Currency & Credit cards
For the sake of reference, take note of the following information about the currencies in Southern Africa:
ZAR - South African Rand
BWP - Botswana Pula
ND - Namibian Dollar
ZK - Zambian Kwacha
Which currencies are accepted in the countries that I'm visiting on safari?
Visa and MasterCard credit cards are widely accepted in South Africa and Namibia and in most major centres in Botswana. Most safari lodges in South Africa, and many in Botswana and Namibia, have credit card facilities. In Zimbabwe and Zambia about 50% of establishments in tourist areas will accept your credit card. In Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana, many merchants will add a surcharge of 3 – 5% of the value of the transaction to cover bank charges. About 80% of establishments in South Africa only will also accept American Express. Aside from the above, any other cards will not be accepted. This includes debit cards, bank cards and any other private bank cards not affiliated with Visa or MasterCard. Traveller's checks will be accepted in South Africa at selected institutions only, but we recommend avoiding them if at all possible.
In addition to your credit card, it is recommended that you bring along some cash for spending money, tips and so forth. US Dollars, Pounds and Euros can easily be converted to local currency at the airport in either Johannesburg or Cape Town. In the Arrivals Halls at the airports, look out for one of the exchange bureaus where this can be done. You'll be required to present your passport in order to convert your cash to local currency. Exchange your cash in South Africa or in the country you're traveling to rather than before leaving home, as local exchange rates are more favourable.
ATMs are readily available in South Africa only. Most Visa and MasterCard credit cards will work at these ATMs. Debit or bank cards or any other private bank cards probably won't work at a local ATM, so they should not be relied upon. Ensure that you have a PIN number for your credit card before leaving home. We recommend testing your PIN to ensure that it is working before you arrive. Making cash withdrawals at an ATM is the most cost-effective way of obtaining local currency. If you choose this option, ensure that you understand what debit interest rate fees you are paying (if any) on your credit card, since withdrawals (cash advances) are considered charges on your card and will also attract debit interest fees.
Once you've left Southern Africa and if you've arrived home with ZAR, and to a lesser extent ND and BWP, you should be able to find an exchange bureau willing to convert it to your local currency. If you arrive home or, in fact, if you leave the country with Zambian currency, consider it a souvenir as no exchange bureau will accept it. The Zimbabwean Dollar is worthless and should be avoided except as a souvenir.
In South Africa, Botswana and Namibia you will not be able to use foreign currency. In Namibia both ND and ZAR is accepted and both have the same value. The same arrangement (dual currency system) applies in Swaziland and Lesotho. The Namibian, Swaziland and Lesotho currencies are, however, not accepted in South Africa, so be mindful of leaving those countries with their currency.
In Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), you'll be able to use USD, ZAR, Pounds and, to a lesser extent, Euros, at the informal (curio) markets. Zambia (Livingstone) has now limited the use of foreign currency, although some informal markets might still accept it. Most Zimbabwe lodges will accept the above currencies for payment, and tips will also be happily received in this way. Change in foreign currency will always be a problem, so bring enough small denomination notes (20's, 10's, 5's and 1's). Where possible, don't accept change in local currency when paying in foreign currency.
Establishments in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland will make use of a three-pronged wall socket with an on/off switch very similar to that in use in India (i.e. the old British standard). The wall socket is compatible with plugs which have three rounded (not square) pins in a triangle formation. The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ.
Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong, with round pins. If an adaptor is called for, consider bringing one with you, although they can be purchased locally. Plug adapters and transformers can be found in many luggage shops or Automobile Association outlets in South Africa. Please note that the US/Canadian adapter plug is not a converter and will not step down the electricity supply from 220V to 110V. Australian and New Zealand adapter plugs are also available.
US-made appliances may need a transformer.
Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and appliances.
European type adapter plugs are readily available and come in both formats (two or three pins). US/Canada adapter plugs are also available and most luggage stores at major airports will sell them, as will stores in large malls and shopping centres.
In Zambia, the wall sockets will be exactly as currently in use in the UK with a 220V supply, and adapter plugs to fit that configuration may be used.
