South Africa: Top tips for your travel
It is an exciting continent! Its mysteries always alluring to the world.
We have watched documentaries. We have read it in history. We have seen it in Bollywood songs.It is Africa. It is South Africa, the nation which altered history and has been witness to a saga of 21st century human rights movement. A true ‘Rainbow’ nation with 11 official languages and multi-ethnic groups.
My imagination had been engulfed with endless possiblities before I left London for Johannesburg, the financial capital of the nation unfortunately notorious for its crime rate. I didn’t know what to expect. Pretty sights, good food was a safe bet. But essentially the question was how will the people be? How good is the infrastructure?
My journey began at the Apartheid Museum at Johannesburg. Just the thought of walking through two different entrances – ‘’White’’ and ‘’Not-White’’ a concept made at the museum to remind of those dark days shattered me. Tear drops trickled easily. Imagine not able to play cricket as you were a ‘black’ person.
Humanity is the greatest faith. I am truly thankful for being raised in much free society, a safe place of today.
The rest of the trip only had pleasant surprises and the interactions with locals were warm.
The food has been greatly influenced by the migrants. The Dutch specialities include the malva pudding/the banting cusine, the French brought the wine, the Indonesian slaves introduced the famous Cape malay cuisine and us Indians invented the Durban Bunny Chow. Not to forget the traditional paap and braai (barbeque) of exotic meats.
My 9 day trip ended with a city visit of Cape Town. A city like any other, a bit crowded, the rich having the best views of the sea and some not so well offs enjoying them as well. A city blessed with the sea and the Table Mountain. The country has it all.
Now that sounds like a place for retirement, eh?
Here are the learnings from this Big Trip to South Africa. As usual we had done lot of research, asked tips from friends and family and got some tips from locals. There is everything which the country offers, wildlife, wine, surfing, shark diving, gold mines, casinos…. take your pick
Thought would share some tips:
1. Travel Safe
Everybody warned us. We took all precautions and luckily our journey went all right.
i) Do not walk on the streets after dark in South Africa and if possible stick to your hotel room. Seems tough? Start your day early instead.
ii) Do not wear any expensive clothes, jewellery or flash your gadgets including your camera or phone on the street. Avoid big backpacks which give away that you are a tourist.
iii) Make sure you have emergency numbers handy.Needless to say, buy a travel insurance.
2. Planning a Safari
A good safari means spending 3-4 days minimum in the wild. Although Kruger is numero uno, South Africa has many parks which will cater to your wildlife fantasy. If you are able to pay the mullah, then private game lodges are ideal.
i) Safaris are budget breaking and if you are very confident of navigating by yourself with the Big 5 , then self drive and accommodation available in parks is a good option.
ii) Don’t forget to book it advance. Here is the link to the National parks.
iii) Also, take precautionary vaccination/medicines if you are visiting a malaria prone zone.
3. Best option to explore the countryi) Depending on your budget and time available, you can choose to fly around the country or drive around or like us do a bit of both. If you have time at hand then self-drive is best as roads are excellent and drivers can be bit rash. But remember nobody can beat us Indians at rash driving. Any country’s driving license is accepted for renting a car.
ii) Make sure you do not leave anything very valuable or visible when you park the car. Some even suggest not to stop at red signal at night but common sense should prevail.
iii) Fancy having window down and wind flying in your face? Not really the best thing.
There are obviously guided tours available if you are aged 40 and with a family.
4. Shopping and Tips
i) I know you are dying to buy that amazing art craft as a centre piece for your table. But hey, don’t bargain very hard. These traders barely earn anything. Avoid shopping or eating at V&A waterfront at Cape Town, it is very touristy.
ii) Paying 10% of your restaurant bill is common practice and your tip would be welcomed with a generous smile. Also tip the hotel staff and the parking attendants.
Bon Voyage! Cape of Good Hope awaits you.
8 December 2014