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South Africa is one of the best destinations for backpackers. If you take the time to find the right spots to camp, buy food and supplies, and the best routes to travel, you can have an affordable and memorable trip.
From Western Cape and Cape Town to Gauteng and Johannesburg, there is a lot to see and do in South Africa. Being one of the most developed nations on the African continent, you may think that a backpacking trip to South Africa would be more expensive. However, with careful planning, the costs are minimal and the opportunity to view amazing landscapes and real wildlife is exponential.
If you are thinking about going on a backpacking trip, find out why South Africa is one of the best destinations. Learn more about the different regions and gather details that you can use to plan your trip. This guide will offer you an overview of important information for backpacking through South Africa.
Western Cape is one of the most popular destinations in South Africa. This province is located along the south-western coast of the country. This gives you access to a mixture of clear beaches, mountainous terrain, quaint towns, and modern cities, including [+ Cape Town – the perfect place to start your journey+].
What is the weather like in Western Cape? What type of terrain and scenery will you encounter? These are the types of questions that you should explore, as you plan your trip. You will find a variety of climates, depending on where you are traveling in Western Cape.
In the mountainous regions, you will find cooler temperatures, while the inland valleys can get rather warm during the summer. The coastal regions provide pleasant weather, almost year-round. Overall, the Western Cape region experiences a Mediterranean climate – with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Keep this in mind when deciding on the date of your trip.
About 250 kilometers north of Cape Town, you will find the Cederberg Wilderness area, along with the Kromrivier Cederberg Park, which provides camping sites, chalets, and shopping. You may also want to visit Tweede Tol along the Bains Kloof Pass or Imhoff Park. For additional recommendations, visit EJF Travel Guide and find the [+ best resorts and camping sites in Western Cape.+]
South Africa is diverse and you will find a variety of wildlife, depending on the region or province that you are visiting. In Western Cape, you may not find as much wildlife in nature as you would in other regions, but there are several wildlife preserves and safaris that will give you close views of lions, elephants, blue wildebeest, giraffe, and zebra. One of the most popular safaris in the region is Fairy Glen – located about an hour away from Cape Town. You could also go on a half-day tour to Duiker Island, also known as Penguin Island.
At some point, you will need to pick up supplies. You may also want to do some shopping for souvenirs, crafts, and other touristy goods.
In many of the small villages or towns located near popular hiking trails, you should come across small shops to refill your supplies. For major shopping, visit Bayside Mall Shopping Centre in Table View.
From sports to recreational activities, such as hiking trails, scuba diving, and more, finding a few activities will help make your trip more enjoyable. If you want to rest your feet, but still enjoy beautiful scenery, take a rafting trip, with Aquatrails or the African Rafting Company. In order to get a great view of the surrounding mountain tops, take a balloon ride with Oudtshoorn Ballooning.
There are definitely a few locations that you will want to check out, when traveling through Western Cape. This includes Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, and the various [+ South African vineyards+] – some of which date back over 150 years.
Western Cape provides more outdoor activities, resorts, and modern facilities that will make Western travelers more comfortable. If you have not yet visited South Africa, or gone on a major hiking trip, Western Cape is a good place to start. It will help you learn more about the region, without jumping right into a rugged hiking expedition.
Johannesburg, located in the Gauteng province, is the most populous region of South Africa. While Johannesburg is known for a high crime rate, the surrounding area is home to many high-end resorts. It also has a major airport, which means you may be able to save some money by flying into Johannesburg, to kick off your backpacking trip, before heading off to other parts of South Africa.
Johannesburg is located along the Highveld plateau and has a subtropical highland climate. You will experience sunny weather during the day and cool evenings. Thunderstorms and showers are common during the evenings during the summertime. The region is relatively flat to the north and west of the city and features rolling hills to the east.
