Checklist - Items to take with you
~ Passport - valid for at least 6 months after return date.
~ Air Tickets
~ Itinerary and vouchers
~ Camera/lens/ultra-violet filter
~ Spare batteries for camera and lots of film
~ Binoculars (8x30 or 10x40) for game-viewing
~ Sunglasses, Sun hat and Sun cream
~ Small torch
~ Insect repellent
~ A small cool bag for cold drinks and film canisters
~ Alarm clock, if going game-viewing in the early morning
~ Animal and Bird books, if game-watching
~ Guide Book(s)
If you are also flying on private light aircraft charter flights, please note that luggage space on board these small aircraft is very limited. Your luggage allowance will only be 10 kg per person and must be in squashy bags, rather than hard suitcases.
If, for some reason, you have any concerns or difficulties, please notify the hotel or lodge manager, or contact us on 021 856-5204. In the case of an emergency, your first contact is the Hotel or Lodge Manager. Please inform our office as soon as is practical.
All major credit cards are accepted in Southern Africa in hotels, restaurants and shops. However please note that petrol stations are 'full service' and do not accept credit cards so please ensure you carry enough cash for your petrol requirements.
Driving in Southern Africa
Hiring a rental car in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe is very straightforward. At the airport you make your way to the car rental kiosk. They will show you to your rental car. They will also supply you with maps of your route and we will provide directions to assist you.
In these countries, driving is on the left-hand side, as in Britain. Virtually all of the road signs are in English. The speed limit is 100 km/hour on rural roads and 120 km/hour on freeways and major provincial roads (100 km/hour in Zimbabwe). These will be signposted accordingly. The speed limit in built up areas is usually 60 km/hour unless there is a sign to the contrary.
Most of the roads on which you will be driving are tar roads. In Zimbabwe, we do not recommend that you leave the tar roads and your Collision Damage Waiver will not cover you in the event of an accident on gravel. However, in South Africa and Namibia, the quality of unmade roads is better, and gravel roads are the norm in many areas. Where we have suggested a gravel road because of its scenic beauty, this is clearly mentioned. Gravel roads are usually maintained in good condition, but it is important that you drive more slowly i.e. we would recommend 80 km/hour as a maximum speed. If it is a particularly 'adventurous' road, we have given you an alternative route together with the relative driving times so that you can decide which route you want to take.
Some of the major freeways in South Africa have a toll system. The normal charge is between R2 and R25. These are payable by credit card and cash.
If you are involved in an accident, whether it is your fault or not:
~ Contact the nearest car rental office. They will assist you with the necessary procedures.
~ Make a note of the particulars of any other parties involved in the accident
~ Do not allow the vehicle to be towed away without consent from your car rental company
~ If a replacement car is needed, the nearest dealer will be contacted by the rental company and brought to you. If minor repairs are needed, authorisation must be obtained from the rental company prior to commencing with the repairs.
All rental cars used by us are new; however if there is a mechanical fault with the car:
~ Either contact the nearest rental car office and they will arrange a replacement car for you
~ Or drive to the nearest dealer of the car make you are driving. Contact your nearest rental car office to obtain authorisation for any necessary repairs. Do not commence any repairs before obtaining this authorisation.
Driving on Gravel Roads
~ Excessive speed is the main cause of traffic accidents on gravel roads. Please do not exceed 80 kms/hour and try to keep to between 60 and 70 kms/hour. Though the Namibian roads are generally good, there are potholes which can be obscured by the sand.
~ If you know you will be driving mostly on gravel roads for a couple of days, reduce your tyre pressure to between 1.6 and 1.8 bar.
~ Observe road signs, especially those indicating road curves ahead.
~ If a gentle curve is indicated, reduce your speed to at least a third of your cruising speed before commencing the turn.
~ If a sharp curve is indicated, reduce your speed to at least a half of your cruising speed.
~ Try not to brake when going round bends in the road, as your car could slide on the loose sand.
~ If you do have to brake, try to do this slowly if possible.
~ In dusty conditions, switch on your headlights so that you are more easily observed by other road users.
~ Finally, if you feel that you are slightly losing control of the car and it is swerving, straighten your arms and try to steer slowly and brake very gradually. This should lessen the chances of jerky movements exacerbating the problem.
