South Africa Visitor Info

Home » South Africa Visitor Info

South Africa travel guide

South Africa offers diverse geography, the Big Five, and fascinating history. Pippa de Bruyn offers expert advice on what to do and when to go.

Why go?

South Africa is a big country. Its north-eastern border, churned out by the Limpopo river, is 1240 miles from the craggy Cape; the golden beaches of the subtropical east, shaped by a warm Indian ocean, are 990 miles from the semi-arid west coast, pounded by an icy Atlantic. It’s a landmass that’s almost five times the size of Britain but it is the diversity of its geography within this that makes it such a fascinating destination. From the Kalahari Desert in the north, where black-maned lions pad across sienna dunes, to the Overberg coastline that sees the annual return of Southern Right whales to calve and nurse their young; the soaring majesty of the Drakensberg peaks to the iconic flat-topped mountain that embraces the port city of Cape Town, this is an extraordinary country to which you will want to return again and again, as so many do.

For many the main drawcard are the Big Five game reserves, where species co-exist as they have for millennia in a primal wilderness that touches the soul, and South Africa still offers the best-value safari you can have on the continent. Others, fascinated by the history of ancient man, come to find out more about some of our oldest hominid remains – some four million years old – in the Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg. Road trippers are spoilt for choice – with a relatively well-maintained and signposted network that traverse vast, empty valleys and jaw-dropping mountain passes, it’s a wonderful country to explore by car (and an additional boon that South Africans also drive on the left).

Art collectors now include Cape Town as an essential stop on their global shopping trips, and the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (opening September 2017) will showcase the creative capital of a continent that has been for too long maligned by stereotypes of poverty and disease. Cape Town and its Winelands also enjoy a stellar reputation for dining – from food markets to fine dining, the quality and affordability will blow your mind.

These are all good reasons to come, but what still takes many by surprise is how much they enjoy the hospitality of South Africans. Some say it is because the South African ubuntu – a philosophy that says that no human can exist in isolation, that we become human through other humans – that there is so much warmth. Regardless, you will find this a most welcoming destination, and engaging with locals easy because most South Africans are able and happy to converse in English.

That said, this is still a country of huge inequality. It may be one of the world’s biggest producers of diamonds, gold and platinum, but some 40 per cent of its population lives below the poverty line. As a result, petty theft can be commonplace and pockets of the big cities no-go areas. It pays, particularly in cities, to be vigilant. It is important to understand the challenges the country still faces. If you’re flying into Johannesburg be sure to visit museums that chart the revolution against apartheid, such as the Hector Pieterson Memorial and the Apartheid Museum, both of which provide invaluable context to a country that is still in flux, and in Cape Town an Uthando tour should be as important as a visit to Robben Island (see Top 10 Attractions in Cape Town).

When to go

The first decision to make when planning a holiday here is what sort of break you want – a week lying on the beach, for instance, or a two-week trip combining the best of bush, beach and wine, or a looping road trip that includes a variety of sights but no domestic flights, and so on.

If you’re looking for a beach holiday you’ll need to either fly into Cape Town from November to March, or to Durban to enjoy the subtropical Kwazulu Natal coast from April to October. Safari is good all year round in South Africa – it’s more about where you go than when. Road trips from Cape Town are also good all year round because of the semi-arid Karoo, which is such a great contrast with the temperate Garden Route that neighbours it.

If you’re limited for time you should ideally fly into Cape Town, do a little exploration of the Western Cape, then fly to the Kruger area for safari and depart from Johannesburg or Cape Town home. Two weeks is enough, but you’ll be happy with three.

Getting there

The three main international airports are Johannesburg, Cape Town and to a lesser extent Durban (King Shaka). There are numerous domestic airports, including two that service Kruger National Park (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport and Skukuza). Plenty of air-conditioned buses and (not quite as well maintained) trains; both of these are time consuming options not recommended unless you are here for some months. The exception if of course Blue Train (bluetrain.co.za) and Rovos Rail (rovos.com), both ultra-luxurious options that are well worth the money if you love a train journey.