Once you leave Johannesburg, you will come across a variety of campsites worth staying at. This includes the Malonjeni Guest Farm, about a half south of Johannesburg. This farm features over 200 sites, including tent sites, caravan sites, and modern facilities. For a more rustic stay, visit Bushwillow Tented Camp. Here you will get to stay in tents that include their own private bathrooms, kitchens, and living areas. Make sure that you visit EJF Travel Guide for extra information on [+ hotels and resorts in Johannesburg+].
Throughout South Africa, you may be lucky enough to spot wildlife in nature, but if you want to ensure that you get to see lions and zebras, then visit Kruger National Park or the Pilanesberg Nature Preserve. Both locations offer safaris and guided trips.
Johannesburg, being one of the most populous regions in South Africa, has a diverse selection of cuisine. You will find shopping malls and street markets. In the Rosebank area of Johannesburg, you can stop at small street vendors and craft markets. If you want to stroll the aisles of a modern shopping mall, visit the Zone shopping centre in Rosebank.
You will actually find quite a few ways to spend your time, other than hiking and backpacking through the region. Outside of Johannesburg, you can visit Acrobranch, an Adventure Park that includes group activities, making it the perfect choice for families and office retreats. For a hiking adventure, visit Phaladingwe Adventures. The guides will take you along hiking trails that offer you spectacular views of the scenery.
Before you leave Johannesburg, make sure that you take a moment to explore some of the attractions in the area. This includes the Apartheid Museum, the Lion Park, and Gold Reef City. Gold Reef City includes amusement park rides, shows, history exhibits, and other entertainment.
If you are staying at a resort in Johannesburg, check with the concierge to find out which areas are best suited for tourists, in addition to the locations already discussed. The city of Johannesburg does have a lot to offer, as far as site seeing and local attractions, but your backpacking trip will likely take you outside of the city. Many people use Johannesburg as a starting point for their journey, as you can spend a night or two at a quality resort before traveling.
Kimberley and other sections of the North West province provide stunning views and landscapes for backpackers. Located along the northern border of South Africa, the majority of North West province backs up to Botswana. If you are looking for a leisurely hike on flatlands with fewer tourists, then Kimberley may be a great option.
Kimberley and the rest of the North West province are mostly comprised of flat areas with a scattering of trees and grasslands. The climate is moderate, with average temperatures rarely exceeding 88 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer.
Kimberley and the surrounding region is not as densely populated as Gauteng or Western Cape, but they are plenty of campgrounds and caravan parks. For those wanting to get away from the crowd, Kimberley and the North West province could be a perfect choice. Check out Riverside Country Club and Caravan Park, for modern facilities, or Big Hole Caravan Park for affordable tent and caravan stands close to the city.
You are less likely to see some of the animals that Africa is known for, such as lions and giraffe, in the Kimberley region, but you will find an abundance of birds and other wildlife, including over 280 different bird species. You may also be lucky enough to spot some leopards, cheetahs, antelope, or Gemsbok.
You should be able to find all provisions that you need at either the Sportsman’s Warehouse or the Diamond Pavilion Shopping Mall. The shopping mall contains everything that you would expect in a modern mall, with clothing, food, and various goods. For sportswear, hiking gear, and other camping supplies, visit the Sportsman’s Warehouse. Both locations are located near downtown Kimberley, which is packed with restaurants and diners.
If you are looking to get away from the trail and enjoy some outdoor or recreational activities while in Kimberley and North West province, you will have a few options. Visit the Hartswater Wine Cellar, one of the first vineyards in the region. If you like to golf, then you need to visit the Freddie Tait Golf Museum. The Kimberley Golf Club dates back to 1890.
While visiting Kimberley, stop by the Mokala National Park, in order to watch birds and other wildlife. You should also visit The Big Hole – the world’s largest man-made hole. To this day, The Big Hole is a popular mining spot and was once a major part of South Africa’s economy. [+ South Africa is also home to over 300 vineyards+], including wine estates in Kimberley. Consider planning a wine trip that takes you from Kimberley and the North West province to the vineyards of Cape Town.