The power system is 220/230 volts AC. Adapters for electric shavers and hair dryers are obtainable locally in hardware stores. Sometimes lodges and hotels have adapters or appliances you can borrow. However, note that if you are taking part in any safari activity in a remote area especially outside South Africa, lodges do not always have electricity and generally use generator power by day for lighting and refridgeration. Please be aware that you will not find plug sockets in your room/tent at these lodges. The lodge may be able to recharge your camcorder at the main reception area so its worth asking. However we recommend that you take a manual shaver along just in case.
The secret of good game-viewing is to follow the habits of the animals you are watching as closely as possible. This usually means getting up just before sunrise for an early morning game drive.
If you are going on organised game drives in open vehicles, wear clothing that will not distract or alarm the wildlife; dark greens, browns, black or khaki are most suitable. Bright colours or white are to be avoided. A hat with a brim is also essential in Summer. Binoculars are necessary to really appreciate the animals and good mammal and bird books will aid in identification.
If you are in one of the National Parks and thus driving yourself:
~ The best and the most pleasant time is early in the morning when the gates open, or late in the afternoon. Try to travel mainly west or south in the morning and north or east in the afternoon to avoid driving directly into the glare of the sun.
~ Check the visitors' book at each of the rest camps as visitors record good sightings here and it gives an indication of where particular animals might be.
~ It has been said that the way to see the most game is to sit quietly at one of the waterholes and let the game come to you. This is particularly true in the late evening, and as the dry winter progresses, for the animals are forced to come to the natural and artificial springs which are near the park roads. Take some cool drinks, a book, binoculars and camera and wait to see what turns up! Give a waterhole longer than just a few minutes, at least half an hour is preferable.
~ Animals are very well camouflaged in their natural surroundings - you stand a much better chance of seeing something if you drive slowly i.e. between 20 and 30 kms/hour.
~ Finally, always allow enough time to get from your waterhole to the main gates before they close.
Bird-watching is particularly good between August and April when the Palaeartic migrants spend the Northern winter in Southern Africa.
Health and Medical Services
~ There are no compulsory vaccinations required for South Africa, Zimbabwe or Namibia if you are entering from Europe or the USA. However, you should consult your GP for recommended vaccinations. If you are going to Mpumalanga, Northern Natal, low-lying areas of Zimbabwe, Northern Namibia, Botswana, Malawi or Zambia, you should also take a course of anti-malaria tablets. Again, please consult your doctor.
~ Tap water is purified and is safe to drink in almost all areas. In the very few places where it is not, you will be warned and bottled water will be available. In Summer and hot regions such as the Namibian desert, you must be careful to consume plenty of water at least 2 litres per day to avoid becoming dehydrated.
~ Clients are responsible for their own medical expenses, so please ensure that you are suitably covered by travel medical insurance.
Hotel Check-in and Check-out Times
The hotel check-in time is generally 2.00 pm in the afternoon. If you arrive early, you can usually leave your luggage at the hotel. We may be able to arrange an early check-in time if your room is available.
Generally the Hotel check-out time is 11.00 am, but in some hotels you can stay longer if you request it. If you wish to use your room on a day basis until your evening flight, please let us know as soon as possible as this can often be arranged. The additional charge is from 50-100% of the room tariff. Otherwise the hotel or lodge can keep your luggage in a safe deposit area.
Languages in Southern Africa
There are eleven official languages in South Africa and one official language in Namibia and Zimbabwe (English). In South Africa the most common languages that you will hear are likely to be English, Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans. In Namibia, you are most likely to hear English, Herero, Ovambo, Afrikaans and German. In Zimbabwe, English, Shona and Ndebele. In Botswana, English, Setswana.
This should be valid for at least 6 months after the date of intended departure from the country you are visiting.
For close-up photographs of animals, it is essential to have a 200mm to 300mm or telephoto lens. However, much of Southern African scenery is characterised by wide open spaces, so a 28mm wide angle lens could also be invaluable, especially if you want to emphasise something in the foreground.
100-200 ASA film will be appropriate for most conditions, but some 400 ASA film can be useful for the light conditions at dusk or if you are lucky enough to come across a cheetah in a high speed chase. Make sure you bring some spare batteries, as these may not be readily available and an ultra-violet filter is also useful for reducing glare. A lens hood will prevent light from diffusing an image if you have to shoot towards the sun.
If you are not a regular photographer, the following tips may be useful:
~ The bright sunlight means that early morning and late afternoon are generally the best times for photography.
~ Avoid static pictures of animals - a giraffe drinking is a much better photo than one just calmly looking at you.
~ When photographing animals, ensure that the horizon remains level.
