Being able to organize a trip to South Africa alone was one of the greatest satisfactions ever.
And now we are ready to share everything with you and to give you all the advice we would have wanted to receive before leaving for this magical country.
A trip to South Africa on the road done by yourself can become the most beautiful journey of your life. You just to know how to do it right.
01. How to move around in South Africa;
Travelling in South Africa: how to move to see everything?
Our initial idea was to do almost the entire trip by car: to land in Johannesburg, rent a car for 20 days, get to Cape Town and leave.
Here, this can be a really interesting idea … but the time available must be 3 months!
Indeed, the distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town is huge!
So, if you don’t want just to drive but also want to stop and enjoy the views, the places, the people… a car-only journey is not feasible.
Our solution was to alternate sections with internal planes.
As soon as we arrived, we rented a car and kept it for 4 days doing a round trip from Johannesburg to the Kruger – the car allowed us to stop also by the Panorama Route-.
|⚠️ Attention! There is an airplane solution from Johannesburg to Kruger based on Hoedspruit or Kruger Mpumalanga Nelspruit airports…|
We then opted for the plane from Johannesburg to Durban, because 600km by car were too much for us.
There we used Uber.
We also went from Durban to Port Elizabeth by plane.
The two cities are at 900km from each other and although we have read in various guides how scenic and still virgin this road is, the time at our disposal did not allow us to travel by car.
In summary, how to move during a trip to South Africa? Our final verdict is a car supported by domestic planes.
Trip to South Africa, what to see: itinerary for the first time
? DAY 1
For our journey in Sudafica on the road we started from Johannesburg.
Johannesburg is the classic metropolis: huge, full of people, technological and dangerous.
We have to insert it in the itinerary for two factors:
1- From Italy, the cheapest flights, depart and depart right from Johannesburg,
2- This is the city – with the international airport – closest to the Kruger National Park.
Nevertheless, we decided not to give too much time to it because in the end, once in South Africa, the last thing we want is to feel closed between skyscrapers and asphalt.
As a base, Johannesburg helped us rent the car and get used to driving on the left (yes, in case you didn’t know it, in South Africa people drive like in the UK).
The next day we left at 7 am to arrive at Kruger for lunch.
? DAYS 2-3
Kruger is the largest South African national park and one of the largest in Africa.
Obviously, to visit it all would take more than the days we dedicated to it but two are enough to fall in love with it and learn to know it.
You can decide to stay directly in the park or in the surrounding areas.
You can also decide to go around the park alone or to go on safari.
We decided to stay in Hazyview, a small town a quarter of an hour away from one of the park’s gates.
We went on two safaris and the decision to rely on guided safaris was instead given by the fact that we wanted to make the most of the time available and the awareness of being able to do so, only if accompanied by competent guides.
At Kruger we did an all-day safari and an afternoon safari.
?? Pro tip!
Moreover, during Kruger safaris, we realized that the guides, when they meet on the roads, exchange a series of signals and very often they stop side by side and give themselves hints and suggestions if one of them has sighted something.
? DAY 4
The name itself should already make you understand what you are going to see by going down this road and we assure you that there are no expectations that can be destroyed by this road.
Using the accomadation you use to visit the Kruger as a base, leave early in the morning, so you will be at The three rondavels around 8:00.
In this way you will be able to enjoy the panoramic view practically alone!!!
This is the point at the end of the Panorama Route that overlooks rock formations so similar to the huts of the local peoples that they deserve the name “Rondavels” (which in Afrikaans means “hut”).
Take your time … sit and in silence listen to the sounds that surround you.
Then go back and stop at the Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
These rock sculptures are the result of erosion due to sand and water carried by the currents.
At sight, these strange sculptures resemble burst bubbles.
The colors, orange-yellow and gray, in strong contrast with the blue and turquoise of the water, make this place even more magical.
?? Pro tip 3.0
This is the best and most organized site. Here you will also find a little bar in case you need water or something to eat.
Go back to your car and go to the God’s Window.
A short uphill path leads to a sort of balcony over the valley.
If you have time, the Berlin Falls, Lisbon Falls and the Lone Creek Falls are very beautiful.
? DAYS 5-6-7-8
Every trip deserves relaxing days. And where, if not in a city where, besides having all the comforts, there are also beaches of fine sand and the Indian Ocean?
That’s why we chose Durban. Or at least, this was our idea.