Adapters sold on airlines are not locally compatible, so a word of caution, do not do so on the flight over but rather after you've arrived. Your guide will be happy to assist you where possible.
Our hotel web prices
The prices on our website, reflects the ‘rack rate’ which is the official hotel or game lodge price if you book direct. These are their standard prices and do not reflect any seasonal or last minute specials. However all of these specials are captured in our proposals and quotations.
However we are not naïve - this is a very competitive world at the moment. Hotels want to fill their beds and cover their costs. So how do we, as a tour operator, deal with that?
Best Available Rates
Many hotels now operate on Best Available Rates. (BAR RATES) Though we usually work on a commission off their rack rate, we have also negotiated a set commission off these BAR rates with most of our hotels. However, as the BAR rates change all the time, our website prices reflect only the standard hotel rates. If you come across a price which is lower than our web prices, contact us.
Similarly many hotels offer long stay or seasonal discounts. Again the lower prices will be reflected in our quotation.
Online Booking Consortia
Some hotels offer limited rooms to the large online booking agents at reduced prices. If you come across an excellent price on these websites, let us know. We will try match it. But remember these large online booking websites offer you no service or personal attention. They are not tour operators. They cannot help you with holiday planning, feasibility, extra services, or indeed if something goes wrong.
Make sure to compare Apples with Apples
We don’t believe in hidden costs, what you see is what you get – as it makes for unhappy clients. Thus our prices include all taxes, park fees and other levies. When comparing quotations make sure you are comparing apples with apples – what room types have been used, are transfers included? We give a holiday price for the whole holiday including transfers and selected tours. Usually when we look at the fine print, the supposedly cheaper quotation is using different accommodation, not including the same meals or the same excursions.
Food & Water
Food in South Africa is of a world class standard. Only the freshest ingredients are sourced everywhere, most are locally produced, including local as well as international dishes. Many of the chefs employed in the lodges and hotels and of a standard found in Europe and the United States and many of them are internationally trained.
A large variety of fresh fish and seafood is sourced along the country’s extensive coastline and is available in most good restaurants and many varieties are exclusive to South Africa, for example the tasty, soft white fish known as Kingklip. The country is also known for its excellent quality and variety of meat such as beef, lamb and venison. Many local dishes are available in different regions and we recommend that you taste some of these in order to get to know our local culture – biltong (jerky) being an excellent example.
Potable water in South Africa is safe for consumption, but bottled water meets international quality standards and is available everywhere in the country.
How to pack for a Safari in Southern Africa
Please adhere to the standard international airline restrictions are adequate for overland travel and refer to the relevant airline for their guidelines, but if you will be taking any charter flights on light planes, it is essential to have a soft bag (duffel) in which luggage with a maximum weight of 20kg (just under 45lbs) should be packed.
Clothing and shoes:
Light, comfortable clothing is essential. You would not wish to be constrained by uncomfortable outfits throughout your adventures and activities. A holiday is, after all, about relaxation, and South Africans are generally a casual bunch when it comes to daily attire.
Safari wear is not essential, but do not wear dark and colourful attire while on safari, but rather soft, neutral colours which allow you to blend in with the bush.
Light clothing, worn in the evenings, providing protection against mosquitoes in the malaria regions, is highly recommended.
Warm Jacket / Sweater
Pack at least one warm jacket or sweater. When embarking on an early morning or late afternoon safari, temperatures either start out quite chilly or drop after the sun sets. Winter in the southern regions definitely requires a good jacket, as it can be quite cold and wet.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must. Though the majority of our itineraries do not really include strenuous activities or too much walking, if you are interested in partaking in a bush walk or scenic hikes, your shoes could make or break your experience.
Formal wear is generally not required, with the exception of travel on the Blue Train, Rovos Rail or if you are staying in a top five star hotel, a dinner jacket will be required. This is, however, the only time you will be required to 'dress up', unless you are so inclined.
Hat / Cap and Sunscreen and Sunglasses
A hat or cap is highly recommended, particularly if you are fair-skinned. Even in the winter months, the African sun is harsher than you realize and severe sunburn is sure to spoil any trip. A hat or cap will also aid viewing during peak sunset and sunrise hours.
Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is recommended. As mentioned above, the African sun can be a scorcher in summer and a 'silent assassin' in winter. If you plan to spend time on the beach, we would also recommend 'after-sun' products.
Always have a pair of sunglasses handy for sharp, bright days or overcast days with a glare. Even though sunglasses are generally an essential everyday accessory to many people, you may find that is even more so the case when visiting Southern Africa.
Allergy Medication and Insect Repellent:
If you are prone to allergies, be sure to pack allergy medication. Springtime sees a proliferation of flowers, and winters in the north of South Africa can be quite dusty. Any food allergies should also be treated with the same amount, if not more, care.
Insect repellent, particularly when visiting an area where malaria is prevalent, is indispensable. Aerosol-type repellents are typically the easiest to apply and 'Peaceful Sleep' and 'Tabard' are widely available throughout South Africa.
Binoculars and Photographic Equipment:
Binoculars are a fundamental safari accessory. Though our guides or the lodge rangers typically have a pair handy, this may not always be the case. If you are enthusiastic about game viewing and want to maximize the experience to its full potential, pack a pair of binoculars.
Photographic equipment and enough film/memory is imperative for both the enthusiastic wildlife photographer and those who wish to capture the memories of their extraordinary tour or safari on film. Memory cards and film can also be purchased in South Africa.
Flashlight and Adapter Plugs:
A small flashlight can be very useful. Though during a safari guests are always guided to their accommodations at night, many people feel safer and more confident with their own flashlight. Regardless of where you are staying, a flashlight is a handy tool.
Converters/adapters for South African 220V power supply. These can also be purchased both before your departure to or on arrival in South Africa. For further information regarding the use of these devices, visit the General Information page on our website
Some US dollars in cash can be very useful if you are traveling over the border from South Africa to Zambia, Zimbabwe or Botswana. The US dollar is widely accepted throughout these countries - even at traditional craft markets - and is typically easier to use than the local currency. In SA it is handy to travel with cash in Rands (ZAR).
Internet & Mobile phone coverage
You will have access to the Internet in most centres in the country. Mobile phone coverage in South Africa is better than average, but obviously isn’t available in every corner of the country, particularly in some of the more remote regions of the country and in some safari lodges. Every hotel we use will offer internet facilities, whether in your room or at a communal station in the hotel. Many will offer free internet (WiFi), but it’s likely that you could be expected to pay a surcharge for the service. WiFi hotspots will be found at International airports such as Johannesburg and Cape Town. Some safari lodges also offer internet services, but this is the exception rather than the rule. You are in the bush to relax and enjoy nature and forget about the rest of the problems of the world!
We recommend that it might be a good idea to purchase a local SIM card if you plan to be in South Africa for an extended period of time. To do that, you’ll be required to provide proof that you’re a bona fide tourist, in the form of your reservation document and a copy of your passport. These measures are in place as a form of security to prevent unsavoury characters from obtaining untraceable numbers.
Malaria is an infectious disease that is transmitted by mosqitos in certain parts of Southern Africa and can be contracted if bitten by several carrying mosqitos. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures or even coma.
The risk of disease can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites by using mosquito nets and insect repellents, or with mosquito-control measures such as spraying insecticides and draining standing water. Several medications are available to prevent malaria in travellers to areas where the disease is common. Occasional doses of the medication sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine are recommended in infants and after the first trimester of pregnancy in areas with high rates of malaria. Despite a need, no effective vaccine exists.
We will always inform you if you are travelling to a malaria zone and provide recommendations for preventative medication.
Fortunately, most game reserves in South Africa are malaria-free, making them an ideal option for those who wish to experience a safer safari without the threat of malaria.
