One of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth, South Africa, fondly known by locals as the ‘Rainbow Nation’, boasts 12 official languages, and its inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of cultures.

Discover the gourmet restaurants, impressive art scene, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful beaches of Cape Town. Enjoy a local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township, browse the bustling Indian markets in Durban, or sample some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotting the Cape Winelands. Some historical attractions to explore include the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town.

Above all else, its untamed wilderness is astonishing: wildlife roams freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world-famous Kruger National Park.


Soweto near Johannesburg

Situated on the southernmost tip of the African continent, South Africa beckons travellers with its captivating blend of natural wonders, vibrant cultures, and rich history. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east, this diverse country boasts breathtaking landscapes ranging from sweeping savannas and majestic mountains to pristine beaches and lush forests. South Africa’s allure lies not only in its stunning scenery but also in its warm hospitality, making it an enticing destination for Australian adventurers seeking a memorable escape.

What type of traveller will enjoy South Africa

Get a real taste of South Africa

South Africa caters to a wide range of travellers, from nature enthusiasts eager to embark on thrilling safaris in the renowned Kruger National Park to adrenaline junkies seeking adrenaline-pumping adventures such as cage diving with great white sharks or bungee jumping from the world’s highest commercial bridge. History buffs will find delight in exploring the country’s poignant past through visits to iconic landmarks like Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Additionally, foodies can indulge in a culinary journey, savouring the diverse flavours of South African cuisine, influenced by the country’s multicultural heritage.

South Africa’s approach to sustainability

Marataba Conservation team micro-chipping a rhino

In recent years, South Africa has made significant strides in promoting sustainable tourism practices to preserve its natural beauty and protect its delicate ecosystems. From eco-lodges nestled in pristine wilderness areas to community-based tourism initiatives empowering local communities, sustainability is at the forefront of the country’s tourism agenda. Travellers can support these efforts by choosing responsible tour operators, participating in conservation projects, and minimizing their environmental footprint during their stay.

How to travel to and around South Africa

Qantas flys Sydney to Johannesburg

For Australians travelling to South Africa, Qantas offers a convenient option with multiple flights connecting major cities. Qantas operates direct flights from Sydney to Johannesburg, providing travellers with seamless access to South Africa’s bustling metropolis. Additionally, connecting flights are available from other Australian cities via partner airlines, ensuring flexibility in travel arrangements. South African Airways will resume their Perth to Johannesburg flights at the end of April 2024.

Upon arrival, travellers will find themselves at one of South Africa’s major airports, such as O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport (CPT) in Cape Town. These airports serve as gateways to the country’s diverse regions, offering extensive domestic and international flight connections. There are a number of airlines and private charters that offer domestic flights within South Africa but it is important to note the luggage allowance on these flights might not be as much as the international flights.

Uber is easily accessible and cheap in major cities and travellers find it a convenient way to get around on the group. For longer trips, there are transfer companies available to book.

Top 10 Things to Do in South Africa

Lebos Soweto Tuk Tuk Tour
  1. Safari in Kruger National Park: Embark on a thrilling safari adventure in one of Africa’s largest game reserves, where you can spot the Big Five and a diverse array of wildlife in their natural habitat. Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the African bushveld while guided by experienced rangers and trackers.
  2. Explore Cape Town’s Table Mountain: Take a cable car ride or hike to the summit of Table Mountain, offering panoramic views of Cape Town and the surrounding coastline. Immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity of the Table Mountain National Park, home to unique flora and fauna.
  3. Visit Robben Island: Delve into South Africa’s history with a tour of Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. Gain insight into the country’s struggle against apartheid through guided tours led by former political prisoners.
  4. Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch: Indulge in a wine-tasting tour in the picturesque Stellenbosch wine region, renowned for its award-winning vineyards and scenic landscapes. Sample a variety of world-class wines while exploring historic Cape Dutch architecture and charming vineyard estates.
  5. Drive the Garden Route: Embark on a scenic road trip along the Garden Route, stretching from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, and discover breathtaking coastal vistas, lush forests, and charming seaside towns. Explore highlights such as Knysna’s Lagoon, the Tsitsikamma National Park, and the Cango Caves.
  6. Admire Blyde River Canyon: Marvel at the stunning natural beauty of Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world, located in Mpumalanga province. Take in panoramic views of towering cliffs, lush vegetation, and cascading waterfalls along the canyon’s scenic viewpoints.
  7. Experience the Drakensberg Mountains: Embark on hiking trails amidst the majestic peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its dramatic landscapes and rich biodiversity. Discover ancient San rock art sites, crystal-clear mountain streams, and exhilarating outdoor adventures.
  8. Discover the Cradle of Humankind: Explore the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Gauteng province, where some of the world’s oldest hominid fossils have been discovered. Take guided tours of archaeological sites, caves, and interactive museums to learn about human evolution and prehistoric life.
  9. Sunbathe in Durban’s Golden Mile: Relax on the sun-drenched beaches of Durban’s Golden Mile, a popular seaside destination known for its warm Indian Ocean waters and vibrant beachfront promenade. Enjoy swimming, surfing, and beachside dining while soaking up the city’s laid-back coastal atmosphere.
  10. Adventure in the Eastern Cape: Embark on adrenaline-fueled adventures in the Eastern Cape, home to diverse landscapes ranging from rugged coastlines to rolling hills and wildlife reserves. Experience thrilling activities such as shark cage diving in Gansbaai, hiking in the Wild Coast, and exploring Addo Elephant National Park.

