Preparing for your trip
|Package:||Best of South Africa|
Print this page and refer to it as you prepare for your trip!
Printed Mar 20, 2023. Please visit http://static.friendlyplanet.com/before-you-go/?tourId=1611 for the latest updates.
|☐||Ensure you have a current passport valid for at least six months after your return date.||ASAP|
|☐||Complete your registration. You'll receive a link to the registration form after you complete your booking.||Within 5 days of booking|
|☐||Make your final payment, if any balance is due.||See your invoice|
|☐||Request any additions or changes you may still want to make to your trip.||by final payment due date|
|☐||Obtain any necessary travel visas and review any requirements for entry.||See below|
|☐||Print your itinerary and other final documents, which we will send you via email by 14 days prior to travel.||Prior to travel|
|☐||Print your policy documents, if you purchased travel insurance, and carry them with you.||Prior to travel|
|☐||Enroll in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), if you're a U.S. citizen or national, so the State Dept. can locate and assist you in case of an emergency.||Prior to travel|
In addition, if you booked flights with your package:
|☐||Book connecting flights to your departure city, if necessary. (Please confirm your international flight schedule first!)||After receiving your e‑tickets|
|☐||Make advance seat reservations for your international flight, if you have a preference.||After receiving your e‑tickets|
|☐||Confirm your flight times and any special meal requests with the airline, and print and carry a copy of your e-ticket.||72 hours prior to travel|
|☐||Check in for your flights online and download/print your boarding passes (if available).||24 hours prior to travel|
|☐||Arrive at the airport, ready for the trip of a lifetime!||3½ hours prior to departure|
Documents & Entry Requirements
Entry requirements are provided for your convenience. However, unless otherwise stated, it is your responsibility to determine the requirements that apply to you and your trip and to comply with them, including obtaining any necessary visas or other travel documents by the required deadlines and carrying them with you. Especially with COVID-19, requirements are subject to change, so check back for the latest before you depart.
You should have 2 consecutive blank passport pages for each entry into South Africa.
South Africa Entry Requirements
Advice from Friendly Planet
All visitors are required to have two consecutive blank passport pages for each entry into South Africa. Note that some of our packages include multiple entries into South Africa. You may be denied entry if your passport does not have enough blank pages.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements
If you have visited or transited through a high-risk country in Africa or South America 10 days or less prior to your arrival in South Africa, you must show proof of yellow fever vaccination.
Advice from our partner Sherpa
General Requirements & Guidelines
- In general, you must have a passport to travel abroad, which should be valid for at least six months after your return date. Passports expiring before then should be renewed as soon as possible. Passports contain at least 2 blank pages for each country visited. If your passport does not have this many pages, obtain a new passport as soon as possible.
- if your passport and visa are not in order, airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding, countries may deny entry, and your trip may be disrupted. Travel insurance may not cover such losses.
- Any changes in names or passport information should be reported to us immediately. Airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding if the name on your passport does not match your tickets.
- Minors (age 17 or younger) departing and/or returning to the U.S. without parents or with only one parent may be required by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to present a notarized parental consent letter and/or unabridged birth certificate (more information). Many other countries have similar entry requirements, especially for minors traveling with a parent/guardian with a different surname; check with the consulates of all countries you'll be visiting to learn more.
Your final travel documents will be sent to you via email by 14 days prior to departure. These will include your daily itinerary, hotel and emergency contact information, and other relevant information. Please print your documents and take them with you. If you're departing in less than a week and haven't received your documents, let us know immediately!
Travel Insurance Documents
If you purchased travel insurance, please print and carry your policy documents, including contact information for emergency travel assistance and instructions on how to make a claim. If you purchased the travel protection plan we offer, we recommend you print the full policy.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
We encourage all U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service allows you to receive important updates about safety and security issues in your destination, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy, as well as family & friends, to contact you in case of an emergency. To enroll or get more information, please visit the STEP website or any U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Flights, Transfers & Arrival
Questions about your flights before you depart? Read the information below first. If you still have questions, contact our air specialists at
Tour Only Option
If you purchased this package without flights, you are responsible for arranging your own flights and transportation to the touring program start and end points, usually the first and last hotels listed in the itinerary. Please review the itinerary carefully, as some packages start and end in different cities, requiring "open jaw" flights. Also see airport transfers and what to do in case of arrival complications.
