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A Q & A Look at my Trip to South Africa

Last week I returned from a two week long trip to South Africa and Botswana. I’ve told many people that I went to Africa, but I’ve realized that would be like someone saying they went to North America. You’d be left wondering, where?!

I’ve been toiling over how to best present my amazing trip to my readers, and because I couldn’t figure out how to write up the information, I’ve not posted anything! I finally decided last night that I’d do a Q & A post. That way, you can ask more questions in the comments if you want!

A look at my trip to Africa - visiting South Africa and Botswana StuffedSuitcase.com travel vacationWhere did you go?

My adventure kicked off in Johannesburg, South Africa where we stayed in a local hotel before renting a car the next day. We relied on our GPS (TIP: purchased one on eBay that had South African maps) to help us navigate through the unknown land of South Africa on our way to Gaborone, Botswana. One interesting thing — we had to go through passport/customs to leave South Africa then park and go through passport/customs to enter Botswana. Definitely different than a single entry point like I was used to.

Using our GPS to navigate the roads on our drive from South Africa to Botswana StuffedSuitcase.com

Driving from South Africa to Botswana - a look along the road StuffedSuitcase.com Africa travelWe spent some time in Gaborone where we went for a drive through a local game farm. These are common and are places where a business brings in local animals inside a large fenced space. Kind of like a zoo without separate enclosures. This is also where I taught a one-day workshop on children’s ministry to about 12 local churches.

Visiting the Gaborone Game Reserve in Botswana StuffedSuitcase.com Africa wildlife

Animals seen on a drive through the Gaborone Game Reserve Botswana Africa StuffedSuitcase.comChobe National Park was the highlight of my trip to Africa. We flew into Kasane, Botswana and stayed at a local resort where we went on two river safaris and one safari drive. Check back soon for my upcoming post about our resort & safari experience!

Our final stay was near Groot Marico, South Africa. This was where I got the true experience of what the Africa rainy season really means. I’ll be sharing photos and info from our time there in a separate post.

What was it like?

This is probably the question most people want to know. Again, we were in Southern Africa which is more “western” than other northern & western parts of Africa. I was surprised by the amount of infrastructure present in both South Africa and Botswana. Highways, toll roads, police, stop lights and signage all contributed to a very “westernized” feel. In contrast, most of the homes, buildings, and stores were worn in appearance. Some homes were just like playing card houses with metal sheeting forming the walls and roof. Bricks are very common and freely available so often homes were made from brick. You also need to be mindful of the free roaming livestock, like cows.

A look at South Africa and Botswana

Driving in Botswana Africa

Watch out for cows!

Shopping was fairly straight forward. Most stores accepted credit cards, although credit card fraud is something to watch. Most restaurants and stores won’t take your card away from you/your table. Street vendors needed cash, rand in South Africa and pula in Botswana. The US dollar can buy about 11 rand or 9 pula. The prices are higher, but still low when you convert. A typical bottle of coke was about 6.50 pula or about 70 cents.

Grocery Shopping in Gaborone Botswana AfricaIn Botswana, things were not quite like the “rat race” in the big cities of the US. People weren’t running and rushing and aggressive. Driving was very low key, and I remarked that even at the grocery people weren’t hurrying and rushing. In the parking lots, people waited for others to pull out or park before moving forward. No honking or trying to sneak in behind someone trying to back out. They just waited. The “van bus” drivers were another case entirely, and you’d often hear them honking and see them nosing their way into traffic during the rush hours times. South Africa seemed to have more aggressive drivers in comparison to Botswana.

Botswana and South Africa have a high car per capita rate, but you still see many people walking. In Gaborone you’d almost never see a sidewalk empty. There are always people walking to and from somewhere. Even along the main highways you often see people walking.

Walking in Kasane Botswana AfricaWould you go back?

Absolutely! I’d love to visit Chobe again, and also see Cape Town, South Africa, which has a lot of history and beauty as well as great wineries. Visiting Namibia, and Etosha national park, would be a must for a return trip. I’d also love to visit Victoria Falls which is just a short drive from Kasane.

