral autumn.

2 – How to enter the country

As for the documents required to enter South Africa, you must be in possession of an e-passport with a residual validity of at least 30 days after your scheduled departure date from the country and at least 2 blank pages in the Visa section.

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A renewed passport by hand is not permitted.

Local authorities are increasingly firm in denying entry to foreigners who are not in possession of a document with these characteristics. Failure to enter the country will result in arrest at the border and repatriation on the first available flight by the same airline.

It is better to spend some extra time to have all your documents in order.

Similarly, an entry visa for tourism is always compulsory.

Under 90 days of stay in the country, it is issued directly upon arrival at the border. Whereas for stays of more than three months, you must apply for an entry visa from the South African diplomatic-consular network present in your country.

3 – Health situation: vaccinations and insurance

The health situation is satisfactory.

Public hospitals are, however, considered to be unreliable, while the level of private facilities is good but very expensive.

In addition, private clinics often do not provide medical services (even in the most serious cases) without paying at least a deposit in advance, which can be very expensive.

For this reason, we recommend that you take out travel insurance for South Africa, which also includes the possibility of making advance payments in the event of hospitalisation, such as that provided by Amerigo.co.uk.

As far as diseases in the area are concerned, the risk of malaria is particularly high in some areas, such as eastern Limpopo (including the Kruger Park) and Mpumalanga, and in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal (particularly in the “Wetlands” area around Saint Lucia), especially in the period from October to May.

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There have also been frequent cases of hepatitis A and B, tuberculosis, tetanus, typhoid fever, meningitis, measles, chickenpox, whooping cough, bilharzia (in rivers and freshwater lakes where it is better not to get wet) and rickettsiosis (tick-borne fever).

In the past, there have also been cases of cholera, H1N1 influenza and, in some remote areas, an antibiotic-resistant strain of TB. In addition, it should always be borne in mind that South Africa is one of the countries in the world where AIDS is most widespread.

Despite this, there are no compulsory vaccinations for travelling to this state, but rabies vaccination is recommended for those who have to carry out activities in contact with animals, dogs, bats and other mammals for work, such as veterinarians and researchers, or even for pleasure, such as campers and cyclists.

Of course, vaccination against Covid 19 is also recommended.

4 – Security and recommendations

Although the level of crime is not worrying, according to the Farnesina there are some areas to be considered at risk: the centre of the cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban (especially at night and on weekends). In Johannesburg, the areas of Berea, Hillbrow, Alexandria and Yeoville should be avoided.

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Caution is also advised in the vicinity of Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport and on transfer journeys to nearby cities, due to frequent cases of robbery.

The suburbs on the outskirts of the cities (the so-called “townships”) and their immediate surroundings can only be visited on organised day trips. In Cape Town, particular attention should be paid to Long Street, other popular tourist destinations and areas with a concentration of clubs and entertainment venues.

In general, however, it is advisable to avoid less frequented areas such as secluded beaches, mountain trails and the like, and the so-called ‘Cape Flats’ and their immediate surroundings.

First aid (emergency): 10111 (free call).
Ambulance: 999.

5 – Holidays in South Africa: children and safaris

If you are planning to take your children with you on your trip to South Africa, safaris are certainly one of the experiences they will remember most fondly.

However, it’s important to choose malaria-free parks or parks that provide special tours for children.

For this reason, we recommend avoiding Kruger National Park and Mapungubwe National Park.

Parks to consider are the Amakhala Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth, the Sanbona Game Reserve near Cape Town and Table Mountain National Park near Cape Town.

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