African tours

travel tips

Travelling to an exotic place is exciting but it can also be a little daunting. Put your mind at ease and find answers to your African Safari Frequently Asked Questions


Travelling to any foreign destination always involves some risk and although South Africa has received some bad publicity over the years, it is, in fact, a safe country in which to travel. The infrastructure and system of government are equal or even superior to many popular tourist destinations and we feel that you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of accommodation, transportation and food provided. In addition, we greatly reduce risk by only dealing with established, reputable operators. We have had personal contact with every operator we use and have viewed their methods and establishments before engaging them. Your safety is always our first priority. In general, South Africans are extremely friendly and many visitors are humbled by their hospitality.

Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of your return. In addition there must be at least three blank pages in the passport. You may be refused entry into the country if your passport does not meet these 2 requirements. We recommend that you view for specific clarification. You will need to produce your passport at check-in as well as carry a copy of your itinerary in case you need to prove that you have a return booked within the visa free period (90 days for Australians, possibly less for other countries)

Passport holders from Australia, Canada, USA, UK and UE do not require a visa to enter South Africa although length of stay varies from 30 days to 90 days.
Visas for other countries can usually be purchased upon arrival at the airport or border crossing. This is the case for travelers to Victoria Falls. Kenya also has this process.

The South African Department of Health has advised that passengers returning from or travelling to Zambia (Vic Falls) no longer require proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination. In-transit passengers, irrespective of the time period in transit in Johannesburg, still require proof of the Yellow Fever vaccination. Please note that Australian authorities require visitors who’ve been to East Africa to hold valid Yellow Fever certificates upon re-entry.

We highly recommend you obtain comprehensive medical and travel insurance to cover your time away from home, including: medical costs and personal accident, loss or damage to baggage, loss of traveller’s cheques and credit cards.

Antimalarial medication is suggested for some remote areas of South Africa such as the Kruger National Park. Although there are few cases reported from this area, there is still a risk and you should see your doctor or visit a travel clinic at least eight weeks before you travel if you plan to take antimalarial medication.

A copy of your prescriptions is essential in case of any health problems. Ask your doctor to assist you by preparing a list of your medications. If you have health issues, your doctor can prepare your medical history for a foreign doctor. It should include your name, address, emergency contact, blood type, medical history, current medications and dosages, drug allergies, reasons for prior hospitalisations and list of immunisations and dates. Pack sufficient medication for the duration of your tour. Try to ensure that your medication is always close at hand. It is a good idea to pack it in your carry-on luggage and to carry a list of your medications in case they are lost. If you have lost your medication, most pharmacies in South Africa will provide minimal replacement without a prescription for many medications if you produce your passport at the counter, but it if this fails you can obtain prescriptions from a South African doctor provided you have sufficient documentation from your doctor back home.

A useful tip – Most chemists or drug stores sell travel-size toiletries which can be taken in carry-on luggage. In addition, all South African hotels supply basic toiletry items although you may want to bring your own items that suit your personal taste. 

Items to consider bringing:

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, comb or hair brush, razor, feminine products, cosmetics
  • Tissues, washcloths, antibacterial wipes
  • Travel alarm clock, money pouch
  • Medications such as prescriptions, antacid, immodium, aspirin, flu medicine, vitamins, Band-Aids
  • Prescription glasses, sunglasses, contact lenses
  • Flashlight, batteries, pocket calculator, electrical converters/adaptors, luggage lock
  • Essential – Sunscreen and mosquito repellent

For your own safety, pack your prescription medicines in their original container showing the prescription label along with your doctor’s contact number. If you forget or run out of a prescription drug, you can usually get a minimal dose from most chemists in South Africa, however this should only be in an emergency situation. Useful tip – If you get diarrhoea on tour, increase your fluid intake, avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks and tell your Tour Director. 

Whenever traveling it is always best to drink bottled water. Well-known brands of beverages are safe too.

We recommend that you consider carefully the type of tour that you select as some include walking or standing for periods of time.

If you have a food allergy or another condition that needs to be managed on tour, please advise us as well as your cruise tour director upon arrival, because most suppliers require advance notice to accommodate this. Some operators may ask you to fill out a form or waiver.