Flights & Tickets
If you selected flights with your package, we generally book your flights and issue tickets after your final payment due date.
If you requested flights from another city, our air specialists will research the best options and send you a tentative flight schedule and quote for your approval within 5 business days of your booking (or approximately 330 days prior to travel, if you booked further out than that).
Once we have issued your tickets, we'll send you an "e-ticket receipt" which contains all of your flight information, including times, carriers, an airline booking reference number, and an e-ticket number. If you have not received this, or have questions about the flights we booked for you, please contact our air department. You will not receive paper tickets. We recommend you print and carry a copy of your flight details, including the airline booking reference number and e-ticket number, as some airports require this to enter the terminal. You do not need to reconfirm your flights with the airline prior to your departure, as we will handle this for you.
That depends on the airline. You can usually request a window or aisle seat, and sometimes specific seat numbers (but not exit row and bulkhead seats) ahead of time. Many airlines now charge a fee for this, and such fees are not included in your package price. If you have a seat preference, let us know when you book, in the special requests section, or email us at [email protected] after you book. Then:
If your airline does not charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll happily pass along your seat request to the airline and confirm they received it (though we cannot guarantee it will be honored).
If your airline does charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll let you know. You'll need to contact the airline directly to request your seats after we have issued your flight tickets, and fees are payable directly to the airline.
If you do not request specific seats: The airline typically assigns them within 24 hours of departure. If you do not like your assigned seats, you may be able to change them, subject to availability, when you check in online or at the counter. Learn more about Advance Seat Reservations.
You can enter special meal requests when you book with an agent or complete your online registration, shortly after booking. We will relay your requests to the airlines and our representatives abroad, but we cannot guarantee they will be honored. Please double check meal requests with your airline 72 hours before departure, and with our representatives upon arrival.
You may be able to earn frequent flyer points for your flights. Contact the airline directly once you receive your tickets to enter your frequent flyer number in your flight record, or enter it when you check in. As you travel, check your tickets or ask the check-in or gate agent prior to boarding each flight to ensure the number has been entered properly. And just to be safe, keep your boarding passes and passenger receipt as proof that you have actually flown the miles you want credited to your account.
Cabin upgrades may be available on your flights. Ask us about price and availability when you book online, in the special requests section, or contact our air department after you book. Please note that our special contracted airfare rates generally do not permit upgrading with frequent flyer points, and that upgrade requests may incur change fees if tickets have already been issued.
If you selected flights with your package, you will receive your flight schedule by email once we issue your tickets.
If you requested flights from another city, our air specialists will research the best options and send you a tentative flight schedule for your approval, and a confirmed schedule once we issue your tickets.
Airlines may change schedules at any time, even after flights have been confirmed, and we are not responsible for such changes. Please check for updates to your flight schedule prior to booking any connecting flights and again 72 hours prior to departure.
If you need to fly from (and/or return to) a different U.S. or Canadian city, we suggest you request those flights from us. If feasible, we will try to book all your flights together with a single carrier or a partner network on a single ticket. This ensures that your luggage will be transferred between flights for you, and more importantly, that if there are any schedule changes, flight cancellations, or delays that affect your trip, the airline(s) will adjust your flights to ensure you have sufficient time to make your connections and/or make alternate arrangements to get you to your destination. Besides offering the most peace of mind, this often yields lower fares than purchasing separate connecting flights.
If you plan to purchase connecting flights to your departure city, we strongly suggest waiting until after your final payment due date and after you receive the e-tickets for your international flights, to reduce the chances that that your departure might be cancelled or rescheduled or that your international flight times might change. Before purchasing connecting flights, verify the times for your international flights. Leave at least 3½ hours connecting time between flights, and if you're traveling within a few weeks of Daylight Savings Time changes (in March and November, when flight schedules may change even more dramatically), allow 5–5½ hours between flights. Nobody likes waiting around the airport, but missing your flight is far worse!
Scheduled group airport transfers at the destination are included with this package. When you exit customs, please look for our representative holding a Friendly Planet sign, who will cheerfully escort you to your transfer vehicle and assist with your luggage.
