Visiting South Africa

Archived Q&A and Reviews


South Africa with children?

Nov 2007

We are thinking of taking our two children to South Africa with us this spring (5 and 10 yrs) for one month on my work related trip (to Cape Town and Joburg). I am trying to figure out if this is a good idea or not. Has anyone had recent experiences there as a family? How was negotiating Joburg given the current crime situation? vaccinations? renting a car and driving on one's own? Where would you recommend going with kids? Kruger or Addo? Garden Coast? Places you would recommend staying? Any ''self-catering referrals or guesthouses? Many many thanks! generally a cautious mother

We took our 18 month old to South Africa a couple of years ago. We mostly stayed in Cape Town (I volunteered at some clinics in the townships). We rented a car and my husband and daughter traveled around Cape Town during the day. There are lots of interesting neighborhoods, beaches, hikes, Table Mountain, etc.

We did a few longer trips, went to both Addo and Kruger (we flew to Jberg)...all in a rental car. You can enter most of the parks with your own car and must be out (or into a camp) by nightfall, but you are free to drive around on your own. Having our own car worked out nicely because our daughter napped when needed, we had food, toys, etc.

We did do a night and day tour with a group--we saw more animals on our own, but learned a lot with the tour guides. We also drove into Swaziland for a few days and stayed at a park there. While in Cape Town, we stayed in the apartment of a friend. We stayed in Addo at their cabins (and had elephants hanging out in our backyard). We stayed in cabins at a national park (?Tsitsicama coast--rain forest)on the ocean and at various homes/hotels along the way.

We found some arrangements before leaving home, but it was easy to figure things out while traveling. In Kruger, we stayed some near the park entrance and some in the park, mostly depending on where were planning to visit. Overall, the accomodations were great.

We found that people were super friendly and wanted to grab our daughter out of our arms to admire her (she had mixed feelings about this). We were able to buy food (we're vegetarian) and cook it along the way, but didn't find good food in restaurants (except in Cape Town or in Indian places). Another highlight was a tour of Soweto, which included several good museums. Have fun, it's a beautiful country. bhretta

I'm South African & will be able to help you with maps, routes, towns, game reserves, bed & breakfasts, hotels etc. It will be a wonderful experience for you and especially your children given their ages! Email me please. Verna

South Africa has the highest crime rate in the world right now. Avoid Johannesburg at all costs. An old friend was recently killed in a senseless car jacking event in front of his children, all over a Chrysler LeBaron! He was a high profile reggae artist (Lucky Dube), so now the government is finally taking notice and doing something about it. You should be aware that criminal activity, often violent, occurs routinely in all major cities. Despite government anti-crime efforts, violent crimes like armed robbery, carjacking, mugging, ''smash and grab'' attacks on vehicles, and other incidents are regularly reported.

Beware of the Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg. You could easily be followed back to your car, hotel or residence and be robbed at gunpoint. These gangs tend to target more “affluent” individuals, including people driving nice cars, wearing eye-catching jewelry, flashing their cash, and/or making high-value purchases. Tourists are targeted at the airport because airport personnel are involved in these activiies, tipping off criminals waiting outside the airport once tourists have declared valuables and cash.

Be cautious when approaching intersections and hide all bags, cell phones, and other valuables from view. Keep doors locked and roll up your windows.

I travel to Africa often, and I promise you that now is NOT the time to go there. Give it a year or two. Knowing Traveller

South Africa is a beautiful country and you will have a wonderful time - it is not all bad. You will of course need to keep your wits about you and not do anything that might put you in danger - but how different is that to many other countries in this crazy world?

Here are some tips: don't show off valuables, plan your routes, do your driving during daylight hours, and enjoy the beautiful scenery and cultures! You also shouldn't really trust strangers - be sensible at all times and trust your instincts.

Yes, there is a lot of crime (unemployment is somewhere between 30-40%). No, it wont take 2 years to fix - it's probably going to take 2 generations! Do you really want to wait that long to see such a beautiful place? Proudly South African

Trip to South Africa with toddler to visit family

Dec 2004

My husband and I are considering a trip to South Africa to visit family this coming summer. Our daughter will be about 18 months old. I'm interested to hear if anyone else has traveled to SA recently with children. How was the plane trip (layover in Europe or just tough it through the whole way at once)? Where in SA did you go and did you feel safe being out and about with your kids? Keri

Although I just became a parent this year, I went with my sweetie to South Africa two years ago, and had an absolutely amazing time. First, I would recommend splitting the trip (at least one way, if not both) with a stopover for at least a couple days in London or another European city. Travel time from San Francisco to Johannesburg is about 24 hours with a change of planes, so it is easier (for both adults and children) to to split the journey in half. We spent five days in London en route to Johannesburg, but only had a short layover in Amsterdam on the way back, leaving us both incredibly exhausted on our return to the Bay Area. It was worse for me than for Michael as he can sleep on a plane but I can't.

Second, I would strongly recommend renting a car. I believe we arranged this prior to leaving the Bay Area but don't recall specifically. Be aware that they drive on the opposite side than here, and most rentals are manual transmission. Michael drove for the entire trip as he had more recent experience with a manual transmission car and drives for his work (it would have taken me a good half-day to get comfortable driving there). I don't know about car seats, but I would think you would want to take your own, if possible. South Africa's roads have one of the highest accident rates anywhere, but we had no difficulties as we drove very cautiously and only drove during the day. Renting a car enabled us to travel to many places we could not have gotten to via public transportation. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have -- feel free to email me. Lori