South Africa Trip Details

Introduction

Welcome to South Africa!

South Africa is one of the world’s finest Big Five safari destinations and is also known for amazing food and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities. What more can you ask for when crossing a country off your bucket list?

Often called “a world in one country,” South Africa offers cosmopolitan cities, diverse cultures, spectacular scenery, and more species of mammals than North and South America combined.

Start your journey in Johannesburg, one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world. Then immerse yourself in traditional South African tribal culture during a 2-night homestay in a rural village. Next up, spend two days cruising around in safari vehicles observing the wildlife of Kruger National Park and the majestic Big Five. After a few days of roughing it out in the bush, unwind and close out your experience in one of the most beautiful cities in the world--Cape Town!

Duration: 9 days & 8 nights

Start: Please be ready to begin your trip at Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) at 4:00 PM.

Finish: The trip ends in Cape Town, South Africa. Plan to depart at any time. Hotel check out time is at 11:00 AM. Travelers are responsible for their own transportation to the airport.

Airfare booking details will be sent after registration--please wait to book your flight until you receive further instructions.

What's Included

  • 9 days & 8 nights shared accommodations in hotel rooms, village homestays, and a safari lodge
  • 8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, & 6 dinners
  • Authentic village homestay experience
  • Guided walk through Mashishimale Village
  • Participation in village craftwork
  • 4x4 Excursion in a private game reserve
  • Entrance to Kruger National Park
  • Full day game drive in Kruger National Park
  • Domestic flight from Hoedspruit Airport to Cape Town International Airport
  • Full day Guided Tour in the Winelands Region
  • Standup Paddleboarding experience
  • Visit Boulder’s Beach to view the African penguin
  • Experience Africa’s southernmost point—Cape Point
  • Private group airport pick-up upon arrival
  • Under30Experiences Trip Leader
  • Personal recommendations for optional activities
  • The chance to meet some kick-ass people
  • Access to the Under30Experiences community
  • Taxes always included, never hidden fees, & NO blackout dates

Travelers are responsible for international airfare to and from South Africa.
Optional activities and associated transportation are not included.

Highlights

-Live with the locals in a village homestay experience
-4x4 Excursion in a private game reserve
-Opportunities to observe the Big Five in Kruger National Park
-Staying in a safari lodge on the edge of Kruger National Park
-Visiting Boulder’s Beach to view the African Penguin
-South African winery tour

Is this Trip for You?

If you like adventure, animals, food, and culture, then this trip is for you. While there will be portions of this trip spent in modern cities with updated amenities, there is also a good amount of traveling through the rural areas of South Africa, including a 2-night homestay in a remote village.

Though the village homestay community prides itself on providing quality hospitality, you will be expected to embrace the local lifestyle. This means assisting with cooking and daily chores. Taking bucket showers and using a South African long-drop toilet. Your housemothers are loving, caring, and ready to show you the very best of their culture. So bring an open mind and get ready to experience this unique opportunity.

The weather in Kruger National Park can be hot and dry during certain times of the year, and mosquitoes will be present. Please be prepared to handle all of nature’s elements. Though your days will be spent cruising around in open-air safari vehicles (which can be bumpy at times), your accommodations will be a comfortable lodge on the outskirts of the park with thatched roof bungalows and even a swimming pool. 

Your days in Cape Town will be packed with both adventure and cultural activities.

If you are an active person with a sense of adventure, then this trip is for you.

-Age requirement: 21+

-Group size: 16 max, average 13

-Physical rating: Moderate. Some activities include physical activity like hiking, standup paddle boarding, and going bushwalking in the African wilderness.

Travel Community

Travel connects us. Community keeps us connected.

Before your trip, you'll have the opportunity to join a custom WhatsApp group and connect with others members of your group. Many travelers meet at the airport or for pre-trip drinks if they are from the same city. Others coordinate plans to stay in a country after their trip.

During your adventure, our Trip Leaders do their best to foster an open, supportive environment where people feel safe to truly be themselves.

After your trip, you'll be an official U30X Alumni and part of our larger online Travel Community where you'll have access to our network of thousands of past travelers. We are constantly hosting meetups that range from simple happy hours, to hikes, to outdoor movie nights.

