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Dos and Don'ts of Visiting South Africa

South Africa

South Africans are incredibly proud of their country, and for good reason. Of course, once you arrive they’ll have some tips for you to stay safe, but they’re not worried and you shouldn’t be either. If you are visiting South Africa for the first time, ignore the fear-mongering you may encounter before you go. There are a few basics you’ll need to be aware of and, as with any new destination, it’s best to be alert and aware of your surroundings, but after you’ve grasped just a few simple dos & don’ts you’ll soon be enjoying the holiday of a lifetime.

Do Eat a Braai

To have a truly South African experience, eat a traditonal South African barbecue, also known as a braai. Backyard Grill and Lounge in Cape Town is a wgreat place to try it, as is Flames in the Four Seasons Hotel, Johannesburg. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, take a tour to Mzoli’s Place, a butchery and braai hangout in Cape Town’s Gugulethu township. With fans such as Jamie Oliver and DJ Fresh, this local hotspot is about as authentic as you can get.

Do Shop Locally

South Africa has some impressive malls, complete with designer stores and international brands. But South Africa also has talented craftspeople whose wares can be found at roadside stalls, small boutiques and markets across the country. Instead of spending your cash at the malls, check out some local handiwork in the boutiques that line trendy Kloof Street or The Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, or browse Joburg’s 44 Stanley to pick up a souvenir or two.

Do Get Insurance

This is less about South Africa and more a tip for travelling anywhere in the world, no matter how ‘safe’ it seems. Comprehensive travel insurance is essential. Whether or not you end up using it, you’ll be glad of the peace of mind it brings.

Do Get Out of the City

Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria are all cities with a lot to offer, and they’re all well worth exploring. But head outside of the cities and you’ll find vast expanses of wild, rugged, beautiful landscapes. You’ll discover spectacular wine regions, picturesque seaside villages and game reserves teeming with incredible wildlife. Take a road trip along the coast, spend some time on safari; it's up to you. 

Do Make the Most of the Amazing Food & Wine

The food in South Africa is spectacular, especially the fresh meat and seafood. If you can get a reservation, savour a meal at The Test Kitchen in Cape Town. This trendy eatery was recently voted one of the top fifty restaurants in the world, and it really lives up to its name, with a five-course tasting menu costing about the same as an average gastropub dinner.

Don't Drive Around with your Doors Unlocked

This isn’t meant as some kind of scare tactic, it’s just the way things are. The locals don’t drive with their doors unlocked and windows down, so it’s a good idea to take their lead. Of course, if you’re on the road in the middle of nowhere, feel free to let the fresh air in, but if you’re in a city it’s best to play it safe and keep your car secure. 

Don't Assume the Wildlife is Tame

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people think that African wildlife is tame. That elephant, although it looks happy and friendly, could crush your car and those baboons aren’t as fun-loving as their appearance may suggest. Bottom line? Respect the wildlife, and know that it is, in fact, wild.

Don't Wander Around Unknown Areas

Once again, this is often sound advice for any new destination, not just South Africa. If you aren’t sure whether an area is considered to be safe or not, don’t risk wandering around. If you’re staying at a hotel, the staff should be able to let you know the areas that are safe and the areas to avoid. Alternatively, opt for a guided tour. You’ll get to see the highlights of the destination you’re in and you’ll probably get to experience things you wouldn’t without a guide.

Don't Cut your Trip Too Short

If you think you can see all of South Africa in a week, you’ll come home disappointed. You could spend months exploring and still barely scratch the surface, so don’t make the mistake of planning a short holiday. South Africa is guaranteed to capture your heart, and even after you’ve left you’ll be daydreaming about the beauty, the flavours and the culture for months to come.

Written by Elle Croft

When Elle is not travelling, she's blogging about it over at A Bird in the Hand Travel. She believes that you don't have to look like a backpacker to travel, and writes about the stylish side of wanderlust, from stylish destinations to packing tips.

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