Although international air baggage limitations can be 30kg, the maximum baggage allowance for travel within Africa is usually one bag per person with a maximum of 23 kg and a small carry-on bag. A small carry-on bag is suggested for game drives. Daytime temperatures (May to August) in winter are generally mild but evenings can be cool, so pack multiple layers of clothing to ensure you stay comfortable and warm on afternoon game drives. Avoid bright colours too. Bring a pair of gloves and a hat, as sometimes the winter game drives can be chilly. Standard safari gear must include a broad-brimmed hat, sunscreen and mosquito repellent. For walking comfortable shoes are fine, there is no need for heavy boots on safari. For those travelling on the Blue train or Rovos Rail tour extension, the day dress is smart, casual and comfortable. More formal attire is required in the evening, jacket and tie minimum.

O R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg

Johannesburg is not only the most common gateway to South Africa but also for most Southern African countries. Many tours begin here, right in the arrivals area at O R Tambo International Airport. Although this is a modern airport, operated in the same manner as most of the world’s international airports, it is still Africa and you will notice the difference as soon as you arrive at immigration. There is a different tempo accompanied by thick African accents as well as a different feel that becomes more and more apparent as you progress through the terminal. This is Africa! Relax and enjoy the ride.

Upon arrival at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg, it is usually a straight forward transit through immigration and customs. On average, it’s about a 5 minute walk from the plane to immigration, about a 10 minute queue & processing through immigration, about further 10 minute wait for luggage and walk through customs who seldom seem to inspect anyone. Walking out of the secure area into a large atrium, travellers will encounter waiting friends and family here. If you are meeting a host or escort, this is where they will be waiting for you. Look for your name or the company name of your transport provider on a sign being held by your host or guide.

Red arrow indicates exit doors for international arrivals into the arrivals hall

Should you be travelling by train (the Gautrain), cross the floor to the elevators or escalators on the opposite side of the arrival atrium and go to level 2. The train station is very near the elevator exit on level 2. Turn left as you exit the elevator and you will see signs directing you to the station.

Red arrow indicates the elevators as viewed from arrivals. There is another set of elevators about 30m to the left of these if this set is busy. Escalators are to the right of the elevators. Exit to taxis, parking and hotels is visible to the left of the elevators.

The escalators are located to the right of the elevators. Both the elevators and escalators will take you to level 1 (hotels and parking) as well as level 2 (Gautrain station)

During the Covid-19 pandemic, exits and entrances have been restricted with sometimes only one access door on either level being open. As you are probably well aware, processes change continually during this pandemic so you may have to ask a staff member where the open exit(s) are upon arrival.

When I travel, and believe most people are like this, I like to get through the airport and into my accommodation as soon as possible. Once I am settled in ‘base camp’ I can then plan the rest of the day or my next day. Sometimes the accommodation is only a few steps away in the airport terminal and sometimes it is a 5 hour drive away into the wilderness. Either one should be a comfortable and memorable experience.

If you are staying in an airport hotel, there are 3 within the airport/parking area and 7 more within a 5 minute drive of the terminal.

Now, before you knock staying at an airport hotel because it ‘doesn’t give you the true feel of the place’ or it’s noisy or unattractive, bear these few points in mind;

  • You never have to worry about traffic or some other obstacle delaying or preventing you from making your flight on time. It’s definitely the least stressful location to await departure time.
  • The accommodation is frequently as good as you will get in terms of attentive staff, cleanliness and organisation. This is because many guests are business travellers as well as tourists which means they need to cater to business travellers’ expectations.
  • The location is probably the easiest to find in the city you are visiting. Almost everyone knows where the airport is, so returning to your hotel after an outing in a foreign city should never be a problem.
  • While the saying goes ‘all roads lead to Rome’, not all roads lead to the airport but many do and virtually all major roads have signs indicating directions to the airport. Plus most airports have train service which also ensures simple and quick transport to and from your accommodation.
  • Many tours begin at the airport and any operator would be very happy to collect you here.

A piece of local knowledge that may assist your navigation around the terminal is that as you leave the arrivals area, you will most likely be approached by taxi drivers who will ‘guide’ you to transport which is usually their vehicle or individuals posing as officials who ‘assist’ you with directions and then expect to compensated for their services. They pose as airport employees but have no authority or accreditation. Only accept advice from genuine staff to avoid time wasting and unnecessary tipping. There are 2 information booths in the arrivals area with helpful staff.

