South Africa

iStock International
ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

South Africa Money-Saving Tips

Getting Around in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is a large, sprawling city. Avoid paying for high-priced taxis by using hotel and airport shuttle buses and transfers whenever possible.

Value Added Tax

Foreign passport holders can claim a value-added tax refund at the airport for purchases made within South Africa. For more information, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs website.


Tipping is not compulsory in South Africa. However, a minimum of 10% to 15% is expected for good service at restaurants. For porters at hotels and car security guards R5 is perfectly acceptable.

Book Ahead

If you’re planning to stay at a high-end game lodge, or at one of the South African National Parks’ camps in Kruger National Park, you must book long in advance (6 months to a year).


South Africa has 11 official languages, but don’t worry about getting your tongue tied. English is widely spoken in most of the major urban centers.

Winelands and Whales

If you’re visiting the Western Cape, combine a visit to the wine country with some whale watching. Remember, the annual Whale Festival takes place in the sleepy town of Hermanus during October.

Rent a Car

Traveling by car is the ideal way to see South Africa’s rich array of sights, so bring an international driver’s license. Don’t forget that South Africans drive on the left side of the road!


As with many other countries, it is regulation that you have two empty pages in your passport when entering South Africa. If your passport expires in six months or less you can be denied entry. No visas are required for U.S. visitors staying for a period of three months.

Apartheid History

To get an understanding of the country and its people, an important part of any visit to South Africa is an exploration of the country’s fight for freedom against the Apartheid system. This policy of “forced segregation” was enforced in 1948 and was only dismantled during negotiations in the early 1990’s that led to South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. You’ll find many “struggle for freedom” sites that are now major tourist attractions.


South Africa is a sports-mad nation, in every sense! Popular sports include rugby, cricket, and soccer (in no particular order). Major preparations are taking place for the long-awaited 2010 FIFA World Cup Soccer event that promises to attract sports fanatics from around the world.

Adventure Capital

South Africa is known as a prime adventure destination, from rock climbing the world’s third highest canyon (Blyde River Canyon) to jumping off the highest bungee in Africa (Bloukrans bridge) to going shark (Gansbaai) or crocodile cage diving (Oudtshoorn).

Big Seven

South Africa is a “Big Seven” destination, which means you can view the usual “Big Five” (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and elephant) along with the Great White Shark and Southern Right Whale. The Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and KwaZulu Natal provinces all tout themselves as “Big Seven” destinations.

Colorful Cuisine

Because South Africa comprises so many different cultures, the cuisine is varied and diverse. Cape Malay curries and seafood dishes are very popular in Cape Town and along the West Coast. Shebeen cuisine, found in township taverns around the country, includes pap (similar to polenta) and any kind of meat usually accompanied by marogo (wild spinach dish). Mozambiquan flavors, which influence a number of seafood dishes, include a chili sauce called piri piri which can be found at most good seafood restaurants. Afrikaner fare is hearty and rich, with the traditional braaivleis (barbeque) a national favorite.

Top Wines

There’s a wine to suit very palate and budget in South Africa. Top cellars include Backsburg, Thelema, Nederberg, Haute Cabriere, and Hamilton Russell, among many others. The “top list” of wines is always changing, so keep current with local trends by following the recommendations in South Africa’s wine magazine.


Like any country in the world, you need to be aware of safety issues when visiting South Africa – especially large urban areas like Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Use common sense: Don’t flash iPods, cameras, or cash around and make sure to ask your hotel concierge where the “no-go” areas are. Don’t walk around at night in Johannesburg.


South Africa operates on Central African Standard Time, making it 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Value for Money

South Africa is among the most affordable holiday destinations in the world, according to the American Express Foreign Exchange Holiday Cost of Living Index survey. Local costs for tourists in restaurants, shops, and hotels are much lower than the world average.

Free Wine Tastings

The winelands of Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch, some 45 minutes outside of Cape Town, are a fantastic option for wine-tasting sojourns. Many estates offer free tastings.

Seasonal Value

In March and October, witness the wine harvest in the fall (March) and in the spring (October) see the blooming wild flowers of the Western Cape provinces. Great package deals can often be found during this time.

Compare Rates to South Africa

Sign up for the Top 25 Newsletter
to get exclusive weekly deals

Tell Us Your Preferences

To help us understand your travel preferences, please select from the following categories

Check all that apply
Oops, something went wrong.
No Thanks