We make every effort to ensure our tours run smoothly and trouble-free. We don't expect any problems, and nor should you. But when things don't go as planned, here's what to do:
- You miss your flights, or your flights are cancelled: Please call us immediately. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox, with a phone number at which to reach you, and we'll get right back to you.
- Your flights are delayed and you're worried about missing your included transfers: Please contact us to let us know about the delay, and we will notify our partners in destination. If you are arriving on one of our group flights, or booked your own flights and supplied us with the details, our partners will be tracking your arrival and will plan accordingly.
- Your package includes transfers, but you can't find our representative at your destination: Don't panic—they may have been unexpectedly delayed. Wait up to 30 minutes. Then contact our local partners in destination, listed on the emergency contact page of your final documents. If you can't reach them, call us. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox. If all else fails, make your own way to the starting hotel (or cruise port), and we'll refund you the cost of your transfer.
Packing & Luggage
Baggage allowance: Your checked bag should weigh no more than 44 pounds, not exceed 62 inches as a sum of all three dimensions (length, height and width). Your carry-on luggage should fit under your seat or in the overhead compartment. Irregular shaped luggage will not be permitted at the check-in counters at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in South Africa. Luggage that is round, has long straps, or does not have at least one flat surface will not be allowed for check-in. Medications and other essentials should be packed in your carry-on luggage. Porterage during your tour is covered for only one checked bag per person.
We recommend that you bring insect repellant with Deet, sunscreen, common drugs or medication and vitamins you normally take as well as extra batteries and chargers for your electronic devices, as these may not be available in some of the places visited on this tour. Binoculars and a small flashlight will come in handy, especially in the game reserve. We also recommend to bring a fleece jacket or sweater for the morning and evening game drives that can be chilly.
What to wear: We suggest bringing clothes made of cotton, preferably in neutral colors (for game drives). Avoid wearing dark colored clothes, especially during your stay at the game reserve, as dark colors attract mosquitos and other insects. A wide brimmed hat to cover your face and back of your neck, sunglasses, and scarf are also valuable accessories for your trip. If you have two pairs of comfortable (broken in, not brand new) walking shoes, by all means, take both pairs. We also suggest to bring a pair of swim shoes, a swimsuit and at least one smart casual outfit if an occasion arises. Packing to dress in layers is another way to prepare for a variety of weather conditions. Finally, remember that the countries visited on this tour are casual, and comfort should dictate your wardrobe for the tour.
Learn more about Baggage Allowances on your international flights. Note that our baggage allowances may be less than those for your international flights. If you exceed the baggage limits, you may be subject to excess baggage charges levied by the airlines and/or by Friendly Planet.
Regardless of the limits—we recommend a smaller size and weight for both your checked and carry-on bags. It's so much easier and faster for you to get around when you have fewer, lighter bags! For your carry-on, consider a soft-sided bag such as a duffel rather than a hard clamshell-type case, which may not fit as easily into overhead compartments or under your seat, especially on buses. For your protection, we suggest your checked luggage have a TSA-approved lock.
Luggage tags: For your safety, we are no longer mailing Friendly Planet luggage tags to you. We encourage you to use your own. Fill in the luggage tags with your name and contact information and attach to each bag, including carry-ons and camera cases, so that your luggage can be identified should it get misplaced during your trip.
What to pack: Check out our list of top 10 must-haves for international travel, as well as what not to pack. Pack smart: put your travel documents, medications, one change of clothing, and other essentials in your carry-on, in case your checked baggage is misplaced. And pack light, for your own comfort and convenience. For clothing, we suggest packing a variety of separates with climate and comfort in mind.
What not to pack: U.S. law forbids you to carry hazardous materials aboard aircraft in your checked or carry-on baggage or on your person, including explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids & solids, loaded firearms, poisons, corrosives and radioactive materials. Common examples include paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, mace/tear gas and oxygen bottles. Restricted materials may vary by airline and destination. Some items, in quantities of no more than 70 ounces total, may be carried within baggage, including medicinal or toilet articles such as hairspray, perfume and certain medicines that are necessary during your journey. Please check with the airline and/or visit the FAA website prior to travel if you have any questions.
