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Tipping in South Africa

Tipping in South Africa

Tipping in south africa explained.

south africa tour guide tip

South Africa’s economy: issues around tipping

Who to tip when on holiday in south africa.

  • Tipping safari guides If your holiday with us includes a safari lodge, then your safari guide will be one of the most important people in making your holiday a success. As such, many places suggest tipping him/her separately, to ensure that they get the tip they deserve.
  • Tipping guides on day tours During your holiday you may take a day tour and your guide can be integral to your enjoyment. Thus we suggest tipping him/her appropriately to the level of knowledge they imparted and their overall involvement.
  • Tipping the back-of-house team Many people work behind the scenes to help you make the most of your holiday, including the chefs, the kitchen team and the housekeeping staff. To cover all of these ‘back of house’ people, camps/hotels often have a general staff tip box – the proceeds of which are divided equally between these members of staff.
  • Tipping the managers Camp managers are of course important, but should you tip them? In our opinion, this is a similar situation to that of a restaurant owner. Although they are clearly important, you wouldn’t normally tip them. Similarly, we wouldn’t usually recommend that you tip the camp/hotel manager. Of course, if the manager helped you with something outstanding or very extraordinary, you may want to make an exception to this rule.

When to tip

  • After each activity
  • At the end of each day
  • At the end of your stay

How much to tip

  • At the airport: Only use the baggage assistants in uniform (normally orange overalls). They have a fixed rate of ZAR10 per bag and a sign of US$2 fixed to their carts.
  • On safari: You will usually be assigned a guide and a tracker. A good tip indication is an average of ZAR120–250 per person per day for the guide, and ZAR60–120 for the tracker. If you only participate in a half-day activity (morning or afternoon excursion) then we recommend half of the above sums to each of the tracker and guide. If you have a private guide for a full day then we would suggest a tip of ZAR200–300 per guest per day. Most safari lodges also have a general staff gratuity box (for waiters, chambermaids etc) and ZAR50–150 per guest per day is a suggested tip guideline.
  • At your city or town hotel: Porters – generally around ZAR20 a bag. Doormen can be tipped about the same, if they perform a service such as sourcing a cab. ZAR20 is pretty handy as a general tip and is safe to fall back on if in doubt.
  • Day tours: For a full-day tour, we suggest ZAR100 per person.
  • Restaurants: A 10% tip is acceptable for good service – or more if you consider the service to have been exceptional.
  • In bars: Tips are the exception rather than the norm, and even then, the loose change from your drink is generally acceptable.
  • Filling stations: All filling stations (petrol garages) in South Africa have attendants who will fill your tank and wash your windscreen. A tip of about ZAR5 is welcomed.
  • Car guards: Whenever you try to park in urban centres, car guards will assist you (not always competently) to park and then watch over your vehicle while you are away, with a view to deterring vehicle-related crime. Some belong to more formal security companies than others and where possible we recommend using these. A ‘donation’ of ZAR5 usually suffices.
  • Note: Tips are not normally expected for transfers.

Tipping is a sensitive issue, but there is no need to feel awkward. It’s a normal part of a service industry in South Africa, as it is in many countries. Just remember that thoughtless tipping by relatively affluent visitors can have a big impact on the local economic and social balance – so please keep that in mind when you tip the staff during your holiday in South Africa.

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Car guards, petrol attendants, safari rangers and trackers, and other service industry workers

Travel introduces you to a whole new world of culture and history, and without a little background on the place you’re visiting it can be tough to know what’s expected of you as a guest. Tipping is one of those things that is different all over the world, and it can be awkward trying to figure out etiquette and local customs.

We asked some local experts to weigh in, and provide the official guide to tipping in South Africa. 

SOME BROAD RULES FOR TIPPING South Africa has a tipping culture, and the general rule is we start at 10%. Many people who work in the service industry rely on these tips to make a living wage, so often tips are higher than 10%.

TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP? You’re not obliged to leave a tip if the service provider was unprofessional, rude, intoxicated or has provided inadequate service, says Kane William Pretorius, Etiquette Consultant at The South African School of Etiquette in Sandton, Johannesburg. “For example, if you did not receive what you were promised in an acceptable time frame and there was no preemptive attempt to salvage the situation, you do not need to leave a tip,'' he says.

Tip with cash, if you can, says Riandi Conradie, Founder of The South African Etiquette Academy. “Tipping by card is also appreciated, but the service staff member only receives it by the end of the week or month.”  

south africa tour guide tip

CAR GUARDS There are different kinds of car guards, so it can be tough to figure out what’s going on. Here’s the lowdown. 

Some car guards are self-appointed and informal, and are trying to eke out a living; they usually wear a yellow or orange vest. They often also help with packing of cars and finding parking spaces, and this is worth a tip. Others work at the open parking lots of shopping centres as mandated guards, and have a uniform and code of conduct. Some shopping-centre guards pay a fee for their spot, and rely on tips to cover that cost and only then make a living. 

In the Cape Town City Bowl, the City of Cape Town employs parking attendants to collect payment for parking. They’re easy to spot with their bright vests and parking meters. They are not usually tipped. 

south africa tour guide tip

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Tipping Advice in South Africa

For many people traveling overseas, tipping can be somewhat confusing. We have created a tipping guide that will alleviate the confusion every time you reach for your wallet. Tipping is commonplace in South Africa: People working in the service industry in South Africa often rely heavily on tips to make ends meet. Often these people earn either minimum wage, or no wages at all, making tips a big part of their monthly income.

The below guide will show you who to tip and how much.

1: Restaurants

Tipping is standard practice in South Africa to tip your waiter or waitress 10 to 20 % of the total bill. Most waiters and waitresses earn a minimum wage, but they do rely heavily on their tips to make a living. Some restaurants will automatically add a standard service charge of 10% too big groups, but check this with the manager. If a standard service charge is charged, it is up to the patron to decide whether or not to add to the tip depending on service.

