Direct flights to South Africa - currently Delta and South African Airways (SAA) provide direct flights to South Africa from the US. European Airlines that fly direct to South Africa are; British Airways and Virgin who fly from London Heathrow; KLM from Amsterdam; Lufthansa from Frankfurt and Air France from Paris. From Brazil you can fly direct to South Africa using Varig and from Sydney you can use Qantas.
If you are flying from the UK and looking for a slightly cheaper option then flying via the Middle East is usually cheaper although you will need to be mindfull of the stopover time between landing and your onward flight to South Africa. If you dont mind prolonging your journey then its a good way of reducing the flight costs. Airlines that offer stopover flights to South Africa are Etihad and Egypt Air.
Its worth noting that it is not possible to book international flights more than a year in advance.
Once in South Africa there are a number of airlines providing regular internal flights throughout the country including; South African Airways, South African Express and Airlink. In terms of low-cost airlines there are; Kulula, and Mango. For domestic departures you need to be at the airport one hour before departure.
The three major international airports are Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. In addition to these there are seven domestic airports found in Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, East London, George, Kimberley, Upington and Pilanesberg.
Tips for your luggage
* Remember to always lock your luggage to prevent someone opening it during handling. If you don't have a lock use cable-ties these are great. It also deters people from trying to slip unwanted illegal items into your luggage. At most airports they offer a service to wrap your luggage in clingfilm before you check-in. The cost for this varies depending on the airport but many people take advantage of this service as it is a good deterrent.
* Don't leave your camera unattended - even to just pick up your luggage from the carousel. It's amazing how quickly these valuable items can disappear along with all those memories.
* If you believe someone has tampered with your suitcase then notify a custom official or security guard immediately.
* Attach some colourful tape or stickers to your luggage to make it easily identifiable. It will also deter someone else who may be thinking of making off with a fellow passengers luggage.
* It is very important to label your cases both inside and out. Luggage does go astray and at least this way it will find its way back to you eventually.Remember to label your baggage inside and out, with your home address. If luggage goes astray, it will eventually end up at your home address. However, if you label it to where you are going, you may have returned home by the time your luggage gets to your destination. If it has gone astray, and the name has come off the outside, it can be forced opened and still be returned to your home address.
* When you are packing to go put out all your clothes on the bed and then put half of them away again. You wont need them ! Also don't forget about any internal transfer flights you might be making and the weight limits imposed.
* Never ever offer to carry someones case. Instead recommend that the person calls for assistance from an official. You never know what might be in the case you are being asked to carry.
Travelling with children
* The best seats for small children when flying are normally the first row of seats in economy. Although you will be facing a wall there is more legroom.
* If you can then choose night flights as children are more likely to fall asleep.
* Try to not overfeed them with sweets you don't want them hyper active the whole time.
Useful items to bring with you
* Bring a multi-plug extension lead so that all your electrical items can plug into and fit a local 3-pin plug on arrival. That way you only need one South African standard large 13amp round pin plugs converter. South African voltage is 220 volts.
* A needle and thread is always handy in emergencies.
* A Swiss Army knife is useful but not to be packed in your hand luggage of course.
* A small alarm clock comes in handy when the hotel forgets to make that early wake-up call to your room.
Restaurants and Bars
In a restaurant or bar it is polite to tip 10-15%. Sometime if you are in a large group the restaurant may add the tip to your bill automatically, so check your bill.
Petrol Stations and Car Parking
Petrol station attendants are normally tipped a few rand for their service - R2 to R5. In car parks you will often find car- guards or parking-attendants particularly in tourist spots or shopping centres. They usually wear vests to identify themselves and it is usual to tip these individuals R2-R5.
Tour Guides and Drivers
It is usual to tip at the end of the day and to tip both the driver and the tour guide. On day tours we recommend that you should each tip around R10 per day and for longer tours R15 per day. The money is then split between the driver and the guide. When on a game drive you will usually encounter tour guides, game rangers and trackers who depend heavily on tips. We recommend you tip between R30 and R50 per person per day. Tipping is only recommended if you are satisfied with the service you have received and is entirely at your own discretion.