Banking and Currency

Payment for tours can be done in ZAR or by credit card

South Africa’s currency is the South African Rand (ZAR), and ATMs are readily available in urban areas and tourist destinations. Major credit cards are widely accepted, but it’s advisable to carry cash for transactions in remote areas or markets.

Tipping Guide

Tipping is customary in South Africa, with a standard gratuity of 10% to 15% expected at restaurants, hotels, and tour guides. Additionally, it’s customary to tip porters, drivers, and other service providers based on the quality of service received. Safari guides, trackers, and lodge staff often rely on tips as part of their income. It is recommended to tip guides and trackers around ZAR200 per person per day and lodge staff around ZAR100 per person per day, depending on the level of service and personal satisfaction. However, please note that tipping is discretionary, and clients should feel free to adjust amounts based on their own experience and satisfaction.

Visa and Entry Requirements for Australian Passport Holders

Australian passport holders travelling to South Africa for tourism purposes do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days. However, it’s essential to ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended departure date.

Electricity and Power Sockets

South Africa uses 220-240 volts AC electricity, with power sockets featuring three round pins. Travelers from Australia may need to bring a plug adapter and voltage converter for their electronic devices. It is advisable to carry a universal travel adapter to ensure compatibility with various socket types.

Medical Advice and Vaccinations

While no vaccinations are mandatory for entry into South Africa, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional before travelling to ensure you are up to date on routine vaccinations. Additionally, malaria prophylaxis may be recommended for visits to certain regions, particularly during the rainy season. Travellers must consult with a healthcare professional or a specialized travel clinic well in advance of their trip to receive personalized medical advice and recommended vaccinations.

Language Spoken and Use of English

English is widely spoken and understood in South Africa, along with 11 other official languages, including Afrikaans, isiZulu, and isiXhosa. It can also be beneficial to learn a few common local phrases to enhance cultural interactions and show respect for the local customs.

Customs and Cultural Awareness

Travellers should be mindful of local customs and traditions, such as greeting with a handshake or “Sawubona” (hello in isiZulu) and respecting cultural norms when visiting communities or sacred sites. Additionally, it’s important to exercise caution and be vigilant regarding personal safety and security, particularly in urban areas. It is customary to ask for permission before taking photographs of local people or their homes. It is also essential to respect wildlife and adhere to responsible tourism practices, including maintaining a safe distance from animals and following the instructions of guides and rangers.

Top Tips for travelling in South Africa

Learn about the country’s history
  • Safety First: While South Africa offers incredible experiences, it’s essential to remain vigilant, particularly in urban areas. Keep valuables secure, avoid displaying expensive items, and be cautious when exploring unfamiliar areas, especially at night.
  • Health Precautions: Prioritize your health by staying hydrated, using sunscreen, and taking necessary precautions against mosquito bites, especially in malaria-prone regions. Consider travel insurance that covers medical emergencies to ensure peace of mind during your trip.
  • Respect Local Customs: Embrace South Africa’s diverse culture by showing respect for local customs and traditions. Greet people with a friendly “hello” or “sawubona” (in Zulu), and familiarize yourself with basic etiquette, such as removing your shoes before entering someone’s home.
  • Currency and Payments: Familiarize yourself with the South African Rand (ZAR) and be prepared to use cash for smaller transactions, as not all establishments accept credit cards, especially in rural areas. Keep small denominations handy for tipping and local purchases.
  • Tipping Etiquette: Tipping is customary in South Africa and is greatly appreciated for good service. As a general guideline, consider tipping around 10% of the bill at restaurants and for other services, such as tour guides and hotel staff. However, check if a service charge has already been included in the bill before tipping.
  • Transportation Options: Choose the most suitable mode of transportation based on your itinerary. While renting a car offers flexibility for exploring remote areas, consider using reputable taxi services or ridesharing apps in urban centres. Public transportation, such as buses and trains, is available in major cities but may vary in reliability.
  • Weather Considerations: South Africa experiences a range of climates, from Mediterranean along the coast to semi-arid in the interior. Pack accordingly, with lightweight clothing for summer months and warmer layers for cooler evenings. Be prepared for sudden weather changes, especially in mountainous regions.
  • Wildlife Encounters: If embarking on a safari or wildlife excursion, follow park rules and guidelines for observing animals safely. Maintain a respectful distance from wildlife, avoid feeding them, and listen to instructions from experienced guides to ensure a memorable and responsible wildlife encounter.
  • Stay Connected: Stay connected with loved ones and navigate your journey smoothly by purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival or ensuring your international roaming plan is activated. Many cafes, hotels, and restaurants also offer free Wi-Fi for patrons.
  • Embrace Adventure Safely: South Africa offers an array of adventurous activities, from hiking and surfing to bungee jumping and shark cage diving. Ensure your chosen activities are conducted by reputable operators with certified guides and adhere to safety protocols for an exhilarating yet secure experience.

To discover more about South Africa visit South Africa Tourism –

All image credits: Kate Webster

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Editor Africa Beat

Africa Beat is the source of all your news and updates in the travel industry out of Africa. You will find also find reviews and features focused on Africa.

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