Published by Anna Holling @ introtravel.com.
Imagine waking up not to the buzz of your phone, but the singing of birds, the smell of crisp bush air, the tremor of a lion’s roar, and the sight of the sun rising above the golden savannah. In South Africa, the thrills of the wild can be your daily reality. As one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world, South Africa provides an extensive range of accommodation options, from hip boutique backpacker hostels to camping experiences in the heart of the wilderness. Whether your tastes are limited by budget or you’re in for a more opulent adventure, check out our full guide to types of accommodation in South Africa.
If you’re a traveller on a budget or looking to meet like-minded people, you’ll be happy to know there is an established network of backpacker lodging all over South Africa. Popular areas are rife with options, and competition has resulted in first-rate hostels that are clean, well-run, and conveniently situated. A bed in a dorm is your most wallet-friendly option, and if you plan on spending days sightseeing you can afford to be more practical with your choices, since you’ll only be there to sleep anyway. Hostels often have private double and family rooms with ensuite bathrooms, so you can opt for privacy whilst still enjoying the benefits of hostel life. Backpacker hostels in South Africa usually offer bike rental, free wifi, TV, shared kitchens, activities, airport shuttles, day trips, and bar crawls. On INTRO’s South Africa Adventure group tour, we stay in a variety of funky modern lodging. JoBurg’s hostel is right in the middle of the action, in Durban you have a rooftop bar to hang out at, and Cape Town’s accommodation has a pool! Find out more about the small group tour and all its inclusions here.
You can expect to find the same variety of hotels in South Africa as you would in most countries. Many of the hotels in town are owned by recognisable chains such as Holiday Inn and Marriott, but boutique hotels and country lodges are growing fast as an upmarket alternative. These are usually established in historic buildings or secluded hideaways, offering exclusive rooms, top-notch service, and often have a restaurant on site. Especially popular in the winelands region outside Cape Town, independent hotels are the ideal option for a romantic getaway.
Based on the British model, B&Bs and guesthouses (the terms are used interchangeably) give you the chance to stay with a family in a private home while travelling South Africa, and include an authentic breakfast! Hosts are incredibly welcoming and full of area knowledge, so you’ll feel right at home in a personalised setting with a touch of local hospitality. Staying in a guesthouse is the best way to enjoy the quieter side of South Africa with the bonus of hearty home-cooked meals and cosy lodging.
South Africa is renowned for its extraordinary wildlife, and the best way to get up close is to stay in one of the country’s national parks, reserves, or sanctuaries. From rustic bush camps that tantalise your wild side to extravagant 5-star retreats, staying in the midst of it all will make for lifelong memories as you seek the Big Five, meerkats, birds, giraffes, and everything in-between. The smell of the bush, the sound of animals calling, the warm rays of the African sun… there is no better way to experience the raw beauty of Africa. Tents in permanent campsites have comfy beds, crisp sheets, mozzie nets, and communal braai (BBQ) areas for post-safari feasting. There may not be any electricity, but this can help you escape the chaos of the digital world and fully relax in the peace of your surroundings. Days 4 and 5 of INTRO’s South Africa Adventure group tour stay overnight in the heart of South Africa’s most iconic national park: Kruger. With wildlife just feet away from your tent (don’t worry, a secure fence keeps away the bigger beasts) camping in Kruger is a special experience you’ll hold close to your heart.
The ultimate way to immerse yourself in South Africa’s rich indigenous heritage, village visits give guests the chance to experience life in a rural Zulu community. These are ethical opportunities for cultural exchange, allowing locals to practice their traditional ways of life whilst earning a sustainable living through performance and selling their crafts. In return, guests learn about the language and traditions of one of the world’s most ancient cultures. On our South Africa Adventure small group tour we visit a village in the heart of Zululand for such an experience where we get to meet the locals, share stories, and feast on genuine Zulu cuisine.