South Africa offers some of the most exquisite landscapes and biodiversity you will ever experience, yet access to these sites is not always straightforward. While South Africa has made some impressive strides in development and infrastructure, there is still work.
Many rural areas still lack adequate infrastructure – with pothole-ridden gravel roads. Another issue that arises when travelling is the lack of consistency in cell phone and internet network reception. This makes travelling to these parts of the country an activity that may require careful planning and preparation.
However, the planning is worthwhile as these locations are culturally diverse and offer a truly South African experience to both local and international tourists.
To help travellers make the most of their holiday, we provide travel advice for those visiting the rural regions of South Africa.
Booking stays in isolated areas
You can never be too prepared, and if you feel like you aren’t – you probably need to double-check your luggage, itinerary and other things you’ll need during your trip.
Head of Marketing and Communications at online booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou recommends first checking whether your car is safe to leave overnight and then checking if the property is graded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA), which should generally give you a brief overview of the level of service to expect.
Matlou says: “Ask if there’ll be an enclosed parking slot for you and once you are satisfied with the answer, confirm your booking. When going to a remote area where there may be a lack of, or weak, internet connectivity, rather print the electronic confirmation of the booking, or download it on your mobile electronic devices. It’s better to have it on you before you travel.
“When you travel, the fun isn’t just in the destination but the trip itself, meaning the experience between your house and the destination. The local tourism industry offers many products you can enjoy en route on long-distance trips, like day activities and local art, as well as food. This is why accommodation providers on the Jurni platform are encouraged to leverage on activities, art and events around their properties.”
Driving on country roads can be a challenge
Some infrastructure outside South Africa’s urban areas is not the best and it’s particularly noticeable when you drive in rural areas.
Christiaan Steyn, head of digitally-based motor insurer MiWay Blink, says: “If you can avoid roads notorious for potholes that is first prize, but if there are no alternative routes, there are other precautions you can take to avoid damage to your tyres and rims.
“When driving on our poor roads, you should use apps like Waze which warns you of potholes and hazards; avoid driving unknown rural roads at night or in the rain as you won’t see the potholes until it is too late, and reduce speed when you see pothole warnings on the road because your ability to spot these hazards and avoid them is much better than when driving at faster speeds.”
How to stay connected to the internet when travelling on the outskirts
Ensuring that you stay connected to the internet when travelling outside of urban areas is not an easy task. The strength of your internet connection will depend on the network provider you are with. Nevertheless, you do play a role.
Before beginning your travels you should have the devices you will be connecting tested to ensure that they are ready for usage. This includes making sure that you have sufficient data on your phone before beginning your holiday. When visiting areas with known poor network service, it is best to have a fully charged dongle, a portable charger, and, if possible, a portable signal booster.
Don’t let the poor conditions of our roads deter you from exploring Mzansi. Travel is a good teacher, even for local tourists.