South Africa is a sunny, colourful nation inhabited by the Big Five and very friendly people. What with so many cultures, how does one know how to act? Which customs do you follow? What to say, what to eat? Don’t worry friend, no matter the culture, you will learn a lot.

To get you started before your big trip to SA, here are a few tourist etiquette rules to keep in mind.

Just smile and wave

South Africa has 11 official languages and none of the locals expect you to know the greeting in every one of them. You’ll find most South Africans are happy with a hand shake or wave, nothing major. Just smile and introduce yourself openly. However, if you are looking to show off, here are the greetings to all 11 official languages.


Thobela – Sepedi

Molo – isiXhosa

Avuwani – Tshivenda

Sanibonani – isiZulu

Sanibona – SiSwati

Dumela – Setswana

Lumela – Sesotho

Abusheni – Xitsonga

Salibonani – isiNdebele

Goeie dag/Hallo – Afrikaans

Hello – English


Just make sure you use the right greeting at the right time to avoid offending someone.

While in the bush…

Every year, many tourists flock to South Africa to see the magnificent Big 5. There is nothing more peaceful than sipping a cocktail on a porch and looking out on the vast beauty of the bushveld. When you are on a safari holiday, it’s important to keep your noise levels down so as not to disturb the peace. Respect the animals and other guests.

Don’t provoke the animals when going on a game drive and stick to the safety rules. If you are driving yourself, like through the Kruger National Park for example, drive at a slow, calm speed and enjoy the view and animals.

Biltong and drywors – must taste delicacies

This isn’t an etiquette tip per se. This is more a, you-have-to-try-this-or-you’ll-miss-out kind of tip. It’s part of the general South African experience. Biltong is a form of dried, spiced meat, usually enjoyed during rugby games. Same goes for drywors. You can buy some at butcheries or local supermarkets and it is a great gift to bring home for your family and friends.

It’s not a BBQ or a Barbi

South Africans all round call it a braai, you should too unless you are looking to be mocked. Also, don’t expect to find weenies (known as Viennas in South Africa) on the grill but rather juicy boerewors and other meat fit for a king.

Let your taste buds explore the multitude of other local dishes, learn as much as you can and take a lot of pictures. South Africa is a unique travel experience you shouldn’t miss out on.

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