Kimberley and the North West province are more sparsely populated than some of the other regions of South Africa. Stock up on supplies while you are still in town, because you may not come across a small town or village for quite some time, depending on the trails that you follow.
Another region to consider adding to your itinerary is Eastern Cape. This province as actually located just east of Western Cape. Backpackers tend to love the Eastern Cape, as it provides a diversity of landscapes. If you want to experience as many different regions as possible during your trip, then consider backpacking through Eastern Cape.
As mentioned, Eastern Cape has a diverse landscape. The majority of the province is hilly, but you will also find mountainous regions along the higher points. The coast tends to be rugged, with lush grassland and rolling hills along the eastern half of the province.
When it comes time to setup camp for the night, there are many locations throughout Eastern Cape to consider. This includes Willowmore, Camdeboo National Park, and Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve. The mega reserve not only offers camping and hiking, but includes miles of wilderness and protected land for viewing wildlife.
The first place to start, for viewing wildlife in Eastern Cape is the previously mentioned mega reserve, where you can view leopards and other wildlife in their natural habitat. If you truly want to view the “Big Seven”, which refers to the lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, elephant, great white sharks, and whales, then visit the Addo Elephant National Park.
From the Boardwalk Hotel and Casino to the Ginger Restaurant, Eastern Cape has quite a few locations that offer fine dining. The Boardwalk Hotel is actually a sprawling resort with features for the entire family, along with shopping and various dining options. There are many shops and malls throughout Eastern Cape, but the largest shopping area is the Greenacres Shopping Centre in Port Elizabeth. Anyone [+ planning a trip through South Africa+] should consider spending a day in friendly Port Elizabeth.
If you need to fill your day with multiple outdoor activities, you will have no problem finding something to do in Eastern Cape. Visit Salt River Mouth Hiking Trail for a day of hiking or take part in a day safari at Amakhala Game Reserve. For those that would like to spend the day at the beach, your best option is St. Francis Bay Beach about an hour drive from Port Elizabeth.
You will never be left without attractions and landmarks to check out in Eastern Cape. Tsitsikamma is a region of Eastern Cape that features protected indigenous forest and a fynbos covered landscape. Another area to visit is the Drakensberg region. This area covers mountainous terrain and a rugged landscape for hardcore backpackers and hikers.
Eastern Cape has a diverse landscape that can make for an interesting hiking experience. If you are thinking about traveling through Eastern Cape, consider starting your trip in Johannesburg and working your way through the Eastern Cape province towards Western Cape and Cape Town.
Backpacking is a great way to explore a country. You are able to get away from the major tourist areas and learn more about the cultures and the regions. This is especially true when traveling through countries such as South Africa. Many tourists spend their time on guided tours or staying in luxury resorts in major cities.
Some people have doubts about the safety of traveling through South Africa on their own or in a small group. If you are used to backpacking through Europe and other Western countries, then the idea of walking through sparsely populated regions in another country may seem a little scary. The truth is, South Africa can be just as safe as any other backpacking destination, as long as you use common sense and follow safety precautions.
[+ South Africa can be very safe+]. Though, you do need to follow a few safety precautions that you might not need to consider when traveling in other countries. Some of the best suggestions include:
• Avoid traveling at night
• If traveling alone, stick to heavily populated areas and trails
• Do not wear flashy jewelry
• Only use ATMs in heavily populated areas or banks
• Do not stop your vehicle for anyone that appears to be in distress
These are not major warnings, but you should use caution. Avoid traveling at night, unless you are being escorted by a travel guide or a taxi. If you are traveling alone, you should stick to areas that are more heavily populated. This includes hiking trails and beaches.
Dress casually. Wear comfortable shoes, slacks, and a cotton shirt. Flashy clothing and jewelry can attract attention, especially in urban areas where you will stand out from the crowd. You should also keep your camera stowed away until you are ready to use it.
