You may have heard a thing or two about South Africa but we assure you that there is much more to it than just the abundance of diamonds (wink). Formerly a British colony, South Africa has grown into its current state by systematically improving its infrastructure and monetary status. Yet, like most countries, it is not without its flaws. So without further ado, let us dive into the top six things to know before you visit South Africa!
It is an unfortunate way to kick off a list but since it is the greatest concern of South Africa, we cannot ignore it. Crime is so rampant in the country that its rates are relatively close to world-leaders such as Honduras and Venezuela. This goes as far as breaching the bounds of the tourist-frequented areas (though not always and you might be lucky enough to not experience anything negative) and you can “safely” say that crime may occur at any place and at any given time. There are no patterns to follow and no way to avoid them – the only thing that one can do is to try and blend in. Do not carry around obvious backpacks, expensive cameras or jewellery, for chances are that someone is eyeing you from a dark corner. Do not look like a target and you shall not become one. Cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg are exceptionally dangerous at night, so we recommend that you stay indoors after dark. Note that in spite of this, countless tourists visit South Africa yearly – so, always follow your inner call and not what others say or write (wink)!
2. Car guards:
Remember the Franeleros of Mexico? Yes, those “car guards” who pretend to be looking after your vehicle while you’re gone in exchange for varying fees? Well, we unfortunately have to say that the yellow-clad South African car guards are no different (oh, and they come in all shapes – do not look specifically for the yellow/orange clothes). If you choose not to pay them (it is called tipping locally), they might damage your car themselves in revenge. These people work in judicial grey-areas, so we recommend that you do not tempt them. While we recommend avoiding them, we understand the fact that there are so many of them that in certain areas such a feat might become impossible. In such cases, we recommend that you pay them small fees (do not forget to haul change around all the time) and be about your business.
3. Cell phone coverage:
This will be good news to people who keep their phones (and thus their social network accounts) close at heart (both figuratively and literally). No matter where you might be in South Africa, you are not likely to run into coverage problems. Though there are some poverty-stricken areas in the country, communication is a priority. Oh, and know that phones can be hired and that you can buy 3G-enabled SIM cards just about anywhere.
4. Diversity at its best:
Let us put it this way: you haven’t seen diversity until you’ve visited South Africa. Since its colonial state, it has become more and more of a melting pot of cultures, traditions, customs and races. But this isn’t even the “nuclear bomb” of the facts; it is that South Africa has 11 official languages. Eleven! While English will get you by just fine, there is still room to question how the South Africans manage to keep things together. Yet, in spite of this, things go surprisingly smoothly and you should not fear language barriers.
5. Safari epicentre:
There are so many safari parks and wildlife reserve drive-throughs in South Africa that you have to be blind to miss them. Africa in general has a large number of safari parks but South Africa takes the prize in all terms possible. You can access these areas with rented cars also (which are affordable, by the way), and you can have the time of your life. You might want to rent a 4×4, though, if you want to experience the local wildlife first-hand (wink).
We have all heard how medics constantly recommend that we get ourselves vaccinated prior to undertaking journeys into warmer climate zones. Well, here’s the good news: to visit South Africa, there is no need for you to stick yourself under the castigation of the needle. Note that if you happen to be coming from a country where Yellow Fever is a risk, you will have to prove that you are vaccinated against it. Since the Yellow Fever risk is prevalent in quite a number of countries (do google that subject for specifics), we recommend that you do your research prior to hopping on the plane.
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in South Africa and how have they shaped your trip? Hit the comment section below and tell us all about it! Stay safe!