Plan your Trip
Green Elephant Backpackers - helping you to
PLAN YOUR TRIP:
This page is to help you plan your trip to Southern Africa. It is only a broad guideline and we will reply to all queries. However for the best tours and car rental it is essential to book ahead as the seats and cars go very quickly. You may end up having to pay a lot more for same service.
I have travelled in South Africa independently since 1985, so have a fair amount of knowledge I would love to share with you. This form is intended to assist you in looking at the options relevant to you as a person with likes and dislikes apart from others. Please feel free to use our love for our country to help you get the best possible experiences.
The easiest way to plan if you have a fixed departure date is to work forward from your arrival date, then back from your departure date, and finally fill in the days in between.
The ideal way to see South Africa is to fly into Cape Town and fly out of Johannesburg or the other way around. This means you will not need to backtrack over a course you have already travelled.
If you are flying into Johannesburg or Pretoria, I recommend going straight to The Kruger Park for a 4 day trip. This will be the best introduction to the game and outdoor experiences SA has to offer. If you are flying out of Johannesburg, then plan your trip to end with a trip to the Game reserves, flying out the day after your trip ends.
There are VISA and MASTERCARD facilities all around South Africa. However I strongly recommend bringing a large portion in SA Rand Travellers cheques. They are as good as cash, generally cheaper than cash advances from bank machines and easily replaced if they are lost or stolen.
There are excellent backpacker hostels all around South Africa, so quality accommodation is no problem. The network has over 200 hostels in Southern Africa and there are several free guide books to help you to decide where to stay. The cost is around R90 per person in dorms in the cities and R300 per double/twin room. We at the Green Elephant recommend the best hostels in the other towns for you to stay in.
Try Backpacker Tourism South Africa
South Africa has good roads with the national speed limit of 120 km/h. We drive on the left hand side. If you are driving yourself, be careful of other cars speeding and especially careful on dirt roads.
Greyhound, Intercape and Translux provide bus services around South Africa. We can book these for you at The Green Elephant.
The rail network in South Africa links the main cities efficiently, but slowly. But it is still good fun.The trains are slow and in season quiet fully booked. Cape Town to Johannesburg takes 26 hours. For Train information have a look at the Spoornet site in the Passenger section
There are two recommended low cost airlines - Kulula and OneTime and South Africa Airways offer special deals for online bookings.
The Backpackers door to door service around South Africa
Booking your Baz Bus Ticket
If you have a shorter time, travelling with one or more friends then perhaps renting a car is a good option. You need to be over 23 years old , have had a licence for over 2 years and have a credit card. You can budget on about R200 per day for a week, but less for a longer period of time.
I would like to Rent a Car
You are now probably more excited by the many options for a great trip , so do the real thing!
Western Cape highlights
This map shows the towns accessible within a days drive of Cape Town.
Online Specials - before you leave home
Before you come to South Africa, there are some items worth considering beforehand-
This page gives you with some guidance
Prepaid SIM card for cellphones - We can book Vodacom or MTN cards for you and give you the number to give to your family and friends before you arrive
Before you arrive in Cape Town, we offer you discounts on our most popular day tour bookings by receiving payment before you arrive.
You are always advised to have Travel Insurance and this is a very well priced online company
We have found that these Guide Books are the most used and many backpackers wish that they had them before they arrive.
There are two South African hostel guides that are not available overseas, but if you would like them, we can post them to you.
Shark cage diving
Great White Sharks:
Sharks are quite possibly the world's most feared animals. From the smallest sand shark to the enormous whale shark, they are sleek, muscled, and some are almost as agile as a dolphin. There is no doubt that they are the most evolved predators in the ocean. Row upon row of teeth and capable of sensing the blood of an injured animal from over a kilometre away, its not surprising that they are the most feared creature beneath the waves. And of them all, the Great White is the most awesome.
White Shark Diving:
What we are offering you is the opportunity to dive and meet a Great White Shark, face to face - and on your own terms. Its an education and you will soon learn that this magnificent creature is in fact, highly misunderstood. It is a creature which should be more respected than feared. And if you spend some quality time with us, and with them, you will quickly learn why.
Getting into the cage with the sharks around, is truly the most breath-taking experience you will ever live to remember. When feeding actively around the boat, the sharks may occasionally brush their tail against the cage, but NEVER attack the cage. They are very curious though and often come close-up to the cage, taking a closer look at the diver. A personal, eye-to-eye encounter with this awesome animal, is guaranteed to get the adrenaline going!
