An american in South Africa: my travel experience

An american in South Africa: my travel experience
An american in South Africa: my travel experience

For anyone looking for a package of natural appeal, incredible wildlife, diverse rich culture, urban grit, and excellent winery, South Africa is the ultimate destination. The icing on the enchanting southern cake is the plenty of history as well as apartheid legacy that would interest history enthusiasts.

Imagine a country that hosts a massive 2,500 KM of golden coastline complimented with an exotic urban touch; that is South Africa for you. An enormous range of opportunities awaits travelers from all over the world, and no matter where your heart is; South Africa is a holistic offering with the capacity to satisfy any traveling soul. Before getting to the gist of it, South Africa is one of the most preferred destinations for tourists visiting Africa since English is one of the official languages. The fact that different cosmopolitan and modern cultures blend in with most of the natives, it makes it easier for the tourist to relate to most of the parts within the country. Apart from the spiritual experience, SA is a gem when it comes to rugged adventure and delightful gastronomy. However, a number of issues need to be addressed before packing your bags for SA.

Can I stay in South Africa without a visa?

If you are planning to visit South Africa for less than 90 days, depending on country probably you will not need a visa. South Africa Visa requirements for American citizens is now available provided you have an internet device and connection. Popularly known as an eVisa, getting and electronic visa is a straightforward procedure that gives you the benefit of a speed up process to secure your passport remotely. EVisa is the latest protocol to secure visas that most countries are currently adopting. Getting an eVisa is a hassle-free process completed online at the comfort of your space without you having to travel to the embassy to get your documentation sorted.

Americans do not need a visa if they are going to spend less than the stipulated 90 days in South Africa. Otherwise, if you are planning to surpass the 90 days, you need to apply for a visa. Different visa categories exist for different travel conditions in SA. Experts recommend proper consultation be done regarding the reasons for travel. Once you know the specific type of visa application necessary for your travel, you can begin the online application process. As soon as you submit the application, it will be reviewed, processed, and the confirmation together with the eVisa emailed to the applicant.

What is the local currency? Can I use a credit card in South Africa?

Once you get to South Africa, the local medium of trade is the South African Rand. Make sure you get the exchange rate right as the Rand against the USD keeps on fluctuating depending on the time you decide to travel. Reflecting on the past few years, the SA Rand has been on a high of R15 and a low of R9 compared to the US Dollar.

In South Africa, you will get the Rand when transacting in an ATM where there will be a foreign transaction fee of about 3%. This amount, to some, might be expensive so financial experts recommend you have the number right in terms of budgeting your travel. It is important to note that in SA banks usually close at 3.30 PM on weekdays and 1 PM on Saturdays. Sunday is an off day for banks in South Africa, so remember to plan accordingly.

Accessing an ATM depends on the places you plan to visit during your stay because it is impossible to have them in some areas, especially the rural areas. In case you are planning to go on a safari, you need to bring extra cash to avoid financial inconvenience. Having a money belt safely hidden on you with the cash and cards will indeed serve you well. Ensure your card is not out of your sight while transacting – this will limit cases of theft and fraud currently witnessed in a significant number of countries.

Do I need any vaccines prior to my South Africa visit?

No, you don’t! Unless you have been traveling along the Yellow Fever Belt, you will need proper documentation showing that you had your shots. The CDC insists that certain immunizations be done to travelers such as polio, measles, and mumps. The organization also suggest shots for rabies, tetanus, hepatitis A, and typhoid because there is a risk of exposure to these medical conditions.

What language do I use while in South Africa?

South Africa boasts a rich and diverse culture with 11 official languages, hence the term rainbow nation. Even though it is spoken almost in every corner of the country, English is regarded as the fifth most common language. IsiZulu, isiXhosa, and Afrikaans, in that order, make up the list of the top three languages in SA. Fortunately, most of the natives speak more than one language, which makes it possible to communicate with a great majority.

Are there any customs I should know about?

Tipping in South Africa compared to the West is quite different. It is best practice for a traveler to tip for services done as it motivates the locals to serve you even better. Offering a tip of 10% in restaurants and a 1USD for a person who carries your bag is a sure way to give a pat on the back of whoever is assigned the role. Given that there are some eateries that automatically grant the tip to the staff, it would be wiser to review the bills and see whether that is the case. But hey, if the service was fantastic, it doesn’t hurt to be more generous by offering a double tip.

Another custom is tipping car guards. These people show you directions on where to park and how to navigate a parking area. They are the ones responsible for taking care of your car when you park in a mall, a park, or street. It is not compulsory to tip the car guards but you can try and give them a little something – probably R5 to R10 – to display some sense of gratitude for the service done. The guards are known to be quite pushy at times when it comes to tips but don’t fret, keep smiling and if you don’t have extra change then politeness won’t hurt.

Is it safe to move around South Africa?

South Africa is relatively safe. Cases of muggings in Cape Town have been reported, but when you compare this to areas like New Orleans and Detroit then you could say that SA is a safe haven for anyone. Travel and security experts’ advice is that you don’t leave your hotel grounds alone at night, and keep your circle informed of your whereabouts including your tour guide. Remember to keep your stuff safe in public places, do not randomly walk with earphones on, and have your phone kept inside your pocket whenever you are not using it.

South African cuisine is amazing and if you have booked a room in a 4-star hotel, be sure to enjoy the water since these places host a full-water-filtration system. However, if you are in a safari or bush trip you can have some tablets to purify the water. That said; it is important you plan ahead and make sure that everything is in order before leaving for Mama Africa.