South Africa is not your average holiday destination – sunkissed savannahs and forests with lush vegetation, wild animals roaming freely, and the sounds of powerful waterfalls thundering through the wet air. Indeed, traveling to this exotic land is a one-of-a-kind experience. Still, if you are travelling to South Africa with children, you have to bear quite a few things in mind. From deciding what attractions to visit all the way to taking care of the necessary travel documentation, whoever decides to make a trip to this outstanding African country will have to do their homework before falling in love with this land of splendor.
Travelling with Children to South Africa
Before we delve into some of the best travel destinations in South Africa that are definitely worth mentioning, we have to take a look at the more practical side of traveling with kids to this amazing land.
Safety first – Is South Africa a Safe Country?
Although there are some general safety measures and precautions everyone takes when traveling abroad, you do need to keep a few additional things in mind if South Africa is your holiday destination. As beautiful as this country is, political turmoils have led to dramatic differences in the distribution of wealth. As a consequence, a lot of people are living on the verge of existence, struggling to make ends meet. In a desperate need to provide the bare necessities, quite a few of them have taken a path of crime and resorted to petty thefts, mugging, pickpocketing, or break-ins. Tourists can sometimes be an easy prey so it’s advisable that you stay on the lookout and avoid these inconveniences. For example, don’t wander the dark allies at night, flaunt your wallet in public or wear every piece of jewelry you have. Of course, never leave your children unattended or alone in the car. The same rules apply to all your valuables, laptop, or camera, which should be kept in a room safe or else very close to you at all times. Since South Africa is a vast land and you probably plan on exploring it thoroughly, don’t forget to buy a reliable and detailed map to help you navigate. Although these precautions are pretty much covered by common sense, some people overrelax and often overlook some of them. South Africa might be infamous for its high crime rate but this problem is only immediate in the parts stricken by poverty. As long as you stay away from the risky parts of the country, this should not deter you from making the most out of your vacation.
Do You Need a Visa to Travel to South Africa?
One of the main concerns parents have when vacationing in South Africa with their little ones pertains to the regulations and entry requirements. Depending on your country of residence, requirements for children’s traveling documents vary. In either case, if South Africa is where you are headed, make sure you have at least two blank pages in each passport. Entry and exit stamps require that much space or else you will be denied access. As far as visas are concerned, the list of countries that don’t require a visa gives you a clear overview of the countries that are exempt from providing one. If your home country is not on this list, you should pay a visit to the South African embassy in your homeland and file an application.
Do Children Need Supporting Documents to Travel to South Africa?
Human trafficking has become a global-scale concern and it has prompted the South African Department of Home Affairs to impose strict control of who enters or exits the country. The laws are even stricter when a minor travels to or out of the country. In order to mitigate and combat this hindrance, they have decided that all parents have to show an Unabridged Birth Certificate which validates parentage. However, the law has been less strict in the past few years and it is usually enough that the child’s passport has both parents listed in it. Be that as it may, it is highly advisable that you still have the birth certificate and carry it with you at all times in order to steer clear of the unnecessary inconvenience.
On a similar note, it makes a whole lot of difference if you are traveling to South Africa with kids but without your spouse or partner who is also your child’s parent. In these instances, it is mandatory that the non-traveling parent completes the Parental Consent Affidavit. This document is designated to certify the consent of the other parent in order to prevent child kidnap or any other involuntary travel on the children’s part. In addition to this document, the travelling parent needs to possess a valid passport. If a child’s birth certificate is in a language other than English, it has to be accompanied by a legally translated copy issued by an authoritative party.
Of course, there are other scenarios when a parent is travelling alone with the children and those occasions also need special complementary documentation to submit for inspection upon border control. For example, legally separated or divorced parents have to provide a court order granting full rights and responsibilities, along with the valid passport, consent affidavit not older than 3 months, and an Unabridged Birth Certificate. Widowed travelers with children need to provide a death certificate and those who don’t travel as a child’s parent or legal guardian have to provide a legal document which states parental consent as well as the details about the child’s residency during the stay.
Must-see Children Destinations in South Africa
Some of South Africa’s best attractions are guaranteed to have you and the kids breathless. This country caters to every traveler’s taste and even the little ones are likely to fall in love with the picturesque countryside, unique landscapes, and rich wildlife.