More than 70% of our travelers come solo, but they all leave with friends.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Travel can be unpredictable. Our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience.

While it is our intention to adhere to the itinerary, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into it, and on occasion, it may be necessary or desirable to make alterations.

Additionally, any travel times listed are approximations only and are subject to vary due to local circumstances.

Meals

Eat like a local with delicious South African dishes, including a renowned selection of grilled meats.

A mixture of African, Dutch, French, and Malay, among others, have influenced South African cuisine through the decades. We’ll do our best to introduce you to as many different dishes as possible.

When staying in hotels, you can expect continental breakfasts to be buffet style. Eggs, bread, fruits, and salads will be common offerings.

When dining in restaurants for dinner, you can expect grilled meats and/or steaks on the menu. Pizzas and pasta are also common, as well as fresh salads and vegetable stir-fries.

Meals in the village homestay:

Trying new things to tickle your taste buds is always a must. Traditional South African meals are served in the village, and even though you do not have to try everything, we encourage everyone to experience the cultural delicacies. 

Please note that dietary restrictions like vegetarian and vegan diets will be met as best as possible while in the village homestay, though you should plan on bringing supplemental food/snacks as vegetarian/vegan meals while at the homestay will be very basic.

All meals are included during this cultural experience, and your host family will do their best to cater according to your dietary requirements. Some of the traditional meals you will come across in the village are: 

  • Pap: traditional staple food. It is very filling and can keep your tummy full for the rest of the day. It is made of mielie meal and cooked with water until thick. This usually serves as a main dish on the plate. 
  • Mashonzha: Mopani worms. Mopani worms are a delicacy in the village. It is full of protein and can be enjoyed crunchy or in a stew with tomato relish and onion. 
  • Mala: Mala is chicken intestines, boiled and deep fried. This may sound strange, but it tastes like onion rings, the perfect side to every meal.
  • Chicken feet: as locals call them, runaways or walkie-talkies.

Must-try South African dishes:

  • Vetkoek: fried donuts stuffed with minced meat. 
  • Boerewors:  a rich, spicy sausage that originates from both South Africa and Namibia. The name means “farmer sausage.”
  • Bobotie: the dish originates back to Roman times. Ancient Roman chefs would blend and season a combination of tender meats and crunchy nuts, then top it with a layer of milk and egg. 
  • Biltong: If you’re a lover of beef jerky, you’ll definitely love the intense taste of biltong.

Transportation

You will be traveling by private ground transportation throughout your trip.

On Day 6, you will have an included domestic flight from Hoedspruit Airport to Cape Town.

Private ground transportation to and from the Johannesburg airport on Day 1 is included.

Public buses and taxis around Johannesburg and Cape Town are not included.

Private and shared 4x4 open safari vehicles will be used on the wildlife tours.

Optional activities do not include transportation.

Accommodation

You will be staying in shared hotel rooms in Johannesburg and Cape Town for a total of 4 nights of your trip. For two nights of your trip, you will be staying in shared rooms at a safari lodge on the outskirts of Kruger National Park.

For two nights of your trip, you will stay in a private room of a host family’s homestay accommodation. Each room is equipped with a double bed, with some hosts having two or three guestrooms. There is no a/c in these homestays. On arrival at your home and upon meeting your host, you will receive a homestay kit. Each kit is fitted with clean linen (duvet, pillow, towel, face cloth, sheet), a roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, mosquito repellent, tea, coffee, cup, sugar, and milk. True South African long-drop toilets situated outside of each home are available. These facilities are clean and well-kept. Homestay hosts supply guests with hot water every morning and evening via portable bucket baths.

Laundry is available at the hotel in Cape Town for an additional fee. Ask your Trip Leader for details.

Accommodations may vary but will be the same quality.
Solo travelers are paired with someone of the same gender.
Private room options are available upon request, subject to hotel availability for an extra charge.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance with at least $200,000 USD in medical coverage is required to participate on our trips. This must include coverage for repatriation.

Please note that travel insurance covers trip related issues such as trip interruption, lost luggage, theft, etc. Travel medical insurance covers things like repatriation, medicine, ambulance rides, and hospital visits/stays. 

We strongly suggest that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. Please ensure that all of the activities you plan on participating in are covered by your travel insurance.

