This post on South Africa Holiday Guide includes a 14 DAY Itinerary for budget travellers looking to explore the best of South Africa. If you love beach life, are a wildlife enthusiast or love exploring cultures, then South Africa is the perfect vacation for you. The South Africa Holiday Guide also includes budget hotel stay ideas.
This particular Blog Post on South Africa Holiday Guide will primarily include these three travel destinations.
- The Beach Paradise of Cape Town, and
- Wildlife Reserve Kruger National Park.
Before we begin with a detailed South Africa Holiday Guide + Itinerary. Here are some essentials to note while planning a holiday to South Africa.
Best Time to Visit/Plan a Holiday to South Africa
There are different seasons in which you can visit this beautiful rainbow nation. Overall, South Africa is a year long holiday destination. No matter which month you pick, there are multiple activities and sightseeing spots to visit. But narrowing it down, this list below might shed more light.
- July to November: Whale Watching season near Cape Town
- February to April: For a Beach Holiday in Cape Town
- June to July: Avoid Cape Town as it is monsoons, and weather is highly unpredictable
- End of November to Early December: Spotting New Borns and Wildlife with their young (Kruger recommends)
- June to August: Best for WildLife action near water sources. (Best Time of the year, Kruger Recommends)
Cheapest Air Fare Season to South Africa
The ticket fares generally vary between INR 18,000 to INR 45,000. That is, if you are travelling from India.
Planning in advance is key to budget travel. Ticket fares from Mumbai to Johannesburg can cost as less as INR 18,000. The best part. There is no on-season vs. off-season air fare prices for South Africa.
To give you an idea, I travelled to South Africa in the month of June. My tickets were booked 3 hours prior to my flight. So I had to cough up a solid INR 42,000. But my return trip to India two weeks later, the ticket price was just INR 19,000. Plus, I got a business class upgrade on my return ticket via Emirates. My point being, the maximum you might have to spend any time of the year is INR 45k for a one way ticket.
South Africa Holiday Guide – Key Tips to Surviving a SA Holiday:
– Always carry thermals
Golden rule when you are out and about exploring South Africa, especially Cape Town. When we packed for Cape Town, we did look through the weather forecast. But once we landed, there was this epic storm that came out of nowhere. Both me and my husband were shivering the first day on the rooftop sightseeing bus. It also resulted us in paying a bomb buying (branded) thermals !
– Always travel around the city in Uber or a self drive car
This holds true especially for Johannesburg. However, you can go for affordable car rentals instead. They are cost effective, and the city is pretty easy to drive around. At all costs, you should avoid going to downtown and explore it on foot. High likelihood you might get robbed.
– Avoid swiping your card at ATM machines
Apparently, there have been episodes where international cards may have been compromised. This is a recommendation we have got from locals at Johannesburg. Also, its a good habit to pre-buy all your tickets and keep minimal cash lying around in hotels or in your pocket.
These tips may seem like you are travelling to some dangerous country. But these are just happy guidelines that you should keep in mind so as to enjoy a trouble-free vacation experience.
14 Day Itinerary – South Africa Holiday Guide:
Here’s a comprehensive South Africa Holiday Guide breakup of days to spend in every location. The currency conversion from INR to ZAR is roughly 1 Zar ~ INR 5.00.
- 4 Nights Johannesburg
- 3 Nights Cape Town
- 6 Nights Kruger National Park
Tickets to Buy Before you Travel to South Africa:
- City Sightseeing Tour Hop-In-Hop-Off Bus Ride, Johannesburg
- City Sightseeing Tour Hop-In-Hop-Off Bus Ride Cape Town
The best South Africa Holiday Guide when in SA are the Ho-Ho Buses. The audio tour and the ease of visiting every nook and corner of the city can only be done using this tour bus.
While the city sightseeing tours do not include the entry tickets for sightseeing. You need to buy those separately. But usually, there are no queues at any of these places. So buying prior to travelling is not required. You could buy these tour bus tickets once you land in South Africa as well. Just so you know, the ticket fares online vs offline are exactly the same.
South Africa Holiday Guide [Day 1:] Land in Johannesburg
– Visit Nelson Mandela Square
Settle in at your hotel. Get ready and take a cab to Sandton. It is one of the most happening places in the city. Nelson Mandela Square also has the best shopping complex in all of Johannesburg. Plus, it has some of the most fanciest of restaurants in the compound.
Budget Recommendation: Try the food chain Fishaways if you like sea food and don’t want to spend a bomb. They are the Mc Donald’s of South Africa. Also, don’t forget to shop at the mall. The prices and quality is far better than at Indian stores.
Bonus: South Africa Holiday Guide Favourite Shopping Destinations:
Best Street Shopping in Johannesburg, South Africa:
If you have a SUNDAY in between your Johannesburg trip. Head over to Rosebank Sunday Market. The terrace level parking at the Rosebank Mall is transformed into a sunday market. It goes on from somewhere around 10 to 3pm. You can get some really good home decor, and tribal art and jewellery in this exhibition. Plus, the rates are much better than what you get outside. Also, the craftsmanship seen here is far superior that the roadside and in other souvenir stores.
