South Africa offers you diverse, inspiring and beautiful experiences. Wildlife encounters include the big five at Kruger National Park, whale watching in Hermanus or watching penguins waddle onto the beach in cosmopolitan Cape Town. For history buffs a battlefield tour of Rourke’s Drift in Kwa Zulu Natal will bring the past alive, while connoisseurs can discover the world class vineyards in the Cape Winelands before embarking on a road trip through the beautiful landscape along the Garden Route. Luxury travel is surely epitomised by opulent train journeys on the Blue Train and Rovos Rail. Combine South Africa holidays with Dubai, Mauritius or the Seychelles for the ultimate multi centre experience. Download our special edition of Footprints for more inspiration on holidays to South Africa.
Autumn in Pretoria is pleasantly warm, but not hot, with sunny days and blue skies. The nights begin to cool down, but aren’t yet cold, and the trees start shedding their leaves.
Our favourite time to visit Pretoria is in between September and November, when the spring weather is warm but not as rainy as summer and you can see the exceptional beauty of the many Jacaranda trees in bloom.
The Jacaranda trees in Pretoria open their purple flowers during the spring months, as do many of the other indigenous wildflowers blooming throughout the city. The temperature warms as rain increases after the dry winter.
Summer days in Pretoria are hot, but not excessively so, and mostly sunny. Brief summer thunderstorms occur between November and February but are followed by clear, sunny skies.
Pretoria’s dry winters mean that drought conditions prevail throughout the winter months. Sharp frosts sometimes blanket the ground, although snow is extremely rare.
Autumn in Sun City offers warm temperatures and a decrease to the summer rains as the season heads into the bone-dry months of winter.
Sun City’s temperate climate and plethora of activities on offer mean any time is a good time to visit. If you want fewer crowds, head to Sun City between June and August. This is also the best time to view the wildlife at the nearby game reserves.
Spring’s low foliage means it is a good time to view wildlife. Rain begins to fall heavily as it heads into the wet summer months, bringing lush green foliage to the surrounding game reserves.
Expect occasional afternoon thunderstorms and overcast days during the summer in Sun City. This is peak season so there will be thick crowds throughout Sun City and the surrounding game reserves.
The winter months in Sun City are dry with clear, sunny skies. The temperatures drop from the baking summer heat and in June and July you will experience cool nights. This is the best time to see wildlife at the nearby national parks and game reserves.
Early autumn sees a continuation of summer’s rains, with thunder and lightning showers occurring regularly. This season in Pilanesberg National Park segues quickly into winter.
July to October is the best time to view wildlife in Pilanesberg National Park. More animals are at the waterholes, the foliage has died back, and lions are bolder about coming out into the open. The temperatures are comfortable and the days sunny.
Spring’s low foliage means it is a good time to view wildlife. Rain still falls heavily but starts to taper off as it gets closer to the dry winter.
Summer is the wet season for Pilanesberg National Park. The temperatures are warm but the consistent rain brings lush, dense foliage to the park
Winter daytime temperatures in Pilanesberg National Park stay warm, although it can get very cold at night. Thanks to reduced foliage, this is the best time to see wildlife.
Generally the weather in KwaZulu Natal throughout autumn remains dry and sunny. Temperatures are not as hot as in the summer so humidity is lower. This is the perfect time to get outside.
September to October or March to May are the best months to visit KwaZulu Natal. These spring and autumn months see cooler temperatures from the sweltering summers and less humidity and rain.
Summer temperatures really start in KwaZulu Natal in mid spring, so by October you will experience an increase in the temperature. Most days are sunny and rain that falls is usually quite light.
Throughout KwaZulu Natal the summer brings warm to hot temperatures and high humidity. While light rain falls throughout the year, KwaZulu Natal’s long, hot summers are the wettest season.
KwaZulu Natal’s sunny days continue into winter and you will see a decrease in rain as this is the driest season of the year. Temperatures drop but remain comfortable and humidity disappears.
Autumn is a great time to see Cape Town. March, April, and May still see plenty of blue sky and sunshine, but fewer tourists, so you get more space on the sands of Camps Bay or the trails of Table Mountain.
Cape Town is a great year round destination, but we particularly love visiting between October and April. South Africa’s seasons are opposite to the UK, so it feels great to see the sunshine when things have turned cold at home.
Spring, from September to November, is delightful; quieter than the summer months, with warm and rising temperatures, freshly blooming flowers, and fabulous whale and dolphin watching, particularly in September.
For the best beach weather, head to Cape Town in the summer months of December to February. Temperatures are at their highest, and so are tourist numbers, especially at Christmas and New Year. Strong winds occasionally mist over Table Mountain.
The winter months of June to August are when Cape Town sees most rainfall. The weather can be wet, windy, and chilly, while other days are clear, sunny, and even warm. Pack warmer clothes if you plan to visit at this time.
Summer flows smoothly into autumn in Johannesburg, the days remaining warm and sunny from March to May, although the nights begin to cool and you may want a jacket for the evenings.
As the temperature is so mild throughout the year in Johannesburg, our favourite time to go is in the spring when the chance of encountering rain or thunderstorms is low. The tourists haven’t descended on Johannesburg yet, leaving you open to see more of this beautiful city.