Afri-Unique Tours and their tour guides are not able to provide you with professional medical advice. We suggest that you contact a doctor in your country who is able to offer medical advice and who can prescribe any medication should they deem it necessary. While in our country, we will also refer you to qualified medical professionals. Before travelling, we do, however, recommend that you take the following into consideration:
If you are traveling to the north-eastern part of South Africa, including the Kruger National Park, certain parts of Kwazulu Natal or to any destination in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique or Zambia, it is prudent to discuss anti-malaria prophylactics with your doctor. We do not recommend children younger than six years to travel to any malaria area. There are plenty of exceptional safari areas in South Africa which are located in malaria-free areas. These areas include Addo and Kariega or Shamwari in the Eastern Cape Province, Pilanesberg and Madikwe in the Northern Province and they should be considered as an alternative when traveling with young children. Namibia and the southern part of South Africa, including Cape Town and the Garden Route, are malaria-free areas.
As of January 2015, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is no longer required to return to South Africa from Zambia.
Dust and pollen encountered in the various safari areas may aggravate any allergies you might have. It is recommended that you consult your physician regarding precautions which can be taken in this regard. Although allergies can be triggered all year round, it is important to note that spring is especially known as "allergy season", due to the high occurrence of flowering plants. Remember to communicate any food allergies so that we can inform the relevant lodges or hotels.
If you plan to arrive with prescription medication, we suggest that bring along your prescription as well as the original boxes/containers in which you received your medication. South Africa is generally less austere regarding controlled medications, but it’s nevertheless prudent to arrive prepared.
South Africa has first world medical facilities and doctors who are, in some cases, regarded to be amongst the leaders in their field globally. Afri-Unique Tours does not, however, offer medical or travel insurance. Ensure that this is arranged prior to your travels in the unlikely event of a medical emergency.
Passports and Visas
Researching the immigration and visa rules and regulations of the country you are traveling to certainly is not the most exciting part of planning your trip. It is, however, the most important. This could make or break your holiday. Imagine, for example, having already booked and paid for all your travel arrangements, and then being denied entry upon arrival. Afri-Unique Tours receives visitors from all over the world, and it is therefore difficult for us to provide comprehensive visa regulations for each country. Though we are able to offer advice, it is impossible to cover visa requirements to Southern Africa for every nation worldwide. This aspect of preparation is entirely your responsibility. We therefore recommend that you visit the relevant country’s official home affairs or immigration website prior to finalizing your trip.
NOTE: Always work through the official government channels when applying for or purchasing a visa:
South Africa - http://www.dha.gov.za/
Botswana - http://www.gov.bw/
Namibia - http://www.mha.gov.na/
Zambia - http://www.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm/
Zimbabwe - http://www.moha.gov.zw/
Mozambique - http://www.portaldogoverno.gov.mz/
Please do not hesitate to ask if you are unsure. If a pre-arranged visa is required, do so through the nearest embassy or consulate for that country. Do not leave your visa arrangements to the last minute. We cannot be held responsible if you arrive without the necessary visas and are refused entry to a particular country.
Visas fall into two broad categories: pre-arranged visas and visas issued upon arrival. If you hold a US, Canadian, British, European, Australian or New Zealand passport, you’ll be able to enter South Africa without a visa and no pre-arrangements are necessary. Most other passport holders will also be able to enter South Africa without a pre-arranged visa. US passport holders do not need to pre-arrange a visa to enter Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana or Namibia.
Every Southern African country - South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique - is an independent state and has different visa requirements. Do not automatically assume that entry into South Africa entitles you to enter one or more of these countries on the same visa.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your intended departure date and should have at least two full blank pages available where visas - if required - can be affixed.
Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe:
If you’re traveling to either of these countries, you’ll be expected to purchase your visa at port of entry (if a pre-arranged visa is not required) in hard cash in US Dollar currency only. No other currency is accepted, nor are ATM, credit or any other bank cards. Similarly, checks and traveller’s checks will not be accepted for visa purchases. Currently visas to these countries cost between $50 and $100 per person. We strongly recommend having at least $200 on hand as the cost of the visa often changes without notice. Please ensure that you travel with the latest available versions of the US bank notes. Any old bank notes or notes with ink marks or writing of any kind on them, or notes that have been excessively folded or crumpled, will not be accepted. Ensure that you have an adequate supply of small denomination notes on hand (1’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 20’s) as change in US Dollar currency is always a problem. Recently, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana implemented a UniVisa system. UniVisa is purchased on arrival in either of these countries and entitles you to enter the other two and then return again without the need for any additional visas or costs.
