Combine bush and beach on your holiday to South Africa for a rich and rewarding trip
When planning a holiday to South Africa, first-time visitors should consider combining bush and beach to experience Africa’s diversity.
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South Africa is vast and varied, making it a unique and popular travel destination.
There is much to see and do. Hence, this guide and our other holiday planning resources will prove to be a great help when planning your visit to South Africa.
We say, pick a week, ideally two or three, when you take a holiday to South Africa. That way you’ll have time to combine a safari with a beach break in the Western Cape.
You have lots to get done. So, without further ado, let’s get planning. Your African adventure starts today!
South Africa’s top holiday destinations
First-time visitors to South Africa should combine a bush and beach holiday to experience the diversity in this beautiful country. Depending on the availability of direct flights from your country of origin, visitors can fly into Johannesburg or Cape Town.
If you start your adventure in Johannesburg, your bushveld break is within easy reach. Kruger National Park is a four to six-hour drive from Johannesburg. There are also direct domestic flight options from Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Cape Town is your portal to the Mother City, Cape Winelands and the Garden Route. The Garden Route is an easy four to five-hour drive from Cape Town. If time allows, the beauty of this area makes it well worth your while to include it in your South African travel itinerary.
Pick the best time for your holiday
When is it a good time to visit? Bear in mind our weather corresponds with Southern hemisphere conditions when you plan your trip to South Africa.
Summer months (December to February) are best for Cape Town, while wintertime (June to August) is best for safari. If you are combining bush and beach, find the golden balance. Visit either early autumn (March to May) or Spring (September to November).
Many South Africans are fond followers of weather forecasts. Therefore, download a good local weather app such as South African Weather or AccuWeather.
Travel documents and requirements
Visitors from abroad require a valid passport to enter South Africa. As a rule of thumb, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after your return date from South Africa. You also require at least two empty pages in your passport.
Depending on the passport you hold, you may need a travel visa. Passport holders from exempt countries do not require a visa. However, if you require a visa, find information on applying for a visa here.
Funds and tickets
Visitors need to have sufficient funds to pay for expenses while in South Africa. A return or onward flight ticket is a requirement at the point of entering the country.
In November 2019, the South African Government changed its rule regarding children entering the country. Previously it was compulsory for children to show an unabridged birth certificate in addition to their valid passports. From now on, foreign visa holders need only a valid passport for each child.
When travelling abroad, it is always prudent to keep copies of your travel documents. Pack hard copies in your suitcase and save soft copies on the Cloud so that you can access them from anywhere.
International flights to South Africa
The next step on your holiday planning checklist is to book your flights to South Africa. Throughout the year, you may stumble upon flight specials. Therefore, it can be useful to keep an eye on your local media.
South Africa enjoys service from daily flights from many international airlines. There are direct, non-stop flight options from cities including:
- New York and Atlanta (North America)
- Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires (South America)
- London (United Kingdom)
- Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Amsterdam, Paris and Istanbul (Europe)
- Tel Aviv, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha (Middle East)
- Hong Kong, Singapore (Far East)
- Sydney and Perth (Australia)
- Cairo, Nairobi, Windhoek and most sub-Saharan capitals (Africa)
Finding accommodation in South Africa
If you wonder how to plan a holiday, rest assured that tourism is a focus area in South Africa. Visitors do not have a hard time to find good quality accommodation.
Safari stays can include accommodation in a game lodge, tented safari camp or a bush camp. SANParks also has self-catering bungalows and camping sites in the Kruger National Park.
A luxury holiday in Cape Town often does not get any better than self-catering holiday homes. Visitors enjoy privacy and space when staying in Nox Rentals’ serviced villas and apartments which include housekeeping, a dedicated host, and 24/7 concierge services.
Holiday homes have fully-equipped kitchens and lounges, indoor and outdoor entertainment areas. And, more often than not, these homes have private swimming pools. When you are planning a holiday to South Africa with your family, you will find such a self-catering option to be best.
Care-free, seaside living in Camps Bay
Camps Bay on the Atlantic Seaboard is an upmarket suburb with luxury villas and apartments where families of all sizes will find the perfect place stay.
Recommendations for planning your itinerary
- Arrive in Johannesburg. Catch a domestic flight to Skukuza or Hoedspruit. Your safari lodge will arrange an airport transfer.
- Alternatively, stay overnight in Johannesburg. Depart early on day two in a rented vehicle to the Kruger National Park. Be prepared for a long drive.
- Stay in your safari camp for three nights and experience the African bush. Return to Johannesburg and take a domestic flight to Cape Town.
- Request an airport transfer from Nox Rentals to your self-catering rental in Camps Bay.
- During your Cape Town stay, explore the city, Table Mountain and the beaches. Take a day trip to the Cape Winelands.
- Stay in Cape Town for three or four nights before returning to Johannesburg for your same-day flight home.
