South Africa is a very large country, deceptively large in fact to many foreign visitors who often underestimate the distances between towns and cities. It is also a country that still has a wild element to it; in other words, it is not quite tamed, so there are natural and social pitfalls to be aware of when traveling across this stunningly beautiful part of the world.
Generally, the people are friendly to a fault and very hospitable, but it is also a relatively poor country, and crime is always a scourge that every traveller needs to be aware of. Here are some essentials that every traveller needs to have knowledge of to get the most out of South Africa and make their holiday one of the best ever. South Africa is a very sociable country, the nation is friendly, the people are constantly communicating, and life is pretty interactive. So be open and friendly, smile and be happy, and greet people and be happy to be greeted. Everywhere people out of simple habit ask you how you are, and it is always courteous to respond in a positive manner. Also, be sure to say please when asking for something, and thank you when receiving. Being open, outwardly, and friendly is one of the best assets any traveller to South Africa can possess. It will guarantee a lot of contact, and with contact, a closer relationship and understanding of this country and its people.
Have a decent map with you, which you can use alongside your GPS directional technology, which is popular, widely used, and very reliable. While it is fine to sit back and rely on technology to guide you to your destination, you do relinquish control over your travel route. You need to be in charge, to know exactly where on the map you are going, and what route you will take to get there. If the technology takes you someplace else, you want to know about it ahead of time. Getting lost in a new, big, and dangerous country is enough to spoil any great holiday.
South Africa is hot – very hot – and many European travellers are taken by surprise. Protect yourself from the sun, whether you are on the beach, hiking, fishing, biking, or whatever, by wearing a hat and making use of sunblock with a good protection factor of at least 30. Also, be sure to hydrate, which means drinking bottled water at every opportunity in the summer. To be sunburned on holiday is not fun, and to wind up dehydrated and in hospital is even worse, so take good precautions against the elements.
Make sure you have mobile phone communication with you in South Africa, no matter where you are.
If you are going to use your foreign SIM card, be sure to load some local emergency numbers correctly, and a contact number to the hotel or friend you are staying with. Another option is to buy a SIM card on arrival with a local number for more affordable mobile phone usage. Being in communication is essential, for crime, accidents, and a general feeling of safety.
Finally, always carry some cash on you, not a hefty amount, but a good few hundred rand at a time, as not all vendors are card connected. It can be very frustrating to be stuck in the hinterland with only a card when you need to pay in cash for transport, a quick bite, or some curio you want to take back home with you.