While on Tour
What to Expect
This moderately-paced, escorted South Africa tour includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness. This tour also includes long scenic drives between destinations and may have limited rest stops.
Your Schedule: On several days during your trip, a very early departure time is required to accommodate flight schedules and safari game drives.
Game Reserves: Your itinerary includes various safaris through Game Reserves. Please keep in mind that spotting animals in the wild is a matter of luck, and there are no assurances that you’ll see all the animals you would like to. No matter what animals you do see, game drives are a wonderful and exciting experience.
Road Conditions: South Africa is a big, wild place! On several days during your trip, a considerable driving distance is involved. Road conditions in some places may be poor, making part of your drive bumpy. Our drivers will do their best to make game drive experience comfortable! Your patience and understanding are appreciated.
Remember that you're a guest in someone else's homeland, and that you're traveling to experience their country and culture. Be sensitive to local customs and manners, as many things may be done differently than what you're used to. And while we have made every effort to secure modern and comfortable accommodations and transportation, please note that the standards in other countries may be different from those you are accustomed to at home. Overall, you will find a polite, positive, patient, and open-minded approach generally yields the best travel experience!
Please keep in mind that you'll be traveling with a group. Sharing your explorations with like-minded folks can often be a source of joy, and some of our travelers become lifelong friends. But traveling with strangers can also sometimes be challenging, especially in a foreign country. We ask that you be patient and respectful with your fellow travelers, including their needs and preferences. Also remember that you have responsibilities to the group—please be prompt for group activities so you don't keep everyone else waiting. Lastly, please defer to your tour leader, guide or manager. They are there for your safety and wellbeing, and to ensure the journey goes smoothly for everyone. If you have a problem with one of our tour guides or managers, please let us know, either while you're on tour or after you return, and we'll make sure your concerns are addressed.
Our hotels are all Western-style, and your room includes a private bathroom. The rooms are tastefully decorated with traditional and regional materials, offer modern amenities and provide a place to relax.
Eating & Drinking
The meals included with your package are listed in the itinerary.
Non-Included Meals: The food scene in South Africa is diverse and vibrant. Your hotels on tour will typically have a restaurant and/or a bar or lounge. Several restaurants and cafes offering variety of cuisines are also located near your hotels in Johannesburg and Cape Town. If you decide to dine outside your hotel, please be sure to arrange private transfers to and from the venue. Average cost for lunch (not including drinks) at local restaurants or cafes will be about $15 - $20 per person, per meal. Average cost for dinner, excluding drinks, is about $25 - $40 per person, per meal. Dinner with show will cost more. Your hotels and most restaurants accept major credit cards. In addition to being one of the world’s key wine nations, South Africa has one of the most extensive selections of unsweetened fruit juices in the world. Be sure to pair your meal with one of the many selections of wine or fruit juices.
Please be aware the water in the hotel tap system is not potable. Hotels will normally provide bottled water at a small fee. On occasion, a first bottle will be in your room upon check in. If not, you will have plenty of opportunities to purchase bottled water in and around the hotel. Any water that you consume from the hotel mini-bar will be charged to your room, and you will be responsible for payment.
Please see above for special meal requests.
You will be traveling through South Africa in the company of professionals who are very committed to making your tour the dream vacation you are counting on. These people feel great pride in being given a chance to show foreign visitors their country. If your guide, driver and others with whom you are traveling are doing a good job, please take our suggestions for tipping seriously. Naturally, tipping is personal and voluntary, and if you have not received good service, your tip should reflect this fact.
The recommended amounts are as follows:
- Johannesburg and Cape Town Tour guides: $6-8 per person per day
- Johannesburg and Cape Town Drivers: $4-6 per person per day
- Safari driver/guide: $6-8 per person per day
- Safari game tracker: $4-6 per person per day
- Tourist site guides: $1-2 per person per guide*
- Restaurant staff: $1-2 per person per meal
- Hotel/Lodge housekeeping: $1-2 per room service
- Hotel/lodge porters: $1 per bag upon arrival and departure
*Some museums and venues visited on this program have their own guides who provide the commentaries during the group’s visit. We recommend to tip the museum guide/s in the local currency instead of US dollars.