- Your itinerary will be similar to the 7-day itinerary, except that you will have more time to take in everything about your holiday to South Africa.
- Add another day to your Safari adventure so that you can stay for four nights.
- Book another day or two in the Cape so that you have five or six nights to experience the Mother City.
- Set aside a few days for day-tripping around Cape Town so you can go wine tasting and exploring.
- Here is your chance to add a Garden Route visit to your trip. You can choose to fly from Cape Town to George to save time.
- Book luxury accommodation in Knysna from where you can explore the famous Knysna forest and lagune.
- You can also opt for a beach stay at Plettenberg Bay or Brenton on Sea. Plan to stay in the Garden Route for at least three nights. There is much to see and do.
- If you decide to drive from Cape Town, stay four nights. You will spend around five or six hours in the car each way.
- Save a travel leg by booking your flight back from George to Johannesburg.
Transport options for getting around
Domestic flights are regular and offer a good service to bridge the distance between points of interest. Driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town will take about 15 hours, while a flight gets you there in two hours.
Smaller aircrafts service routes such as Johannesburg to Nelspruit, Skukuza and Hoedspruit. It is more convenient to arrive in these towns by air, rather than driving four to six hours.
The flying time from Cape Town to George is just under an hour. It will take between five and six hours by road. Remember, however, that this drive from the Cape Winelands through the Overberg to the Garden Route is beautiful and interesting.
When on safari, your lodge will provide airport transfers and game drives. If you have opted for a self-drive vacation in the Kruger National Park, ensure you rent a comfortable vehicle. An SUV is preferable because of the vantage point with seats placed high off the ground.
In Cape Town, you can also choose to rent a car. South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road. If you are not comfortable with this, choose the local taxis, buses and Uber above car rental.
If you book accommodation with Nox Rentals, our concierge can arrange your airport transfers.
Most accommodation options will include free Wi-Fi, although some establishments may charge a small fee. Most restaurants and cafes also offer free Wi-Fi, so you should remain connected throughout your travels.
Remember to activate roaming on your mobile phone. If you prefer, you can buy a local SIM card online with voice and data. However, SIM cards are available at the arrivals halls of Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban airports.
Rands and cents
South African currency consists of Rand and cents, with 100 cents in R1. You can draw cash from Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) virtually anywhere in South Africa.
Make sure from your local bank that your card and PIN code will work in South Africa. We recommend limiting the amount of cash carried on your person.
You can pay in shops, cafes and restaurants with debit and credit cards. MasterCard and Visa are the most common cards accepted in South Africa. Some vendors don’t accept Amex and Diners’ Club, so it is best to check your payment options beforehand.
Money tips to consider before leaving home:
- Notify your bank of your planned international travels
- Obtain a travel card to control and limit your spending
- Pack back-up cards in case there is a problem with your primary card
Wherever you travel in the world, travel insurance is a good idea. Travel insurance can provide protection against the following eventualities:
- Cancelled and curtailed flights
- Travel delays
- Medical emergencies
- Personal baggage
- Personal accident
- Legal – third party claims and liability
Look out for a plan with comprehensive family cover, in which children often receive free cover when travelling with their parents.
In the case of an emergency
Who can you contact in case of an emergency while on holiday in South Africa? If you have booked your holiday home with Nox Rentals, we should be your first port of call. Your host is available 24/7 and will help you manage your emergency.
You can also download the ICEplus app on your mobile phone, which acts like a mobile panic button and puts you in touch with emergency contacts.
Other useful emergency numbers to save on your phone’s speed dial include:
- 10177 – ambulance response
- 10111 – nationwide emergency response
- 112 – cell phone emergency number
You can learn more about these numbers and how they work here.
Start packing your bags
All set to go on holiday to South Africa? All you need to do is to pack your bags. Here follows a list of essential items to pack when visiting South Africa:
- Suitable clothing (khaki outfits are not compulsory, even when on safari!). Always pack in some warm clothes. Early morning or late afternoon game drives get super chilly. You will probably need to take along a beanie, scarf, gloves and windproof jacket or coat – even in summer.
- The sun is harsh in Africa, so we recommend hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Mosquito deterrents and malaria prophylactics, depending on the area you are visiting.
- Remember to pack in your prescription medication and a medical script in case you lose your meds.
If you are prone to forgetting things, we have compiled the ultimate collection of holiday planning and packing checklists for you.
We’d love to welcome you to South Africa
Have you started counting down the days to your visit to South Africa already? Be prepared for a warm welcome on African soil. Come and experience the hospitality and spirit of the people of the South. Your trip to South Africa promises to be unforgettable.
Get in touch with Nox Rentals to book your holiday accommodation in Cape Town. We can help with recommendations for your planned travels and itinerary. Ensure your holiday to South Africa becomes your most memorable family vacation!