Barmen and women also rely heavily on tips. Tipping them works the same as with restaurants, where 10 to 20 % is of the total bill is acceptable.

Rangers and trackers more often than not play a big role in making your safari special and memorable: The trackers help find animals such as the Big 5, and it becomes apparent how useful their tracking skills are during a safari. Rangers don’t just keep you safe, but also share valuable and entertaining information with you. Tipping is not compulsory, but if you feel that the ranger did a good job, then it is recommended that you tip R200 to R300 per family (or couple) per day. Tips for trackers are usually R100 to R200 per family (or couple) per day.

Most lodges have tipping advice and guidelines, so do feel free to ask them more about this.

4: Airport Porters

It is standard practice to tip airport porters R3 to R5 per piece of luggage.

5: Petrol (Gas) Station Attendants

South Africa still offers the luxury (and much-needed employment) of petrol attendants. These petrol attendants fill up your vehicle, take the payment, and will clean your windscreen, check the oil, water and tire pressure. Petrol attendants also function as South Africa’s back- up GPS systems: If you get lost, or the GPS is not working, you can always stop at your nearest petrol station to get directions. The average tip can be anything from R2 and up.

6: Car Guards

Travelers can expect to find car guards just about anywhere you park. These guards will offer to watch your car and help you park in exchange for a tip of R2 and up. Do be aware however that the guards must wear a reflective vest (usually bright yellow or orange) to indicate that the city employs them, and not just begging.

7: Health and Beauty services

The standard tipping fee for a massage and beauty therapist is 10 to 20% of your total payment. The same applies to hair stylists. Do however remember to leave a small tip for the person who washed your hair: usually R10 to R15.

8: Tour Guides and drivers

The standard practice in South Africa is to tip the tour guide and coach driver at the end of your tour. If you are doing a group tour, then we recommend tipping anything from R20 to R50 per person. You may tip more if you are pleased with the service.

If you are taking a private tour, i.e., only one couple or a family, then we recommend you tip the driver (who will usually also be your guide) anything from R100 and up. Guests are welcome to tip more if they feel that the driver/guide made their trip enjoyable.

9: Accommodation

Each establishment has their in-house policy, and you are welcome to check with them, but usually, a standard tip of 10% of your total bill can be paid upon check- out. This will then be divided between the staff, including cleaners, waiters, porters, kitchen and garden staff and in some cases reception and management. If there is a specific staff member you would like to tip more, you are can either give it to them personally or leave it in a marked envelope at reception or with the concierge. If you wish to tip the porter directly, they would usually expect R10 to R20.

Below is a quick reference guide for when you are on the go (feel free to print it out and keep it in your wallet)

20 thoughts on “ Tipping Advice in South Africa ”

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This blog is super helpful, especially for first-timers. Though tipping is completely voluntary in Africa, it’s highly suggested as it can be a huge help to the locals and people in the country who are earning a minimum wage. But since different countries have different perspectives in tipping, an informative post like this helps people know how much we can give as tips to people. I liked that it highlighted tipping in different industries/jobs too. Great work! This is a must share.

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After minimum wage bill was passed, should tipping still continue in south Africa

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The tipping culture in the travel related field in Africa has affected the overall wage where employers take into consideration tipping before setting out the minimum wage. I think tipping should be left at the discretion of the traveler and should they feel the services provided is worth the penny, then go ahead and leave some tip at their discretion.

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It is called respect, to tip a cab driver, since it is a stressful occupation.

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Thank you for sharing.

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I feel this business of tipping should be stopped, you are paying for the service then why tip is a must? This culture is not good. Let it come from the heart if you feel you have some coin and wants to offer.

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You might be wondering what the local tipping culture involves. First, tipping in Africa and especially in Kenya or Tanzania is not a compulsory affair and it is only done on the merit of a good service. It is simply an appreciation of the guides, drivers or game wardens involved in the Safari for a well-done job. It is not really expected of you to tip and you are not obliged to tip. However, if you are pleased with the people who served you, it is totally p to you to tip them or not.

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While on safari you might be asking yourself how do you give appreciation to your guide or after service at your camp or lodge. It’s not compulsory though it’s appreciated when you that. Guideline on tipping for guides in Tanzania. 1) Safaris Guide $ 10-15 Per day per person. 2) Porters to your room $ 2-5 3) Waiters $ 3-5 per day

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worth Reading It. Hope oneday after a Covid19 i will set my foot on this beautifull country. Thanks For Sharing This.

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Thanks, Manie Lilley

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One of the help ful article. Visiting Africa for first time is my dream after Covid 19 hope we make it and achieve what we had plan. Thank you for sharing such nice blog.

kind of kak. We don’t tip that much. 10% restaurant/bar and thats it really.

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I plan to visit Africa and when I do I plan on tipping the folk who service me! It’s a priceless experience I will honor it and be generous to those who assist me!

Pingback: 7 things to know before visiting South Africa - My Pink Passport

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Thank you for sharing, i think is a great idea to know more about tipping culture of a place prior visiting

' src=

I completely agree with the notion that tipping should be at the discretion of the traveler. It’s true that tipping cultures differ across countries and industries. While tipping is not mandatory, it certainly does make a significant difference in the lives of those who rely on it. This guide is a valuable resource for travelers, offering clarity on when and how much to tip across various services.

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Hi – It was great for us and very useful – also some useful links for you

' src=

Tipping on a safari is optional, not mandatory. However, it is a very common practice and a way to show appreciation for good service from your guide, driver, and other staff.

' src=

In Kenya tipping is not mandatory, it all comes from you as a person and what you feel the services, that you were given are!! Normally and especially at restaurants, I always recommend anything between 10% of my total bill to the waiter and not below that, although this, we leave it, at the discretion of the client. If it is standard wise tipping in a restaurant, I would recommend 5-20$ depending on the group size and services offered.

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HOW TO TIP IN SOUTH AFRICA

In the U.S. tipping is customary and expected for everything from lackluster to outstanding service. It is an etiquette which is ingrained in all trades, from the wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades.