Here are a few options for travel insurance that meet our minimum medical coverage requirements: Wanderwell, SafetyWing, and World Nomads. Some plans do not cover certain “high-risk” activities. Please make sure to read your plans coverage and make a selection based on your planned trip.

Wanderwell donates at least one percent of your insurance purchase to Explore Austin, a sustainable youth outdoor education program, via 1% for the Planet, selected by Under30Experiences.

We receive a fee if you purchase products through links on this page, at no extra cost to you.

We receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using our affiliate links. We do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

Cancellation Policy

Flexible

Give us at least 60 days notice, and you can switch your trip for free, or we'll hold your Experience Credits for future use.

If you have an emergency cancellation that is less than 60 days before your trip, please refer to your travel insurance company, as they may cover you for some expenses.

We are not able to transfer trips or hold experience credits within 60 days of the trip because we have already secured reservations on your behalf.

Trip Leader Expectations

All Under30Experiences trips are accompanied by experienced Trip Leaders.

The goal of the Trip Leader is to facilitate an awesome experience and help our travelers have the best trip possible. They will provide information on the places you are traveling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues, and introduce you to our local friends.

You can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the countries visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious, and social aspects.

Packing List

Please be eco-friendly!

Bring a reusable water bottle to refill from the tap.

Use as little plastic as possible by declining straws and plastic bags at restaurants and when shopping.

Please avoid aerosol bug sprays as they negatively affect the environment.

Bring "reef-safe" sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate because they kill coral.

We recommend using a travel backpack for your convenience or a medium-sized suitcase if you prefer. A daypack is also essential for carrying everyday items. You will be responsible for carrying your own luggage.

Space is limited on transportation. Please keep your luggage to a minimum. One small soft-sided bag plus a day pack (no more than 44 lbs or 20 kgs in total per person) is essential. We recommend against bringing hard/externally framed suitcases as they are difficult to store and can damage equipment and other travelers' belongings.

Your domestic flight (Kruger to Cape Town, Day 6) includes one piece of checked luggage allowance of 44 lbs (20 kgs) and 13 lbs (6 kg) piece of carry-on luggage.

The power plugs and sockets in South Africa consist of four associated plug types, types C, D, M, and N. Plug type C is the plug that has two round pins, plug type D is the plug that has three round pins in a triangular pattern, and plug types M and N both have three round pins. South Africa operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz. We recommend packing a universal travel adapter for your electronic devices.  

Below includes our staff picks of the best items on the market that we travel with!  All products selected are 3 ounces or less to comply with TSA carry-on size and are organically inspired when possible.

Do not forget: water bottle, sunscreen, sandals, waterproof rain jacket, sunglasses, and a hat!

For this trip, we also recommend:

  • Binoculars
  • A good quality, high-beam headlamp
  • Personal medical kit (over the counter pain medicine, electrolytes, bandaids)
  • Insect repellent
  • Extra battery or power bank

Some links on this page are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Under30Experiences will earn a small commission if you make a purchase.

Passport & Visas

Please note that non-machine readable passports are no longer accepted by South African immigration. All visitors to South Africa must have a machine-readable travel document (e-passport). Failure to present an e-passport will result in denied entry. Passengers with a valid visa issued in a non-machine readable passport will be handled on a case-by-case basis, but a fine will still be applicable.

Make sure you have an updated passport with you. Your passport must be valid for 60 days after your trip.

Guidelines for U.S. Passport Holders:

Under30Experiences recommends that your passport be valid for at least six months after your trip.  Please consult the U.S. Department of State with any more questions.

Make sure there is no damage to your passport. Conditions that may constitute damage requiring you to replace your passport include water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing or torn-out visa pages, a hole punch, or other injuries.

Health & Insurance

Check out our Travel Alerts Page for up-to-date requirements.

The tap water in South Africa is safe to drink in urban areas but not in remote locations such as the village homestay and Kruger National Park. Please bring a reusable water bottle and join us in our efforts to be environmentally friendly and keep South Africa beautiful.

Please consult with your doctor before traveling regarding physical activity and vaccinations.

No inoculations are required to enter South Africa from the United States, but the Center for Disease Control suggests vaccinating for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. 

The Center for Disease Control suggests taking prescription medicine for malaria for those visiting Kruger National Park.

Yellow Fever: A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for all passengers over one year of age who arrive or are transiting through South Africa from a country or region listed by the World Health Organization as infected by yellow fever. Travelers unable to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate issued at least ten days before arrival in South Africa will be refused entry. There is no option for travelers without a vaccination certificate to be vaccinated on arrival. Please note this also includes transiting through an infected country or region.

Mosquito-borne viruses exist in most of South Africa. Please cover exposed skin and use mosquito repellent.

More specific health information for travelers to South Africa can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Money & Currency

We suggest bringing $350 USD in cash to be used at establishments that do not accept credit cards.

This is not the total cash amount that you should expect to spend on your trip. Please consider your own spending habits for additional expenses such as snacks, souvenirs, and optional activities.

Credit cards, such as Mastercard and Visa, are widely accepted in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Cash, in local currency, will be needed for purchasing souvenirs or any other items in the village. ATMs will be available in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The official currency of South Africa is the rand (ZAR).

Remember to call your bank and credit card company to let them know you will be traveling overseas.

For an up-to-date exchange rate, download the XE Currency Exchange App.‍‍

Please be advised that US Dollar notes that are slightly torn, heavily marked, or faded may be difficult to exchange. It is best to bring notes in fairly good condition, in denominations lower than $100.

Safety & Security

Always carry a copy of your travel insurance, health insurance and passport with you. A photo of these items on your phone is also a good backup.

Keep your passport and any valuables locked in the safe at the hotel. 

Don’t leave valuables unattended.

Leave flashy jewelry at home. Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables.

It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.

US Citizens, please consider registering with the US State Department's “SMART Traveler Program” which can contact your family in case of emergency.

Make sure you have the address of your hotel in the event that you're separated from your Trip Leader.

Weather

The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the northwest to subtropical on the eastern coast. Rainfall generally occurs during summer (mid-to-late September through April), although, in the southwest around Cape Town, rainfall occurs in winter (April through early September).

During the dry winter months of April through early September, the days are warm, but the nights can become very cold! Many travelers assume that because they are traveling to Africa, it must always be warm. This is not the case during South Africa’s winter, however, particularly in May through September. You can expect days to be absolutely beautiful, temperate, and sunny, but nights and early mornings will be chilly, possibly near freezing, so we recommend you bring warm layers you can peel off as it warms up through the day. 

Climate in Cape Town

The number of hours of sunshine in Cape Town is among the most in the world. Winters are generally mild, although there is snow on the mountain ranges in the Cape Town and Natal areas during the winter months.

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park experiences winter and summer at opposite times to Europe and North America. The wet summer months (October to April) are hot and often humid. Dry winters (May to September) are warm and mild, although it cools off considerably at night. It is advisable to take warm clothing for early morning and evening game drives.

  • Dry season (May to September): there is virtually no rainfall during the whole of winter, and the humidity is very low. Animals are attracted to permanent water sources as water becomes scarce in the bush.
  • Wet Season (October to April): It can be uncomfortably hot and humid in summer. Peak temperatures frequently reach well over 40°C/104°F, although average daytime temperatures reach 32°C/90°F with high humidity. It seldom rains all day, but the pattern is afternoon storms.

cultural information

Basic Etiquette
  • It is polite to receive items with both hands together, held out as a cup. 
  • Some South African ethnic groups may find it impolite to make gestures with the left hand.
  • South Africans often use the phrases ‘now-now’ or ‘just now.’ To do something ‘now-now’ is to do something shortly, whereas ‘just now’ means to do something in the near future but not immediately.
  • It is polite to cover your mouth when you yawn.
  • It is rude to spit in public.
  • Show heightened respect to anyone older than you in all situations. 
  • It is common to tip about 10% of bills in South Africa, and tips are usually not included in the overall bill. If you have negotiated payment beforehand (such as for a taxi fare), the tip will be included. For all other exchanges, it is acceptable to tip in spare change.

Greetings! 

