“Hope. Fear. Excitement. Travelling for the first time provides us with a wave of conflicting emotions. We are excited about new possibilities but afraid of the unknown at the same time.”
Everything in the opening statement is so true. I remember the first time I left for the road, like it was yesterday. I was too excited to be scared of anything. I just wanted to get out of the country already! I wanted to start seeing, exploring, immersing myself in something new.
This post is inspired by Nomadic Matt’s Things I’d Tell A New Traveller however it’s a focus on new travellers to South Africa as I know a couple of people who have cold feet about travelling to South Africa or Africa in general. I hope this helps you find your feet to venture into Africa. Yes, I’m talking to you *V.
Go. The western world is fed all sorts of news about Africa. Most of it bad unless it revolves rugby or biltong. HIV, rape, crime, corruption, racism, you name it. It is not like that. AT ALL. Sure, crime and corruption is rift. But one just needs to be street-smart, similar to travelling to any other country. So go, explore. Love it (as much as I do).
Get a local sim card. Now that you’ve landed in South Africa, get a local sim card. Because you will be back. Over and over again. Be it surfing on the wild coast, chilling along the Garden Route, gorging on as much seafood as you can ingest in Cape Town. Oh, and you also need it because you would have made so many friends by now. South Africans are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Keeping in touch is just one way to pay them back for their friendship.
Get a GPS. South Africans are all about discovering their own country, and why wouldn’t they. It is such an amazing country to explore and discover. There are 9 provinces, each so different from each other in landscape, scenery and weather. Plus it encompasses 2 smaller countries and borders onto 4 countries so there’s plenty to explore. I learnt this the hard way when *R gave me a broken GPS, and that is when the sim card came in handy. Mobile internet at local prices FTW!
Go with the flow. Don’t plan your holiday too much. Once you get there, you would’ve made friends with your dormies and then it’s all go, go, go, from there! There will be unexpected trips to the salsa club, weekend trips, birthday parties, beach days, road trips, trips to different countries. I loved the flexibility in my trips and I urge you to make yours as flexible as you can.
Take both Mastercard AND Visa. Don’t believe what they say about Mastercard being accepted everywhere you go. Because it’s not. I only took a Mastercard Travel Card and I ran out of money in Botswana. Of all the places to run out cash!! And while we’re on the money matter, always carry US dollars. Now that is one currency that is good to use everywhere you go. Even though Mastercard is accepted in South Africa, you will get the urge to visit one of the bordering countries. So take both. Trust me.
Take the time to appreciate it all. I spent 2 weeks in Cape Town in 2011 (yes, I still need to tell you all about it). At the end of the 2 weeks, I had only explored the tip of the iceberg. But I’m glad I spent the entire 2 weeks there because I feel like I know all the local places to go to next time I’m there. Next time I’ll need to explore more of the Western Cape. Remembering the GPS of course.
Hope this helps with the cold feet. South Africa is seriously an amazing country and Africa an amazing continent. Keep a lookout on cheap flights with South African Airlines. Like you needed another reason to go!