Spring arrives around September and extends until November in Johannesburg, bringing pleasant, warm days with sunny skies. Thousands of flowers burst into bloom as the temperatures rise.
Johannesburg’s summers are warm and sunny, but not excessively hot, with frequent, but brief, rainstorms falling between December and February. Despite the rain, there is plenty of sunshine and a very low level of humidity.
Winters in Johannesburg are mild and dry, with rain very rare. A mid-winter chill sweeps the town from about July to August, although the temperatures stay moderate the rest of the season.
The cooling autumn months see more rain, but the changing vegetation offers up a kaleidoscope of brilliant colours that is unforgettable. Scattered thunderstorms may occur in the afternoons and evenings start to get cool.
The dry winter and spring months of June through October are the best months for viewing wildlife in Kruger National Park, as the vegetation is low and sparse and the dry conditions see the animals migrating to the watering holes.
The spring months of September and October are bone dry with hot, dry winds and sparse vegetation. By the end of October or November the spring rains start, bringing more humidity and turning the vegetation green.
Summer is the rainy season in Kruger National Park, turning the warm weather balmy and the vegetation lush and green. While the dense vegetation makes it more difficult to spot animals, you are likely to see baby animals, especially in November and December.
The dry winter season of June to August in Kruger National Park means vegetation is low and less dense and animals easier to spot. There is very little rain during these months and the days are sunny and comfortable, although mornings and evenings can be chilly.
There are a number of carriers flying from the UK to South Africa.
Direct Carriers: South African Airways, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly to Johannesburg and British Airways fly direct to Cape Town. Average flight time is approximately 11 hours.
Indirect Carriers: Emirates flies via Dubai and KLM flies via Amsterdam to both Cape Town and Johannesburg. South Aifrican Airways also fly to Cape town via Johannesburg.
Departure Taxes: These are included in the cost of your airline ticket.
British passport holders do not require a visa to enter South Africa. Please ensure you have two blank pages in your passport or you may be refused entry. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in South Africa. Please contact the South African High Commission for up to date country and visa information on 0207 451 7299.
On the 1st June 2015 new regulations have come into effect for passengers aged 18 and under:
Where both parents are travelling with a child who is under 18:
Where one parent is travelling with a child who is under 18, they must produce:
Where an adult is travelling with a child, who is not their biological child, they must produce:
Children travelling alone must produce:
As advised from the local governments and the FCO, customers travelling to and from South Africa, with immediate effect, must have a Machine Readable Passport, as immigration will not be accepting passports which are non-machine readable.
The official currency is the South African Rand and you can buy them in the UK. The import and export of local currency in cash is limited to 5,000 Rand. If you need to change your UK Pounds in South Africa, you can do so at banks, currency exchanges and many hotels.
Major credit cards are widely accepted at almost all hotels, shops, restaurants, and game reserves. The only exception seems to be petrol stations. Cash machines will also accept international cards and can be found in all towns, cities, shopping malls, and petrol stations. Traveller's cheques can be used at banks, hotels, restaurants, and some shops.
Much like in the UK, a tip of 10 to 15 percent tends to be expected, although it is worth checking that a service charge has not already been added to your bill. The good news is the service in South Africa is usually worth every penny.
May - August
Before travelling you should make sure you are up to date with the standard vaccinations such as Diptheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Polio. Also recommended is Typhoid. Anti-malarial protection is essential for Kruger National Park. Yellow fever immunisation is required if arriving from an infected country or area. For full details, please contact your GP.
How you fill your suitcase for holidays in South Africa depends on where you are going and what you are doing. Think beachwear, city-chic outfits, muted safari gear, or all of the above. South Africa is very laidback, so there is no need to dress up for dinner (unless you want to) in all but the smartest of restaurants. Most places offer a glimpse of incredible scenery, so your camera and binoculars are essentials.
jumper or fleece and long-sleeved cover-ups for evenings and breezy days;
High factor sunscreen;
A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face;
lightweight summer clothing;
Comfortable walking shoes for exploring;
An electrical plug adaptor (the power supply in South Africa is 230 volts at 50 hertz).
A waterproof jacket;
practical clothing for safaris;
Your camera and binoculars;
The country's diverse heritage has helped cook up its varied cuisine, with a mix of flavours both borrowed and distinctly South African. As a result, the nation's restaurant scene is thriving and a perfect match for the superb local wines. People love their meat here, from beef and chicken to springbok, warthog, and ostrich barbecued on a braai in true South African style. Seafood is abundant too, thanks to the miles and miles of coastline. Other local tastes include the sweet curries of Cape Malay cuisine in Cape Town, and the spicy Indian influenced dishes in Durban.
This traditional Afrikaans stew is cooked in an iron pot called a potjie over an open fire. The recipe includes meat, vegetables, rice, or potatoes, all left to simmer with spices for up to six hours, ideally with a fireside chat while you wait. Stirring is frowned upon, the idea being that the different flavours mix as little as possible.