There are loads of scheduled flights a week from London to South Africa, most overnight. The direct flights take about 12 hours to Cape Town and 11 hours to Johannesburg. Only Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com), British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) and South African Airways (0844 375 9680; flysaa.com) fly direct to Johannesburg, and only BA and Virgin fly direct to Cape Town.

Other airlines offering (usually cheaper) indirect flights include Air France (0871 663 3777; airfrance.co.uk), Emirates (0844 800 2777; emirates.com), Ethiopian Airlines (0800 016 3449; ethiopianairlines.com), KLM (0871 231 0000; klm.com), Lufthansa (0871 945 9747; lufthansa.com ), Qatar (0333 320 2454; qatarairways.com) and Turkish Airlines (0844 800 6666; turkishairlines.com). Booking the two legs of the journey with separate airlines also can work out considerably cheaper (for instance, first taking easyJet to the Continent).

Recommended operators

UK-based tour operators that specialise in Africa include Africa & Beyond (0161 789 8838; africa-and-beyond.co.uk), Africa Sky (013 4288 9765; africaskysafari.com), Africa Travel (020 7843 3587; africatravel.com), Imagine Africa (020 7622 5114; imagineafrica.co.za), Rainbow Tours (020 3131 6625; rainbowtours.co.uk), Real Africa (016 0396 4730; realafrica.co.uk) and Expert Africa who specialize in Cape holidays (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com).

The Telegraph is working in partnership with Africa Travel on an Exclusive Tour of South Africa’s wildflower hotspots. Travelling when the country’s magnificent wild blooms are due to hit their peak, you will be joined by broadcaster and gardener, Carol Klein, and Horticultural experts will be on hand throughout to show you the secrets of the landscapes, including rare plants and places inaccessible to most visitors. The 15-night tour costs from £3,995 per person, departing 14 August 2018. Click here for more information and to book.

For a local Cape Town-based concierge-style operator whose knowledge about where to stay and what to do is limitless, contact Lew Rood (lewrood.com); for a personalised road trip itinerary with safari add-on contact the travel writers (myself included) at Best Kept Shhh (bestkeptshhh.co.za). Rhino Africa, also Cape Town-based, offer an impeccable, highly professional and in-depth service, from day trips to itineraries across Africa (rhinoafrica.com/).

Budget holiday specialists include Fleewinter (020 7112 0019; fleewinter.com), Kuoni (013 0674 4435; kuoni.co.uk), Premier Holidays (08444 937 531; premierholidays.co.uk), Thomas Cook (0800 804 8330; thomascooktours.com), Thomson Tailormade (0844 050 2828; thomsonworldwide.com) and Trailfinders (020 7368 1200; trailfinders.com).

The DigiMarCon Difference

Business and marketing professionals have a lot of choice in events to attend.
As the Premier Digital Marketing Conference & Exhibition Series worldwide
see why DigiMarCon stands out above the rest in the marketing industry
and why delegates keep returning year after year

Global Event Series

DigiMarCon is the Largest Digital Marketing Conference & Exhibition series in the world, with annual events held in all continents (North America, Latin America, Europe, UK, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) in 10 countries (United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Singapore, India, United Arab Emirates and South Africa), across 15 cities (New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando, Sydney, London, Amsterdam, Singapore, New Delhi, Dubai, Johannesburg and Online). Wherever you are located there is a regional DigiMarCon event nearby you can attend.

5 Star Luxury Event Venues

DigiMarCon Conferences are held in top luxury 5-star event venues across the world such as; Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships, Olympic Stadiums, Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre and JW Marriott, Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency, InterContinental, Loews and Sofitel Hotel properties. Discount hotel room rates at each venue hotel means no hassle getting to and from the venue each day.

Extensive & Memorable Networking Experiences

Building relationships matter! At DigiMarCon Conferences we have more networking breaks on our program than others. On average there are 8 Networking breaks at each event giving delegates ample opportunities in a relaxed atmosphere to meet others over the 2-days at the event; from 1-hour round table networking luncheons to 3-hour dinner receptions. These networking breaks are set in picturesque locations to facilitate memorable experiences while fostering new relationships. Such experiences include enjoying cocktails and the Sunset over the Pacific Ocean on a private Ocean Terrace in Santa Monica, to being on the Sydney Olympic Stadium playing arena at night enjoying cocktails under the lights, to dining at the 360 Revolving Restaurant at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto for a Dinner Reception, enjoying cocktails on a private promenade overlooking Times Square in New York City, or having fun at the Dazzles Night Club onboard the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas for a Farewell Party, etc.