The questions `when?` and `how much?` that surround tipping can leave some travelers confused, as the practice varies. This guide attempts to cover most situations that you, as a tourist, will encounter. Hopefully using these `tips` will provide a smooth experience when interacting with locals in restaurants, bars, hotels, tour operators, and taxis.

Tipping in South Africa is a common practice; the country runs on tourism with many workers in the service and hospitality industry. Most of the time employees do not earn a large salary and most of them rely heavily on tips in order to support their families. Tipping in South Africa, even if it is only a small amount shows your appreciation for the service received. Tipping is determined by the type of experience and service you received and the amount is up to your discretion.

The following guide gives you an idea of general amounts tipped in certain industries, you can always tip higher if you receive outstanding or lower if your expectations were not met.

The official units of currency in South Africa are the Rand (R or ZAR), one Rand is made up of 100 cents. US dollars are not accepted; make sure to exchange your dollars for Rand before or upon entering South Africa. ATMs can be found all over the city and most banks are open from 9 am until 3:30 pm during the week and from 9 am to 11 am on Saturdays.

Restaurant employees earn the minimum wage in South Africa, which does not add up to much; therefore they rely on their tips to make a living. Leaving a tip of 10 – 20% of your total bill is pretty standard in the restaurant industry. Be sure to check your bill as there may already be a service charge of up to 10% already included, this occurs automatically with parties of six or more. It is not necessary to tip anything above the service charge included.

Hotel Staff in South Africa usually receives part of a total tip which is distributed among staff members, when the hotel automatically adds the standard 10% on top of your total bill. If you wish to tip a specific staff member you should give this amount to the staff member personally or leave it in a marked envelope.

Generally, in hotels, the porters will receive R20 – R100 per bag. Housekeeping R20 – R50 per day.

A standard taxi driver in South Africa will appreciate any gratuity that you leave after your journey. You can round up to the nearest R10 – R20 or 10% of the total fare. Minivan taxis in South Africa do not receive tips.

There are plenty of tour operators in South Africa and it is good etiquette to tip these individuals. Leaving a tip for the tour guide as well as a driver at the end of your tour is recommended, anything from R100 – R200 per person per day is a good example to follow and 10% of the total cost of the tour to the driver.

Petrol attendants: In South Africa petrol/gas stations have attendants that fill up your tank, clean your windscreen, check your fluids and take your payment. Tipping these attendants is up to you, but generally, people leave R2 – R5 for their friendly and helpful services.

Car guards: Expect to find car guards anywhere you park in South Africa. These guards will assist you in parking and watch over your car in exchange for a tip, use your discretion when dealing with car guards as they are required to wear a reflective bright colored vest indicating they are employed by the city (many are not). You can leave anywhere from R2 – R5 for valid attendants.

Spas: Tipping at a spa in South Africa is not common practice, but you can always use your discretion and if tipping is allowed you can leave anywhere from 10 – 15% of your total bill.

Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. This is also true for hotel staff, however, if you should encounter a problem with the service within the hotel, we highly recommend speaking with the manager.

When paying for services in cash (which we generally recommend for services other than your hotel) remember to take your receipt. This is important for two reasons; If you leave a tip on a credit card, the person providing the service may not always get it, and if there is a discrepancy it is important to have your receipt to settle it with the manager of the establishment and to prove that you paid for the service.

south africa tour guide tip

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  • South Africa Tipping Etiquette:…

Tipping in South Africa, rands cash

South Africa Tipping Etiquette: 8 Top Tips for Tipping in South Africa

Posted by Molebatsi Manzi on June 24 2023 in Safari Tips & Travel Advice Enquire Now!

Planning a trip to another country often means learning about the culture of its people to avoid doubts and awkward feelings when interacting with the locals.

One of the things that is worth learning about before landing in a country is its tipping culture. Follow our South Africa tipping etiquette guide and we'll show you how much service industry workers are customarily tipped in South Africa.

It is important to note that tipping in South Africa should be done in the local currency (Rands). It is also important to note that although tipping is at your discretion we do encourage tipping people generously for good service.

Kruger elephants

South Africa Tipping Etiquette

Picture this, you’re anxious about getting to the airport on time for your flight. Your taxi driver arrives, walks out of the car, and puts your bags in the boot. As though sensing your distress, your driver, who encourages you to call him Frans, assures you that he'll get you to the airport on time. He snakes through traffic while expressing interest in your travel plans, which you find surprisingly calming. Before you know it, he puts the car in park and you have arrived with time to spare. You are so relieved and want to show your gratitude. How do you do it? Easy, tip him.

In South Africa, tipping is a common courtesy. The practice of tipping is so ubiquitous that it is best to budget for it when you  plan a trip to South Africa . In city centres, in particular, many service industry workers appreciate a nice tip. Although not mandatory, tipping in South Africa is a great way to show appreciation and support local people working hard to make ends meet.

Below are our top tips for tipping in South Africa, which we recommend to visitors and locals alike.

Kruger safari

1. Taxi Driver Tipping in South Africa

Minibus taxi drivers aren’t tipped in South Africa. However, metered taxi drivers like Frans are. The tip is usually done via the app (Uber, Bolt, inDriver) used to request the ride and depends on how professional and friendly the driver was as well as the distance travelled.

Recommended tip: 10 - 20% of the total fare

2. Car Guard Tipping in South Africa

Busy places such as malls and shopping centres usually have parking attendants to guide drivers to find empty parking spots and help them park. Some are formally employed and wear uniforms while others are self-employed and rely on tips to make a living.

Recommended tip: R5 - R10

The Cape Winelands

3. Petrol Attendant Tips in South Africa

In South Africa , drivers do not pour their own fuel. The attendants at petrol stations do this job and will most likely ask if they can offer additional services such as cleaning your car’s windscreen and checking water, type pressure, and oil.

Recommended tip: R5 - R20

African mud bath

4. Tipping in Restaurants, Waiters & Waitresses

Most waitrons in South Africa earn minimum wage and rely on tips from customers. However, tips are voluntary and depend on the quality of service received. When deciding how much to tip, it is important to note that servers are not responsible for the quality of the food.