Uber operates at the airport. The Uber app uses the usual ‘pin’ to locate your pick-up position when you request a trip or you can call/text your driver to arrange a specific location. The international and domestic terminals are connected, so both are essentially in one long building. The exit/entrance doors are labelled with location numbers outside and are clearly visible to drivers as they pass. The airport is also divided into 2 levels, the higher level is for departures and the lower level is for arrivals.

So, an example pickup point would be UPPER 5 which is located at the far end of the international terminal on the upper level or LOWER 3 which is located directly in front of the international arrivals atrium.

International Departures level, Upper 5 pickup point

International Arrivals level, Lower 3 pickup point

The hotels within the airport are the Protea Hotel by Marriott Transit O.R. Tambo Airport located within Terminal A (the International Terminal), City Lodge Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport located on the far side of the parking complex and InterContinental Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Airport, also located adjacent to the parking complex. However, the Protea Hotel by Marriott Transit O.R. Tambo Airport is within the secure passenger area and only available to transiting passengers.

The City Lodge is best accessed via level 1. The access is located between the 2 elevator sets, directly opposite the arrivals door on level 1.

Walkway to parking and City Lodge Hotel. The elevators to City Lodge Hotel are located at the end of this walkway, about 200m.

Elevators to City Lodge Hotel

Red arrow shows outside exit doors and access to InterContinental Hotel

The access to the InterContinental is through the outside exit doors opposite the arrivals. Once outside, simply cross the crosswalk and the hotel is now in front of you.

Again, due to the pandemic, not all hotels are functioning as normal so check with your anticipated hotel in advance to ensure your accommodation and transport are operating. Uber and the Gautrain have not stopped operation during the pandemic.

The hotels not within the airport but within the vicinity offer shuttle services. Most are within walking distance but there are no footpaths to allow this, hence the necessity for shuttle service. Only about 200m from the domestic terminal is Southern Sun O R Tambo International Hotel which it is possible to walk to but it is a long walk if you are carrying luggage all the way from the international terminal and the route brings you to the back of the hotel. The entrance is a further 100m around the hotel grounds so the shuttle service is recommended. Also, don’t trust your ‘maps’ and attempt to walk there – Google maps shows the hotel on the opposite side of the airport.

A major Casino complex, Emperors Palace, is next door to the airport and has 3 hotels within its grounds, Peermont D’oreale Grande at Emperors Palace, Peermont Mondior Hotel and Peermont Metcourt Suites At Emperors Palace. The complex has numerous restaurants, bars and shops as well as a theatre and other forms of entertainment.

The Gautrain and Sandton

The name ‘Gautrain’ is a play on words – Johannesburg and Pretoria are located within the province of Gauteng (pronounced with a guttural, hard G) hence the simple change to create a memorable pun.

The Gautrain airport station is very conveniently located on the 2nd level, very near the elevators from the arrivals area.

Entrance to Gautrain station at O R Tambo airport

You can purchase a one way or a return trip from automated machines at the station entrance which will give you a transit card as well. This card can be ‘topped up’ with additional funds should you decide to make multiple trips on the train. You simply touch the card at the automated entrance and walk through to the platform. Trains depart at 10 minute intervals during peak times and at 15 minute intervals during off-peak times. On weekends and public holidays, trains on the North-South line operate at 30-minute intervals and on the East-West line (the airport – Sandton line) at 20-minute intervals.

The train itself is modern, quick, smooth and safe with staff and guards at the stations as well as on the trains. For schedules or additional information, go to

It’s about a 15 minute ride into Sandton, the tourist and commercial centre of Johannesburg. Sandton is the vibrant heart of South Africa, probably the most valuable real estate in Africa full of modern office buildings and shopping centres. In addition, there are several hotels in the area making Sandton the most popular destination in Johannesburg.

Comfortable, clean and modern

Gautrain platform in Sandton station

The Gautrain station is located on the corner of Rivonia Road and West Street, a block away from Mandela Square and Sandton City.

Gautrain station in Sandton

Mandela Square is a very busy tourist area and here you will find a large statue of Nelson Mandela, usually amongst a throng of people posing for photos in front of it.