White shark diving up close and personal Our cage is situated next to the side of the boat and once ready to take the dive, our Dive Master would assist the diver into the opening at the top of the cage. Once in position, the divers head would be no more than half a meter below the surface. A free-board of approx. 30cm allows the diver to rise to the surface and effectively communicate with the Dive Master on the boat. Snorkelers would secure themselves by holding onto the convenient cross bars, situated at the top of the cage.
Diving takes place on a quick and effective rotational system, with 5 to 6 divers down at a time. Once the rotation is completed it will be repeated, therefore ensuring that each diver can take as many dives as possible. Time spent in the cage depends on weather/water conditions, shark activity and eagerness of each diver, but is usually approx. 15 minutes at a time. We rarely have more than 18 divers on board at a time, ensuring maximum cage diving time for all divers and snorkelers.
Scuba versus Snorkeling
A scuba certification is not a necessity to be able to dive in the cage, as we also allow snorkeling. While certified scuba divers dive on scuba, inexperienced divers are able to enjoy the same experience on snorkel. Both methods are equally comfortable and takes place under strict supervision of our Dive Master.When does snorkeling / scuba diving take place?
Diving is not always guaranteed since we work 10 km out at sea and only know what the shark activity and sea conditions are like once we arrive at the dive site. We are, however, able to continue with diving 95% of the time. It is also known that during certain seasons we encounter sharks that are very cautious and are therefore easily frightened by sound, such as the sound of scuba breathing equipment. To avoid scaring the sharks off as soon as they arrive at the boat, we often commence the diving on snorkel. Should the sharks become more relaxed and confident with having the divers around, we will then switch to scuba. However, diving on scuba is not guaranteed as it all depends on the types of sharks we encounter on each particular tour. It is obviously better to view sharks from the cage on snorkel, than not to get to see the sharks at all.
Cape Peninsula Day Tour
Rate: R540 per person
Duration: Full Day Tour
Days of Departure: Daily
Departure Time: 07h20 from The Green Elephant Backpackers
What's Included: A light Breakfast, Mouth-watering lunch, all entrance fees (Cape of Good Hope), use of our cycle bikes, informative registered Satour guide and a guaranteed FUN - FILLED day. After picking you up from your accommodation, we continue along the Atlantic Seaboard to Hout Bay Harbour checking out the Twelve Apostles Mountains in the background.
Guided commentary keeps you entertained as you travel the scenic route to the Cape Point. Our enthusiastic guide will let you in on the "who's who" of the Cape Peninsula!
Once in Hout Bay, an optional boat cruise to Seal Island comes highly recommended, to visit the Cape Fur Seal colony on Duiker Island. (Approximately R60.00). Otherwise browse around the harbour and check out the local crafts.
Put the flap back into your flippers with a visit to the endangered (and entertaining) penguins at BouldersBeach. The locals protected them and the colony grew. Now the site is a state park. The locals sometimes wonder if it has been a blessing or not. Penguins rule the beach and tend to be late night party animals!!
The exhilarating downhill cycle through the free roaming wildlife of the Cape Point Nature Reserve helps you to work up a healthy appetite. A very healthy, energy boosting picnic lunch will be served at a lunch stop in the reserve.
After a delicious picnic alongside the ocean, take a dip in the icy ocean and enjoy a leisurely stroll to the South-Western most point of Africa. We leave the reserve and make our way to Gina's African Arts, near Scarborough. Discount vouchers will be handed out after the tour.
Mon, Wed, Fri - R545.00 Includes tastings & picnic lunch
This is a truly mellow day with absolutely no exercise involved... except for the lifting of your wine glass to taste the liquid of life! During the day you will visit three regions of the Cape Winelands: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, with a tasting in each region and a cellar tour* at one of the farms. All the wine farms offer a variety of white and red cultivars, as well as their own blends & styles. We allow enough time for each tasting to fully appreciate and enjoy the winemaster's art.
We also visit the charming historical towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. All three wine regions offer the most amazing scenery and, while enjoying our legendary scrumptious picnic lunch, the spectacular views will certainly leave you with a lasting impression.
WINELANDS #2 (with biking)
Tues, Thurs, Sat* - R545.00 Includes tastings and a picnic lunch
As #1, but at some point during the day, we will swap four wheels for two & cycle through the vineyards. Nothing serious, certainly not the Tour de France! Just enough to get a little exercise and make you even more thirsty!