~ Think about your background - if you are at a waterhole, you can select a spot at which to wait which gives you a good background and the right light.
~ If you don't have a good tele-photo lens, don't be tempted into taking numerous shots of animals in the medium ground. You will end up with lots of photos of green or brown bush! Instead concentrate on taking landscape and scene shots, for example, of zebras playing or a collection of animals at a waterhole.
Private Game Reserves
Some of the lodges in the private game reserves are not fenced and are therefore open to all wild animals in the surrounding bushveld, including predators. Please ask a ranger or lodge guard to accompany you to and from your chalet at night. Neither Our Way Travel & Safaris nor the game lodge accepts any liability for any incidents.
If you are driving yourself into a Private Game Reserve, there may be an entrance fee payable at the Gate: Please see your detailed itinerary for details of charges.
It is your responsibility to reconfirm any international flights. This should be done 72 hours before the flight. The relevant telephone numbers are given below:
SAA Johannesburg 011 978 1111
Cape Town 021 936 1111
Durban 031 250 1111
Harare 0263 4 738 922/9
Mauritius 0230 637 3312
0230 637 2312
0230 637 3552
Windhoek 264 626 540 229
BA Johannesburg 011 441 8600
Cape Town 021 683 4203
Durban 031 450 7000
Port Elizabeth 51 6055
Mauritius 202 8000
Air Namibia Windhoek 061 298 2370
Cape Town 021 216 685
021 934 0757
Johannesburg 011 442 4461
011 970 1767
Air Zim Harare 04 794 481-6
04 730 831
04 790 108/123
In our opinion, Southern Africa is generally a safe area for tourists; many areas are no less safe than at home. However, when in Southern African cities, the same precautions should be taken as in any large city in the world.
This advice is most applicable to Johannesburg, Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and you should avoid the downtown areas of these cities. However, caution should also be exercised in Cape Town and other large cities and towns.
~ Please keep your rental car doors locked at all times and wind up windows in slow traffic to deter hawkers and beggars.
~ Don't carry all your essential documents and travellers cheques with you. Leave valuable jewellery, spare money and your passport in your Hotel safe.
~ When possible, park in the hotel car park or in public car parks ('parkades'). This is essential in Johannesburg and Durban, where you should not park in the street.
~ Try not to leave anything in your car when it is parked, except in the boot. Don't leave handbags, even in the boot.
~ Do not give lifts to hitch-hikers.
~ Get hotel staff to ring for or hail a taxi. Never get in a minibus taxi (township taxi).
~ Avoid driving through former homelands or past squatter camps late at night.
~ Do not enter township areas, unless part of an organised tour.
Having said this, it is very unlikely that you will encounter any serious crime or violence in the popular areas you will be visiting. However, it is sensible to bear these precautions in mind at all times.
Furthermore do not put anything of value, such as expensive camera equipment, in your checked baggage - this should always travel with you as hand luggage.
The Flight and Arrival
At the Check-in desk, please have your passport and ticket ready. You are allowed to take one item of hand luggage on the plane with you. The maximum free luggage allowance in economy is 20 kg. Please be careful to keep within this limit as the airlines will charge for excess baggage, especially if the flight is full.
During the flight, you will be asked to fill out an Arrival Form (Temporary Residence Permit) for Customs. Please put Our Way Travel & Safaris, PO Box 60419, Tavle View, Cape Town, 7439 as the Contact Address if staying in South Africa. If you are staying elsewhere in Southern Africa, put the address of your first hotel or accommodation.
At Immigration, you may be asked to show your return air ticket and you will be given a Temporary Residence Permit in your passport, which is valid for three months.
Note: If you are travelling through Swaziland from Mpumalanga to Northern Natal, you may need to obtain a multiple entry visa for South Africa.
A tip of 10% is normal in hotels, restaurants and for taxis, depending on the service. As a guide, in a hotel you might give a porter from R7 - R15 or $1 to $2. You may also like to tip the staff at private safari lodges but this is entirely your choice. The following rates are given for guidance only: $5 - $10 per person per day for a ranger/guide; $3 per day per tracker or mokoro poler (in Botswana); $3 per guest per day to be shared among general camp staff. We suggest that you do not give to beggars.
While we go to great lengths to ensure that all your holiday arrangements run to schedule, occasionally you may experience travel delays due to a delayed flight or air strike.
In the event of a delayed or cancelled flight, it is the airline's responsibility to provide temporary accommodation and meals. If this happens to you, please:
(i) Let our South African office know.
