South Africa is a destination that appeals to a variety of travellers, from backpackers on a budget to honeymooners seeking luxury and everything in between. From the extravagant hotels that add glitz and glamour to Cape Town’s famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to the trendy backpackers’ hostels that line the gorgeous ‘Garden Route’, there are accommodation options throughout the country to suit any trip. South Africa is a diverse country and it deserves to be explored so if you’re planning a trip, it’s well worth visiting several different areas. That way you can do a few day trips to get out and see beyond the city. Domestic flights are also reasonably priced if you can be flexible with dates and this can allow you to see a lot more in a short time than overland transport would.
You are unlikely to come to South Africa and not spend at least a few days in one of the country’s main cities. Depending on where you fly from or what your travel plans are, it is likely that you will visit Cape Town, Johannesburg/ Pretoria, Durban or Port Elizabeth. In all of these cities there is an incredible choice of accommodation options and it is worth thinking about what you want to do during your visit. For example, Cape Town is a large city with no obvious centre and your choice of accommodation is likely to depend on a number of factors. If you want easy access to fine dining and a range of bars then the Waterfront is the place to be. If, on the other hand, you are a young backpacker looking to meet likeminded travellers then Long Street is probably perfect for you. In Durban, on the other hand, the main choice you will have to make is between staying by the beach, or in the city centre. Whichever you choose, there is a wide range of accommodation from large chain hotels to small independent backpackers hostels or family run guest houses.
No visit to South Africa would be complete without a safari and with the staggering range of game parks to choose from there is, fortunately, a safari experience for every budget. Accommodation at private game parks can be as luxurious as you want it to be and you are really only limited by your wallet. At the world famous Kruger National Park in the north east of the country, you can choose between the public sections of the park or the private reserves that comprise the Greater Kruger. It is in these private reserves that you will discover the pure luxury and romance associated with the real ‘Out of Africa’ experience. Sabi Sands reserve, one of the world’s best places for spotting the elusive leopard, is a popular option and offers some of the most exclusive lodges in the country.
However, South Africa is an extremely accessible country and the ultimate safari experience is in no way restricted to the wealthy. Most of the game parks have bush camps where you can stay in relative comfort in permanent tents or even pitch your own and venture into the game viewing areas in your own car, rather than forking out for official vehicles. Another option is to stay outside but close to the park. This saves on accommodation but you may not be able to do any night drives as most game parks close their doors to day visitors at around 6pm. However, thanks to the well-developed backpacker circuit in South Africa, you will find at least one good hostel close to most of the main game parks. For example, if you want to visit the popular Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth, you can stay at the nearby Orange Elephant Backpackers, only 8km from the main gate, which offers dorm beds for less than £10 per night.
When looking for accommodation in South Africa, it pays to be aware of peak times, such as school holidays, when lots of South African families are themselves on holiday and the prices can rocket. In many of the game reserves and national parks, accommodation actually books out so booking in advance is essential. If you can be flexible about dates and travel in the low season you can find some great deals and you should find a good range of cheap hotels or inexpensive hostels to choose from.
Photo by Ryan Kilpatrick via Flickr Creative Commons