Statue of Nelson Mandela in Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton

The square is encompassed by restaurants and adjoins Sandton City Shopping Centre, a huge mall with a variety of shops and restaurants.


travel within

south africa

Taking time to get to know something about your destination could be very valuable. It can save you time and money. It can also help you plan your trip. From knowing whether you can charge your phone to how much to tip, these travel tips are well worth reading. For example, did you know that ZAR is the abbreviation for Zuid-Afrika Rand, the currency of South Africa and that you can withdraw funds from your own account back home at most ATMs within Southern Africa. So no need to buy foreign currency before you leave home. 

Power outlets are in South Africa are 230 volts so appliances from Australia or UK can be used with an adaptor plug. In most hotels, there are outlets that will allow foreign plugs to connect directly but we recommend you purchase an adaptor to ensure you are always able to recharge your phone or connect your laptop, etc. Adapters can be purchased in most Airports or electronic stores.

Do not take anything with you that will create emotional or financial hardship if lost or stolen. There is no guarantee of absolute safety anywhere you travel but you can minimise risk by carrying all documents, money, passport, tickets etc. with you whenever possible. Do not pack these items in your checked-in luggage, not only to prevent theft, but because you will require your passport to pass through security checks and customs. Never leave hand-luggage unattended in hotel lobbies or dining rooms. Avoid exploration on your own of unfamiliar streets or areas. Discuss any travel not arranged by your tour guide with your hotel concierge as they will know the area and will be able to give you advice to ensure your safety. Also avoid excessive displays of jewellery or cash. When sightseeing, keep all valuables locked in the safe in your room.

English is the official language in South Africa although several other languages are spoken. English, French or Portuguese are the most commonly spoken languages in Sub-Saharan Africa other than local dialects.

ATMs are available throughout South Africa and the currency is Rands (ZAR). Virtually all foreign bank cards and credit cards will work in ATMs so you can draw funds directly from your accounts at home. Banks, some hotels and even casinos can cash travellers cheques or exchange foreign currency.

US$ or ZAR can be used in Zimbabwe due to the weakness of the local currency. In all other countries you should be able to access your personal accounts through most ATM’s

All fees and charges are included in your tour so tipping is not required but is commonplace. Incomes in South Africa are low by world standards so you will find that all tips will be gratefully received.

For small services, a tip of R5, R10 or R20 is typical while tips for your game driver or guide will range from R100 to R500.

Dial 112 from any cell phone to contact emergency services. Dialing 10111 will give you direct contact with police.

On tour, all vehicles used have mobile phones and signal coverage throughout South Africa is very good. Radios are also fitted in safari vehicles to keep the safari camps and lodges in contact with the drivers. Although your tour host will be with you most of the time, their contact details are provided to all guests and are contactable 24 hours a day. Travel insurance is essential and medical treatment, if required, is of a high standard and readily available in most towns and all cities.

South African cuisine offers a vast array of dining experiences. You will find your typical western style foods and cooking but you will also find many unusual dishes that are unique to South Africa. In Cape Town, try exotic Cape Malay fare or delicious seafood at one of many restaurants in the world renown water front area. Experience traditional African cuisine made from fresh local produce.  Throughout your trip, there will be wonderful new dining opportunities, such as bush dinners in breathtaking African wilderness settings while touring the country or outdoor ‘boma’ dining, providing the quintessential African safari meal under the stars.

Not only is alcohol is inexpensive but South Africa features some of the best wines you will ever taste. Renowned for its world-class wine regions – anyone with a taste for wine will not be disappointed with the quality and choice provided. There are over 150 wineries in the Stellenbosch area alone. Or enjoy a ‘Sundowner’ while watching the distinctive African sunset on the Highveld. Beer drinkers won’t be disappointed either as the quality and selection are excellent.

There are so many cuisine choices and magical memories awaiting.

It is important that you are aware that while on safari you will very likely come into close contact with wild animals. Safari lodges and camps are not always fenced and wildlife is usually free to move in and around these areas. While in a game reserve, always follow the safety instructions from your guide and staff in regards to moving to and from your accommodation and while on game viewing activities. In addition, whilst travelling to and through game parks, you may encounter unsealed roads, which can be rough and bumpy. If you have a pre-existing back or neck injury we recommend that you consult with your doctor prior to travelling.

Knowing a little about the places or locations that you will be visiting can greatly enhance your enjoyment. You can familiarise yourself with the areas, cities, and game reserves that you will be visiting by referring to your itinerary when researching.