If that is not enough, you also have lots of food stalls from different coutries and cuisines to try out.
P.S. You have to bargain really well. Think Sarojini of Johannesburg !
The Best & Safest Place to stay in Johannesburg:
While Joberg is a cosmo city, it does have its nooks and streets which lets just say are best avoided. The best place in Johannesburg has to be the Sandton area. Also, the nearby areas around Sandton. You have malls in and around + Sandton is the most posh residential area of Johannesburg. They have tons of good budget accommodations in the price range of under INR 2500 a night.
Day 2: Full Day City SightSeeing on Ho-Ho Bus, Johannesburg
They have multiple choices fropm 1 day or 2 day tour. I did the one day tour which took me to most of the key places in Johannesburg. If you have an extra day, then doing the two day tour is a good idea.
P.S. The tour is safe, easy, convenient. There are multiple bus stops across the city for you to hop in and hop off.
- Price for 1 Day Tour: R280 ~ INR 1500 per person
- Price for 2 Day Tour: R180 ~ INR 970 per person
Avoid using Uber rides for city tours. 50% of the uber drivers take longer routes and other tricks to make you pay more. You will end up losing time and money both. *telling from experience*
Budget Recommendation: Go for the 2 day Johannesburg City Tour. Overall the charges will come out to be cheaper as the locations are all spread out. For instance, point A to point B can cost you anywhere from 200-400 zar. The tour can cover 20 different locations in less than a tenth of the price.
Day 3: Second Day City SightSeeing on Ho-Ho Bus, Johannesburg
Key Places to Visit in Johannesburg:
- Apartheid Museum
- Gold Reef City Casino Hotel
- Constitution Hill
These are three locations which will require maximum of your time. If you want to know the history of South Africa, there is no better place than Apartheid Museum. The Gold Reef City Casino Hotel is shut on a Tuesday, so make sure you come here not on a Tuesday. Johannesburg is known for gold mining, and this hotel used to be a gold mine zone back in the days.
Finish the tour by evening.
South Africa Holiday Guide Tip: Locals Recommend Best Place to Eat in Johannesburg:
– Head over to Monte Casino for Dinner and some Poker
I would highly recommend checking out this place late in the evening. It is amazing. I tried Squids at Monte Casino for the first time, and it was heavenly delicious! It houses some of the fanciest restaurants and of course the casino. Whether you’d like to play or watch, this one is a must visit.
Optional: You can alternatively go for the 1 DAY + Soweto Tour by City Seeing Tours. Soweto is the place where Nelson Mandela lived. Soweto in the past was a township build to house the black community from the Apartheid period.
P.S. We didn’t do the Soweto Tour primarily because it was quite expensive. Also, I didn’t have the luxury of time and didn’t want to really experience poverty. We have enough of that in India itself 🙁 But you can totally go for it. They say it is unsafe (guns, robbery etc) to go on your own. So its better to take the tour bus.
P.P.S. It is an expensive tour!
Day 4: Have the Most Epic Safari Weekend at Lions Park, Johannesburg
In case you are missing out on Kruger, you must include the Lion Park experience in your South Africa Holiday Guide. The other option is to explore Pilanesburg National Park which is also pretty fantastic. I went ahead with the Lions Park experience, so here’s my recommendation:
Activities at Safari weekend Lion Park
- Animal Interactions – Cheetah & Lions
- 45mins – 1 hour Walk with Cheetah & Lion
- Self Drive Safari
- Safari Tours – 1 hour/ 1.5 hours/ 3 hours
- Lion feeding tour
P.S. This is an expensive one day experience. You can view all the rates on the Lion Park official website. We spent close to INR 15-17k for two people. Confused with so many travel tips and ideas? Take a look at top 9 things to see in Johannesburg giving you a shortlist of my favourites.
With that comes the end of your Johannesburg part of the trip. Now, next stop. My favourite city of South Africa – Cape Town.
South Africa Holiday Guide – [Day 5]: Land in Cape Town
If you wish to do whale watching, book your tickets at the City Sight Seeing Tour office. Whale Watching and Shark Cage experience are all one full day affair. So do due diligence at the tour office and take your pick. Mind you, these experiences do come at a (very) steep price. Think engineers starter salary !
Depending upon the time you reach Cape Town, I highly recommend still going ahead with the Ho-Ho Tour the same day itself.
We started our Cape Town journey at 3pm from V & A Waterfront, and could still manage to do a nice long city ride till late evening. It was well worth it for the moolah as well. So don’t waste a day.
What you need to know about Cape Town Sightseeing:
There are four routes in the city sightseeing that you must cover:
- Peninsula Tour a.k.a Tour of the Beaches
- City Tour + Table Mountain Ride
- Constantia Valley Wine Bus Tour
- Cape of Good Hope Tour (Takes one full day)
P.S. While doing the Peninsula tour, make sure you enjoy the seal watching at Hout Bay.