Zambia departure tax:
Please note that a departure tax is due when departing from Zambia. The tax is payable in cash only in Zambia Kwacha or USD. Currently the cost is ZK 90,000 (about $25) per-person.
NEW IMMIGRATION REGULATIONS WHEN TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN
Under the new law, all minors under the age of 18 years will be required to produce, in addition to their passport, an Unabridged Birth Certificate (showing the particulars of both parents) when exiting and entering South African ports of entry.
- Where both parents are traveling with a child.
- Such parents must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child
- Adopted children to provide proof of adoption by means of an adoption certificate
- Where one parent is traveling with a child.
Provided that the Director-General may, where the parents of the child are both deceased and the child is traveling with a relative or another person related to him or her or his or her parents, approve such a person to enter into or depart from the Republic with such a child.
- Such parent must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child
- Consent in the form of an affidavit from the other parent registered as a parent on the birth certificate of the child authorizing him or her to enter into or depart from South Africa with the child he or she is traveling with (the affidavit may not be older than 3 months, dating from the date of travel)
- A court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship in respect of the child, if he or she is the parent or legal guardian of the child; or
- Where applicable, a death certificate of the other parent registered as a parent of the child on the birth certificate;
- Legally separated parents should also provide a court order when the other parent does not give consent.
- Where a person is traveling with a child who is not his or her biological child.
- A copy of the unabridged birth certificate of the child;
- An affidavit from the parents or legal guardian of the child confirming that he or she has permission to travel with the child;
- Copies of the identity documents or passports of the parents or legal guardian of the child;
- The contact details of the parents or legal guardian of the child
These regulations apply to all travellers, foreign as well as South African - on departure as well as arrival. In the case of foreign countries that do not issue unabridged birth certificates, a letter to this effect issued by the competent authority of the foreign country should be produced. All documents must be original or copies certified as a true copy of the original by a commissioner of oaths or the equivalent commissioning authority, should commissioners of oath not be a practice in the country concerned.
All documents issued in a language other than English should be accompanied by a sworn translation issued by a competent authority in the country concerned. Please contact your local South African Embassy for further details. Their website is: www.dha.gov.za
This destination is a photographer’s dream and if you only wish to record your experiences for your own pleasure and the sake of reminiscing once you return home, any camera or mobile phone will do the job. Nevertheless make sure you have enough memory and batteries and do not forget your charger. Also make sure that you are aware of the local voltage supply.
On the other hand, you may be an Intermediate or Expert photographer and would therefore bring along the all the necessary equipment according to your interest level.
Most folk in this category have very specific reasons why they choose to travel and what they hope to achieve with their photographic experience in Africa. Whether you are going on safari or visiting any of the other regions in Southern Africa, the diversity of this country provides you with a whole host of subject matter – from scenery, to wildlife to multitude of cultural differences amongst the people of Africa.
Most of the wildlife in the game parks, private or national, would have been habituated to the presence of game drive vehicles for many years, so the photographic opportunities are numerous. They are still wild animals and unlike people, they will not pose for a photograph, so it will be necessary that you bring along the equipment that will suit such a scenario. Be aware that the sightings cannot be guaranteed as a result of numerous factors like the weather and seasons, the availability of food and water, and whether they are willing to appear or not!
We highly recommend that you make a list of all the serial numbers of all your equipment, including any electronic-devices you choose to travel with. Should you need to claim from insurance for whatever reason or be confronted by customs, requiring a list of said serial numbers, you will be well prepared.
If your interest is such that you may require a specialised photographic guide, please inform us and your tour can be tailor-made to accommodate you. The photographic opportunities in Southern Africa are limitless!
