Backpacking in South Africa is a bucket list item for both locals and international travellers. With so many amazing sights to see, South Africa is one of – if not the – best place to travel through with a backpack on your back.
Offering an endless amount of fun and natural beauty, there are literally thousands of places to check-in at and activities to experience on your backpacking adventure.
To make this exciting adventure all the better for you, we’ve rounded up 10 tips and tricks to bear in mind when making your way through the beauty and glory that is South Africa.
Despite all its natural beauty and stunning places to see, being vigilant and aware of unfortunate crime in South Africa will be your first point of call.
Make sure you’re always alert and aware of where your possessions are. Try not to show off any valuables like cell phones and cameras, and when you do, make sure you are aware if prying eyes that may be lurking behind you.
Keep your wallet, passport and other valuables in separate places and in a place where it can’t be pickpocketed easily. If you are staying the same place for a few days, lock your passport away in your luggage bag or ask concierge at your backpacking lodge to keep it in a safe for you.
Stick in a group. Just as any other place in the world, it would be ill advised to wonder alone in a foreign country in the dark.
2.Do your research
Just as you would plan and research any other holiday, doing proper and adequate research for your backpacking adventure in South Africa is super important!
Make sure you know the laws of the country, how your visa would work and what permits you may potentially need. Also do research on the places you plan on visiting: what sights are recommended, which activities you can squeeze in and what makes the area special.
A good idea is to join various travel groups and read up on other backpacker’s experiences in South Africa or to read recommendations on TripAdvisor.
3.Take care of photographic equipment
Coming to South Africa means taking a ton of pictures! With all the beautiful sights to see, you’ll be sure to fill up your camera’s memory card in no time.
One thing to remember is to take special care of your photographic equipment so that you don’t miss out on any special snaps. Some areas of South Africa will have various elements that can damage a camera or lens.
Dust, sand and any other small particles that can get inside camera bodies or lenses is the most common issue you’ll probably experience when taking your camera on your backpacking adventure with you.
Make sure you carry a microfiber cloth with you to regularly clean lenses and camera bodies, or invest in a practical, protective cover for your camera. Avoid carrying your camera around your neck when exploring rough terrain – rather keep it safe in the camera bag and only take it out when you want to take a shot.
4.Your health is important
It goes without saying that your health is super important – and while you’re backpacking in any foreign country, it’s important to take care of your health so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest!
Make sure you do research on hospitals and healthcare professionals in the areas that you are planning on visiting for in case something happens and you need medical attention.
Also carry a first aid kit and other essentials such as bug spray, headache tablets, and hydrating fluids with you. Another thing to remember when backpacking under the African sun is to apply sunscreen as often as you can! Even in winter, the harsh African sun can cause damage to your skin.
5.Malaria pills in the summer
As mentioned above, taking care of your health and preventing possible diseases will make your trip that much more enjoyable.
While the whole of South Africa is not a Malaria-prone country, there are certain areas in the northern parts of the country that have had instances of Malaria. Some areas that have reported cases of Malaria in the recent past include some north-eastern parts of KwaZulu-Natal, and parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
If you are planning on travelling to these parts during the summer months (which are generally between November and March) rather take some Malaria pills to prevent a possible infection.
As with any planned trip, it’s a good idea to invest in proper, full-coverage travel insurance. You can speak to your bank or broker directly to organise the best kind of travel insurance for your panned adventure.
7.Visit some charities
As beautiful and bountiful as South Africa is, certain parts of the country is, unfortunately, ravished by poverty. Why not visit some of the many charities in the country while you are backpacking through the country?
There are dozens of children’s homes, animal welfare societies and soup kitchens that are always grateful to have tourists and travelers visit them and volunteer. Even if you donate your time instead of cash, these charities will be more than thankful.
8.Befriend the locals
Want to learn about all the best spots to visit and insider secrets? Then there is no better way to do this than to befriend the locals.
They’ll definitely be able to show you around to the best spots, inform you of great specials on activities and just generally make your adventure all the more fun! South Africans are inherently friendly (and festive) so we’re sure you won’t have trouble befriending the locals no matter on which part of the country you are!
9.Indulge in new culinary experiences
South Africa is a melting pot of delicious, unique food and drink. A pro tip when traveling through the country will surely be to indulge in all the local cuisine on offer.
Try some Mopani worms or ostrich eggs, savour the amazing wine and have a braai with the locals – you will certainly not regret it!
The biggest and best tip (or trick) to note when backpacking through South Africa is to just have fun. As cliché as it may sound, having fun and letting your hair down will ensure you have an unforgettable trip. South Africa is truly an amazing country and with so many sights to see and explore and activities to do, we’re sure you’ll want to return as often as you can.