No such luck I’m afraid. You have to pay top dollar (or Rand in this case) to see a lion in a game park. I’ve lived here my whole life and only seen a handful of lions on safari. Go figure.
You might have heard some hairy crime stories about SA. Well, yes, crime is a concern but keep your wits about yourself and you’re bound to have an awesome experience.
Here’s how to make the most of your South African holiday!
The World Cup takes place in June, smack bang in the middle of our winter. (Apparently this is ‘perfect soccer weather.’) Cape Town and Johannesburg can get pretty darn cold but Durban’s winter is lovely and mild.
WHAT TO PACK
CLOTHES (always handy to have some of those)
- Lightweight long tees, short sleeved tees (especially for Durbs), jeans, skirts, tights, comfy flats, boots and a coat if you’re going to Jozi or Cape Town. I also recommend taking a raincoat and brolly if you’ll be queuing and sitting outdoors. No soggy hotdogs for you!
- Bring a swimsuit if you fancy a dip in the ocean or your hotel pool. There is a law against Speedos in South Africa. Ok, not really but bikinis and board shorts will do just fine.
- Sunglasses are a must in SA. The African sun is harsh, even in winter. I can hear the WAGS rejoicing. Colleen Rooney does read this blog, doesn’t she?
- Pack a trilby or some form of headwear, preferably something that doesn’t have horns or beer cans dangling from it. Fine. Guys, you can have horns. It is the World Cup I suppose.
- You’ll probably be outside most of the day so pack a foundation that has some UV protection.
- Lip-Ice or lip balm! Our smackers get very dry in SA, especially in Jozi.
- Waterproof mascara if you plan on swimming or crying your eyes out should your team lose.
- Face paint if the urge to transform your face into a flag overcomes you.
- Moisturizer and sun cream! That dang African sun strikes again.
- Insect Repellant if you’ll be visiting a game lodge during your stay.
- Waterless Hand Cleaner – that was a lifesaver for me in London’s Underground and I imagine will come in handy at soccer stadiums too.
- Ladies, bring a roomy handbag to hold your camera, cell phone, wallet, water bottle, magazines, brochures, clay hippo souvenirs and biltong.
- Bring an even roomier one if you suspect you’ll have to carry your guy’s keys, cell phone, wallet, match timetables and soccer paraphernalia.
South Africa doesn’t have an underground system but we do have roads with traffic lights. I suspect these are there for decorative purposes because they hardly ever work. Ok, I’m exaggerating…a bit. That reminds me, we call our traffic lights ‘robots.’ If someone tells you to turn right at the robots, do not be alarmed. 80’s looking transformers will not be waiting there to greet you.
Most people drive cars and those who can’t afford to (and sadly there are many) take the bus. It’s a bit different to London where almost anyone and everyone takes the bus. If you’re coming from abroad, I imagine you’ll have enough loot to catch a taxi instead. A word on taxis.
In South Africa, there are two types of taxis. The one is a regular car that will deliver you from A - B. Ask your hotel to recommend a reputable taxi company. For Durban, I suggest Mr Mozzies.
The other kind is a mini-bus taxi. These are biggish people carriers that take lower-income city workers to and from work everyday. These are often over capacity and covered in random hip-hop stickers. Do not catch one of these. You will know one when you see one, as it will be careering through the red robot. Taxi’s are a vital part of our infrastructure but the problem is most of the drivers are laws unto themselves.
If you’re driving a hired car, please take care on the roads. 95% of South Africans obey the laws of the roads but there are some faulty drivers out there who let the team down.
On the whole, South Africans are a friendly, hospitable bunch. We have eleven official languages and each one has it’s own set of slang so brace yourself for some crazy conversations. Most people speak English and will be more than happy to steer you in the right direction if you find yourself lost.
Some common SA slang...
Bru: Erm - dude
Kiff: (Grief, Durbanites are still saying this) Means cool!
Ha. Those felt weird to write and explain.
South Africa has some of the best-tasting food in the world and there is something for everyone. Ask your hotel to recommend a restaurant in your area. If you’d like to try some authentic South African grub, I recommend:
Biltong:This is a salty kind of cured meat. All the Brits I gave some to went mad for the stuff.
Malva Pudding: This is a warm, syrupy sponge cake as loved by Oprah!
Boerewors: Our most famous sausage!
Potjie Kos: A delicious stew cooked in a pot over the fire.
Samp and Beans: A simple but hearty African dish.
Durban Curry: We have some of the best curry in the world. Have it with rice or in a bunny chow – a ¼ loaf of bread with the inside scooped out and filled with curry!
In South Africa, we tend to tip quite a lot of folk.
Porters in the airport: A British mate of mine accidentally tipped a guy R50 for pushing his luggage. Bless. I believe R5 is acceptable.
Petrol/Fuel Attendants: We don’t have to put in our own fuel in South Africa. We have attendants who do it for us! It’s not ‘cuz we’re snobby - by having attendants, we create more job opportunities. Most people tip between R2 and R5.
Car Guards: More job opportunities! Wherever you park your car in South Africa, there is bound to be a dude there in a neon vest offering to watch it for you. If he’s swigging from a brown bag, topless, he’s probably not a car guard. You’ll know a proper guard when you see one. Again, people tip between R2 and R5.
Waiters: It’s custom to tip 10%. Of course, you can tip more if you’ve had a fantastic experience. There’s usually a built in service charge to bills of tables of ten and over.
There are parts of South Africa that are perfectly safe and lovely and there are some places which are best to avoid. You can shop, eat out and go to the beach but you just need to have your wits about you.
- Ask your hotel, family or friends to suggest which places to visit and avoid.
- I wouldn’t recommend wearing your new Canon DSLR around your neck.
- The same goes for moon bags (fanny packs) around your waist. For one, they look a bit naff and secondly, they scream ‘unsuspecting tourist alert!’
- Ladies, I’d leave the uber bling in the safe unless you’re a WAG and have five bodyguards to beat the riffraff away.
- Guys, make sure your wallet and cell phone are not peaking out your pockets.
- Ladies, keep your handbags zipped up and snug under your shoulder.
- Don’t dawdle in car parks and low-lit areas.
- Keep your car doors locked and your belongings out of site.
- In general, just be alert and walk confidently. You’ll know where you can relax and where you’ll have to be a bit more cautious.