* Note: There will be no cellar tour on a Saturday due to early closings of the vineyards.
Daytrippers Cape Point and Peninsula Tour
With hiking and biking
Every day - R545.00 Includes entrance fees & picnic lunch
Where do the two oceans meet? And why is it called "the Cape of Good Hope"? Join us on a journey of discovery as we explore the splendour of the Cape Peninsula. We follow the Atlantic Seaboard, past Clifton & Camps Bay, to the fishing hamlet of Hout Bay for an optional boat cruise to Duiker Island to experience thousands of Cape Fur Seals in their natural habitat (R35). We continue along the scenic Chapman's Peak Drive to Simon's Town to meet up with a colony of rare Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach.
You would've noticed the bicycles behind the bus by now! Once inside the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, we swap four wheels for two to get some fresh air into our lungs and to build up a healthy appetite.
Our legendary scrumptious picnic lunch will then be served somewhere in the reserve... maybe at one of the stunning beaches! Are you brave enough to challenge the Atlantic?
After lunch we hike to the top lighthouse at Cape Point and then to the Cape of Good Hope. Both hikes offer breathtaking vistas and REAL fresh air! We return home via Scarborough and Kommetjie.
You will need:
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Shorts or trousers
- A sweater/windbreaker
- Sunscreen (For summer time... SPF 30+)
- Bathing costume. (Should the weather allow it, we will have lunch at one of the beaches and swimming might be possible!)
Fixed Local Rates
Fixed Local Rates- Cape Town based companies and agencies
For all Local Car rentals, you need a valid credit card that will be authorised for the full rental amount, and the applicable Excess.
To have your own vehicle in South Africa opens many routes more difficult to access normally. If you are going to be in South Africa over 3 months, I highly recommend getting your own car - either by buying it yourself Click here for buying details or Buying it from a company that guarantees to buy it back from you or renting it.
We use handpicked car hire companies because of the good service they have offered us.
Planning ahead is the key to low rates for cars, especially in peak season. Travellers have different needs, so please select the most applicable one for you.
PLEASE NOTE - All rates may be subject to change beyond The Green Elephant's control.
The cheapest student car rentals are always heavily booked, so please BOOK AHEAD!
Car Mania Long term student cars at an affordable rate for students.This works out to be the best over long periods.
Buying a car in South Africa
Buying a second hand car is always time consuming and fraught with problems. Beware: new and second hand cars are relatively expensive in South Africa. Finding good quality, used cars at low prices is very difficult. You would be lucky to find a reliable one for under ZAR 15000. The best way to ensure that the car is worth buying is to have it tested by the AA (Automobile Association of SA.) before purchasing. This way you will know exactly what you are getting and won’t end up with any unpleasant surprises.
Once you have decided to take ownership of the vehicle you must get a valid roadworthy certificate for it, either from a traffic department or from a government approved testing station. (The seller is not obligated to give this to you). This is necessary in order to transfer the vehicle into your name. The original registration papers of this vehicle must also be obtained from the previous Owner, together with a note from them stating that you have paid in full AND that they don’t owe anything on the car. If the vehicle was previously financed through a bank, a copy of the bank release certificate should be obtained, confirming that the financing has been settled.
You then have 21 days in which to register the car in your name and change the license disc accordingly. To do this you need the original registration papers, a roadworthy certificate, a notification of “change of ownership/sale of motor vehicle”, and a South African identity document or passport. If you are a foreigner you need to obtain a traffic register number from the relevant Traffic Department. For this you will need to present your foreign passport.
It is advisable to obtain full comprehensive insurance or at least insurance for balance of Third Party, fire and theft. Generally this is very difficult without a permanent address in South Africa or local bank account. Most insurance companies may not insure drivers under 25 years of age.
This process is obviously lengthy and may present varouis problems to a foreigner. At this stage only Drive South Africa offers a solution to this - Rental Purchase! You buy a car from them; they take care of all the paperwork etc. and they guarantee to buy the car back from you when you’re ready to leave the country. (And they DO pay). Drive South Africa offers COMPREHENSIVE insurance to any driver with a valid Drivers License, at very competitive rates. In addition, each vehicle comes with an AA membership (Automobile Association of South Africa). Rental Purchase is the best choice for overseas tourists, business people, university students, backpackers, sports people, or diplomats visiting South Africa for an extended period of time.