Now, if you plan to take your trip to South Africa in the months from May to August, we advise you not to go to Durban.
Yes, because in South Africa it’s winter in those months and, although it is not cold, it does so if you want to go for a swim.
If instead you have planned it or want to plan it for the months from October to March then Durban is really your city!
? DAYS 9-10
Welcome to the home of over 700 elephants.
The Addo Elephant National park is a magical place.
Although it is a national park like the Kruger, Addo shares nothing with it, not even vegetation.
But what makes the Addo a place to visit is the fact that only in this park is it possible to see all the big 7!
Thanks to the block on the ocean, here is it possible to spot also the whale and the white shark.
In case you were wondering, these are the big five:
? DAYS 11-12
This park is something that you not expect in South Africa. It is expected in South America, in south-east Asia, but it is not even remotely imagined in the land of lions and leopards … but here it is, just an hour from Addo, we find ourselves in a rainforest!
The Tsitsikamma is an oasis closed between the mountains and the sea, it is impossible not to fall in love with it.
You can decide to visit the area in the most varied ways: from traditional climbing to Seg-way routes.
→ Click here to live again Tsitsikamma with us! ←
? DAY 13
After the emotions you will experience in the previous days, you will need to slow down a bit, like we did.
And Knysna is the perfect place to take things slow.
It is a town developed around a lagoon with the same name and to which owes its verdant nature.
The Knysna Lagoon is then famous for being a protected reserve, guardian of seahorses and very rare fish breeds.
When you leave for Oudtshoorn the next day, you will feel regenerated.
? DAYS 14
The road to reach this town is so beautiful that just to walk through it would be worth going to Oudtshoorn.
But then you get here and the Cango caves give you another reason more than valid to make this little detour before Cape Town.
These caves (not by chance Unesco Heritage) preserve beautiful sculptures made of stalagmites and stalactites excavated over hundreds of thousands of years.
? DAY 15
The luck of a trip to South Africa when it is winter is that the climate is perfect for exploring:
Not too cold, not too hot, never rainy, maybe a little windy but still ideal to visit.
So, on the 15th day of our roadtrip we woke up early, had a good breakfast and drove for 4 and a half hours untile we read “Hermanus“,
“Road with the possibility of whale watching“.
So the city of Hermanus, an hour from Cape Town, was the place where we had lunch and spent the afternoon.
? DAYS 16-17-18-19
Although days have passed since we came back, we still have not understood if we loved more the crown of mountains that surrounds it or the fact that despite the city is bathed by a crystalline sea, it has beaches of fine sand.
The first day we visitied Kirstenbosh (one of the largest botanical gardens on the globe), Table Mountain (one of the seven wonders of the natural world) and Camps Bay (the beach enclosed by the 12 apostles) …
✨ The best is yet to come
We spent the second day admiring colors:
The orange sky above the city at dawn, the light brown of the dirt road that took us to the top of the Lion’s head, the rainbow of the houses of Bo-Kaap and the shacks of Muizenberg, the metallic gray of our Toyota , the esmerald green of the surrounding mountains, the bright white of smiles in contrast with the chocolate skin.
And this has done nothing but reinforce the red of love for this city.
The third day was perhaps the most beautiful:
The fourth was dedicated to the newest part of city: the Waterfront.
How much does a trip to South Africa cost?
We know that you want to ask but you don’t have the courage because it is an uncomfortable question.
So then, here a recap:
- the flight, booked about 7 months in advance, from Milan Malpensa to Johannesburg and from Cape Town to Milan Malpensa with Qatar Airways; cost € 1200 per couple;
- the hotels overall cost about € 1500 per couple;
- car hire cost € 325 for 15 days;
The safaris (an afternoon safari and an all-day safari to the Kruger, a morning safari at Addo + lunch and an afternoon safari in a private reserve + dinner) cost € 787 per couple;
- Internal flights (JNB-DUR and DUR-PEZ) € 300 per couple;
- Activities of various types booked in advance (eg kayak & lilo, zipline, climb to the Lion’s Head) € 300 per couple;
- Gasoline about € 150;
- Life (restaurants, activities booked on site, travel with Uber …) about € 1000 per couple;
- Health insurance (we have this annual insurance with Columbus) around € 258.51;
- International driving license for € 43.
How much does a trip to South Africa cost?
In total, our costs € 2930 per person.
Where to sleep during your trip to South Africa?