Covering the surface of almost 20, 000 square kilometers, Kruger National Park is located at just 4 hours’ drive from Johannesburg. This park is home to some of the most extraordinary animals in the world also called “The Big Five”: elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions, and buffalos. So, instead of taking your youngsters to meet the animals in confining zoo cages, you can give them a unique chance to see these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat. What’s more, there are plenty of ways to explore this jewel of nature – in a hot balloon, in your own vehicle across well-signposted roads, or by a boat. As far as accommodation is concerned, you can stay in cozy guesthouses, rest camps, or bungalow complexes, all of which have the necessary amenities.
Next on your list has to be Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve which is halfway between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg. Gushing waterfalls, formidable canyons, rich wildlife, and a view to remember is what makes this jewel of the Dark Continent one of the most awe-inspiring places in the whole world. Being the Canyon’s highest peaks, Mariepskop and the Three Rondavels offer a breathtaking view of the surrounding scenery from the Three Rondavels lookout point. This attraction is possibly the most iconic in this nature reserve but there are also plenty of other landmarks in Blyde River Canyon you should not miss.
Among the best family destinations is Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in Northern Cape which offers some outstanding activities for children. Its Tswalu Junior Ranger program not only teaches the importance of environment conservation but it also includes activities such as archery courses, educational picnics, bush walks, and safari guided tours for the whole family. Field guides and trackers are of service to everyone wanting to gain insight into this extraordinary ecosystem and they will show you the abundance of wildlife thriving in this area. You can get close to wildlife by riding on horseback or exploring the reserve on a Kalahari cart.
If none of these impress your youngsters (which isn’t very likely), the V&A Waterfront is sure to give them unforgettable memories. V&A Waterfront is one of the most popular tourist spots in Cape Town and this entertainment and shopping complex has everything you can think of. The youngsters will probably appreciate Ocean Aquariums which will give them an amazing opportunity to meet the underwater world up close and personal. They can see sharks, stingrays, turtles, and many other marine creatures in their natural environment. In addition to this, they can also pay a visit to the Penguin Exhibit and feed these charming birds.
How Expensive is South Africa?
Assuming you are headed for South Africa from Europe, Asia, or the Americas, you must be wondering about the cost of staying there, especially if you are a budget traveler globetrotting with kids. The truth is, this country is really cost-effective so don’t be surprised to discover that dinner in a high-end restaurant won’t cost you more than 30 euros per person, on average. Groceries in supermarkets are also fairly favorably priced and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to fill the basket. You can easily compare the cost of living in South Africa with those of your own country and calculate how much money you will need.
Of course, when it comes to booking a hotel, you have a lot of choice at your disposal. However, if you’re planning to go on a safari trip, you might want to stay low on the accommodation because safaris tend to be pricey. Instead, make an effort to find the best AirBnB in South Africa and make a reservation as soon as possible because the competition is high. Transportation is also one of the good sides of travelling to South Africa. Road conditions are good and there is a great road network coverage supported by Transportation Network Companies such as Uber. The taxi fares are reasonable although you should only use taxis to commute within large metropolitan areas. There are also long-distance rail services and the rapid rail for those of you who are travelling on a budget and want to enjoy the scenery along the way. You can read about other travelers’ recommendations whose first-hand experience might help you with unlocking this country’s true potential.
Managing Health Risks
Traveling with kids involves careful planning when it comes to mitigating any potential health risks the whole family might be exposed to wherever you travel. This is even more so when you are travelling to a place that has a high disease risk. Generally speaking, it is always a good idea to have the children get all the recommended vaccines at least 28 days before the trip and carry the immunization record with you. Timely MMR vaccine (measles-mumps-rubella), varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, as well as the yearly flu shot will protect your children against these contagious illnesses no matter where you are. Since many popular tourist destinations are highly likely to suffer from an outbreak of measles, South Africa is only one of them because thousands of tourists visit it on a regular basis. Similarly, malaria is also one of the biggest health concerns. In order to reduce the risk of being bitten, keep away from the areas most affected by malaria-carrying mosquitoes such as KwaZulu Natal or the Lowveld of Mpumalanga. In addition to this, have a word with your doctor and stay informed about the medications used in preventing malaria. Lastly, you can apply other preventive measures and use insect repellent sprays or lotions, check if the windows of your room are screened (otherwise keep them closed at night), and wear long sleeves and trousers during evening activities.
South Africa is the land of polarity and contrasts that doesn’t cease to amaze anyone who visits it. Parents travelling with children to this tropical land of beauty and splendor will surely create unforgettable memories that will have no match for years to come. Your youngsters will get the chance to come into contact with the untarnished natural world which very few other countries can boast.