I’m pretty sure I’d time a South Africa visit for November or April and avoid the hot and mosquito-y rainy season of summer (although I should have visiting Victoria Falls during the rainy season!). Rain is a rarity and considered a blessing when it falls, so you can’t be bothered if it affects your travel plans (which it did for ours).

Would it be good for families?

I wouldn’t hesitate to take my girls with us, but for the high expense of airfare and the long flight times. We traveled non-stop on Delta from Atlanta to Johannesburg for 16 hours. You can look at spending about $1500-$2000 per ticket for flights.

The culture and diversity seen even in the “westernized” Southern Africa region of South Africa and Botswana would still be an amazing experience for kids and would benefit them immensely in their world knowledge and awareness.

So, now it’s your turn. What questions do you have about my trip to Africa? Please ask away!

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Comments

  1. I loved reading about everyday details like how the people in the grocery stores weren’t rushed. Did you feel fairly safe driving in Jo-burg and across the borders? Were you there primarily to teach the ministry workshop or sightseeing or both? Looking forward to reading about how the rain affected your travels.

    • We felt safe driving around — although we only drove in the daytime. I wouldn’t drive around at night. I was invited to join my in-laws during one of my father-in-law’s work trips. He’s been working with a lot of non-profits and thought my knowledge of children’s ministry would be a great way for me to give back a bit. I’m still trying to get my two safari post written then the posts about where we stayed, so man I’m so behind! Let’s just say we got lucky the rain held off for our main safari in Chobe, but it ruined our plans for a game drive to see rhinos.

  2. That seems like such a great trip! Did you enjoy the local food? Were you hesitant about eating/ drinking anything? (No one wants to get sick during traveling!)

    • Natalie, sorry for the late reply! I wasn’t worried about eating because thankfully my in-laws had been there before and we ate at many main restaurants. The food was all very “normal” and they have the best price on filet beef, so we fixed a lot of meals eating that!

  3. Wow I love your pictures and it sounds like an amazing trip!!! Ya know, you see images of parts of Africa on those save the children commercials, and on National Geographic channel but those areas are usually the most impoverished areas that many don’t realize that many parts of Africa are actually really nice. I would love to see if for myself someday and I have been wanting to visit Botswana for awhile now!! #SITSBlogging

    • Botswana is absolutely a great way to experience a bit of Africa. It’s a very safe and stable country and considered one of Africa’s success stories. Although it still would probably be considered a developing country and you do see some rough areas and homes. Hope you can make it someday!

    • I felt very safe in Gaborone and Kasane during the day. I’m not sure if I would go out exploring at night, however we ate dinner at a local “mall” many nights and never felt any worries. It was definitely a benefit traveling with my in-laws who had been previously. Many homes have walls and barbed wire around them, so there is definitely a criminal threat, however I never felt unsafe.

  4. I would love to visit Africa.. Especially to see the wild animals on a safari.. It looks like you had a great trip! Wonderful photos. Enjoy your weekend!

  5. My husband is from South Africa, and I’m glad you got to experience this. Ever since visiting 19 years ago, Africa is in my blood. Next time you go, I’ll go with you and introduce you to so many people and places. The best time to travel to RSA is in November because it is summer there and South African Airways has GREAT prices, about $800 roundtrip from NY to Joburg.

  6. This sounds like an amazing experience. Did you organize everything on your own? We hope to go on safari with our kids in a few years, but I think we might want a guide to help us out. The series and pictures from your trip were fantastic.

    • Hi Kirsten! It was an amazing experience and luckily I had my father-in-law to thank for the planning. He has been doing consultant work in Gaborone for a while and had the connections and knowledge to make it all work out. I think you could definitely plan the trip yourself with a bit of hard work, however it’s also nice to work with someone who knows the areas and customs so you’re not thrown off or end up in a bad situation. I’m glad you liked the photos, taking them was such fun!

  7. I am going on this trip in July with a tour group including Cape town. What attire did you take? What immunizations did you feel were best suited to the environment. I’d love to see more pictures! I’ll be traveling with my sister mother and aunt( both late 70’s). Thanks for posting!

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