7 Things to Do Before Visiting South Africa
Our featured writer Annie Pennington is soon going to be travelling to South Africa for the very first time and in this article she shares how she is preparing for this incredible trip. If you are also planning a break to South Africa check out some essential things you need to do to help you prepare.
1. Get the Essentials Sorted Early
In advance there are some important things you to buy including travel insurance, flights and booking a hotel. But once you have done these things the planning isn’t over yet. You don’t want to be reliant on others and find yourself alone in a foreign country and in a situation where you don’t have as much information as possible about where you are.
2. How Are You Going to Travel
I am very fortunate to be travelling with a group who have visited the country multiple times before, and staying with their family who have lived there for years. While all of this makes me feel pretty laid back about my trip to SA, I’m not getting complacent. There are lots of other options including structured South Africa gap year programs and adventure tours which allow you to see the highlights of the country.
3. Choose Where to Go
I am going to be taking in destinations like Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, and Cape Town but there are so many places you can add to your itinerary. Research locations and see where appeals to you.
4. Check the FCO Website
Check the foreign and commonwealth travel advice pages – although the South Africa page sounds scary at first, a thorough read reveals the simple measures you can take to stay safe. Stay in a group, avoid areas where demonstrations or marches are taking place, avoid travelling through and to townships where possible (the highest rate of crimes against tourists are in these areas), and if you’re travelling with anyone under 18 you need to have a copy of the child’s full, certified birth certificate. Such vital information and unusual requirements prove the importance of research like this.
5. Check Vaccinations & Book an Appointment with a GP
These pages also made realise I need to book an appointment with my GP (which is something I put off on the best of days, so I made sure to write this requirement in my diary to ensure I visit 4-6 weeks before I fly). I checked the NHS Fit for Travel website, which is amazingly helpful for tailored lists of vaccinations you might need, and made sure to make a list of any that might apply to me. The most commonly advised to get are for diphtheria and hepatitis A, and you may need a certificate to prove you’ve been immunised against yellow fever. It’s always helpful to ask your GP for a printed copy of your vaccination history; incredibly useful if you find yourself in a foreign hospital. When visiting South Africa, certain parts of the country are at risk of malaria – make sure to check an up-to-date map.
6. Get Safety Advice Before Departing
Several of my friends have also visited South Africa before, so I made a point of asking them their top tips. Some were safety related, like not stopping at red lights in Gauteng (there is a high risk of carjacking in South Africa, and many tourists have been told to run red lights if they feel at risk, as long as it is safe to do so), and of familiarising yourself with the dangers of rip-tides if you plan on swimming while you’re in the country. Others were just generally useful, like making sure to get up early for a safari, as African animals are more active in the cooler hours of dawn.
7. You Can Never Do Too Much Research
Overall, I’ve realised that you really cannot do too much research. Now, whenever I’m avoiding writing essays, hoovering or emptying the bin, I’ll hit Google up to get myself further prepared for visiting South Africa. It’s not just safety advice I’m benefitting from; I’m learning the best times to visit Boulder Beach or Table Mountain (both before breakfast, when you can have the penguins or the cable car to yourself), and above all I’ve never been more excited for a trip – because I’ve never been so prepared.
By Annie Pennington