1st time Traveler tips to South Africa needed
August 21, 2013 12:39 PM   Subscribe

The Mrs is going to S. Africa scouting resorts (Sabi Sabi and someplace in Cape Town) and I'd like to send her prepared...1st time Traveler tips to South Africa needed.

Can you please provide any guidance for my wife's trip to Johannesburg and Capetown?

(limited) Traveler facts
She is going with 1 colleague (female who also has not been to S. Africa)
They are doing resort site inspections so most, if not all, of their time will be at the resort in each city.
They are returning nightly to their hotel.
Looks like the weather is starting to warm up - lower 70s?
What should they wear (do they need long sleeves when they are out)?
Colors to avoid wearing?

Is there anything else that they need to take into consideration as they start gathering/packing for their trip (they have both already visited their DRs to get whatever shots or pills necessary)? I'm totally ignorant as far as what questions I should be asking for them so any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!
posted by doorsfan to Travel & Transportation around South Africa (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

It would be helpful if you could give some specifics of her trip. When is she coming? The weather is going to be different if it is next week versus December. Will she be in the resorts only, or will she be going to them and also in the cities? (I ask because Sabi Sabi is not IN Joburg -- it's about 500 Km away -- and I'm not clear if you mean she'll be in each city first and then travel and stay at the resorts or if you mean she'll be returning to the cities daily to stay at different hotels after she inspects a resort. For her sake, I certainly hope not) If so, will transport be provided in the city? Will she be staying at a specific place in each city? In terms of what to wear, that answer depends on the sorts of activities she'll be participating in at the resorts (Sabi Sabi is a game resort. Will she be going on drives or just checking out the lodge?). It also depends on the amount of time she'll spend in each city and what she wants to do in each one. Finally, I"m not really sure what you mean by "colors to avoid" -- on a safari? Or in the towns? I'm not really clear on the reasoning behind asking that.

I'm happy to try and provide advice on both Cape Town and Joburg, as well as what to bring/expect on a safari. If you can clarify a bit what you'd like to know, I can try to help.
posted by mrfuga0 at 2:24 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Even game drives can be done in ordinary pants and shirts. I trust this is obvious but at times have seen people who have really embraced the head-to-toe khaki. It is a bit awkward in the cities, which are quite cosmopolitan, and also an invitation to trouble in many places as I have difficulty recalling any of my female South African friends or relatives of any age ever wearing this and it pretty much marks you as a tourist. There are no particular customs, outside of visiting religious spaces etc., as to dress, but in my opinion South African women across backgrounds are often quite "put together" and in the places they are staying, being nice resorts or the cities, they may feel under dressed when dining out at night. That said, under dressed does not necessarily mean uncomfortable.

I assume she is leaving soon. Both cities vary wildly this time of year in terms of weather. Take along warm clothes for night, I'm talking flannel pjs and slipper socks, because the buildings can differ from North America and they may be caught off guard from the cold. There have been points in places near both cities where I have slept in a beanie as well as warm pjs... and I was inside... with a heater on... cuddling a hot water bottle. During the day, layering options are a good idea. For example, if she is heading up to Sun City the daytime weather would probably be quite nice. In September, I have both worn shorts (daytime in JNB) and a winter jacket (in CT).

Many power adaptors from overseas marked for the region are imperfect - a good universal adaptor will sometimes have the right parts. If this is not the case, check Clicks (a drugstore) or Cape Union Mart (chain store in many malls) should the front desk not be able to accommodate them.

They do not need to bring a wide selection of pharmaceuticals or personal care items. These things are widely available and relatively inexpensive, even seeing a doctor for a new prescription should medication be lost is easy. This country is remarkably easy to travel in, as far as necessary gear and availability of anything you may need, and credit cards with chips in them are widely accepted and easier to cancel then traveler's checks.

One last thing. Often in North American culture even religious people say "Oh my God!" or similar things. This is actually fairly offensive to many people in SA, although they may not say anything. The accent alone will attract attention and they should prepare for a variety of comments on Americans and to avoid being offended by blunt statements that may be incorrect about where they are from (although since Obama was elected, some views have changed). Oh, and they will love, love, love that you understand tipping for service.
posted by skermunkil at 6:07 PM on August 21, 2013

The big cities in South Africa are not all that different in terms of safety etc. as any other big European city. Be cautious, be aware of surroundings, be careful around ATMs and with carrying large amounts of money. Marking yourself out as American is pretty easy if you wear branded clothing (especially big brands) and white tennis shoes, so expect more street children and peddlers to approach you if you obviously look like a tourist.

Without knowing the range you're talking about, I would assume that they will have a car? Driving in the big cities is difficult and scary at times, but is really the only way to get around constantly.

But yeah - more information would help.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:18 PM on August 21, 2013

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