At hotels porters should be tipped R3.00 per bag. We recommend that tips are given directly to the porter to ensure the money reached its rightful owner. Cleaners and maids in hotels and Bed and Breakfast establishments should be tipped between R5 and R10 per day.
* Only carry enough cash around with you for what you actually need that day.
* Keep large amounts of notes in your front pocket - never in your back pocket.
* Always bring along a little local currency for when you first arrive just in case you cant find anywhere to change your money when you arrive.
* Avoid hotels when changing money as their commission rates are much higher.
* Use ATM cards and credit cards. Don't forget to notify your bank before you go abroad as they may well stop your card.
* Try to use ATM machines at banks during banking hours just in case your card gets swallowed. At least you can then go inside and ask for it back and there is always increased security during banking hours.
* As when at home try not to let your Credit Card out of your sight– we recommend when paying in a restaurant that you go up to the the desk when paying rather than handing over your card at the table. Also make sure you get the correct credit card back.
* If you do intend using an ATM card then take two cards with you as magnetic strips can be damaged and it is always good to have a backup.
* If you don't have ATM cards or credit cards then take the majority of your money in traveler's cheques so that they can be refunded if lost or stolen. Remember to make a note of your traveler's cheque numbers before you leave.
* Remember South African petrol stations do not accept credit cards so you will need enough cash for petrol purchases. Typically R100 will buy you about 9 litres.
* When leaving South Africa you can try and claim back the VAT Tax on items purchased greater than R250 at the VAT desk at the airport. Be aware that they do charge for this service!
* 10% tipping is a quite acceptable level at restaurants and a R5 coin is ample when tipping a hotel porter for carrying your bags to your room.
* A valid passport is of course essential.
* Ensure you check to see whether you need an entry visa to get into South Africa - and make sure you check this well in advance of leaving for your holiday.
* It is a good idea to keep photocopies of your passport, entry visas, travelers cheque sales advice, airline tickets, drivers license etc. separate in your luggage, and also leave copies at home with family or friends in case of theft. It is always easier to obtain replacements when you have photocopies of all the details!
* Also make a separate note of your Credit Card numbers – this will come in very useful if you lose or have any stolen.
* Check out this great blog on the essentials of crossing the borders of South Africa. All the information you need to know when visiting the neighbouring countries of South Africa.
* Ensure you have up to date medical insurance.
* Check what Vaccinations and other medical precautions are needed. Make sure if you do need any that you have them well before your departure, to allow time for recovery from any side effects.
* If you are on a prescription or if you take a specific medicine, take enough away with you, as you may not be able to get replacements. Take a copy of your prescription with you just in case. Keep any medicine you take with you in the original box just in case you are challenged by customs.
* If you plan on visiting certain areas which suffer from Malaria then ask your chemist for some anti-malaria tablets.
* Bring some plasters, head ache pills, & something for upset tummies.
* Drinking water – The tap water all over South Africa is normally perfectly safe but if you do have a sensitive tummy you could spend a fair amount of time in various bathrooms. This warning also applies to ice in your drinks and rinsing ones mouth after brushing your teeth.
On the plane
* Wear comfortable and loose fitting clothes.
* Take your shoes off on the plane as your feet will swell up when you fly. Never wear new or tight shoes, as you probably won't be able to put them on when it is time to land.
* Moderate your alcohol intake . It might be free on some planes and seem great at the time, but if you consume a lot then your jet lag will be twice as bad. Make sure you drink lots of water or fruit juice and eat lightly.
* Get up and move about on the plane or perhaps try some gentle leg and foot exercises.
Hiring a car
* You will need a full drivers licence with photo
* Drivers must be 21 years of age (note under 23's may incur a R50 additional levy)
* Credit card or cash deposit returnable when you return the car.
* Ensure you check your vehicle thoroughly before accepting it and that the rental form had identified any existing marks.
* Cars usually come with a full tank and must be returned so. If you let the rental company fill it the charge will be higher.
* As South Africa is big we advise you go for an unlimited kilometre package rather than a per day package.
* Check if you intend to take the car off road that there aren't any limitations.
When driving watch out for hazards such as animals in the road. Never stop for anyone other than the police - there cars are clearly marked.