Travelling in South Africa post COVID – The 10 most asked questions

Let’s take a look at the 10 most common questions we get asked about travelling in South Africa…post COVID…

1. Is South Africa dangerous?

After the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup in South Africa, surveys found that about 70% of tourists felt safe in South Africa, while 26.4% believed they were very safe. Only 3.8% felt they were somewhat unsafe. Source: Brand South Africa

South Africa is often perceived as a dangerous destination due to its high rate of crime. In some areas—especially large cities—poverty is rife, and as a result crime is common. However, thousands of tourists visit the country every year without incident, and the rewards of doing so are generous. If you exercise caution and avoid certain areas as a tourist, you’ll be treated to pristine beaches, rugged mountains, and game-filled reserves. South Africa’s diverse cities are rich in both history and culture, and its people are some of the most hospitable in the world. Source: TripSavvy

2. What are the South African health services and hospitals like?

South Africa boasts some of the best medical training in the world, which means doctors in South Africa are highly sought after across the globe and in some cases are ‘poached’ by western countries offering better salaries. Source: Expatica

For emergencies in South Africa, you can call 112 from any mobile phone in South Africa. This will put you through to a call center, from which you’ll be routed to your nearest provider.

Emergency services in South Africa are run by provincial health departments. As well as the public services, private companies such as ER24 and Netcare 911 run their own services – and if you take out private health insurance, your provider will tell you who their preferred partners are.

  • Netcare 911 emergency number: 082 911
  • National ambulance service: 10177
  • Police: 10111

3. Is South Africa a friendly country?

Anyone who’s ever been to a braai — a South African BBQ — will tell you the same thing: South Africans are quick to treat you like family. 

Despite its divisive and troubled history, South Africa has emerged in the 21st century as a country that celebrates its diversity. Not that there aren’t tensions or issues anymore, but the nation has made a conscious effort to move away from its past mistakes and forge an identity in which people from everywhere feel welcome. Source: Far and Wide

In addition to being welcoming—79% of respondents here said they were able to integrate well with the local community—this country offers expats financial perks, with 47% saying that relocating here has brought more access to luxuries, and 69% reporting an increased disposable income. Source: Forbes

4. Will I see animals everywhere in South Africa?

Most of the animals that Africa is famous for are confined to reserves for their own safety. These are however scattered throughout South Africa so there is no shortage of options.

However, a common question is “will i see wild animals in Cape Town?” The answer is a resounding yes! But if you are looking for the Big 5 (Lion, Rhino, Hippo, Leopard, Buffalo) then you will have a travel a few hours outside of Cape Town to see these.

Cape Town sightings include:

Chacma Baboons: They can be spotted from the Parking on top of Sir Lowry’s Pass near Somerset West or along the coastal roads from Simons Town to Cape Point or around Tokai Forest. In some residential areas in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town especially around Tokai and Simon’s Town the residents have to be careful to have baboon latches on their bins and windows.

Penguins: These cute animals can be seen in Simons Town at Boulders Beach and at Kogel Beach near Betty’s Bay. At Boulders you can swim in the warm lagoon and splash in the waters while the penguins bath right next to you. Beware of sea urchins along the boulders, my little one just made painful acquaintance with these little sea creatures there. And be careful when moving your car when staying in Simonstown as sometimes the little African penguins love to hide underneath your car.

Cape Mountain Zebra: Cape Point Nature Reserve is a great place to spot all kind of African wildlife. There are free roaming ostriches, springboks and other antelopes like kudus roaming freely in the park too. Zebras can be seen also roaming the nature reserve around Koeberg Power Station near Melkbosstrand.

Whales: You do not have to drive out to Hermanus to see the huge mammals splashing in the water, in the season ( May to November) you can spot them along the False Bay and the Atlantic Coast too. We have seen them from Blouberg Beach even! Good spots are also Misty Cliffs driving from Simonstown towards Kommetjie, Boulders Beach and Fish Hoek.

Dassies: Also called Rock Rabbits or Rock Hyrax. These cute little mammals with their big black eyes can be seen in Table Mountain National Park and at Cape Point. They live in bigger herds, so if you see one, wait there are usually many more to come.

Snakes: If you are keen to spot some of the world’s deadliest snakes, the Cape Cobra or the black Puff Adder, you should head out to West Coast National Park. When we visited the park, we always saw one of the big snakes crossing the road or by the roadside. Just be careful and do not approach them, better take a picture from the safety of your car.

Flamingos and pelicans : Try Rietvlei Nature Reserve between Milnerton and Tableview for birdwatching. You can access the reserve from Pentz Drive off Blaauwberg Road and enter at the Aquatic Club. There are some great birdhides from where you can watch the flamingos and pelicans as well as the abundant birdlife, but beware of the snakes which live in the reserve too.

Giant Tortoises: See them in the Tygerberg Mountain Reserve near Durbanville in the Northern Suburbs, where you can find really huge example of the turtles roaming freely.

Ostriches: They roam freely in Cape Point Nature Reserve, but you can visit West Coast Ostrich Farm and Cape Point Ostrich Farm too where you can learn about these giant birds.

