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The vastness of South Africa takes in lush veldt, national parks, beautiful beaches, vibrant cities and the extremes of deserts and mountains. The predominantly black, but ethnically mixed population has produced an eclectic culture like no other and it’s a country of music, big game safaris, wine-making and more. It is one of the 10 most popular tourist destinations in the world.
South Africa’s generally temperate climate makes it an ideal destination all year round. Winter is between June and August and mountainous areas can be as cold as 5F or lower, but typical average around 50F in the cities. Snow is rare. In summertime (November to February), city temperatures reach around 88F on average. In rural areas, summer weather varies from a Mediterranean climate to sub-tropical.
The Hermanus Whale Festival in September in the Western Cape celebrates the arrival of hordes of whales in the bay. As well as the star attraction, the festival has music, comedy and kayaking.
Every April the acclaimed Cape Town International Jazz Festival features tens of international and local artists performing at the city’s convention centre. It’s a great opportunity to watch stars such as Vusi Mahlasela or TKZee.
The Easter weekend in the fall, sees thousands head to KwaZulu for the Splashy Fen Music Festival, dubbed ‘South Africa’s Glastonbury’. Pack a tent and enjoy four days of the finest South African pop and rock – top acts such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo have played on the stage here.
With regular flights to many US cities, finding cheap flights to South Africa is easy and when you book with Orbitz there are plenty of ways to find the best deals.
You can search for flights to and from different locations using the ‘Nearby airports’ option. This helps you pick cheap flight deals to Johannesburg and other major cities in South Africa.
Being flexible can also pay dividends and using the ‘Show flexible dates’ option allows you to look at the cost of fares on different days.
The ‘Show options’ button and menu on the left of the results screen allow you to filter and sort your results, so you can search by airline, flight duration, price, ticket type and look for direct or connecting flights.
Cape Town International Airport (CPT
Cape Town International Airport is the primary airport serving the city of Cape Town and is located 12 miles from the city centre. It offers direct flights to South Africa’s other two international airports in Johannesburg and Durban, as well regional flights. The N2 freeway links directly to the city centre, while the MyCiTi bus rapid transit bus system, MyCiTi, runs a shuttle service to the Civic Centre bus station in the city centre, departing every 20 minutes. There is no rail connection.
Johannesburg-OR Tambo International Airport (JNB)
Johannesburg-OR Tambo is South Africa’s main international airport and serves both Johannesburg and the nearby executive capital, Pretoria. It regularly handles 21 million passengers and is the hub of national carrier South African Airways. Onward travel to Johannesburg is easy. The train station offers 90 trips a day into the city center. There are five city bus lines and several express buses. The R24 freeway takes drivers directly into Jo’burg.
King Shaka International Airport (DUR)
King Shaka International Airport (KSIA), is the primary airport serving Durban and is located 22 miles north of the city center. It opened in 2010, just before the FIFA World Cup began and it has replaced the old Durban International Airport. It has only one terminal, but handles a number of international flights. It is connected to Durban downtown by rail and road.
South Africa is vast, so allow plenty of time to travel between cities or reach rural destinations such as game reserves. Flights between cities are plentiful. Seven domestic airlines service the 15 regional airports, and it’s possible to find budget fares if you shop around.
Intercity buses are a comfortable, hassle-free and cost-effective way to get around if you are watching your budget. They are also a great way to enjoy great swathes of staggeringly beautiful scenery en route. Typical travel times are Cape Town- Jo’burg 18 hours, Cape Town-Durban 22 hours, and Jo’burg-Durban 7 hours.
In the cities, private taxis are a popular and relatively inexpensive way for visitors to get around. Sharing taxis, which hold 16 passengers, are not safe for visitors, though. Cape Town, Durban, and Jo’burg, all have city bus networks, with cheap fares. Services often stop running early in the evening, and there are few buses on weekends.
Cape Town is a cosmopolitan and picturesque port city on South Africa’s southwest coast. Its white sandy beaches are popular and the waterfront area is walkable and packed with bars and restaurants. Take the cable car up the famed Table Mountain, which dominates views across the city, then head out into Table Mountain national park to see wildlife such as caracals, rock hyraxes and chacma baboons. Or take a boat trip and enjoy some whale-watching.
Cape Town also has a vibrant urban side. Art galleries and museums give it cultural weight, while trendy neighbourhoods with designer and independent shops, bars and cafes mean there is plenty of idle wandering to be done. South Africa is famous for its wines – most of the vineyards are located just outside Cape Town and you can visit on an organised tour.
Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city and its airport is the biggest in Africa. It’s where most visitors begin their South Africa adventure. This is the place to get to grips with South African history – the Apartheid Museum is a good place to start, and Constitution Hill – seat of the constitutional court and an old fort. The Soweto township, spiritual home of the anti-apartheid movement, is now part of Johannesburg. Tour the Mandela Museum, which is located in the former home of Nelson Mandela, political prisoner and former president, and Hector Pieterson Museum, which commemorates the Soweto Uprising.
Head to the top of the 732 feet high Carlton Centre – the observation deck offers affords sweeping vistas of the city and beyond. Cultural attractions include Johannesburg Art Gallery, Market Theatre and Joburg Theatre. The Gold Reef City theme park centres on the mining industry – you can tour an underground mine and watch tribal dancing.
Durban, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal on the east coast, is the country’s third largest city and busiest port. Its eclectic culture stems from its blend of its African, Indian and colonial influences. Its warm subtropical and extensive beaches – the ‘Golden Mile’ – make it a popular destination for relaxation, diving and surfing. The refurbished waterfront hosts the uShaka Marine World and futuristic Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Away from the beaches, there is an art gallery at City Hall, while the Phansi Museum is home to a collection of South African artifacts. The vast Durban Botanic Gardens, the oldest botanic garden on the African continent, are a lovely place to meander and to enjoy concerts by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Kruger National Park
One of the largest game reserves in the world, it is one of the best places to see the Big Five – elephants, lions, leopards, black and white rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo. You may also see cheetahs, impala and zebras. Join an organised tour with a ranger for the best opportunity to spot big game and stay in one of the many lodges for the overnight experience. Kruger is served by three airports – Phalaborwa, Hoedspruit Eastgate and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI). All offer direct connections to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
You’ll hear 11 native languages spoken in South Africa, including Xhosa. Afrikaans is spoken in some areas, but English is spoken everywhere.
Americans can visit South Africa for up to 90 days without a visa.
It is safe to drink the water in the cities, but stick to bottled water if are heading out into the wilds.
South Africa is generally safe for travelers in the big cities, but petty crime is a problem so keep your valuables out of sight. If you plan to visit the townships, use a reliable tour company. And be sensible after dark for your personal safety.
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