We at Afri-Unique Tours pride ourselves in the fact that not one of our guests has ever come to harm while in our care. Our professional guides will always ensure your safety and will be sure to inform you if a potentially unsafe or dangerous situation may arise. Their vigilance might not be obvious at all times, but you can rest assured - you will be well taken care of by us. Our hand-picked guides are very well trained and highly experienced in dealing with any situation that may arise.
The figures we recommend are merely a guideline. In all cases, please remember that the figures indicated below are recommendations only and should be used a guideline. Even though the practice is generally accepted in the travel industry in South Africa, it is by no means compulsory. There should also not be a definite expectation to receive a tip, regardless of the standard of service. If however the guide or ranger or other service provider has gone out of his or her way to give you the very best service which exceeds your expectations, by all means give them a gratuity.
Who do I tip and who do I not tip?
The following people generally receive tips: tour/safari guides, rangers/trackers; waiters in public restaurants; waiters at lodge dining rooms (if the service is very good); porters at hotels; be aware of so-called car guards (they are found all over the city in parking areas). Only tip them if you really need their service. If you having your car filled with fuel at a service station (you are not allowed to perform this action yourself), a R5 coin will generally suffice, particularly if the attendant offers the full service of checking tyre pressure, oil and water and washing the windscreen.
Typically do not tip the following people: check-out staff in supermarkets; waiters in restaurants/lodges who provide a minimum standard of service; taxi drivers; car guards if in a place where it is obvious that your vehicle will not be tampered with without going unnoticed; reception staff at hotels/lodges; over-the-counter staff in any regular business establishment; transfer drivers; housekeeping staff.
Recieved the minimum level of service?
Rangers and trackers:
Rangers and trackers are typically employed by the lodge in question and are therefore not the responsibility of Afri-Unique Tours. Since privately owned lodges have exceptionally high standards, the employees are expected to perform to this degree. Although they are a regular occurrence, no one can guarantee Big Five sightings, but very few safaris depart without sighting the full complement. This should therefore not be the only determining factor when tipping guides and rangers. Again, the amount you tip is at your discretion and based on your level of enjoyment, but we do not recommend a per person tip of more than $10 per day if you are traveling as a couple, and a maximum of $120 per day if you are part of a group of 8 or more. These amounts might seem low, but remember that your safari might extend over two or three days and there will likely be other guests on the same safari vehicle who will also be tipping the ranger and tracker.
Afri-Unique Tours endeavours to make use of the services of excellent tour guides, all of whom have worked for us for a considerable time and who are highly trained and professional. We do not enforce a minimum service standard and we certainly do not monitor their every movement. The ultimate determining factor is and always will be the valuable feedback we receive from our guests. If a guide is not performing to standard, it will reflect as such in the feedback we receive and we simply will not employ that guide any longer. The result of this simple but stringent policy is evident: all our guides, without question, will go beyond your expectations. We therefore recommend gratuities in accordance with your level of enjoyment. If that equates to $100 per day as you see it and you feel that your guide deserves it, then so be it. If, however, your budget only allows for a gratuity of $20 per day, then that will be in order too. Our guides will not pressure you in any way for a tip.
Be aware that many staff -members employed in restaurants and bars as waiters, do not receive a minimum wage and rely entirely on tips. A guideline is, therefore: Porter - $2/R15, Waiter - typically 10% of the total bill (make sure a gratuity has not been included in the total cost before doing so), Car Guard - R15 maximum. In many cases, to visitors to South Africa, there will be a strong inference, if not a direct request, for a tip, often grossly inflated. In all cases, the above recommendations apply and we recommended a certain level of assertiveness be applied in this regard.
We highly recommend that you do not give money to beggars along the side of the road and in the cities, as this encourages loitering and discourages the need for these persons to find meaningful employment.
We strongly reccomend purchasing travel insurance prior to your vacation, be it in Africa or any other part of the world. This will not only give you peace of mind but can be an invaluable resource if an accident, loss or theft should occur.
There is an extensive array of travel insurance providers available for the African continent. The following web resources may prove helpful:
1. Easy Travel Insurance
2. Travel Insurance.com (compare and buy online)
3. Go Compare.com (compare and buy online)
4. Post Office
5. Travel guard