You should also avoid using an ATM, unless you are at a busy mall or inside a bank. People using ATMs are frequent victims of robberies in major cities. Place your money in your wallet as soon as you withdraw it and never accept help from someone nearby offering to help you with your withdrawal.
If you are traveling in a rented vehicle, do not stop for anyone that appears to be distressed or suffering from vehicular failure. Outside of major cities, criminals will set up traps to attempt and trick tourists. If you notice a person standing next to a broke down car in need of help, continue driving. You should also use caution when driving. Reckless and aggressive drivers are commonplace in certain regions of South Africa. This is especially true along major routes between cities, where drivers and buses need to reach their destination as quickly as possible.
Traveling in groups is always recommended, but sometimes it is more enjoyable to travel on your own. For women, use caution when traveling alone in rural areas. You may want to pay attention to your dress, as women in rural areas of South Africa tend to dress conservatively and you may attract unwanted attention if you dress too provocatively.
If you decide to travel to South Africa, get travel insurance ahead of time. Travel insurance can cover a lot of misfortunes. For example, if you happen to get pickpocketed during your travels, your insurance should be able to refund you the money that was lost. Travel insurance also helps to cover medical expenses, in the event that you suffer an accident or require medical attention. Compare rates and make sure that you understand what your insurance will cover before making a decision.
As you begin planning your backpacking trip, there are a lot of decisions to make. You need to decide on travel routes and figure out the regions where you will be backpacking. Use the information provided in this guide as a starting point to learn more about [+ backpacking in South Africa+]. Carefully consider all of the possible locations that you could visit and come up with a complete itinerary before embarking on your adventure.
Here are a few additional tips for planning your backpacking trip through South Africa.
You do not want to lug around 100 pounds of equipment and gear during your backpacking trip. It will not take long for the weight to put a strain on your back. You may want to test your hiking limits in nearby parks and trails before going backpacking. Weigh your gear and go for a five-mile hike on rough terrain. If you feel exhausted by the end of the trip, then you are likely carrying too much. Try to limit yourself to the necessities.
You will need a couple of shirts and pants, along with several extra pairs of socks and underwear. Make sure that you leave space for food and water. If you are going to go backpacking through a desolate or sparsely populated region, then having an ample amount of food and water become increasingly important.
Create a checklist of all of the items that you plan on packing and double check everything before you leave on your trip. You can find more .
Before traveling to South Africa, make sure that you have an up-to-date passport. You will also have to obtain a travel Visa before entering the country. As mentioned previously, you should also purchase travel insurance.
Along with these documents, you may also want to have a sheet of paper with emergency contacts listed. This will be beneficial in the unfortunate event of an accident.
In order to obtain a valid passport and travel visa, you will need to visit the nearest passport office, after setting up an appointment. To learn more about getting a passport, call 1-877-487-2779, or visit the official Department of State website.
You will also need a travel visa. To get a travel visa, you should visit the official website of the South African travel bureau. There you will find the specific locations of South African consulates and embassies around the world.
South Africa is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. If you are interested in backpacking through the diverse terrain that South Africa has to offer, make sure that you do your research. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with some general information that you can use for planning your backpacking trip. Though, additional information will be needed. You can find extra tips and detailed suggestions online at .
Thank you for reading – have a fun and safe trip!
The Backpackers Guide to South Africa is a comprehensive guide full of helpful tips, advice and everything else you need to know to have fun in South Africa but still be safe while doing so, so if going to South Africa was ever a dream of yours download our travel guide and it will help keep you safe. Table of Contents Introduction to Backpacking in South Africa….......pg. 04 Backpacking in Western Cape and Cape Town.......pg. 05 Backpacking in Johannesburg……………….…........pg. 08 Backpacking in Kimberly……………..………….........pg. 11 Backpacking in Eastern Cape…………………..…….pg. 14 Safety Tips for Backpacking in South Africa…........pg. 17 Start Planning Your South African Adventure.........pg. 20