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South Africa Travel Tips & Advice
Tips to make your travel to South Africa, as trouble-free as possible.

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At Selftours we want to ensure that your holiday goes as smoothly as possible. It is not to say you will experience any mishaps during your travels – but rather good common sense that the not-so-frequent traveller may not be aware of. It is still quite amazing how many people travel with little more than a tooth brush in the one pocket and a passport in the other. Sound planning & organisation always makes for a relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

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* The most important travelling tool - your luggage & security
* Travelling with the children
* How to get rid of those unwanted coins
* Useful little things to bring with you
* Moneywise
* Documentation
* Health
* Airline Travel
* Insurance
* Mobile Phones


South Africa follows the international standard of a 10% tip if you are satisfied with the service you received. Try to pay tips in cash direct to the waitress rather than by credit card. A Bell Boy for carrying your luggage will accept Five Rand.

DO NOT be BULLIED into paying the waiter any more than just 10%. It has been know for a waitress to ask for more, if so call the duty manager. If you did not enjoy the meal do NOT TIP anything.


Start with the right luggage:

* Buy luggage that meets your most demanding travel needs. Sensible, sturdy, medium priced luggage is best. If you intend hiring a car, one hard suit case and some soft," squash able" bags can fit into those little spaces.

* Always lock luggage, not only to discourage theft but also to make sure it does not open during handling. Buy small locks to lock all external zipper pockets of bags. This will also protect against others slipping illegal substances into your luggage.  Little plastic cable ties are invaluable.  They have to be cut to be opened.  Available at most electrical and motor spares shops.

* Never leave your camera, handbag etc unattended on the trolley while collecting your suitcase from the carousel – it’s amazing how these things suddenly disappear. A fellow passenger who has travelled on the same flight from your home country may just decide he can make better use of your camera.

* If your luggage appears to have been tampered with – be wary – someone may have slipped something illegal into it, don’t touch it. Rather call a customs official or a security guard and report it.

* Identify your luggage with bright tape or stickers, this makes your bag recognisable to you - be creative - remember hundreds of people will be watching your bag going around the carousel, but no one will be brave enough to walk away with it.

* Remember to label your baggage inside and out, with your home address. If luggage goes astray, it will eventually end up at your home address. However, if you label it to where you are going, you may have returned home by the time your luggage gets to your destination. If it has gone astray, and the name has come off the outside, it can be forced opened and still be returned to your home address.

* Lay out everything you intend taking with you, and take half of it. You will still have too much! Rolling your clothes instead of folding and stacking saves more space.

* Sadly, never offer to carry a case for anyone no matter how sweet that little old lady appears to be, rather call for a ground hostess to assist him or her. Many a traveller has ended up in a foreign jail with drugs in a case that they swore was not theirs.

* A very useful piece of luggage is the "Moon Bag / Money Bag" - the small bag people strap to their waist.  It can be worn under your shirt and is ideal carrying money and other important documents, airline tickets, credit cards. etc

LOST LUGGAGE - This is a growing problem worldwide and though there are Lost Luggage Kiosks at every arrival hall where you can report it when you land it does not elevate your frustrations of arriving at your destination without your suitcase.  SELFTOURS can share a few tips with you from our past experiences :-

Use each persons hand luggage to better effect
- even your children are allowed hand luggage.
* Always carry any chronic medication in your hand luggage.  Bear in mind that today you can be asked for a doctors letter authorising you to carry these drugs.
* Pack one set of spare clothes (underwear, 'T' shirt, shorts, or track suit) at bottom of you bag so you will not have to unpack them if stopped at the X-Ray machine.
* Valuables must be carried in your hand luggage, cameras, laptop, jewellery, but you will need to unpack them at the X-Ray so pack them near the top of your bag.
* Carry photocopies of passports and other important documents - its a lot easier to get a replacement passport when you have copies all the details.

SECURITY of your suitcase contents -  Where possible always pay the extra to have your case plastic wrapped at the airport.  This helps protect your case from damage such as scratches, scuffing etc and most importantly deters criminals from opening it. Remember suitcases with a Zipper system to close are totally insecure, even when padlocked.  The Zip can be forced open with a ball point pen and zipped closed again in less time than you can open them with a key.  On arrival at your hotel always ask reception to cut off the plastic before sending your bags to your room - remember you do not have anything in your hand luggage to cut off the plastic.