Industry Thought Leaders from Leading Brands

DigiMarCon Keynotes, Panels and Master Classes are facilitated by the foremost thought leaders in the industry, from celebrity social media influencers to CMO’s from the largest Fortune 500 company brands that are disrupting the digital marketing industry, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, Adobe, eBay, Netflix and more. All presentations are pitch-free, and include actionable takeaways, case studies, strategies and tactics, ready to be applied when back in the office.

Premium Comfortable Meeting Spaces

At DigiMarCon Conferences you are never ‘left in the dark’…. literally, in a large room far away from the stage and speakers, crushed in tight theater seating, without even a desk, while sitting in the dark. At DigiMarCon all delegates have premium meeting space in luxurious ballroom well-lit spaces, with comfortable seating with desk enabling delegates to use their laptop to take notes with ample charging facilities onsite in a comfortable space to learn and thrive. All tables are situated close with direct view of the stage.

Value for Money & Generous Discounts

DigiMarCon Conferences are affordable to attend, from single-day event passes up to two-day VIP options at a fraction of the cost of other industry events. We offer significant discounts for early bird registrations. Additionally, on top of time-limited discount pass rates, because budgets are tight, we want to make sure all groups have a chance to attend DigiMarCon. For government employees, students, academic, startups, non-profit organizations and teams, we offer generous discounts off the prevailing registration price.

Collaborative Learning & Audience Participation

Attend DigiMarCon and you become part of the show! DigiMarCon Conferences tap into the talent of the room, drawing from the knowledge and experience of the professionals in the audience. All DigiMarCon events include regular interactive question and answer sessions with speakers and the audience ideal for collaboration, audience polls, along with ice-breaker and group exercises, steered by charismatic Emcees.

Meet the Speakers in Person

DigiMarCon Conferences put you right up and close with the speakers giving you the opportunity to meet these social media influencers which you follow in person. Speakers are never hidden in private speaker rooms away from the audience, they are in the auditorium sitting right beside you and participating.

Exceptional Customer Service

Attending a conference is a well-researched decision. There are many factors to consider such as location, time, venue, cost, speakers, content, etc. At DigiMarCon our results-obsessed Customer Service team are at your service before, during and after the event to help with your needs. It’s at the core of what we do — it drives our business. Offsite, we are ready to assist you via phone, ticket or chat. Onsite at our Conferences, friendly DigiMarCon staff serve as your hosts. They welcome your input and are happy to assist you.

TECHSPO Technology Expo

At all DigiMarCon Conferences is the co-located exclusive event TECHSPO Technology Expo, which showcases the new generation of technology and innovation, including; AdTech, MarTech, Internet, Mobile and SaaS technologies. Be inspired, amazed and educated on how these evolving technologies will impact your business for the better. Access to TECHSPO Technology Expo is included with all DigiMarCon passes.

On Demand Library Access

DigiMarCon All Access & VIP Passes include a 12-month on demand access to hundreds of hours of DigiMarCon speaker keynotes, panels and master class presentations from recent DigiMarCon Conferences, including videos, slide decks and key takeaways, available on demand so you can watch what you want, when you want.

The Largest Digital Marketing Community

Attendees of DigiMarcon Conferences gain membership to an exclusive global Digital Marketing Community of over 500,000 worldwide subscribers to our award-winning digital marketing blog and over 70,000 members to our Digital Marketing Professionals Group in LinkedIn (visit https://www.linkedin.com/groups/2661359/). This global community comprises of innovators, senior marketers and branders, entrepreneurs, digital executives and professionals, web & mobile strategists, designers and web project managers, business leaders, business developers, agency executives and their teams and anyone else who operates in the digital community who leverage digital, mobile, and social media marketing. We provide updates to the latest whitepapers and industry reports to keep you updated on trends, innovation and best practice digital marketing.