- Is it safe to visit South Africa with kids?
- What kind of vaccination do we need?
- Will we be in a Malaria area?
- Is South Africa just dusty and desert like?
- What about snakes and spiders?
- Which is the best area for 1st timers in South Africa?
- How long should I plan a trip to South Africa with kids?
- Should I go on a safari/game drive with young kids?
- Can we self-drive in Wild Animal National Parks?
- Will we be seeing the Big 5 game animals along the Garden Route?
- Are kids allowed on a Private game drive?
- Do we need to overnight in a private luxury reserve to join a game drive?
- Will we be able to see whales?
- Do we need to rent a car?
- How many accommodation bases do we need when travelling the Garden Route?
- How hot will it get?
- How safe is it to go out at night on foot?
Having just returned from an amazing family trip to South Africa with kids we have listed some important points which will make your planning smoother and your trip more efficient. Plus I have tried to answer all your questions regarding a trip to South Africa with kids.
This is mainly focused on the southern coast of South Africa, from Cape Town along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth.
Based on personal experience here is all you need to know when
Travelling to South Africa with Kids
There are a lot of questions on any parents list, when planning a trip to South Africa with kids. There is one for sure on the very top!
Is it safe to visit South Africa with kids?
Yes it is! This was our 4th time to this amazing country but the 1st time with the kids. We had no doubt on whether we would bring the kids on our 4th trip. And believe me I would not take my kids to any country if I had just the slightest of doubt that they would not be safe.
For sure there are places I would not take the kids and actually not even I would go alone, like a local shantytown without a registered guide. But there are also places in London I would avoid. So, I guess it is a bit the same. Just be sensible and behave like a responsible tourist.
What kind of vaccinations do we need?
None, and this is why South Africa is such a great African country and another plus point on the family travel destination list. However please check with your health care professional for updated information.
Will we be in a Malaria area?
If you stay south and west you are in a very low malaria risk sector. I would maybe not recommend to go to the north east of South Africa with younger kids, i.e Krüger National Park. They do still have some malaria cases reported, although very rare cases but why would you want to take the risk? Save this trip for later on when the kids are older and their immune system is a bit stronger. Believe me the south also has great game viewing to offer. If it makes you feel safer, speak with your doctor and maybe just bring some tablets that can be taken if malaria is suspected.
And just for your information we have visited the Krüger National Park for 10 days without the kids and did not have any problems. Read more here
Is South Africa just dusty and desert like?
No not at all, I actually had to smile when someone asked me this question. Gosh, South Africa is so far away from a desert and dust, like night and day are apart. And I guess this is a big reason why we love it so much and it makes a trip to South Africa with kids even more a MUST do destination. South Africa has an incredible flora and fauna, especially if you travel during their spring and early summer it blossoms with thousands of different species.There is so much to see, to name just a few…
- Small Towns
- Sand dunes
What about snakes and spiders?
Yes, South Africa is home to snakes and spiders that for some is a reason not to visit. The truth is that not all of them are as evil as you think. If you know what to look out for, you can prepare yourself and avoid the fear and unknown. Most of these creatures sneak away when they sense movement in their environment and you can actually call yourselves lucky when you are able to see a snake in its natural environment.
Which is the best area for 1sttimers when planning a trip to South Africa with kids?
I would honestly say, having travelled all around South Africa that the south from Cape Town along the Garden Route all the way to Port Elizabeth, is a perfect, safe and amazing place to start your discovery of South Africa with kids.
How long should I plan a trip to South Africa with kids?
I would recommend a minimum stay of 2 weeks. This makes the11.5 hours flight more worthwhile and you can enjoy a nice part of the Garden Route in this time. Anything less I would concentrate maybe only on Cape Town and visit surrounding destinations from there. If you have one month or more consider yourselves lucky. You can then include Blyde River area in the north, maybe even the Krüger NP.
Do we need to rent a car?
Oh yes, public transport is nearly not existent and when travelling South Africa with kids you want to be flexible and a car will give you this freedom.
How many accommodation bases do we need when travelling the Garden Route?
From Cape Town along the famous Garden Route to Port Elizabeth you will be covering a good 750 km. For us we always limit the time in the car to an absolute maximum of six hours. Everything more is just uncomfortable and nobody is happy. I would recommend for the whole Garden Route to be split into a minimum of 2-3 different accommodations for a 2 week trip and more if you want to go longer and all the way to Port Elizabeth.
You can choose for example to go from west to east on the beach road and back inland. This way you will cover most of the attractions.
Should I go on a safari/game drive with young kids?
Well isn’t this one of the main reasons you are travelling to South Africa with kids? You MUST go on a safari/game drive with your kids. Whether it is a self-drive or a guided safari in one of the many parks along the Garden Route, you cannot miss this out. Check with the many parks and private parks what the minimum age limit for kids is to join their game drives. Some are not allowing kids below 6 years of age. But don’t worry there is an amazing park for families called Kragga Kamma next to Port Elizabeth.
Can we self-drive in Wild Animal National Parks?
Along the Garden Route there are 2 self-drive parks, the amazing Addo Elephant Park, and the family friendly Kragga Kamma game park.
The biggest of the self-drive parks in South Africa is Krüger National Park up in the north of South Africa.
Will we be seeing the Big 5 game animals along the Garden Route?
Get excited, YES, you will be able to see all of the big 5 game animals which are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros (both black and white species), elephant, and Cape buffalo. Some parks have them all, mostly the luxury private game parks, but you will also be able to tick these 5 boxes on your game animal check list if you combine some parks together.
Are kids allowed on a private game drive?