To enhance and make your trip more complete and memorable, optional excursions will be offered locally by the tour guides. Payment for optional tours will be collected by the tour guides and may be made by cash, in US dollars or local currency. Credit card payments may be subject to a processing fee. There is no refund for unused optional excursions.
Your hotel in Johannesburg is conveniently located near the Sandton City Shopping Centre and Nelson Mandela Square, while your Cape Town hotel is located at the historic city center near St. George’s Mall and Cape Town’s top attractions and food destinations, along with a multitude of historic hot spots, galleries, and boutiques. You’ll have some free time in Cape Town to join optional activities (for a fee) or independently explore South Africa’s rich history & thriving modern culture. Sample global cuisine and savor top notch food at one of the many restaurants, shop for arts and crafts in the many boutiques or visit some of the museums and cultural landmarks.
You can also leave the group and explore on your own at any time. However, should the group have planned activities for that day, please make sure to inform your guide in advance. There is NO refund for unused group arrangements. Also, take the name of the hotel and phone number with you so that you can communicate with taxi drivers. Your hotel staff will gladly assist you.
Special Needs & Requests
Please see above for special meal requests and seat requests. If you have any other special requests, including wheelchair or electric cart assistance, please mention your request when you book with an agent, or in the special requests section when you book online. We will do our best to accommodate them!
South Africa Fast Facts
Capital: Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative), Bloemfontein (judicial)
|Health Precautions & Vaccinations||
Malaria is present in South Africa. Take precautions against getting mosquito bites, and talk to your doctor about taking a prescription medicine to prevent malaria (before, during and after your trip). Also ask your doctor about vaccinations for typhoid and hepatitis A and be sure you are up-to-date with other routine vaccinations like such as measles.
Travelers arriving from or visited a yellow fever endemic country within 14 days of arrival in South Africa are required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination upon entry to South Africa. Learn more or locate a vaccination clinic in the U.S.
Find more information about health precautions when traveling to South Africa on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) site.
South Africa is located in the southern hemisphere and therefore has the reverse season to those of the U.S. The weather is temperate, and even during the winter time you’ll enjoy comfortable temperatures. Average daytime temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s from April-Sept and in the 70’s and 80’s from Oct to March. Overnight temperatures are about 10-20 degrees cooler.
|Money & Credit Cards||
South Africa’s local currency is the South African Rand. Hotels and some stores in South Africa accept major credit cards; however, for "street shopping" you will need local currency. You will be able to exchange your cash to local currency at foreign exchange bureaus in South Africa, located in malls, airports, and on the streets. Most charge a commission. Hotel front desks will almost always exchange money for you, but the exchange rate is usually not as favorable.
We highly recommend you bring crisp, new bills in small denominations; old, torn, crumpled bills may not be accepted. Travelers’ checks are no longer widely accepted.
Always notify your bank prior to departure to avoid any problems using your credit or debit card abroad.
Your guides will suggest some favorite shopping places, where the vendors are known, provide good quality merchandise and probably pay some sort of commission from sales to the guide. This should not surprise or offend you, as this is how business is done throughout the world; however, please be aware of this when you shop, especially if you are buying jewelry or other valuable items. If you plan to buy jewelry or other expensive items, be sure to inspect the items before you leave the store. Most stores will not allow you to return or exchange purchased items.
|Electricity & Power Adapters|| |
220/230 volts. Plug M. You will need a voltage converter and plug adapter in order to use U.S. appliances. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit before your South African vacation.
Learn more about electrical standards around the world.
|Cell Phones & Internet||
Want to take your cell phone, tablet or laptop, but not sure how to get cell service or wifi? Read up on using your cell phone abroad and the 5 ways to get Internet abroad.
Cameras and video recorders are permitted, and photography is generally permitted everywhere except at airports and military installations. Memory cards for digital cameras will be available in major cities.
|Did you know?||
Terms & Conditions: Please review our terms & conditions for this package.
Cancellations: If something comes up and you need to cancel your trip, please let us know as soon as possible. All cancellations must be made in writing. Cancellation fees vary by package; please see the cancellation fees for this package.