Southern Africa FAQ

For more travel details about JOURNEYS worldwide nature and culture explorations see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below. For additional questions regarding travel to Africa, South America, Australia, Asia and the Middle East, call 1-800-255-8735.

JOURNEYS Southern Africa FAQ

Frequently askedquestions about Southern Africa


What official documents do I need to travel to Southern Africa?

You will require a passport valid for at least six months after your date of entry to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia or Zambia. No visas are required for US citizens visiting Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa or Swaziland. Mozambique visas ($25) must be acquired in advance of travel. Visas for Zambia ($25) and Zimbabwe ($30) are available at the borders or entry airports. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required if you are arriving from a yellow fever endemic area, such as Kenya or Tanzania. South Africa has recently amended its entry requirements to require two consecutive blank passport pages that must be side by side when the passport is open. Travelers without two consecutive pages risk not being allowed to board their flight or being deported on arrival in South Africa. In addition, a parent traveling with children, WITHOUT the other parent, will need a letter of consent from the absent parent. The letter of consent must be notarized.

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What immunizations and health precautions should I take for Southern Africa?

You must be in good health to make any of these trips. Health insurance is required. Consult your personal physician, travel health clinic or the Travelers’ Health section of the Center for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/safrica.htm.). This website is a good source of links to many other health and disease related websites. Malaria does exist in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. You will want to be prepared.

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How safe is the food and water in Southern Africa?

Most of the time on most of our trips we will have good control over food preparation and service. Bottled water is widely available throughout the safari region. You guide will offer specific advice. Avoid buying local drinks served with ice. Do not eat market foods exposed to flies or served cold or uncooked.

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How is drinking water handled on camping trips?

Bottled water is not provided as a part of our group camping trips. All our vehicles and/or trailers are equipped with large water tanks which are filled from safe water sources: either purified "domestic" sources (when in town) or fresh spring water (if source known & safe ). This water is used for cooking and drinking mainly, and for showers if no other water is available. Of course, there is a limit to the quantity carried and, depending on the route, if it cannot be replenished as required, it could be rationed or restricted. Most camps in South Africa and Namibia will have access to domestic purified water, but camps in Botswana, Zambia and Malawi do not. Water from rivers or lakes can be purified for drinking with tablets and by boiling if the vehicle’s water supply runs short. If this is the case, we find most clients prefer to carry their own bottled water, which they can purchase from shops when passing through towns. The guide will advise travelers if they should purchase water and how many days for which they should provide.

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How much spending money should I take and in what form?

It depends on the trip and your spending habits. Most people will bring at least $500 to cover emergency needs. US dollars cash in small bills ($50 or less—many places will not accept $100 bills for fear of counterfeits) for tips and purchases is the most useful and versatile way to bring spending money. The South African Rand (ZAR) is the most widely accepted local currency. Credit cards are acceptable in larger towns and in large hotels. Visa and American Express are the most commonly accepted. It is not recommended that you use a credit card or travelers checks in Zimbabwe. Restaurant meals are not generally expensive. Outside of pre-paid expenses, additional necessary costs will likely be less than $10 per day. You may wish to budget $10-$20 per day.

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Is group travel for me?

All of the safaris listed on our website for Southern Africa are group trips. Trip members are predominantly from Europe, the US, and Canada. The group size can be up to 16 people, depending on which trip you choose. The group departure dates in Southern Africa tend to fill, especially during high season, which is July through December. One of the benefits of group travel in Southern Africa is a significantly lower trip cost than traveling privately. It is also ideal for people who are traveling alone and who would like to join others for the safari experience. These trips cannot be customized, but some can be run privately most of the year. If you are looking for something which can be more customized, with greater personal attention, please let us know.

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What does full-participation campning mean?

You have to help the guide and camp assistant with camp chores like pitching and packing tents, food preparation and clean up. You will have to manage your own luggage during vehicle loading and unloading and you may help with the shopping. Generally, full participation trips are for younger participants who prefer fewer amenities and have the energy and desire to join the staff in the physical aspects of making the safari a great experience. Older participants, however, may still enjoy these trips, and the ages of travelers on these departures often span a wide range.

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Will I have to help with camp chores on the non-participation camping trips?

The guide and assistants prepare all meals and handle other camp chores.

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What is a fully-serviced mobile camping safari?

Your task is just to enjoy. All aspects of camp operation, meal service and planning are handled by the safari staff. Tents are very spacious with en-suite facilities. Groups are smaller, meals are more elegant, amenities are abundant.

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What are the tents & facilities like for the different modes of camping?

On full-participation safaris and non-participation camping safaris we use spacious dome tents which erect easily. They have full floors and zippered mosquito netting. A short person can stand at the center. They are rated as 3-4 person tents but are used for just one to two people. You will be provided with a foam mattress and a camp chair.

