Growing up watching Disney Channel Original Movies like “The Color of Friendship”, an emotional children’s film following the friendship of two girls, one white from South Africa, and one black from America; I never thought I would get the opportunity to visit the very place some of the movie chronicled.
Thanks to one of my very best friends, Jennifer, I had the chance to visit her while she completes a work project in South Africa, and live just a little like the friends in the movie.
Now when you think Africa, most people say The Lion King, safaris, and African tribes come to mind. That’s not at all the case for South Africa – Johannesburg at least. So what is South Africa really like? Amazing! But no, it’s probably not like what you think.
From 1948 to 1994, South Africa went through a period of segregation called Apartheid where whites, blacks, Indians, and Asians were all separated by hate. After years of sufferage, leaders like Nelson Mandela were able to break down barriers and create peace. The city of Johannesburg today is full of new developement, tall buildings, beeping cars, palm trees, and contrary to popular belief, sometimes snow!
I fully encourage travel, and traveling often, so if you’re considering a visit to South Africa, read on for some tips to make the most of your vacation.
If you’re in America, Africa is across some water and on another continent. Prepare for a LONG flight. Total, my flights were 19 hours including short layovers. Be sure to rest up, wear comfy clothes, and book a window or isle seat. The middle seat on long flights are the worst!
In South Africa, you’ll pay with Rand, and you will be surprised by the exchange rates. Our dollar is worth more, so when shopping and buying food, you’ll feel rich! But be careful because it can be easy to just spend money since things are a little bit cheaper. To put it into perspective, a steak dinner, appetizers, drinks, and sides for 3 will likely be a little less than 50 US dollars. Be sure to bring cash and exchange your money at your hotel to avoid credit/debit card fees.
Because of the Apartheid, things aren’t all rainbows and sunshine. Like anywhere, there’s a fine line between safety and freedom. Ladies. Wear a purse that is not easily accessible for pick pocketors to get into. Small to mid-size sadle bags work well, so you can carry them close to your person. For men, a wallet that zips and fits in your front pockets may work best. You’ll also find that establishments close somewhat early compared to the US, so make plans accordingly and DO NOT take a taxi to reach your destination. Ubers and the train are the safest forms of transportation next to getting around by way of any locals you may know.
There’s so much to see and do! Here’s just a brief list:
- Apartheid Museum (bring tissue, it’s quite sad, but a must-see to understand the culture)
- Lion Park (you can actually interact with the animals – so cool!)
- Lillies Farm (Nelson Mandela took refuge here)
- Soweto (A colorful city in the midst of South Africa)
- Shopping (there are several great malls including Sandton City and Rosebank)
- Monte Carlo Casino
- Fine Dining (try the ostrich and a restaurant called Moyo for live music and a welcoming African atmosphere)
- Sunday Market (interact with the locals to purchase hand-made, authentic goods)