The rainbow nation

best time to go

January to April

I have been there January to March. I can definitely recommend that time, also April.
Keep in mind that it is the Southern hemisphere, so European winter is South African summer and vice versa.
The big advantage of going to SA after summer is that the vegetation is less lush (which doesn’t look great) but it makes it easier to spot animals in the Parks.
Try to avoid South African holidays. If you hit them, you will have to book in advance (e.g. accommodation in National Parks)


weather

South Africa is big. The distance from Jo’burg (Johannesburg) to Cape Town is about 1.400km.

Thus the weather is very different.

The north western part is rather dry whereas the north eastern part (Kruger National Park) is rather tropical.

 


health

The Kruger National Park (area bordering Mozambique) is declared Malaria zone. Better check with the travel doctor.


safety

Medium to rather unsafe

There is a high rate of crime in South Africa.
I didn’t make bad experiences. I even drove to Johannesburg downturn. It was nice actually, a student area with parks, bars and cafés. But be smart.
You will realize that there are gated communities, electrified fences, barb wire and high walls.
As an European you can compare it to the US, I would say.

The townships of the big cities are no- go- areas, if you are on your own. But even there, there are guided touristic tours going there.

i found it is unlikely that you drive to a township, e.g. in Jo'burg, by accident. There is one street in and one street out. You just don't go there (like many white South Africans don't).


infrastructure (how easy to travel)

bus - train - (rental) car

Rather difficult

You cannot compare traveling in ZA to South East Asia. Public transport is limited. In 2011 there was only one type of bus for backpackers/ tourists, just going along the coast.
I would recommend a rental car.

Rental car especially for Safari.

best: 4x4 incl camping gear. Great experiences driving, campang and you are very flesible.


budget

expensive

two weeks about 2.000-3.000 EUR (incl flight) per person


Spontaneously or booking in advanced

It hurts to say "booking in advanced" but for South African holidays it is necessary.

Otherwise I would go for camping and check where the camping grounds are and what's the time to be there but not book them far in advance.


things to do

Safari!! :-)


route (highlights)

 

When I will go again, I will do:

Durban - Drakensberge (mountains) - Lesotho? - "Wild Coast" - Hluluwe Park - Swaziland? - Kruger National Park - Jo'burg.

 

More popular is:

Cape Town - Stellenbosch (wine area) - Garden route (it's actually not gardens but plantations) - incl various (National) Parks like Addo Elephant NP near Port Elizabeth ("P.E.") + Jo'burg.