Recommended tip: 10% of the total bill. For exceptional service, the tip can go up to between 15 - 20%.

5. Tipping Hotel Staff

Hotels usually have communal tipping jars to put your tips in, so ask the front desk whether one is available at the hotel you’re staying at. These tips are then shared between the hotel staff, cleaners, groundskeepers, and maintenance staff. You would tip at the end of your stay but you can give the doorman a tip on the spot (usually R20) for helping you with your luggage.

Recommended tip: R50 per day for the duration of your stay

6. Tipping for Safari Guides & Trackers

It’s one thing to know that your destination offers amazing game-viewing, it’s another thing to see the animals you’ve always wanted to see. This is where a good safari guide is gold. Safari guides are responsible for you in the bush. They keep you safe, point out near invisible animals, and have encyclopedic knowledge about the bush and animals. Trackers, on the other hand, have intimate knowledge of the bush and the signs that animals leave. A good tracker and guide team will provide you with a safari experience of a lifetime and should be tipped well. Remember to always tip at the end of your stay. If your game drive is a once-off at Addo Elephant Park for example, then tip the guide at the end of the game drive. However, if you are on a 3-day safari in greater  Kruger , then tip your guide at the end of your stay.

Recommended tip for safari guides: R50 - R100 per person per day at the end of the day. 

Recommended tip for safari trackers: R20 - R50  per person per day at the end of the day.

For a more in-depth guide to tipping in Africa see  Tips for Tipping on African Safaris - who & how to tip . 

Tipping in South Africa, rands cash

7. Spa Treatments & Beauty Professionals

Need to fix a chipped nail, get a massage to help you relax, or need a quick trim of your beard for those Instagram snaps? This is when beauty professionals save the day - and the pictures - and you can leave a little something to say thank you to them.

Recommended tip: 10 - 15% of your total bill

8. General Guide for Tipping in South Africa

If you're unsure about how much to tip any service industry worker in South Africa , the local custom is to tip 10% of your total bill. You can pay a little more than this, at your discretion, for exceptional service. However, you are not obliged to leave a tip should you have a bad experience with a service provider.  

It is important to note that although generosity is appreciated, there is a difference between tipping well for good service and giving handouts to strangers. Giving cash to people asking for money has been shown to exacerbate social problems and aggravate dependency. To avoid the potential of unintentionally adding to complex social problems, an option would be to rather donate to a local charitable organization.  

If you have any questions about travelling to Africa or South Africa and planning your trip - talk to a seasoned African travel expert , based in South Africa.

If you liked this post, these trips cover similar ground…

  • 3 Day Kruger Safari in South Africa (Lodge Tour)
  • 4 Day Best of Panorama Route & Kruger Park Safari (South Africa)
  • 3 Day Pilanesberg Safari in South Africa - Shepherds Tree Game Lodge
  • 7 Day Private Garden Route Tour & Gondwana Safari - South Africa
  • 7 Day Private Garden Route Tour & Addo Safari in South Africa
  • Pilanesberg Safari Day Tour in South Africa
  • 4 Day Cape Town Safari to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
  • South Africa Holiday - Self Drive Tour from Durban to PE
  • South Africa Tour - Self Drive Kruger, Eswatini & KwaZulu-Natal

About the Author

Molebatsi manzi wordsmith & caffeine fiend.

Molebatsi Manzi

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Tipping in South Africa: Unique Tipping Practices in South Africa’s Diverse Regions

Tipping in South Africa

Welcome to South Africa, a captivating destination known for its vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality. As you embark on your journey, it’s important to understand the local customs, including the art of tipping. In this guide, we’ll explore the tipping culture in South Africa and provide you with essential etiquette and insights to ensure you navigate tipping situations with ease.

Tipping Culture in South Africa

South Africa’s tipping customs are deeply rooted in the concept of Ubuntu, which embodies the spirit of generosity and compassion. The philosophy of Ubuntu emphasizes the interconnectedness of humanity and the importance of kindness and respect toward others. Tipping is seen as a way to express gratitude for good service and support the local economy. While tipping is not mandatory, it is customary and appreciated in many service industries.

South Africans, in general, have a positive attitude towards tipping and appreciate the recognition for their hard work. The service industry plays a crucial role in the country’s economy, and tips often supplement the income of service providers. By tipping, you contribute to the livelihood of individuals who work diligently to make your experience enjoyable.

Tipping Etiquette in South Africa

To ensure you navigate tipping situations in South Africa smoothly, here are some specific guidelines to keep in mind:

Restaurants and Cafés

When dining at restaurants and cafés, it is customary to leave a tip for your servers. The standard tipping percentage in South Africa is around 10-15% of the total bill. For example, if your bill comes to 300 ZAR ($21), leaving a tip of 30-45 ZAR ($2-$3) would be appropriate. If you had an exceptional dining experience, you can always choose to tip more to show your appreciation. Tipping can be done in cash or by adding it to your credit card payment. If you choose to tip in cash, hand it directly to the server or leave it on the table at the end of your meal.

Hotels and Accommodations

At hotels and accommodations, there are various individuals who provide services that may enhance your stay. It’s common to tip bellhops and porters who assist with your luggage, usually around 10-20 ZAR ($0.70-$1.40) per bag. If you have multiple bags, consider tipping towards the higher end of the range.

When tipping housekeeping staff, it’s best to leave the gratuity in an envelope or on the pillow, along with a note of appreciation. A tip of 20-50 ZAR ($1.40-$3.50) per day of your stay is customary, depending on the level of service provided. If a concierge goes above and beyond to make your stay memorable, a tip of 50-100 ZAR ($3.50-$7) is appreciated.

Transportation Services

When using transportation services like taxis or rideshares, rounding up the fare is a common practice. For example, if the fare comes to 85 ZAR ($6), you can round it up to 100 ZAR ($7) as a tip. If the service was exceptional, you can add an extra 10-20 ZAR ($0.70-$1.40) as a tip.

