General Life Tips

South African Travel Tips From A Native | Part One | Garden Route

South Africa is truly a beautiful country even if I do have to say so myself but I don’t because once you see it you will completely agree with me. It has the mountains. It has the sea. It has the wildlife. It has the great food. It has so much more but I can’t really come up with them now but seriously it’s a pretty good deal. Take a look at this video that the YouTube channel ‘We Travel The World’ made. It’s pretty well done.

youtube video for south africa

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUwTTTVCDqA

Now that you’ve watched the video (hands up if you actually watched it!) and you’re interested in the country here is a few things you should know. I first want to say that even though I would love to be able to sugar coat things and really sell you on my home country…I’m not going to do that because I want everyone to enjoy their visit there but most importantly stay safe. As horrible as it is, South Africa isn’t that safe anymore and tourist are the top victims. I’m sorry but it’s true and not just for South Africa it’s for every place in the world.

The other day I was talking to a friend who showed interested in visiting South Africa. I just started to lists great places to go too and what you should keep into account and etc. It was a lot and I’m not even sure if most of it settled so I figured a blog post dedicated to travel tips.

I’m going to start off in Cape Town mostly because that’s where I spend most of my life and I actually know my stuff in that area. So like most countries you can go through a travel company but I’m writing this blog to those who are do it on your own types of travelers. Renting a car is incredibly important. Public transports isn’t a thing. There is Ubers but not in all the small towns and can be quite expensive. Car rental companies are luckily all over the place, heck there is one right at the airport. Now because you don’t know the area GPS is going to make a massive difference. I would recommend you spend the extra money on insurance. There is a lot of hit and runs, or scratch and bumps in South Africa. You could’ve parked your car and went out and about and come back with a massive scratch on the side or a bump in the back. The last thing you want is to have that type of damage on you. Luckily the petrol isn’t that expensive with most rental cars so really, get that insurance.

Okay so there is a lot to see and experience in Cape Town itself, there is probably a lot of information about all the tourist sites in the city on the web. Here is a link to one — http://www.touropia.com/tourist-attractions-in-cape-town/ — I’m going to talk a little more about the towns and experiences close by. I will be up front, you will be traveling a lot via the car but I promise you some of it will make it worthwhile. I will also recommend you try to find a place to stay outside the big cities. Cape Town hotels can be quite expensive and you can get just as great sea view on the side of a mountain with a hour drive. Don’t worry. I will tell you all about it. There is a small beach town really close to Cape Town, Hout Bay, you can look into staying there. The views are pretty amazing.

The main thing I would recommend is the table mountain I mean just look at this view.

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I’m going to recommended  a small but sweet beach town called Gordon’s Bay. It’s where I used to stay so I can tell you that it’s a pretty great spot to spend some time. The drive from Cape Town to there is very short, here is a screenshot from Google. There is a few things I want to tell you about driving in South Africa. We drive on the left side of the road. We have stop streets and we call traffic lights robots. We also have taxis which are famous for being the worst drivers around. They’re not like you’re imagining that I can tell you now. It’s like a mini bus – always over crowded, painted with graffiti art and a little beat up – and they drive however they want too. They will speed up next to you, half push you out of the road, go in front of you and then suddenly stop on the side of the road to drop someone off. It’s very annoying but just keep an eye out. Also while we’re talking about pigs on the road. When a traffic light turns green of red, don’t immediately floor it and go for it. Give it five seconds and double check there isn’t a straggler trying to make it through the red light. I almost got killed once. Seriously just look. Don’t trust the other people on the road.

cape town to gordon's bay

Try to avoid driving on the highway in the middle of the night and never stop. Never go into the townships, you will know what it is when you see it. I mean no offence but that’s the last place you want to be as a tourist in the middle of the night. Unfortunately there is a lot of people who would steal that nice car and all your belongings right under from you. I really don’t want to scare you but all countries have areas where bad folk gather a little more. Just keep your doors lock and don’t stop on the side of the highway if you can help it. Awhile ago the people from the township would throw rocks from the bridge over the highway to get the cars to stop. Once the cars stop, friends waiting on the side of the road pounce.

Okay the drive to Gordon’s Bay is quite nice. Close by you have Stellenbosch which is small little university towns that’s famous for great wine and going out to party. Somerset West is just as close, which has a great nature reserve if you want to go for a hike. Here is the pictures I took when I hiked that nature reserve. It’s a hike I’ve done quite a few times and I enjoy it every time.

Strand is next to Somerset West, it has a nice beach but Gordon’s bay is literally a throw away with a small beach too. Here is a picture I took when I was still there.

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There is many great places there so really try to look into staying there for a bit. For day activities close to Gordon’s Bay you can go to crystal pools which is a beautiful waterfall hike. Here is a link for more details — https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1020231-d9828027-Reviews-Crystal_Pools_Waterfall_Hike-Gordon_s_Bay_Western_Cape.html — While I’m in Gordon’s Bay. A restaurant I would hundred percent recommend is — https://www.facebook.com/The-Thirsty-Oyster-Tavern-763767090329474/ — Try their pork roast. My dad had it on my 21st dinner and it looked delicious. I was seriously considering ‘glutening’ myself for a bite.