Men will typically shake hands as a hello in South Africa while smiling and maintaining eye contact. It's common for women to kiss one another on the cheek, though in some demographics, it's more common for women to neither shake nor kiss but merely nod their heads in greeting. It's easy to let the person you're greeting initiate contact and simply follow his or her lead.

Drawing Attention 

Pointing with your index finger to someone or at an object is generally considered rude or offensive. It's more common to find people lifting their chin to indicate the person or thing they're referring to. While you might hear "hey!" or "excuse me!" when someone's trying to get your attention in the United States, in South Africa, you're more likely to hear a hissing sound or the person making a smacking noise with their mouth. As surprising as it might seem at first, this is a fairly common and considered a more polite way to grab your focus.

Watching the Clock 

While appointments are certainly made and kept across South Africa, it's important to note that many South Africans have a more relaxed view of time. It's not uncommon to find a restaurant opening 10 minutes after the posted time or to find a group congregating 15 minutes after they said they would get together. You'll feel less impatient if you accept this as a local custom and adapt to this relaxed sense of time.

Tipping

Gratuities aren’t compulsory on your trip, but they can make a big difference to locals employed in the tourism industry. If you are happy with the services provided, a tip is an appropriate way to thank them. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many destinations.

  • Local guides: Throughout your trip, you may at times, have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest around $3 USD per person per day for local guides.
  • Basic restaurants: When checking the bill, if there’s an addition of 10% to 15% service charge, there’s no requirement for tipping. Otherwise, 10% of the total bill amount is appropriate.

Tipping Kitty

Over the years, we have found that many of our travelers find the need for tipping local guides and operators to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, your Trip Leader might raise the idea of a group tipping kitty. At your group meeting, your Trip Leader may discuss the idea of running this kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount, and someone pays the tips as you go. 

Gratuities for Trip Leaders aren’t required on your trip, but they can make a big difference to locals employed in the tourism industry. If you are happy with the services provided, a tip is an appropriate way to thank them. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many destinations. We suggest around $3-5 USD per person per day for Trip Leaders.

Key Phrases

  • Ag, man! [ach—mun]  - filler word to express irritation or resignation.
  • Lekker [lack-err] - is a widely used term indicating that something is ‘great’ or ‘nice’.
  • Kief [kif] - derived from Arabic (kayf), means cool, great, awesome or neat.
  • Braai [br-eye] - a widely used noun and verb for an outdoor ‘barbecue’ where meat is cooked over a fire or coals. 
  • Sharp [shahp]  - is often doubled up for effect (sharp sharp!) and means ‘goodbye’ or that everything is great.
  • Bra / Bru [brah and brew] - Used to call a friend, pal or buddy.
  • Yebo [yeah-boh] - It means "yes," but it is used as an extremely expressive form of the affirmative. It's often used as a double positive, saying, "Yebo, yes!".

Optional Activities

Due to the nature of this trip, optional activities are only available in Cape Town. 

Cape Town:

While your Trip Leader will assist you with optional activities available, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of the Under30Experiences itinerary. We offer no guarantees on the safety or standard of the activity.

General Rules

Respect the people around you and the environment in which you’re traveling. This includes, but is not limited to, fellow travelers, Trip Leaders, the local community, nature, wildlife, and yourself.

Do your best to keep yourself and fellow travelers out of harm’s way.

It’s important to obey local laws and customs while on our trips. This includes, but is not limited to, wearing appropriate clothing while visiting certain communities, refraining from taking photos of people without asking, avoiding the use of illegal drugs, having weapons, and soliciting prostitution. If you’re not sure about something, take time to educate yourself or ask.

Travel involves contact with new cultures. When confronted with a different way of living than you’re used to, do your best to understand that neither way is better nor worse. They’re simply different ways of life.

Know your limits! This applies to physical ability, emotional space, social situations, and alcohol consumption. If you can’t participate in something, be upfront about it. If you need a break from people, take it. Stop drinking before you get too drunk.

Trip leaders are working in the travelers’ best interest. If they say something or ask you not to do something, it’s not because they’re tyrants, but because they want you to have a good time!

Lying or withholding information about any physical or mental condition that might affect your ability to participate in any of the activities may be grounds for removal from your trip with no refund.

Staying longer or arriving early?

Hotel recommendations in Johannesburg

Hotel recommendations in Cape Town

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