For tour guides and drivers who accompany you on your South African adventures, consider tipping 50-100 ZAR ($3.50-$7) per day for their expertise, knowledge, and efforts in making your experience enjoyable. For airport and hotel transfers, a tip of 20-50 ZAR ($1.40-$3.50) is customary to show appreciation for a smooth and safe journey.

Other Service Providers

South Africa has a diverse range of services where tipping is appreciated. When visiting spas or wellness centers, it’s customary to tip around 10-15% of the treatment cost. For example, if you receive a massage that costs 500 ZAR ($35), a tip of 50-75 ZAR ($3.50-$5.25) would be appropriate. Petrol attendants, who often assist with refueling your vehicle and cleaning your windshield, can be tipped 5-10 ZAR ($0.35-$0.70) as a token of gratitude. When visiting hairdressers or barbers, a tip of around 10% of the total cost of the service is common.

Special Considerations

While the general tipping guidelines mentioned above apply to most situations in South Africa, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind:

Tipping in Safari Lodges and Game Reserves

If you’re embarking on a safari adventure in South Africa, it’s important to be aware of specific tipping practices. Some safari lodges and game reserves have a communal tipping box where you can contribute an amount that will be distributed among the staff members. This approach ensures that all staff members, from the guides to the cooks and cleaners, receive a fair share of the tips. It’s advisable to inquire about their tipping policy upon arrival and follow their guidelines.

As safari experiences can vary in length and the number of staff involved, the suggested tipping amount can range from 150-500 ZAR ($10-$35) per person per day, depending on the quality of service received.

Tipping During Group Tours or Activities

When participating in group tours or activities, there may be multiple service providers involved, such as guides, drivers, and assistants. In these situations, it’s customary to give a collective tip that will be distributed among the team. A suggested amount is around 50-100 ZAR ($3.50-$7) per day, depending on the length and quality of the tour. However, if you had an exceptional experience with a specific individual, you can also give an additional tip directly to them as a token of appreciation.

Tipping in Informal or Street Markets

In informal markets or street markets, tipping is not as common as in formal establishments. However, if someone provides you with exceptional service or goes out of their way to assist you, a small token of appreciation, such as 5-10 ZAR ($0.35-$0.70), can be given. For example, if a vendor helps you find the perfect souvenir or provides valuable information, offering a small tip would be a kind gesture.

Tipping Dos and Don’ts

To ensure you navigate tipping in South Africa smoothly, here are some key dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

  • Observe local customs and cultural norms regarding tipping.
  • Show appreciation for good service by tipping accordingly.
  • Use local currency (South African Rand) for tips to avoid confusion.
  • Avoid overtipping or undertipping excessively.
  • Don’t expect tipping in all situations; it’s not mandatory.
  • Disregard cultural norms and expectations regarding tipping.

Currency and Payment Methods

The official currency in South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR). It’s recommended to carry some cash for smaller transactions and tipping situations, as not all places accept credit cards. However, major cities and tourist areas usually have establishments that accept card payments. ATMs are widely available, allowing you to withdraw local currency as needed.

Tipping in South Africa is a way to express gratitude and support the local service industry. By understanding the tipping culture and following the provided guidelines, you can ensure a positive experience while embracing the spirit of generosity and Ubuntu in this diverse and enchanting country.

Now, as you embark on your South African adventure, remember to keep a few extra Rand in your pocket for those moments when you want to show your appreciation for outstanding service. Enjoy your journey through the remarkable landscapes and vibrant culture of South Africa, knowing that your gestures of gratitude will make a meaningful impact along the way.

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Tipping in South Africa Guide | When and How Much to Tip in South Africa 

Sunny South Africa, the rainbow nation. It is a thriving country with so much to offer and a diversity of cultures that sets it apart from its African neighbours.

Famous for its spectacular landscapes, you can’t dismiss the stark contrast between the arid deserts of the Kalahari and the lush Garden Route that winds around a wild coastline, opening the doors to varied topography.

It’s one of the main reasons why tourists every year make their way to visit and why understanding some of the standard practices and expectations, like tipping in South Africa, can go a long way.

It’s not only South Africa’s beautiful beaches and landscapes that draw people to its lands, but the famous Big Five and the countless other wild animals you will see on game drives and conservation reserves.

Group of wild zebras and giraffe in the African savanna against the beautiful blue sky with white clouds. Wildlife of Africa. Tanzania. Serengeti national park. African landscape.

It’s the impeccable food and wine this country offers and the history behind everything you see. It is the welcoming, friendly people you will meet and the pride in their eyes for the land they love.

These people go out of their way to provide the best and most efficient experience, which is why the tipping culture is so influential.

The wages vary in South Africa; highly skilled professionals in fields like medicine, engineering, law, and information technology can earn substantially higher wages than the minimum. Salaries for skilled workers often reflect international market rates.

In contrast, workers in low-skilled jobs, such as agriculture or general labour, typically earn wages closer to or slightly above the minimum wage. South Africa’s economy has faced many challenges, including high unemployment rates, which can impact wage levels.

Due to the lack of jobs in the country, South Africans rely on tipping since it makes up a large portion of their salaries, making it a common practice for locals and tourists. 

Below is a detailed guide, helping you break down the process of what each industry requires when it comes down to South Africa and tipping:

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Table of Contents

Are you expected to tip in South Africa? 

Tipping is a common and expected practice in South Africa for many service-related professions. It’s a way to show appreciation for good service. It is an essential part of the income for many workers in the service industry.

While tipping is customary, it’s generally not mandatory, and the exact amount can vary depending on the circumstances and your level of satisfaction.

Aim for a simple 10% of your final bill regarding tipping etiquette. Places like restaurants, bars and tour guides often expect some tips, which are only sometimes required in other industries.

In places like Cape Town and Johannesburg, you will notice it’s customary to tip car guards and petrol station attendants, especially those who have gone out of their way to help you.