Useful ways to research:

  • Contact your tour host at Escorted Tours Africa
  • Use the internet and visit sites such as Google or Yahoo
  • Read travel books such as Lonely Planet or books relating to Safari
  • Books such as The Elephant Whisperer or the classic Cry the Beloved Country are excellent reading

Reconfirmation of Flights 
We suggest that you contact your airline or travel agent at least 72 hours before your initial flight, to confirm your departure details. With most airlines, it is usually possible to check in 72 hours before departure.

Luggage Restrictions and Security
International checked in luggage limits vary with different carriers so check with your airline. Most allow one bag of 20kg and many allow more. Carry-on is limited to 7kg and must fit in an airplane overhead compartment. Passengers should make sure that they do not include anything of high value (personal or financial value) within their luggage. This includes, but is not limited to jewellery, cameras, video equipment, reading/sunglasses, laptops or other computer/ electronic equipment and medication. We recommend that all checked luggage is locked. It is also a good idea to use ID tags and attach an ID label inside your checked in and carry-on luggage. Sometimes luggage is delayed during air transit. It is recommended to take a change of clothing and any essential medication in your hand luggage, or pack some clothing in your travel companion’s bag. If your luggage is lost, having your name and contact details on your luggage will help with its location and safe return to you. Should your luggage be delayed, it is the responsibility of the airline to deliver it to you. Claims for reimbursement should be submitted directly to the airline – a claim form should be filled out at the appropriate airline desk upon arrival. If you need assistance in contacting the airlines for information regarding your delayed luggage, please ask your Tour host. 

Airport & Airline Security Do not forget your passport. Check it is in your carry-on luggage when you leave for the airport. Do not put your passport in your checked in luggage. Arriving early at the airport is advisable – 2 hours before departure for domestic and 3 hours before departure for international is recommended. This allows time to check in, pass through border control, security and get to your boarding area. Keep in mind that sharp objects and most liquids should be stored inside your check-in luggage as they will be confiscated if they are in your carry-on luggage (liquids of less than 100ml are allowed in carry-on luggage). Be aware that you may be required to put your shoes and belts through x-ray checks, so be prepared to remove them. 

When returning to your home country, be aware that luggage can be inspected by Customs or Quarantine officers. All food and other such items of plant and/or animal origin need to be declared, as do items on which duty or tax might be payable (check with Customs about the duty free concession).

Late or Missed Flights
The purchase of travel insurance is essential. Please ensure that you have travel insurance as a missed flight can be expensive. In the unfortunate event that you miss a flight completely, please immediately advise the airline representative that you are a tour passenger bound for a specific location, as well as the date and time to join your tour or to check into a pre-tour hotel.

Comfort & Avoiding Jetlag

  • Wear loose clothes and comfortable shoes during your flight
  • Try to hydrate yourself constantly with water (avoid caffeine, alcohol and carbonated drinks, and eat light)
  • Alleviate pressure in your ears by chewing gum, yawning, swallowing, or gently blowing your nose
  • If possible, try to walk up and down the aisle to stretch out your limbs and get blood circulating. You could also do a few isometric exercises while seated
  • If you arrive in the morning, try to sleep during your flight so you can stay awake until the evening
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses during your flight because aircraft cabin air tends to dry them out

Airport Transfers
All transfers are included in the tour. You will be met at the airport in the arrivals area and escorted by the tour host to your hotel.

Hotel Information
Hotels in South Africa operate much the same as elsewhere in the world with a 2pm check in and 10am check out in most cases.

Game Park Seasons
South Africa is a year-round destination with opportunities for game viewing throughout the entire year. However, the dry season is the optimal season in which to see animals. Watering holes attract a large concentration and wide variety of animals, making it easier to view wildlife. The thin vegetation during the dry season improves viewing as well.

General Information
The Big Five – The Big Five are the main animals sought after in Africa. They are rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard.

Walking around the Camp/Lodge – For reasons of safety, when staying at camps and lodges within game reserves, you are restricted to walking only along designated paths. Longer walks will be taken with a guide or ranger but cannot be taken unaccompanied.

Currency Conversion:
Customs Australia:
Customs New Zealand:
Customs Canada:
Customs UK:
Customs EU:
Customs USA:
International Telephone Calling:
Australian Government Advisory & Consular Service: