We travel slowly, which means we spend an extended amount of time in each country we visit. As a result, we get to know our destinations well. For each country we visit, we put together the top tips we can offer future travelers. Here are our five most important tips for anyone traveling to South Africa.


Understand restaurant tipping and payments:

At restaurants in South Africa it is customary to tip around 10%. We tend to tip more for better service but that is completely up to you. In many places they will not automatically deliver your bill at the end of the meal but rather they will wait until you ask them for it. When they bring you the bill you’ll first add in your tip and then total the whole amount as we do in the US. Here is where it’s a bit different: if you’re paying with a credit card, your waitron will then return with a card machine and charge your card right at the table. Never let someone take your card away and run it in a machine you cannot see. 


Always carry pocket change:

There will always be someone to tip–this is something we learned quickly in South Africa. For example, when you park your car there will be a parking attendant helping you. They flag you down and guide you into an open spot. They will also watch your car while you are away. It is customary to give them a small tip when you return to your car. We usually give around 5 ZAR. There are plenty of other situations when it is good to have small change to tip people- bathroom attendants, gas station workers, hotel staff etc. It’s a small act that can go a long way in a country with an unemployment rate higher than 25%.  


Be alert when crossing the road:

No cross walk? No problem. In South Africa, everyone jaywalks. You will see locals darting across the street at any given moment. The funny thing is, that despite rampant jaywalking, cars tend not to yield to pedestrians. Do not assume that a car will slow down or stop for you to cross the road. Locals learn to move fast and cut things close but as a tourist, you should err on the side of caution. When crossing the street leave lots of room between you and the cars and never assume a vehicle will yield to you even if you are in a crosswalk. Be extra careful when crossing side streets that connect to main roads as drivers rarely look, nor stop, for pedestrians when turning on to the main street.


Know the passing rules:

South Africa has many single lane highways so there is a particular passing etiquette you must follow. If you’re driving slower than someone behind you, make room for them to pass by moving over into the breakdown lane on your left. It is perfectly acceptable to drive in the breakdown lane for a bit to let someone pass you. You may notice that the car that passed you will flash their hazard lights to express their gratitude. This is a common way of communitcation on the road in South Africa. If you are the one doing the passing it is always nice to do the same and flash your hazards to the car that let you pass.


Understand basic South Africanisms:

Although most South African speak English, it may sound like a completely different language to you at times. On top of the multitude of different accents, South Africans use a lot of slang words that will mean nothing to you if you are coming from a different country. Here are a few common words that you may encounter during your trip to South Africa:

Howzit?- How are you?

Robot- Traffic light

Lekker- Cool

Braai- Barbeque

Eish- used to express surprise

Jol- a party

Just now- if someone tells you they will do something “just now” it means they will do it at some point in the near future. If they say they will do it “now now” it means they will actually do it ASAP.

*We hope our top five tips will help you navigate South Africa. We would love to hear additional advice from travelers who have been there. Please share your South Africa travel tips in the comment section below.

Visiting Cape Town? Check out our complete Cape Town page here

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