This is common worldwide, but due to the lack of employment options, locals had to make a plan and assisting people in parking and leaving seemed a popular choice. 

Always use your discretion, and if you need clarification on the appropriate tip amount, you can ask the service provider for guidance or recommendations.

Ultimately, tipping in South Africa is a way to acknowledge good service and support those in the service industry. Still, it should be based on your satisfaction and the quality of service received.

South African money - rand

What’s the easiest way to give a tip in South Africa?

Cash people! It is always cash. Do not be surprised when the car guard at the Mall suddenly whips out a small Yoco machine and expects his R5 to help you escape a tight situation. 

One of the best South African tips I can provide (since I am a South African myself) when it comes to gratuity is always having some loose change lying around your bag or back pocket for the moments you need a little extra.

Tipping at places like restaurants, hotels, bars, and large businesses usually prefer tips through card transactions by adding gratuity. Still, in South Africa, it’s best to have some backup cash for the lone-standing tip jars and change buckets. 

While digital payments are becoming more common, especially in urban areas, cash remains the most straightforward and widely accepted method for tipping here in South Africa.

It’s good practice to have some flexibility and adapt to the payment methods available in the specific area or region you’re in anywhere you travel.

Coastal mountain landscape with fynbos flora in Cape Town, South Africa

When and How Much to Tip in South Africa?

Knowing when and how much to tip wherever you travel is vital since this allows you to budget and be prepared.

In a country like South Africa, especially places like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, it’s common to tip small change wherever you go to acknowledge the service and show appreciation. If you are unsure how much to tip, the minimal amount is 10%.

Knowing when to tip is pretty straightforward, so like most places, the tipping happens once the service is finished and you are satisfied as a customer.

It changes depending on the industry, but when paying a bill or settling a transaction, you can round up the total amount to the nearest convenient amount. For example, if your bill is 120 ZAR, you can pay 130 ZAR and let the service provider keep the change as a tip.

In cafes, bars, and restaurants, you may find tip jars near the counter or at the cashier, where you can drop your tip in the pot.

Tipping hotel staff in South Africa is similar to most hotels and tour operators, who generally provide envelopes for gratuities. You can place your tip in the envelope and hand it to the designated staff member.

When it comes to understanding how much to tip game rangers in South Africa and other industries you need to get used to, this guide will help you with all the details and assist in your budget preparations. 

Pretoria, South Africa - Giant bronze statue of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist. Father of a Nation watches over the city.

Can I tip in USD in South Africa?

Many places worldwide accept the dollar as an internationally recognised currency, but can you tip in US dollars in South Africa?

The local currency used in this country is the South African Rand (ZAR), and you will find few (if not any) places in the country accepting dollars, euros or pounds.

You will most likely get a small side eye, a confused look and an apologetic smile explaining they don’t take any currency but the Rand.

Suppose they choose to accept USD and other currencies. In that case, the establishment must convert it into ZAR, which can involve additional fees and potentially less favourable exchange rates, resulting in a smaller amount for the business. ZAR is the only legal tender in South Africa. 

On the other hand, paying and tipping at private game reserves or safaris will most likely accept USD since they work with many international clients, and if you don’t have any of the local currency, head to the closest bank with an ATM.

Hands of man in blue t-shirt counting US Dollar bills or paying in cash on money background. Concept of investment, success, financial prospects or career advancement

What Is A Reasonable Tip In South Africa

Tipping customs in South Africa are similar to many other countries, and what constitutes a reasonable tip can vary based on the level of service, the type of establishment, and personal preferences.

If you are still determining the amount, always aim for 10% or higher for any industry in South Africa. 

Taxi & Uber Drivers

Regarding tipping in South Africa, metered taxis and Uber generally expect a tip of at least 10% of the final amount. If they have helped you with heavy luggage or assisted you, add more. 

In South Africa, we get many minibus taxis that many locals use whom you do not tip, but it is unlikely you would use one of them.

It’s important to note that tipping practices can vary among individuals and regions. If you needhelp with how much to tip, you can always ask the driver for their preference or use your judgment based on the quality of service provided.

Taxi Drivers: 

In South Africa, it’s common to round up the fare or add a small extra amount as a tip. A tip of around 10% to 15% of the food is generally considered reasonable if the service is satisfactory.

You can adjust the tip based on factors such as the quality of service, route taken, and overall experience.

Uber Drivers: 

Tipping Uber drivers is not mandatory, but it’s a courteous gesture if you are happy with the service. Many Uber passengers choose to tip in the app after the ride, where Uber allows you to select a predefined tip amount or enter a custom tip.

Typically, a tip of 10% to 15% of the fare is a reasonable guideline, but you can adjust it as you see fit.

Tour Guides & Operators

A common question is, “How much do you tip safari guides in South Africa?”

Regarding it, tipping tour guides in South Africa is the same as you would tip hotel staff. However, some feel they deserve more due to their knowledge and interaction with others.

The appropriate tip can vary depending on the tour length, the service level, and your satisfaction. 

Full-Day Tours: 

A standard tip for full-day tours, such as safaris or guided excursions, is around 10% to 15% of the total tour cost per person.

Suppose the time was exceptional or involved a lot of personal attention. In that case, you should be tipping toward the higher end of this range.

Half-Day Tours: 

A tip of around 5% to 10% is reasonable for shorter half-day tours. Again, adjust the tip based on the quality of the tour and your satisfaction.

Private Tours: 

If you’ve booked a private tour or have a dedicated guide, you should tip the higher end of the range as the service is personalised.

Group Tours: 

In group tours, you can collectively tip the guide and support staff. Many tours have a tipping kitty where participants contribute, and the total is divided among the guides, drivers, and other staff.

Safari Guides:  

Safari guides in South Africa often rely on tips as a significant part of their income. Guidelines for tipping safari guides can be higher, typically ranging from $10 to $20 per person per day for their services.