* A trip abroad for most children is a big adventure. Make the most of this adventure and start to build up a few weeks early. Get a special calendar so that they can mark off the "sleeps".

* If you are making an itinerary, make sure you include input from the children. Itineraries should be flexible but giving the children the opportunity to decide what they would like to see and do, increases the trip excitement and makes them feel they are part of the ‘deal’. It also gives them something to talk about at show time!

* When flying with small children, the best seats to reserve are at the bulkhead. That's the first row of seats in the plane (in economy). You will be facing a wall, however, there is more legroom and most airlines will provide a basinet that hooks onto the wall. If you have flight time options, choose night flights. The children are more likely to fall asleep.

* Young children on holiday are so busy enjoying themselves that they sometimes stop using the bathroom regularly. This can lead to constipation problems. After much crying and discomfort a doctor maybe needed to get them restarted.

* Don’t overfeed them with sweets – they need a nourishing balanced meal everyday and need space to enjoy that all-important meal, they are active.


When leaving a country, the last thing you want is a pocketful of coins, as most moneychangers will only take notes. A helpful hint on getting rid of your change:

* Purchase magazines, sweets or refreshments at the airport.

* Use some up on tips


* A length of strong string, suction cups with hooks to hang things to dry or support a clothes line. These attach very nicely to windows, mirrors, places in the bathroom.

* Bring a multiboard from home that all your electrical items can plug into and fit a local 3-pin plug on arrival. All your appliances will then plug into your multiboard. South Africa uses standard large 13amp round pin plugs and the voltage is 220 volts.

* A needle and thread can be invaluable in an emergency when you elastic broke or your button fell off.

* Swiss Army knives also come in handy, but with the new regulations, these must not be packed in your carry on luggage, rather put them in your suitcase that will be put in the hold. Very useful to fit the above electrical plug!

* A small roll of plastic electrical tape has a myriad of uses for the traveller. A hem has come down? Tape it up in a pinch. Leaving your luggage at a hotel? Tape everything closed so nothing can be slipped in or out. Shipping a box home, need to take fluff off a sweater? Hurrah for electrical tape.

* Take pictures of your family, house and pets with you - you will be surprised how quickly this breaks the ice with shy strangers.

* A travelling alarm clock can be very useful if the hotel desk forgets to give you your wake-up call.


Keeping track of your money is one of the most difficult, yet a most important part of travelling.

* Carry as little cash with you as you can, enough for light refreshment and transport to your hotel, tips, petrol, etc

* If you have drawn a lot of cash don’t put it in your wallet in your back pocket. Put the wad of notes in your front pocket. Ladies can find other places if they do not have a front pocket.

* Change a little of your money to the currencies you need before leaving home in case local money changing facilities are closed when you arrive.

* Avoid changing money at the hotel cashiers desk, as the rates are often higher.

* Use ATM cards and credit cards.

* If possible try and use ATM machines at the bank premises during banking hours – if your card gets swallowed the bank is open and you can go inside and ask for it back and there is always increased security during banking hours.

*Try not to let your Credit Card out of your sight- when paying for a meal rather take the trouble to walk up to the desk and watch your card being swiped through the machine. It has been known for someone to record the numbers and use them over the Internet to purchase goods before now. AND always check it is the your correct card that is handed back to you and not someone else's card.

* If you are using your ATM card, take two cards, as magnetic strips can be damaged and it is always good to have a backup, especially if one gets lost.

* If you don't have ATM cards or credit cards, take most of your money in traveller’s cheques, as these can be refunded if lost or stolen.

* Make a record of all travellers cheques, mark off the cheques you have used. If lost or stolen, you will have a record and claiming insurance will be easier.

South African petrol stations do NOT ALL accept credit cards so have sufficient cash for petrol purchases. R100 will buy you about 12 litres, a small 1600cc car will possible take 60 litres of petrol to fill. (July 2010 R8.50c per litre)

* On departure from South Africa you can try and claim back the VAT Tax on items purchased greater than R250 at the VAT desk at the airport. This does not apply to services rendered, eg car hire, accommodation costs, etc

* 10% tipping is generally quite acceptable at restaurants, or a R5 coin will put a smile on the hotel porters face after carrying your bags to your room.