South Africa’s national dish has been eaten in the Cape of Good Hope since the 17th century. This Cape Malay dish is a spicy, baked minced beef stew with a creamy egg-based topping. The recipe traditionally contains dried fruit like raisins or sultanas.
Bredie is the Afrikaans word for stew. This meat, tomato, and vegetable dish is usually made with mutton and a dash of chilli, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. It was first introduced to South Africa by Malay people, usually slaves brought to the colony.
South Africa has a multitude of great restaurants, but there is another side to its culinary appeal. Follow your nose, or the hungry locals, to find street food stalls in markets, on city pavements, and in the townships. South African street food reflects the diverse blend of indigenous and migrant people who have settled there, from European-style sausages to Indian-influenced samosas. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
This Dutch-inspired spicy sausage is made from beef and a blend of spices including allspice, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, and coriander seed. Usually grilled on a braai, it is often served with pap, a South African side dish similar to polenta, or hotdog-style as a boerie roll with a tomato and onion relish.
South Africa’s most famous snack is a type of cured, spiced meat cut into strips. Similar to beef jerky but thicker and less sweet, it can be made from any meat, like springbok, ostrich, and even shark, but is usually made from cuts of beef.
Also known as kota, this fast food favourite is a scooped out bread loaf filled with curry. Legend has it that it was invented in Durban’s Indian community during apartheid, when people of Asian and African descent were banned from using cutlery.
With more than its fair share of luxury hotels and upmarket restaurants, holidays in South Africa can sometimes be expensive. Generally, though, prices compare very favourably to the UK. In a mid-range restaurant, a three-course meal for two might set you back 300 South African Rand, with a bottled beer at 18 South African Rand. In the shops, you can buy a 1.5 litre bottle of water for around 12 South African Rand.
With its varied heritage, from indigenous tribes to European and Asian migrants, South Africa does not have one single national costume. Instead, there are many forms of traditional clothing, most of which have today been replaced by more Western styles. In Zulu culture, vibrant, brightly-coloured dress is a symbol of a woman's single status, as are beaded headbands, necklaces and izincu bands around elbows, waists, and elbows. Married Zulu women wear more demure isicholo hats and ibhayi shawls. While Zulu men traditionally wear different animal hides, depending on their marital status.
Otherwise known as the Rainbow Nation, holidays in South Africa meet a diverse mix of beliefs, languages, colours, and creeds. The country has come a long way from its sad history of colonialism and apartheid, although tensions still linger in issues such as the unequal division of wealth. Around two-thirds of South Africans are Christian, with Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and traditional African beliefs also practised.
When it comes to etiquette, it’s worth keeping the following in mind:
• Handshaking is the usual form of greeting, although some women may just give a nod of acknowledgment.
• Smoking is prohibited in public buildings and on public transport.
• Drinking alcohol on the streets or beaches is illegal.
• Casual wear is widely acceptable on South Africa holidays.
Crime is still an issue in South Africa, although most occurs in townships and isolated areas away from the usual tourist destinations. The risk in the main tourist areas is generally low and the local authorities make protecting visitors a high priority. It is always worth following a few basic safety rules:
• Always visit townships with a reliable tour guide.
• Check beforehand that the areas you plan to visit are safe (ask hotel staff or police).
• Know where you are going before you set off, particularly at night, and do not walk alone in isolated or unsafe areas.
• Keep your valuables out of sight when away from the main tourist areas.
One of the world's top safari destinations, South Africa is home to all the iconic African animals that you may only have seen in the zoo before now. Most famous are the Big Five; if you want to see them in their natural habitat, Kruger National Park alone has over 2,000 lions, 10,000 elephants, 2,000 leopards, 20,000 buffaloes, and 10,000 rhinos.Other land mammals include giraffes, gazelles, antelope, zebras, baboons, meerkats, monkeys, hyenas, and cheetahs, which can reach speeds of over 60 miles per hour. Birdlife ranges from kingfishers and bee-eaters to eagles, vultures and the tiny-brained ostrich. Reptiles include tortoises, chameleons and over 100 species of snake, from the python to the venomous black mamba. Cold-blooded crocodiles roam the rivers and lakes, along with huge hippos. In the sea, loggerhead and leatherback turtles are the focus of a major conservation effort, and over 2,000 species of fish include the awesome great white shark. The largest of all South Africa's creatures, the blue whale, can grow up to 33 metres long. Other whales include orcas, humpbacks, and the most commonly spotted southern right whale, which can often be seen from the land as it comes into coastal bays to calve.
Shark Cage Diving
Coming face-to-face with great white sharks from the safety of a cage has to be one of the ultimate thrills. The best time of year to experience shark cage diving is from April to October, although great whites and other sharks are encountered year-round.
South Africa is one of the world’s best destinations for watching marine mammals, with whales visiting annually from July to late November and pods of dolphins year-round. In the towns of Hermanus and Plettenberg bay, both claiming to be the whale capital of the world, you can see these incredible creatures by boat and even from cliffs and beaches.
Not far from Cape Town, this sheltered beach and its huge granite boulders are home to a growing colony of the endangered African penguin. Wooden walkways allow visitors to view these charming flightless birds in their natural habitat.