Toilet and washing facilities vary from country to country. In South Africa and Namibia, and some places in Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique, travelers stay in established camp sites where there is access to constructed, communal ablution facilities with running water for showers (often only cold water) and flush toilets. It is in Botswana mainly, and where in an itinerary we may specify "bush camp", that such facilities are not available and a bush shower and bush toilet are provided as part of the camp equipment. A bush shower and bush toilet are constructed from the same kind of dome tents as those which accommodate travelers, but with the ground sheet cut out and the top cut off. For the shower, a container with a shower head or tap in the bottom is suspended over the tent, usually from a tree. This is filled with water as required for showering. For the toilet, a deep hole is dug, over which is placed a portable toilet seat. Strict hygiene and conservation rules are followed, with toilet paper being burned and shovels available to cover the hole after each visit. These ablution tents are placed a little way from the camping area to allow for privacy.

On the fully-serviced mobile camping safaris, walk-in tents are equipped with toilet and shower facilities. You will be provided with a bed, all bed linens, and small table, as well as a camp chair.

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Are single accommodations available?

It is possible to request a single supplement. The cost is usually quite minimal except on fully-serviced safaris. We will do our best to accommodate you, but it is not always possible to guarantee single accommodations in every location.

Once on safari, travelers who requested a single will often choose to share with another person who also has a single simply because it is easier to put up a tent with two people rather than one and there’s the comfort factor of not being alone in a tent in the wilderness. We cannot offer a refund of a single supplement in this situation.

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What is a ‘rest camp’?

The term ‘rest camp’ refers to accommodation within any of the National Parks or Game Reserves in South Africa. Rest camps vary in size and style, but usually consist of accommodation in twin bedded or family rondavels (round rooms) or cottages consisting of bedrooms with private bathroom facilities. Some have small lounge areas or verandahs with a table & chairs; others offer permanent tented accommodation on raised platforms, but all are single story individual rooms. Most rest camps also cater to campers, have shops, restaurants, bars and some have swimming pools. The accommodation is often simple, but clean and comfortable and worth the simplicity to be within the Park itself.

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What if I’ve never camped before?

During your safari briefing, your driver/guide will explain the procedure for pitching a tent and go over camp safety. If you are really concerned about the prospect of camping, it may be a good idea to undertake a smaller camping trip nearer to home, if you are able, before committing to one of the longer itineraries.

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What are the safari vehicles like?

Vehicles are chosen according to terrain and trip style. Larger participation camping and overland groups travel in specially constructed Mercedes Benz safari vehicles with open sides, full roof, refrigerator and ample spares. Smaller groups and shorter trips utilize various Toyota 4x4 Land Cruiser and Safari wagons also specially modified for the specific terrain and exploration style defined in the itinerary.

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What is the best time of year to visit Southern Africa?

The rather mild rainy season lasts from late November through mid-April in the safari regions; however if you are traveling to South Africa, the southern Cape is experiencing summer at that time and is a wonderful place to visit. Parts of Botswana and Zambia may be difficult or impossible to reach during the rainy (green) season Jan-April and “green” season itineraries may come into effect. The Cape area can be cold and rainy during the Southern African winter from June through August. Namibia is very hot in December and January. Birds are most abundant October through February. In fact, many safaris operate year round. Air and land prices may be higher in July –August and December-January. August trips fill quickly.

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Do the guides carry guns in the national parks?

Sometimes, but not as a general rule. There may be occasions when we pick up a local park guard to accompany us on hiking segments or in areas where there are poachers or known problem animals.

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What international airlines and routes do you recommend for Southern Africa?

South African Airways, KLM/Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa all serve this area.

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How safe is Southern Africa?

Southern Africa is safe. Local guides and crew are totally trustworthy and will warn you about local dangers from animals, insects, weather or thieves. We will avoid areas with persistent urban crime issues and skirt any political demonstrations which may occur. Outside of Zimbabwe our routes cross politically stable countries and well managed borders. For current Department of State announcements and Consular information see http://travel.state.gov/.

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What other expenses will I incur that are not included in my trip cost?

You will spend money for tips, personal items, visas (Zambia and Zimbabwe), liquor, and some meals. You may have airport tax or return accommodations expenses depending on your ticketing. There may be additional costs for flights to get you to the trip starting point from Johannesburg or Cape Town or to get you back to one of these cities for flights home.

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What kind of luggage do you recommend for Southern Africa?

Soft luggage, duffle style, weighing less than 15 kg, or 33 lbs. You may wish an additional day pack to be kept at your feet with valuables, camera, binoculars, sun glasses, etc.

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How much should I tip my guides and staff in Southern Africa?

Tips are at your discretion. Most people will tip US$5-7 per day of service/ traveler for guide and camp staff and more modestly for incidental and temporary assistants.

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Can JOURNEYS arrange private and custom trips in Southern Africa?

Yes, let us know where you wish to go and we can give you a sense of the services available through our local operators. We use different operators for private trips.

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Can I take extra time before or after my scheduled trip to Southern Africa?

Yes. We can easily provide additional accommodation if you wish to take extra time before or after the scheduled trip dates, or you are free to arrange your own.

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Is it possible to combine a trip to Southern Africa with travel in East Africa?

Yes. There are once a week flights from Livingstone, Zambia to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania.

Flights run frequently between Johannesburg and Antananarivo, Madagascar. There is also daily service between Johannesburg and Nairobi, which is the easiestway to combine the two areas.

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