* Beggars – the world is full of professional beggars and they can spot a tourist coming. Some of them even use their children and can put up quite a sob story – it also gives them a chance to see your wallet. The more successful they are the more the industry proliferates – we do not ascribe to this form of donations. If you really feel sorry for him buy him a loaf of bread and give it to him/her.

Please do not teach South Africans to become a country of Beggars


* When travelling internationally, you will need a valid passport.

* Many countries require an entry visa, so allow plenty of time for this to be issued before you depart>

    - Do I require a South African Visa, quick check - South African Home Affairs department

    - If you require personal assistance either write to or have a live chat at - Visa assistance

* Entry visas will vary depending on your citizenship.

* Ensure that you have all necessary documentation before you arrive at the airport, as you could be denied boarding at the start of your journey.

* It is a good idea to keep photocopies of your passport, entry visas, travellers cheque sales advice, airline tickets, drivers licence etc. separate in your luggage, and also leave copies at home with family or friends in case of theft. It is always easier to obtain replacements when you have photocopies of all the details!

* Keep a separate note of your Credit Card numbers – very useful if you have to report it stolen also your banks contact telephone number.


* It is always a good idea to take out medical insurance with your travel agent when you buy your tickets.

* Vaccinations and other medical precautions are needed for travel to some countries, and advise is easily obtained through your doctor or chemist. Have them well before your departure, to allow time for recovery from any side effects.

* If you are on a prescription or if you take a specific medicine, take enough away with you, as you may not be able to get replacements.  Carry your medical prescription clearly stating what medication you are taking just in case you have to purchase more during your summer holiday vacation. 

* Chronic medicines - Custom officials at entry points in may parts of the world may ask to see your Doctors letter or prescription for the drugs you are carrying - ask your Doc to write a note for you outlining the drugs you must use.

* If you have prescription spectacles, carry a copy of the prescription for easy replacement should you lose or break them.

* Kruger Park and Namibia are Malaria areas - ask your family chemist for the right anti malaria pills for your country of destination. Remember to start 2 weeks before you depart and continue 2 weeks after returning home. We do not recommend ‘Larium’ as there have been many reports of adverse side effect.  Small babies must not be taken into Malaria areas.

*Always carry a few basic items from Elastoplasts, headache pills, & something for upset tummies.

* A word of caution on drinking water – The tap water all over South Africa is normally perfectly safe but if you are not acclimatised to it or have a sensitive tummy you could spend a great deal of your holiday in various bathrooms. This warning also covers ice in your drinks and rinsing ones mouth after brushing your teeth. All the international canned drinks are available as well as various bottled spring waters. What has become very popular are the flavoured spring waters and they have the added advantage of a screw-on cap so they can be saved for later without leaking – very refreshing

* If you have any questions please ask your GP.


Long flights can be rather uncomfortable. Here are a few tips to make those long flights a little more pleasant.

* Wear comfortable, loose fitting, non-creasing clothes.

* Your feet will swell up when you fly, so you will be more comfortable if you remove your shoes. Most airlines provide socks to wear during long-haul flights. Don't wear new or tight shoes, as you won't be able to put them on when it is time to land.

* Most airlines offer free alcohol on tap. This may seem great at the time, but when consumed in large quantities it will make your jet lag twice as bad. Instead, drink lots of water or fruit juice and eat lightly.

* Try and do gentle leg and foot exercises.


As you are probably aware, travel insurance is an integral part of your travel package, and should be purchased at the same time as you purchase your travel tickets.

Your existing house hold insurance policy may well have All Risks cover which is international cover and where you can specify various important & expensive items – jewellery, cameras etc. Strongly recommend you phone your insurance agent beforehand and ask him how much cover you have under the All Risks section for overseas travel.


Always a useful convenience to carry with you wherever you are in the world. Bring your phone from home, provided it is not dedicated to your service provider back home. You can purchase a starter pack on arrival at the airport for about R90, insert the new Sim card with your new South African telephone number and you are on your way.

Additional prepaid cards can be purchased and loaded in; the shop assistant will assist you and explain everything to you. When you return home you discard the SA SIM card and revert to your original SIM card.

Selftours wishes you a memorable holiday in our 'Rainbow nation' - ‘a world within one country’


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