Not all private game reserves allow kids on their drives. I kind of get this, as it can get sometimes a bit boring for them and there is the risk that the kids will disturb the other guests. However, check what the possibilities are with the private game lodge you have chosen and you may need to pay for a private tour. The following private reserves are allowing families with young children.
Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve and Garden Route Game Lodge.
Do we need to overnight in a private luxury reserve to join a game drive?
Luckily over the years some of the private luxury game reserves have opened up to day guests and you can now book a game drive at several lodges throughout the Garden Route. Just call them up and get some information. It is a great option as there is a good chance you will be able to see the animals up close.
Will we be able to see whales?
The best time for watching the southern right whale in South Africa is from June to November mostly along the Cape south coast. Peak calving season is during the months of July and August, but the whales can be seen through to November. Best place to see them is along the Garden Route in Hermanus and my absolute insider TOP TIP is De Kelders in Gansbaai.
How hot will it get?
Maybe you would like to avoid visiting in the middle of their summer. South Africa can get very hot and temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius are not unknown especially in the north and middle parts of the country. It is very unlikely that you will plan a beach holiday when visiting this beautiful place, so I would recommend to visit either in November or May.
We Love November. Europe is cold and wet during this time and in South Africa it is Spring!
How safe is it to go out at night on foot?
You have to ask yourselves the question, “would I go out in my city at night alone?” especially when living in a large metropolitan city. I would say it depends where you and your family will be staying. For sure in some areas you can easily walk around the block and have dinner in the nearby restaurant, and there will be areas where you are better off taking the car for safety reasons. Ask your host/hotel they will give you an honest answer. Just be sensible like everywhere you travel.
Good to know when travelling to South Africa with kids
CapeNature and SANParks.
You will quickly realise that most of the parks require an entry fee. Some cost very little, some cost you a bit more. The good thing is all parks are very well maintained, clean and safe and most of them offer great picnic areas and toilets.
There is a system in place “the WILD card” whereby you pay a one off fee and have unlimited entry to nearly all parks and Nature reserves. This is well worth the investment if you are travelling more than three weeks and intend to visit as many of the South African parks and reserves as you can. We did the calculations (prices are available on line) before we travelled and it was cheaper for us to pay as and when we entered the parks. The Wild Card may be more beneficial if you intend to visit the Krüger National Park for several days, as the daily fees are quite expensive. This way you will cover the price of the card quite quickly, which will then make most of the other parks free of charge.
You can find more information direct on their website.
You will find some parking areas are monitored by a local person who will ask you if they can take care of your car whilst you’re away. In most areas these people will be wearing a dedicated bib, whereby you can clearly see that they are appointed for that area. When you return to your car you can pay them 5-10 rand. Do not allow just a random person to take care of your car and certainly do not pay just anybody. This will not help the systems in place and will just cause problems.
I have yet to come across an unmanned petrol filling station in South Africa.
As you approach the pumps you will normally be guided to a pump and an attendant will ask what you require. If you wish you can stay in the car during the whole process and they will even bring the credit card terminal to you to complete payment. The attendants will normally clean your windows and if you request, check the oil and tyres too. Again the standard tip is between 5-10 Rand.
Using a GPS whilst driving
Depending on the GPS you’re using you might need to enter the county region you are driving in. This is sometimes not as easy as it sounds. For example Cape Town has 9 different regions, and if you’re not on the right region you will never find the street or the village you’re looking for. Make sure you find out the exact address before heading off. On our TOP MUST HAVE list is this road atlas, which is super easy to use and has helped us during the many times we travelled though South Africa.
You can drive 3 min inland and have the hottest weather even though it was windy or even rainy when you left your accommodation. A good habit is to bring extra clothes for the different conditions.
In Cape Town for example if you’re staying along the Bloubergstrand (best view of Table Mountain) it is often windy, sometimes even very strong winds. Don’t get fooled, you will quickly realise that as soon as you get further away from the coast, it will be hot and windless.
For us Europeans this is certainly a major plus point when travelling to South Africa with kids. There is only a one to two-hour time difference. Ideal for the kids and to be honest also for the parents.
South African supermarkets only sell wine and normally a limited selection. If you wish to buy beer, other alcohol or have a greater choice of wines then you need to look for the bottle shop. In most places you will find a bottle shop in the vicinity of the supermarket and often operated by the same company as the supermarket.
In addition to your passports if you are travelling to South Africa with kids you must bring the full original birth certificate of each child. If only one parent is travelling with the kids you must also have a notarized permission letter from the non-travelling parent. Check with your embassy. Read more information here
Never forget to travel…
Should you have any more questions, or if you have some great suggestions we have missed out, let me know I am happy to update my list.
Share with friends and family for future references, we do appreciate it !
You may also like.
Hi, my name is Corina, a mum of twins, a wife, a small holiday rental business owner and founder of Packed Again – family travel & adventure site. We live in the most amazing mountain valley in Switzerland, the Valais.
Being out there as a family, either locally or whilst travelling is super important for our whole well-being and sanity Travelling has always been a passion of mine. Globetrotting the world for over 14 years, part of it together with my husband, has shown us some of the most amazing places and we were able to make some incredible encounters with locals, animals and the nature itself. The love and passion for all the above has now been transferred to our children who already at three are some great nomads in the making.
It is our aim to encourage all families which are daunted and uncomfortable taking the kids travelling to go out there as a family. Do it once and you will not regret it!
Never forget to travel!
Thank you Corina
A journey of a thousand MILES begins with a single STEPLao Tzu
And what would we do without our great Lonely Planet!
These are all great books we used for all our trips and highly recommend them.