Some general travel information
Travelling Southern Africa can be a lot of fun, but it also poses risk and a bevy of administrative, safety, social and cultural challenges for visitors. Cross-border travel involves separate and sometimes costly visa and transit processes, and the rural nature of a large part of the region requires attentive and above-average motorcycling skill to ensure your personal safety and enjoyment. As is the case in many parts of the world, localised criminality and intermittent protests can result in certain areas being avoided by visitors, but in general, communities across the region welcome and encourage tourism.
The following provides some relevant information to help you plan your ride and travels through the area. We welcome any updates, reviews and comments on our list in order to provide the most comprehensive advisory service to visitors and locals alike.
The accommodation sector in the region is robust and competitive. In the urban centres, you will find accommodation of world-class standard, but rural areas and outlying villages may offer only rudimentary accommodation and facilities. Book ahead wherever you can, but take care when judging your accommodation only by photo's on the web!
Unlike the EU and other economic regions, there is no uni-visa for this region and each country has its own visa and entry requirements. Ensure that you have the prescribed documents and fees before trying to cross into another country in the region, and check your requirements before departure.
Southern Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cell phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas.
In some regional destinations, cell and even landline coverage is often not available in remote areas, so for travelers planning prolonged visits to these areas, satellite phones are recommended.
Southern Africa is well-known for its long sunny days, with most of the region experiencing summer rainfall, and areas such as South Africa's Western Cape, which experiences winter rainfall. The high-lying areas of the interior can be chilly in winter. Seasons are generally:
Spring: September, October, November
Summer: December through February
Autumn: March, April, May
Winter: June through August
With so many cultures and traditions across the region, it is wise to remember a few 'golden rules' when meeting the locals.
Always ask permission before entering any private dwelling in rural areas;
Ask for permission before taking photographs of people;
If in doubt - don't;
In certain places, dress code is strictly enforced. If you are unsure, apply the previous point;
In South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana, the South African Rand is accepted at almost all retailers. However, if you are travelling to other countries in the region, it is advised to carry US Dollars and to convert these to the local currency whenever possible.
Fuel and Repair Facilities:
Fuel is freely available almost everywhere, and this can be purchased using 'Petro-cards' in South Africa, but with cash in other countries in the region. 95-octane petrol is the standard for motorcycles in the region, but in some areas only 93 octane may be available. Prices vary according to country and even regions within countries, so check this before departure.
Repair facilities exist across the region for most vehicles and motorcycles. In urban areas, these could include branded dealerships and agencies, while in rural areas, expect anything.
There are as many languages and dialects as there are communities across southern Africa. English is spoken in most countries in the region, but a knowledge of Portuguese is helpful in Mozambique; Afrikaans is spoken in large parts of rural South Africa (11 official languages) and Namibia, while German is a widely used language in Namibia.
Service and Tipping:
This is a very hospitable and friendly region, and while service levels may vary from urban to rural areas and from store-to-store, you will experience genuine warmth and friendliness in almost all cases. Gratuities are not generally included in your bill (check with the establishment concerned) and it is expected that you will 'tip' at least 10% in most places.
If you are dissatisfied with the service you receive, raise it with the owner or manager of the facility before leaving. Often, this helps avoid unpleasantness and it helps improve service in general.
Visitors to the area will be faced with a number of taxes and service charges depending on the country being visited. Generally, 15% VAT is applicable on most purchases in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and other countries in the region, and road taxes and additional service charges are applicable in some countries.
In South Africa, some routes are tolled, so carry local currency as they do not accept international credit/debit cards at the tollgates.
Check before you travel.