The fact is that during our trip to South Africa we had some of the most beautiful accommodations in our lives!
|?? Premise (valid especially for the big cities aka Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban)! The problem of security is not something to be taken lightly.
So, is a trip to South Africa dangerous?
We have never felt in danger but we have never done anything to put us in unpleasant situations.
We followed all the rules that Farnesina said to adopt in addition to those that common sense requires and in doing so we never had any problems.
As far as housing in the big cities is concerned, the advice is to find out about the areas and neighborhoods to be visited and those to be avoided as well as to spend a little more but to be in facilities with high ratings, many services and possibly with the restaurant.
These are the places where we have been, selected after very long research and meticulous comparisons.
✔︎ Johannesburg: Clico boutique hotel
We stayed at the Clico Boutique hotel and we couldn’t have had a better welcome in the country.
The kindness of the staff, the warmth of our room (and the beautiful view from our French window into the pool), the beauty of the furniture … in short, the best welcome in the country.
Then dinner … first course, second course, dessert and all the pampering of a starred restaurant at a small price.
We still dream of this place.
✔︎ Kruger National Park: Tranquil Nest
Staying right inside the Kruger can be really expensive and on a journey that involves more days and a limited budget, we think it is better to spend money on experiences.
This thought has found a solution in the Tranquil Nest, a chalet complex just 15km from one of the Kruger gates.
What to say, about a place whose veranda overlooks nature, which gives you a Jacuzzi with a monkeys view, which allows you to enjoy a sunset accompanied by the sounds of animals?
Maybe because it was the first place to make us feel really in Africa but we loved everything about this place:
Being able to cook something to eat and enjoy it on our table outside the balcony, the double shower , Eduard, the four-poster bed, the intimate and private atmosphere …
In short, the Tranquil Nest was a place that could not make us regret not being inside the national park.
They also took care of booking all our Kruger safaris.
✔︎ Durban: The Riverside Hotel
After the fatigue of the days before you will look forward to being in Durban to enjoy relaxing days by the sea.
Here, you can’t choose a better place than the Riverside, a hotel with all the comforts – from the restaurant, to the pool, to the spa, to the gym.
We spent the days here pampering us:
From the very-large breakfast buffet to the international dinner with different daily promotions. Ask for something and the Riverside hotel has it for sure.
Really a joy.
✔︎ Addo National Park: Hopefield Country House.
Just a few kilometers from Addo National Park, there is the Hopefield Country House, an accommodation that still makes us say “wow”.
Basically, it is a large plot of land where there are a colonial style patronal house and a few rooms scattered here and there in the plot.
And we can’t say if it’s the furniture, the simplicity of the place, the close contact with nature, the very good breakfast, the dinner – even better – the rhythm of classical music … we don’t know what has made to fall in love with this place, the fact is that more than once we imagined ourselves living there.
And when you come to think of certain things, how can you not be the perfect place to sleep while traveling in South Africa?
✔︎ Tsitsikamma National Park: Andelomi Forest Lodge
Located right in the Stormriver Village, this hotel is essential but equipped with everything that can be used (including the mattress warmer) as well as it located in a strategic position to reach the base of the most varied activities.
✔︎ Knysna: Rexford Manor Boutique Hotel
What to say, we wanted to spend here much more than just a night.
It is a colonial style villa where you will feel like a king or queen.
The plus? The sunset over the lagoon seen from the second floor balcony, something that we will carry in our hearts forever.
Oudtshoorn: Riverside Lodge
Here, if there is one thing we loved a lot (one of the reason why we will return to South Africa) are the sunsets. We probably lived here the most beautiful sunsets in our lives.
The one from the wooden terrace of this hotel was unforgettable … maybe almost to the level of breakfast, pool view with silver cutlery
✔︎ Cape Town: Colona Castle
If we loved Cape Town so much during our trip to South Africa, it is also thanks to Colona Castle.
We explain you better: imagine to arrive for the golden hour in this city and finding yourself deciding to watch the sun disappear behind the mountains, behind the river or behind the sea … Yes, because from its privileged position, this 5-star hotel allows you to have an incomparable view of the mountains surrounding the city, the river, and the beautiful sea.
What would you choose?
We have not yet managed to choose which part we liked the most…
Here, you’re going to feel like the Royal family, served and revered as there has never happened before.
A colonial villa cured in every aspect, rich buffet breakfast with the menù, the room -we had the pentahouse suite- as big as our apartment … well, could we really have wished for something better?