After you seen and done what you wanted to do in Gordon’s Bay here is a great drive I want you to take. It’s in the mountains. It’s a beautiful ride. On the one side you have you mountain and on the other side you have you ocean. There is many beautiful small towns that you can stop and maybe even stay a night. Look on airbnb for a possible place to stay but there is hotels if you’re feeling fancy. The dollars/euros/pounds compared to the ZAR is quite nice. You can go all out for a lot less money in South Africa.

gordons bay to hermanus drive

You make this a day drive trip as there is quite a few pretty small towns. Betty’s Bay is beautiful small beach town. You will find penguins there! Kleinmond also has it’s attractions to tourist but I want to take you too Hermanus. They are pretty famous for their whale watching points (although they’re only around certain times in the year. Find more information here — http://www.hermanus.co.za/whale-watching —) but they also have some great fish food. The restaurant on the edge, wait let me find their website (—http://www.bientangscave.com/ —) has the best fish food I’ve tried in a long time. Their prawns is magical! The view from the restaurant is also pretty beautiful. Seriously if you’re in Hermanus GO THERE!

Here is some of the views you can find on this drive.

From Hermanus I’m going to take you down a very famous drive in South Africa, the garden route. It’s a drive I’ve taken so many times in my life its actually almost painful. After this route I’m going to take you down a little bit more before I end this part one. As you can see you can’t see the entire country in three weeks. I would break it up if I were you. I mean we’re just touching the surface but you’re seeing quite a bit of the Western and Eastern Cape. Alright let’s go back to the garden route.

garden route

Here is a website that has a ton of information about everything. I mean why would I go through everything when this website has already done it for me. — http://www.gardenroute.co.za/ — I would recommended you stop in as many towns that pulls your attention as you can. My favourite places that I would recommend a overnight stop is Mossel Bay, Knysna (Sedgefield and Plettenberg Bay is just as beautiful and a short drive away), Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth.

Mossel Bay is a harbour town with many great tourist stops. Knysna is beautiful with its forest walks and so much more. I would recommend you go to the heads and this restaurant. They’re food is amazing — http://www.sirocco.co.za/ — Sedgefield has a great flea and farmer market every Saturday right on the outside. You have to drive through but you can’t miss it. Let me see if I can find a link to it — http://www.wildoatsmarket.co.za/ — Plettenberg Bay has a beautiful beach and let’s not even begin to talk about all the little tourist parks on the way there. There is a elephant park (Here is the link for you — https://knysnaelephantpark.co.za/ —), a wolf sanctuary (Here is the link for you — http://wolfsanctuary.co.za/ —) and so much more. Google will probably give you more information. There is also a great nature park just outside Knysna. Here is the link — https://www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/  — You can even stay inside the park and I’m sure it would be a wonderful experience. Just look up ‘knysna tsitsikamma national park’ for more information. There is some great actives you can do there.

I personally went to the wolf sanctuary a few years back with my dad and I loved every second of it mostly because I’m obsessed with wolves. Here is a few photos from that day.

There is so many things you can do that I would seriously recommended you plan the drive and look up every town and see what there is to do that you would like. It’s a big country hey. If I have to go through every single town and what you can do there this would become a very long post (it already is but still). Also stop in Oudshoorn if you can because this — https://www.gardenroute.com/Cango-Caves-Garden-Route-South-Africa_content_op_view_id_41 — There is so many other places I could go into detail that it’s almost difficult to decide on one thing. Maybe I should make a separate blog and go through every town…someone probably did that. Google will probably pull through where I don’t. I mean I found this website after one second of searching — https://www.goatsontheroad.com/top-stops-garden-route-south-africa/ — so just take the time to look into everything. The last stop I want to recommend is Port Elizabeth. They have a small elephant slash game reserve park there that I would recommend. You drive through in your car and you might just sit between elephants.

Here is the photos we took when we went there. It was amazing.

Here is the link to the park — https://www.sanparks.org/parks/addo/

You can also stay inside the park and do tour through them which is probably an experience by itself. It’s a smaller park I mean if you think game reserve park in South Africa you think — https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/ — but that’s on the other side and can be a completely other trip all together. otherwise you can also just trade in your rental car at Port Elizabeth, catch a plane to Johannesburg, get a new car and go from there. Depends on how you want to go about it. From Port Elizabeth you can go to East London but I have never been there personally so Google will have to fill in the blanks.

I think that’s about it for part one. There is just a few things I want to recommend for the entire country all together. Mug ‘n Bean is a restaurant you will find all over. They’re food is high quality and pretty great. Woolworths almost always have the nicest fruit and vegetables (they are very strict with they’re quality). I would also recommend you buy some clothes there if you need some because they’re quality is quite nice. It’s like a cheat. We bought work pants for my husband when he was in South Africa and for the price of one here in Europe we could get two to three really great quality ones. There is Truworths too but use your own judgement. It’s quite easy to see which is great quality clothing and which is not. For the ladies you can stop at Foschini for makeup and perfume. They have some brands that paying in ZAR can save you a bit of money. YOU NEED TO TRY A BRAAI, there is probably some restaurants that can give you something similar but I’m sure if you go to a park or something the opportunity will arise. It’s a barbeque (but don’t call it that) but South Africans are quite passionate about their meat on the fire. It’s really great though. I saw some airbnb places offer a Braai with the package. Safety wise don’t walk around in the dead of the night in side streets. Lock your car and don’t leave valuables in eye sight. Hold tight onto your handbag and don’t walk around with a phone in your hand (outside) if you can help it. Don’t leave your wallet or phone on the table at a restaurant where someone can grab it. Just be conscious about it and you will be fine.

There is so much more I can tell you but I should probably end it here before this gets ridiculously long. I’ve never really explored the countries at the top but I will do some research and ask friends and family and make a part two sometime in the next few weeks. If you end up going to South Africa I hope you would enjoy it fully. It’s truly a beautiful country with great food, people and experiences.

I wish you all the best and I will see you in a click!

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