5. Is South Africa a good country for a road-trip?

South Africa is probably the world’s best road trip destination. The roads are (mostly) in great conditions, points of interest are not too far from one another, drivers have great road manners, and traffic in cities is usually ok – with Johannesburg as a notable exception. Source: The Crowded Planet

South Africa’s ever-changing landscapes, pristine coastlines, quirky small towns and abundance of wide open spaces have cemented the country’s reputation as one of the world’s best road trip destinations. Source: Rough Guides

Plan a road-trip here by choosing destinations, projects, accommodation establishments and more here and adding them to our built in road-trip planner!

6. Does everyone speak English in South Africa?

English is one of 11 official languages in South Africa (the others are Afrikaans, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu) but it is one of the most widely spoken. A foreign visitor to South Africa who speaks only English will have no difficulties at all getting about and being understood. Source: Encyclopedia

While English is the home language of only 9.6% of South Africans, most residents can speak it or at least understand enough to have a conversation.

7. Do I need any vaccinations to visit South Africa?

Yes, some vaccines are recommended or required for South Africa although not essential – this depends on you and your local GP.

The National Travel Health Network and Centre and WHO recommend the following vaccinations for South Africa: COVID-19, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies and tetanus. Source: Passport to Global Health and WHO

When visiting South Africa from the UK, a few precautions should be taken to ensure you stay safe. Mosquito bite prevention and sun safety should be practised, and care should be taken when eating and drinking in areas with poor sanitation. It’s also important to get properly vaccinated. Make sure you visit our Vaccination Checker to receive your personalised travel health summary.

Before you leave for South Africa, you should make an appointment with your GP or a travel clinic to discuss your individual requirements. You should do this six to eight weeks before you fly to South Africa, as some of the common travel vaccines must be administered over the course of a month. Source: Lloyds Pharmacy

COVID – If you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to take a coronavirus test to travel to South Africa. You will need to present your vaccination certificate during travel and on arrival. Unvaccinated people must provide a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel. Source:

8. I have heard there is no culture or history in South Africa, is this true?

Perhaps one of the most outstanding things about South African culture is that it is not one single culture, but rather a range of different cultures representing every level of a very stratified community. Hybrid mixtures of these different cultures also exist, making South Africa one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Source:

Although the Portuguese first reached the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, the first serious traders were the Dutch, or as they came to be known, the Boers, or Afrikaners. Boer means farmer, the occupation of most of the settlers. The Fort de Goede Hope was built in 1652 when merchant Jan Van Riebeeck created the first settlement. Source: History Wiz

Cape Town alone is the quintessential melting pot: it is a city alive with creativity, colour, sounds, and tastes. While walking through the City’s streets and meeting its people, you will fall in love with its natural beauty, creative freedom and incredible spirit. Source: Fertility Africa Meeting

Furthermore, the first modern humans are believed to have inhabited South Africa more than 100,000 years ago. South Africa’s prehistory has been divided into two phases based on broad patterns of technology namely the Stone Age and Iron Age. Source: Wikipedia

Architecture in the European sense began with the construction of Cape Town by the Dutch late in the seventeenth century. Monumental public buildings, houses of commerce, private dwellings, churches, and rural estates of that period reflect the ornamented but severe style of colonial Dutch architecture, which was influenced by traditions from the Dutch East Indies. Many of the Cape’s most stately buildings were constructed with masonry hand carved by Muslim “Malay” artisans brought as slaves from Indonesia. After the British took over the Cape in 1806, buildings in the British colonial style modified the Cape Town architectural style. From colonial India, British merchants and administrators brought the curved metal ornamental roofs and slender lace work pillars that still typify the verandas of cottages in towns and cities throughout the nation. Houses of worship contribute an important architectural aspect even in the smallest towns. In addition to the soaring steeples and classic stonework of Afrikaans Dutch Reformed churches, Anglican churches, synagogues, mosques, and Hindu shrines provide variety to the religious architectural scene. Source: Every Culture

9. Can I trust volunteer projects in South Africa? 

There are many noble motivations to volunteer locally or abroad – like a desire to give, experience new cultures, forge new friendships and broaden your horizons. Sadly, not all volunteer programmes are created equal – this relates to worldwide, not just South Africa. This makes careful research essential to finding an ethical volunteering opportunity.

Responsible volunteering projects are based on the needs, priorities and aspirations of communities. Importantly, they’re delivered in a sustainable way, in collaboration with local people. They have a positive impact on the country, its people, wildlife and environment. Furthermore, they’re responsibly managed to safeguard both the community and volunteers. In short, ethical organisations value collaboration, transparency, sustainability and accountability.

Being a responsible traveller and an ethical volunteer boils down to doing your homework and asking a lot of questions. Beware of green washing and fancy policies that sound important, but mean little. Don’t limit your research to the organisation’s own media. Hunt for reviews and stories by former volunteers and compare them to branded messages.

Finding the ideal opportunity may be quite a process, but it’s a worthwhile one. You’ll ensure that your help makes a real difference for others. At the same time, you will be setting up an unforgettable and rewarding life experience for yourself. Find out how we can connect you to your dream volunteering experience here.

Read more here

10. How long should I go to South Africa for?

Most common answer is two weeks, but you can spend much longer and never get bored!

South Africa is the ultimate year-round destination. No matter when you decide to travel, there’s always something amazing going on—from whale migrations and prime game-viewing in winter; to blissful sunshine and Christmas festivities in summer. For generally good weather for whatever you want to do, the best time to visit South Africa is May through October, during the southern hemisphere’s winter. Days are still clear and warm, with colder nights. Source: TripSavvy

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