✔︎ Cape Town 2.0: 410 Harbour bridge
We have confused you with this double accommodation in Cape Town, haven’t we?
Just a second and everything will be clearer to you!
Like all big cities, Cape Town also has travel times to reach different attractions based on where you will be staying.
During our stay in Cape Town, we thought that the best solution was to stay the first few days in the part of the city that made the visit to Cape Point easier.
We then moved to the newest part of the city to enjoy the Waterfront. This is why we stayed at 410 Harbor bridge, an apartment in this brand new complex that seems to rise above the water.
We have not yet figured out if we loved the view more from our window or if we preferred the view from the terrace (+ pool).
→ Click here to find out this beautiful apartment! ←
South Africa trip tips
? Trip to South Africa: vaccinations
No vaccination for South Africa is mandatory for Italian citizens except for those who have already taken a trip to central-southern Africa or South America – in these cases you must necessarily be vaccinated against yellow fever.
Anti-malarial prophylaxis is recommended but not mandatory especially for visiting some areas of the country.
? Safety and precautions
South Africa is a relatively safe country.
We have always traveled alone; excluding safaris, and we have turned without fear.
However, this does not mean that we were not careful!
We have carefully studied in which area to stay for the hotels and which areas to avoid (eg the Johannesburg townships), we have never done anything stupid or reckless, we never went around showing a Rolex off (also because we don’t have it) or expensive stuff, we didn’t leave things in sight in the car, we carried a photocopy of the passport instead of the real passport, we were careful …
In short, we have always had our heads on our shoulders and paid attention.
? Money: cash or cards for a trip to South Africa?
Cash. It’s always good to have in your pocket at least one hundred euros in local currency because many places do not accept cards, many machines are so old that are unable to read cards and many machines accept cards but only South African ones …
? Petrol stations and what you need to know
To prevent your card from being accepted, try to go to the newest petrol stations because they are the ones with the newest machines. And we’ll tell you more, choose a gas station brand and keep it because you’ll have less chances of having problems with payments.
How does gasoline work?
There are no automatic petrol stations, there is always a person who will give you gasoline and as a service he will include cleaning windows, checking oil and wheel pressure.
? Car rental, road and how to drive
The first problem you will have during your trip to South Africa if you decide to rent a car is driving on the left.
But don’t worry, it is only a matter of a few hours before you get used to it.
Once this first obstacle has been overcome – which is challenging especially in big cities given the traffic – things will be better!
The cost of renting and petrol is relatively low.
|??Pro tip! To be on the safe side we always book with Autoeurope. Impeccable customer service (response time: 24 hours), free cancellation, lowest price on the market, insurance…|
While you are deciding which car to take, keep in mind that:
- the trunk must be large enough to hold all your luggage- as we have already said, you must not leave anything in sight in the car;
- the car is high enough to tackle unpaved or sloping roads without problems.
The roads we traveled were all really beautiful, except for the stretch of road that took us from Port Elizabeth to Addo and the state road that crosses the the park.
Some of these roads are not only beautiful due to asphalt, but they deserve to be visited for the views they offer. Do not miss the R324 which from Oudtshoorn leads to Hermanus and the Chapman Peak drive to Cape Town.
? Don’t waste anything … especially water
In South Africa, on average, it only rains 300 ml per year.
This means that the country suffers a lot from the lack of water. Bring a few more changes to avoid having to wash them there, take a shower for a short time, don’t forget the open tap… in short, don’t make the situation worse, remember you’re just a guest.
? Tip, the customs to respect
As in the United States, you have to give the tip.
Usually 10% -15% of the total amount in restaurants, and hotels, give something to the parking attendants -and there are no parking lots without parking attendants -… the only occasions when you leave a tip a little more substantial is during the safaris, here, the tip is at least € 10/15.
? Internet, how to stay connected even while traveling in South Africa
We tried to equip ourselves with a SIM card before leaving as we did in the past.
But after having documented a bit, the best solution was to go to the Vodacom store at the airport and buy a sim.
In the shop you can decide to compose a SIM based on your internet needs and minutes.
We advise you to keep even a few minutes to call in case of problems with the rental car and you must contact the toll-free numbers.
The sim is active right away.
DISCLAIMER – Accommodations in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Addo and Kruger have been kindly provided.
Nevertheless our opinions on hotels and our advice on how to organize a trip to South Africa are absolutely impartial and sincere.