Tips for responsible travel in South Africa

  • The last word you want to hear when you’re travelling is the word ‘responsible’. While we’re not the type of people to deliberately rain on your parade, we can’t help but feel that a South Africa is both precious and sensitive enough for visitors to take special care.

We’ve put together some tips for responsible travel in South Africa. If you run through the list, you’ll realize that the suggestions aren’t that unreasonable and not meant to reduce your enjoyment of our country in any way. Some suggestions may be obvious, but others may come as a surprise, so please read on and take notice.

Reducing your carbon footprint
  • Public transport and the Baz Bus are ways of reducing your carbon footprint since you’re sharing the burden.
  • Rent a car that is fuel efficient and offer rides to other travellers.
  • When it's easy and convenient, walk or cycle instead of driving to where you want to get to.
Interacting with South Africans
  • Be social and get to know the people in South Africa. Learn a few words of the local languages and use them.
  • Be respectful of people’s privacy,on a township tour ask permission before you take a photo.
  • Souvenirs are cheap in South Africa. Try not to bargain to a too low a price, sellers need to earn a living too.
  • The minimum tip for good service is 10%. You can choose not to tip for bad service, but let them know why.
  • Understand that we have a different concept of time. Be patient.
  • We really do have different thought patterns from you. Try to understand before you judge.
  • Buy local , hire local guides and stay in locally owned lodges. The money you spend stays in the community.
  • Support local conservation and social projects.
  • The dress code in South Africa is relaxed, but in Swaziland women are advised not to show too much leg.
Caring for our environment
  • South Africa is a dry country. Use water sparingly.
  • South Africa has recently had electricity supply issues. Switch off lights and air-conditioning when you go out.
  • Don’t litter. South Africans do enough of that already.
  • Remove excess packaging before going into rural areas. Disposing waste can be is difficult.
  • Re-use your plastic bags. You have to pay for these anyway.
  • Tap water is safe to drink in most parts of South Africa. Keep a bottle and refill it instead of buying water.
  • Many backpacker hostels recycle waste. Collect all your waste and dispose of it in their recycling facilities.
  • SASSI advises diners what fish is legal to buy or order in a restaurant and what species are threatened or endangered. Send the name of a fish by text message 079 499 8795 and you will get a prompt response telling you what the status of the species are.
Appreciating our wildlife
  • Never feed, touch or harass wild animals.
  • Do not support activities where animals are trained to do things that have no basis in their natural behaviour.
  • Do not interact with dangerous wild animals they may look cute, but they’re still unpredictable.
  • If you insist on touching a lion cub, first ask where the cub came from where its mother is? and what will happen to the cub when it gets too big and threatening? A responsible operator is not in any way linked to the canned hunting industry.
  • It is illegal for foreigners to buy ivory in South Africa.
  • Think twice about buying products made with porcupine quills– we don’t have information on how threatened these plants and animals are, only because the powers that be can’t be bothered to find out. But, it doesn’t take a genius to see that a porcupine quill lampshade will need hundreds of quills. Porcupines do shed their quills, but this happens only occasionally. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is concerned that porcupines are being killed for their quills and that the way they’re killed may not be humane. When there’s so much doubt, we say “don’t buy”.
  • Think twice about buying products made with rare trees.
  • Don’t encourage guides to move so close to wildlife that your presence disturbs it. If an animal is feeling threatened or alarmed by your presence, leave it alone. This applies to both game viewing and boat-based whale and dolphin watching.
  • Stay on trails and don’t drive into protected and prohibited areas.
Try to understand
  • Cultivate the habit of asking questions, rather than the Western habit of knowing the answers
Making good choices
  • The sure-fire to ensure that you’re making a good choice is by choosing tourism busineses for some form of independent accreditation. There are several eco-certifications that you can use as a guide. We recommend Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, the first certification of its kind, and one that was designed specifically for South Africa’s needs. FTTSA certification guarantees that FTTSA-certified products are committed to operating in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Visit these pages to find out more about FTTSA-certified tourism products.

Accommodation

Cape Town
Backpack & Africa Travel Centre

Drakensberg
Masakala Traditional Guesthouse

Johannesburg
Lebo's Soweto Backpackers

Wild Coast
Buccaneers Lodge
Bulungula Lodge
Coffee Shack Backpackers

Tours

Eastern Cape
Calabash Tours - Port Elizabeth city & shebeen tours

Drakensberg
Mehloding Adventure Trails - hiking trails

Garden Route
Ocean Safaris- whale watching

Johannesburg
Lebo's Soweto Bicycle Tours

Overberg
Marine Dynamics Tours - shark cage diving

Volunteering

Eastern Cape

  • Calabash Community Care Programme
  • Calabash Schools Support Programme

Wild Coast

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