Tips on travelling to South Africa from Kallam Craigs
How well do you know South Africa?
I am a certified South Africa Specialist after completing a course provided by the South African Government. I work in an industry where it is my job to sell South Africa as a destination and this job has also very luckily allowed me to travel to South Africa and experience all its wonders to better my knowledge.
What is the appeal of South Africa for travellers?
South Africa is such a diverse country in terms of culture, climate and terrain. It's like several countries all rolled up into one unique destination. This means there is always something for everyone in South Africa, whether its golfing on the Garden Route, going on Safari in Kruger, or exploring the historic battlefields of KwaZulu Natal
When is the best time to visit the country?
Since South Africa is such a large country with such varying topography the climate changes considerably from one province to another. The best time to visit the country also depends hugely on what you plan to do when you are there. It is in the southern hemisphere so summer runs from around November to March. The Western Cape province, home to Cape Town and one of the most popular destinations in South Africa, experiences its dry season during those summer months so a visit between those dates is recommended for good hot dry weather. It's ideal for all those golfers and beach lovers! The rest of the country has its wetter season during the summer months and things dry up during the winter. But when I say winter don't expect bitter cold like winters in the UK! You can still expect lovely warm dry days, this is a great time to go on Safari as the animals are easier to spot with less vegetation and they also tend to congregate at watering holes due to the dry conditions.
Anything special I should pack for travel to South Africa?
A good camera with plenty of room on it because I promise you will be constantly taking photos of the breathtaking scenery!
What's the best way to get around?
I would always recommend renting a car, especially if you plan on doing something like starting in Cape Town and working your way up the Garden Route. It's a big country so self driving is an economical and practical idea as it gives you plenty of freedom to do as you please. The infrastructure in the main urban areas as well as the roads that connect them are excellent and well sign posted. They drive on left hand side which is great for everyone travelling from the UK and Ireland.
What are your top three attractions?
For me the top attractions are doing a Table Mountain cable car ride in Cape Town, going on a proper evening game drive in Kruger and lastly since I'm a golfer, a stay at the world renowned Fancourt Estate in George on the Garden Route.
Anything or anywhere travellers should avoid in South Africa?
South Africa is home to almost 3000km of coastline with beautiful beaches that attract thousands. Just be careful when swimming at these beaches and beware of any flags and sign posts put up by lifeguards with regards to safety. I would recommend only swimming on beaches patrolled by lifeguards. Like any country in the world, there are areas avoid at night such as the very heart of city centres like Johannesburg, or townships at the outskirts of cities.
Anything I should be aware of as a visitor in terms of local customs/traditions?
South African people are very polite, accommodating and friendly to tourists. They are very honest and straightforward so don't take this in the wrong way. Always be sure to leave a tip whether it's for drivers, caddies, or servers. Even a small amount shows respect and can mean a lot more than you think to people who are trying to provide for their families.
How safe is South Africa? What safety measures would you advise visitors take?
I think South Africa is often given a bad rep in terms of safety. Like any other country in the world there are certain inner city areas you should avoid at night, but as a whole the South African people are extremely friendly and hospitable.
Would you recommend it as a destination for families travelling with kids?
I would absolutely recommend it as a destination for kids. The excitement they will get from a genuine safari experience will stick with them forever!
What are your favourite restaurants in South Africa?
The food and drink in South Africa is outstanding think some of the best restaurants in South Africa can be found in Cape Town and especially the Winelands. The Test Kitchen, La Moutte, La Colombe, Codfather Seafood and Sushi and Biserca Bistro would be some of my favourite restaurants in Cape Town. Delaire Graff, Rust en Vrede, Tokara, Terrior, Reuben's, Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant, Le Bon Vivant, Grande Provence, Foliage, Dutch East and La Petite Ferme would be some more restaurants in the Winelands that I would recommend!
What are the best souvenirs to buy in South Africa?
I always think a good souvenir depends on the taste of the person you are buying for. There are some beautiful wood carvings of iconic African animals that you can get hold of that I think make a lovely souvenir representative of the country.
Is it an expensive country?
South Africa is superb value for money. The Rand tends to be very weak compared to major currencies such as Sterling, the Euro, and the US Dollar, which means you can get a lot for your money. In many places, you will find yourself eating beautiful steak dinners with top class wine for less than half the price you would pay back home!
Is there anything else about South Africa you think travellers should know?
South Africa is an absolute must for anyone who enjoys travelling. It offers something for everyone in terms of activities and experiences. I would recommend you allow a professional with experience to help organise your trip rather than going it alone as it is such a huge destination with so much to offer, you want your holiday to really be the trip of a lifetime.