(ii) Keep in touch with the airline.
(iii) If you decide to take an alternative scheduled flight, or any other such action, this relieves the airline of the responsibility for that journey and you will have to pay for whatever additional services you book.
Travel Insurance Information specific to South Africa
Our Way Travel & Safaris, or its associates and suppliers cannot be held responsible or liable for loss, damage, or theft of personal luggage and belongings, nor can they be held liable for personal injury, accident or illness. Insurance is compulsory for all our trips. Please ensure that you and your belongings adequately insured before your departure. It is best to purchase your policy in your country as this will cover you for repatriation back to your home country.
Please do not assume that the travel insurance on your credit card will automatically be adequate. It must cover medical costs and repatriation, cancellation and curtailment costs and baggage and money insurance. We urge you to check the exact details with your credit card company prior to travel. The costs of medical evacuation, medical costs and possible repatriation are high. You might have to cancel or curtail your holiday due to unforeseen circumstances. If you cancel a trip close to departure date for any reason you could lose all that the holiday was going to cost you. Should you have to leave the holiday early, we cannot refund you the portion of the holiday you do not complete. Dependant on the reason for cancellation and curtailment, insurance may cover you for this eventuality.
If you anticipate an insurance claim upon your return, be sure to document as accurately as possible any accident, injury or loss. Doctor's notes and police reports will aid any claim.
Our Way Travel & Safaris operates on a voucher system. All your accommodation, car rental, transfers and pre-booked excursions have been pre-paid, along with any meals that are included in the holiday price. Each of these services has a voucher which you present to the reservations staff. An additional voucher is needed for some National Park accommodation. We will often only be able to send a faxed copy, especially if you book shortly before travel.
Any additional meals, drinks and telephone calls will be on your own account, which you settle at the end of your stay at the hotel or guest lodge. In the case of car rental, if you return the car with a full tank of petrol, there should be no additional charges.
Visa, Passport and Health Requirements
At the moment EC citizens do not need a Visa to visit Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe. Holders of other passports should check with the relevant Embassy/Consulate. You DO need a Visa to enter Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. However, Passport, Visa and Health requirements can change at any time. The information published in this document was correct at the time of preparation, however it is your OWN RESPONSIBILITY to check requirements with a professionally qualified source and then to comply with those requirements.
Banking hours are as follows:
Mon. to Fri: 9 am to 3.30 pm. In country areas, they may open earlier at 8 am and close for lunch (12.45 pm to 2 pm).
Saturday - 9 am to 11 am in the towns/cities
Foreign currency may be exchanged at Rennies Travel and American Express offices.
Car Hire In South Africa
Car rental in South Africa includes Unlimited Mileage, Collision Damage Waiver, Theft Loss Waiver and Personal Accident Insurance. Petrol is not included. A deposit for excess liability, fuel and an additional R 1000 is required on initiation of the rental. The fuel deposit is payable in cash R 800 or with a credit card imprint R 400. (refunded if you return with a full tank.) The excess liability deposit is R 3000 at the start of the rental for all vehicle groups. (refunded at the end of rental)
Other items which must be paid direct to the car rental office on collection are an R100 Additional Driver fee of (if required), Collection/Delivery fees (if applicable) and a One-Way Drop Off fee of R250 except if you pick up a car from Port Elizabeth, East London or George to head westwards in which case the charge will be R 400. Collection and Delivery fees are from R50 in office hours within 20km of the car rental office.
If you would like to hire a cellphone (mobile phone) for the duration of your stay, please let us know. All the car rental companies now offer 'free rental' although there are various insurances and deposits which mean that the service is not free of all costs at the point of delivery. Please ask for details.
The Cape has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cool winters. Nevertheless, it often boasts of seeing 'Four Seasons in one day', so is not always predictable. The eastern regions have quite humid, hot summers, especially in the sub-tropical areas of Natal and the Eastern Transvaal, whilst winters are sunny and dry. Johannesburg and the Highveld can have cold winter nights due to their altitude.
Thus there is good holiday weather in South Africa at any time of year in one region or another.
South African food exemplifies its rich cultural diversity. In the Cape, the mix of Malay and Dutch influences has lead to a distinctive, aromatic cuisine with Bobotie and Bredie dishes. In Durban the large Indian community has led to its pre-eminence for curries. In Game Reserves you will encounter locally hunted venison dishes such as gemsbok and impala. However, more conventional alternatives are always available.