My Recommendation: Here is the complete list of the Top 9 Things to do in Cape Town. One suggestion – do the Table Mountain ride ASAP. Like the first thing in Cape Town if you can.
Weather is extremely unpredictable in Cape Town. You may be standing in one location where it must be pouring cats and dogs. A 5 minute drive and the area next door will be sunny sunshine. I missed table mountain ride because of bad weather. We just didn’t have days to see this wonder of the world. So don’t make the same mistake.
Both of these trips can be done in a single day. I would recommend sticking to the sightseeing tour bus. They give enough time to spend at both these places. Plus, they also have audio guide + tour guides at all times.
South Africa Holiday Guide – The Best Place to Eat in Cape Town
Mariner’s Wharf Restaurant. You have got to see the pictures to believe it. You can visit this place through the Peninsula Tour.
My Recommendation: Go for the fish and chips. It is a classic! The husband at this point would also like to recommend the chicken here. Out of the world is what he’d like to point out!
But on a serious note, their ambiance overlooking the Hout Bay and the sea gulls flying about, makes the dining experience truly magical. I wouldn’t have minded coming here for a second round. Also, the prices are pretty darn reasonable for a fine dine experience.
While you are at Cape of Good Hope, take the cable car ride to the top. It is a steep walk up, and will easily take 30-40 minutes depending upon your strength. You can do a one side cable car ride as well. Also, try doing the walking tour to cape of good hope instead of the bus ride. The views from the mountain trek are simply out of the world. You will definitely miss the view if you go for the bus ride. The trek takes close to an hour or so to complete but is well worth it!
Day 7: Bo-Kaap Walking Tour + Remaining Sightseeing Tours
Bo-Kaap is one of the most colourful streets in Cape Town. The colourful houses signify freedom from slavery for the residents of this old Malay Quarters of the city. Walking Tours happen daily twice I believe and are free of cost. You also get to experience Cape Town living by attending cookery sessions at one of the residents homes. A definite must visit.
From the remaining sightseeing tours, my favourite has to be the Peninsula Tour. The beaches of Cape Town are so good. You can spend days just chilling here. Also, the other wine and city tours are equally good. So space it out during your trip and enjoy the city life.
Cape Town experience can easily go from 2 nights to 5 nights depending upon how you want to spend your vacation. If you have just 3 days in Cape Town, click on the link to know how best to plan your trip.
There are multiple ways to plan a trip from Cape Town to Kruger. Every method has a different cost and time implication.
- One Direct Flight everyday from Cape Town to Kruger (book in advance for best prices)
- Self Drive to Kruger (least expensive) – Approx 12 hours travel time if you do it from Johannesburg
If you are doing Kruger National Park, you need to do it well. We have asked around several locals, and everyone was of the same opinion – To take at least a week of vacation to explore this travel destination.
There are different seasons in which you see different phases of wildlife. While Kruger National Park claims that it is a all year round tourist destination. But after some careful reading, I think these are the months you should target. If Kruger National Park is your top priority, here are the best seasons to visit:
- End of November to Early December: Spotting New Borns and Wildlife with their young (Kruger recommends, but expensive tourist time)
- June to August: Best for WildLife action near water sources. (Best Time of the year)
- Avoid April: For dense vegetation which leads to lack of wildlife sightings, to malaria infestation post monsoons.
Day 8 to Day 13th: Kruger National Park
The thing you must know about Kruger is, it is the size of a country. Like the size of Israel from what I’ve read. It crosses over two provinces, borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique, is 360km (220m). If you wish to include Kruger in your South Africa Holiday Guide, then some of these tips might come handy:
1. Choose your camp/stay carefully
There are over 20 rest camps, nearly 20 private game lodges and a handful of bush camping grounds. It is spread out across nearly 20,000 square km (7 500 square miles) located directly in the park. This is not even including the greater Kruger private concessions.
Check out the Kruger Park wikipedia page for the complete list of camp names and lodges.
2. Get an idea of the budget before exploring Kruger
There are so many camps, and seasonal change in prices, that it is impossible to track down every single cost in one post. However, if you are in the first stages of planning a Kruger trip, and don’t know what your budget should be, then try out the African Safari Cost Estimator.
3. Explore all the websites for Kruger before booking your African Safari
There is no single Kruger National Park official website that helps you with A to Z information. Since Kruger is so spread out, there are multiple agencies which provide the dream African Safari experience. Here are some of the top websites that you must browse through:
Few terms you should be familiar with when in South Africa
– Wildlife in Africa is all about – the Big 5 !
Its all about getting up close with the African Elephant, the White & Black Rhinocerous, Leopard, King of the Jungle, and the Cape Buffalo.
– Exploring the Big 5 is known as Game Viewing/Game Drives
There are specific ‘game viewing routes’ in the park reserve which allow you to get closer to the big 5. Whether you opt for a self drive or a group safari tour. There are multiple maps and directions available on the internet to help with the best routes.
Check out Sabi Sands Game Reserve for the ultimate luxury African Safari experience.
For further details on my South African Holiday, click the link to see more individual posts.