Additional Support Staff: 

In addition to your guide, you might encounter other support staff on tours, such as drivers, trackers, and camp staff. Consider tipping them individually or contributing to a collective tip.

Single lion standing proudly on a small hill

Spa & Wellness Places:

Tipping at spa and wellness places in South Africa is similar to tipping at restaurants; it’s a way to show appreciation for the services provided, and a tip for a local can go a very long way. 

While some spas may allow you to add the tip to your credit card payment, it’s often more convenient to tip in cash directly to the therapist or staff members who served you. Before tipping, checking the spa’s policies regarding gratuities is a good idea.

Some resorts may include a suggested tip amount on the bill, while others leave it to your discretion.

You can ask the staff for guidance if you need clarification on the appropriate tip amount. They are typically familiar with local tipping customs and can provide recommendations.

Spa and Massage Services: 

For spa treatments, such as massages, facials, or body treatments, it’s customary to tip between 10% and 20% of the service cost, which you can adjust based on the quality of the treatment and your satisfaction.

Salon Services: 

If you receive salon services, like haircuts, styling, or manicures/pedicures at a spa or wellness centre, a tip of around 10% to 15% of the service cost is typical.

Spa Packages: 

For spa packages that include multiple services or treatments, you can calculate the tip based on the overall package cost or individually for each service received.

Hotel Spas: 

If you’re using the spa facilities at a hotel, check if a service charge is automatically added to your bill. If you need help, you can tip the spa staff individually based on the above mentioned guidelines.

Additional Staff: 

In some cases, additional staff might be involved, such as attendants or therapists. Consider tipping them separately or contributing to a collective tip pool if provided.

Johannesburg, South Africa - Inside interior of a Beauty Salon in a Mall

Hotel Staff

Each country has its different customs, and foreigners travelling to the Rainbow Nation have a common question that tends to make the rounds.

“How much do you tip housekeeping in South Africa?”

Tipping hotel staff in South Africa is a common practice and a great way to show appreciation for the services provided during your stay.

A lot goes on behind the closed door of your hotel room whilst it’s being cleaned, and you’d be shocked at what the cleaning crew and hotel staff have to go through with troublesome and problematic customers. 

Tipping in South African hotels is highly appreciated since their tips make up a large portion of their monthly income, and any form of recognition for a service well done can impact someone’s day. 

Porters: 

Porters who assist with carrying your luggage to and from your room tend to receive a tip of around 10 to 20 South African Rand (ZAR) per bag. If you have a lot of luggage or if the porter goes above and beyond, you can tip on the higher end of the final amount.

Housekeeping: 

It’s customary to leave a daily tip for housekeeping staff, especially if they clean your room daily. An amount of 20 to 50 ZAR per day is a reasonable guideline. You can leave the tip on the bedside table with a note to express your thanks.

Concierge: 

If the concierge provides helpful recommendations, arranges reservations, or assists with other services, a tip of around 20 to 50 ZAR for each service they provide is appropriate.

Room Service: 

If you order room service, adding a service charge to the bill is customary. However, if the service is excellent, you can leave an additional tip of around 10% of the total bill.

Restaurant Staff: 

When dining at the hotel’s restaurant, the customary tipping range is 10% to 15% of the bill. Check your bill to see if a service charge has already been included.

Bartenders: 

At the hotel bar, a tip of around 10% of the bill is standard, or you can round up the total to the nearest convenient amount.

Spa and Wellness Services: 

If you use the spa or wellness facilities within the hotel, consider tipping the therapists or staff, as mentioned in the previous response, specific to spa and wellness places.

Valet Parking: 

If you use valet parking services, a tip of around 20 to 50 ZAR when your car is returned to you is appreciated.

Front Desk: 

Tipping the front desk staff is rare but still appreciated for exceptional service. You can provide a tip when they assist you with special requests or go out of their way to help.

Street view of buildings in city CBD

Cafes, Restaurants & Bars

Like many places worldwide, those who work at cafes, restaurants and bars rely heavily on their tips, and South Africa is no different.

In fact, from personal experience, people who work in these industries need their tips to make a workable living due to the low wages in South Africa, which is possibly why we are known for our excellent service. 

Don’t be surprised to find yourself at a table with a very smiley waiter who has gone above and beyond to make you feel comfortable and present the best experience possible.

South Africa is known for delicious food and service at a very affordable price, and it literally takes $1 to assist and support a local here in SA. 

Always check your bill to see if a service charge or gratuity has already been included. You can still leave an additional tip for exceptional service if it has.

Cafes: 

In cafes, a tip of 10% to 15% of the total bill is customary if table service is provided. If you’re ordering at the counter and there’s no table service, tipping is less common but still appreciated, and you can leave some loose change in the tip jar.

Restaurants: 

In restaurants, the general guideline is to tip between 10% to 15% of the total bill. Many restaurants in South Africa include a service charge or gratuity (often listed as a “service fee” on the bill), so check your tab before adding an additional tip. A 10% to 15% tip for good service is standard if service is not included.

Fine Dining: 

In upscale or fine dining restaurants, where the service and experience are typically more refined, tipping on the higher end of the range, such as 15% to 20%, is customary.

Buffet Restaurants: 

In buffet-style restaurants where you may serve yourself but the waitstaff still provides some services (e.g., clearing plates, refilling drinks), a tip of around 10% is appropriate.

Bars: 

When ordering drinks at bars, it’s customary to tip the bartender between 10% and 15% of the total bill, especially if they provide table service or create specialty cocktails. For more straightforward orders like a single drink, rounding up the bill or leaving a small amount is common.

Splitting the Bill: 

Consider tipping based on your portion if you’re in a group, and the bill is split. Each person can calculate their tip individually.

grilled pork meat lamb chops and sausages on a grill for a barbecue (south african braai) outdoors in south africa

Food Delivery

I have always been one to tip food delivery drivers, in hand, just because I know how intense it can get and what they have to go through to get your food delivered, still warm.

From long distances to ridiculous weather situations, they get through it. Tipping food delivery drivers in South Africa is customary and even expected.