The Rand is made up from 100 cents. You can take up to R 5,000 Rand (hard cuurency) into the country. A mix of cash and travellers cheques is the most useful form of currency to bring. Credit cards with a 'Cirrus' logo may be used to withdraw cash at ATM machines.
The following allowances apply when entering South Africa.
1 Litre spirits
2 Litres wine
50 ml perfume
250 ml eau de toilette
Other gifts for SA residents up to R1000 in value not including golf clubs, firearms, ammunition, watches or furs.
Although South Africans drive on the left and road signs are similar to those in the UK, there are some local idiosyncrasies which may be worth being forewarned about:
~ It is common practice to pull onto the hard shoulder to allow other drivers to pass.
~ A crossroads may be a 4-way stop. Traffic from all directions must stop at the junction and right of way belongs to the first vehicle at the junction.
~ Turnings are often marked right at the turn rather than a short distance ahead of the turn. You need to be very vigilant when you are expecting a turning.
~ Sometimes, for a short distance, a road is rather confusingly designated with more than one route number; both a blue sign for a National Route and also a green sign for a Provincial Route. These signs alternate and can give you the impression you are on the wrong road. Before assuming you have missed a turn, continue to the next confirmation sign to make sure.
During your trip you may visit or stay in one of South Africa's Game Reserves, either a privately owned and managed reserve or a National or Provincial Park. It is essential that visitors abide by the rules of entry into the reserves, for their own safety and for the comfort and enjoyment of other animals and visitors. In particular, obey the speed limits (hefty on the spot fines are imposed) and do not get out of your vehicle unless at a designated spot. Entrance fees into larger game reserves are as follows:
Kruger National Park R25 pp
R50 per car
Hluhluwe Game Reserve R20 pp
R50 per car
Sabi Sand Game Reserve R50 pp
Timbavati-Klaserie Reserve R35 pp
Thornybush Game Reserve R40 pp
Other private Reserves R40-50 pp
Despite the many strides that have been made since the democratic elections, there is still a vast disparity in wealth and lifestyle between whites and blacks. Most towns in the Western Cape have a squatter camp or an informal settlement nearby, because people have flocked to the area after the dismantlement of the Pass laws. The task of building affordable new homes is pretty huge, so the government has been concentrating on improving the settlements with sewerage and electricity. Nevertheless, there is still a fair way to go. The hard currency that Western visitors bring into the country will nevertheless be vital in creating new jobs and therefore helping to erode the differences between rich and poor. Culturally, there is also a considerable difference between the various provinces. The Western Cape is not dissimilar in ambience and culture from Europe. Mpumalanga, Northern Province and KwaZulu Natal are more typically 'African' in feel, and the Northern Cape is like a cross between the Western Cape and neighbouring Namibia.
Public Holidays Recommended Reading
January 1 - New Year's Day
March 21 - Human Rights' Day
March 29 - Good Friday
April 1 - Family Day
April 27 - Freedom Day
May 1 - Workers' Day
June 16 - Youth Day
August 9 - National Women's Day
September 24 - Heritage Day
December 16 - Day of Reconciliation
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Day of Goodwill.
*Holidays falling on a Sunday are observed the following Monday.
History of South Africa
'The Commitment' by John Mitchenson, a history/novel format
The novels of Nadine Gordimer, JM Coetzee, Andre Brink
'The Story of an African Farm' by Olive Schreiner
'A Far Off Place' by Laurens van der Post
South Africa is 2 hours ahead of GMT. Thus in the UK winter, it is two hours ahead of the UK and in the UK Summer it is one hour ahead due to British Summertime.
What to Wear VAT
This depends on the time of year that you will be travelling. During the winter months (May to September), it can be chilly in the mornings and evenings, so it is a good idea to have long trousers and a warm sweater. Summer temperatures can be very hot, so loose clothes in breathable fibres are most comfortable. Simple separates, which can be layered to add warmth if necessary, are ideal. Neutral coloured clothing is preferable on safari (see Game Viewing). Clothing is generally casual, especially at holiday resorts and in the game reserves. However, in some of the more exclusive hotels, men are required to wear jacket and tie for dinner. Black tie for Dinner is recommended for a journey on Rovos Rail, but not strictly enforced.
Overseas visitors can claim refunds of VAT (14%) paid on goods that they take out of South Africa. Information leaflets on the procedure to follow to claim VAT refunds are available at airports.