The weather here in South Africa can do multiple flips in a day, and even during heavy rainfalls and crazy winds, the delivery drivers are there fighting through it to get to their destination.

Tipping will be highly appreciated; like other industries, it makes up most of their monthly salaries. 

Delivery Fee: 

First, check if there is a delivery fee included in your order. Sometimes, the delivery fee may cover part of the driver’s compensation. If a delivery fee is included, you can still add a tip on top of it.

Percentage of the Bill:

A standard guideline for tipping food delivery drivers is to offer a tip of around 10% to 15% of the total bill. This percentage can vary based on factors like the distance of the delivery, the complexity of the order, and your level of satisfaction with the service.

Flat Amount: 

If you prefer, you can also opt for a flat tip amount. Depending on your budget and the size of your order, a typical flat tip could be around 20 to 50 South African Rand (ZAR). 

Consider Distance and Weather: 

If the delivery driver had to travel a significant distance or weather conditions were unfavourable (e.g., heavy rain or extreme heat), you may tip a bit more to compensate for their effort.

Cash or In-App Tipping: 

Many food delivery services allow you to add a tip in the app or when paying online. Still, you always have the opportunity to provide cash. 

Prompt and Courteous Service: 

If the delivery was prompt, the order was correct, and the driver was courteous, it’s a good reason to provide a generous tip.

Feedback: 

If you have any special requests or the driver went above and beyond to ensure your satisfaction, consider acknowledging their efforts with a slightly higher tip.

Check the Restaurant’s Policy: 

Some restaurants may have a policy on tipping delivery drivers, so be sure to inquire if there are any specific guidelines or recommendations.

Cape Town, South Africa, Roads and car traffic in Cape Town South Africa

Street Vendors & Markets

Tipping street vendors or market sellers is a beautiful addition to whatever you have decided to buy. Still, honestly, people need to do it in South Africa.

Unless they offered a specific service and not just a product, then tipping is optional. Still, otherwise, it would be like tipping an ordinary shop attendant for their excellent skills in cashing up your products.

You may still find a tip jar hanging at different shops, but that’s more there for the gracious person who pops a couple of loose change inside. 

While tipping isn’t the norm at street markets and with street vendors in South Africa, your approach should be flexible and considerate. It’s more about fair and respectful bargaining and maintaining a positive and friendly interaction with the vendors.

Ultimately, the decision to tip or offer additional payment should be up to you and the specific circumstances of the transaction.

Bargaining: 

When shopping at street markets or dealing with street vendors, it’s more common to negotiate the price of the goods rather than leave a tip. Bargaining is an integral part of the buying process in many street markets.

Round-Up: 

Suppose you want to show appreciation for the vendor’s service or are satisfied with your purchase. In that case, you can round up the final price to the nearest convenient amount. For example, if an item costs 40 ZAR, you can pay 50 ZAR instead.

Small Change: 

You can also let the vendor keep the small change as a way of tipping, especially if the amount is negligible to you but can make a difference to them.

Exceptional Service: 

If a vendor provides exceptional service, goes out of their way to help you, or offers additional assistance, consider giving a small tip or paying more for the item.

Local Customs: 

Be mindful of local customs and norms. Sometimes, vendors may not expect or be accustomed to receiving tips, so it’s essential to respect the local practices and be sure they are happy with them. 

Unidentified african  woman selling hand made art on the market for tourists on the panarama route.

Airport & Hotel Porters

Arriving at an airport with all your luggage can be a whole situation. If it wasn’t for the helpful airport porter assisting me and my mess, it would have taken me much longer to make my way to the exit and find a taxi.

Tipping depends entirely on you, your preferences and the level of service provided, but tipping airport and hotel porters is a common practice and an appreciative gesture from you. 

Again, these people do not receive a high salary, meaning tips are essential to their daily earnings. It also opens the doors to slightly pushy porters. Still, it is entirely up to you whether you want the help; all it takes is to decline respectfully.

Airport Porters: 

Airport porters assist with carrying your luggage at the airport. A 10 to 20 South African Rand (ZAR) tip per bag is standard. If you have more cumbersome luggage, consider tipping on the higher end of this range.

Hotel Porters: 

Hotel porters help with carrying your luggage to and from your room. A tip of approximately 10 to 20 ZAR per bag is customary. Consider a slightly higher tip if staying at a higher-end or luxury hotel.

Cash in Local Currency: 

Tipping cash, preferably in the local currency (ZAR), is advisable. Ensure you have some small denominations on hand for tipping purposes.

Quality of Service: 

Consider the quality of service when determining the tip amount. A higher tip may be appropriate if the porter is friendly, helpful, and provides efficient service.

Large or Heavy Items: 

Suppose you have large, complex or heavy items that require extra effort from the porter, such as oversized luggage or special equipment. In that case, providing a more substantial tip to compensate for the additional work is courteous.

Multiple Porters: 

Suppose multiple porters assist you during your stay (e.g., at the airport and the hotel). In that case, you can tip each one separately based on their service.

Gratitude: 

When tipping, expressing your gratitude verbally is polite by saying “thank you” to the porter for their assistance.

JOHANNESBURG - Airbus A320 disembarking passengers after locall flight. Johannesburg Tambo airport is the busiest airport in Africa

Car guards are worth mentioning in this article. It is suitable for travellers to be aware that in South Africa, we have many car guards everywhere in hopes of helping cars find parking, reverse out safely and watch over them in exchange for a tip for their services.

It became a growing factor when employment and homelessness became extreme a couple of years back. 

Car guards in South Africa provide informal security services by watching over parked cars in public areas, such as shopping malls, markets, and entertainment venues.

While they don’t have an official salary and rely on tips from vehicle owners, there are no strict guidelines for how much to tip car guards. Tipping amounts can vary widely based on individual circumstances and location.

Be aware that certain car guards are not hired by official businesses, and you can work that out by the coloured government jacket they wear. Usually, it would be a luminescent green, yellow or orange, representing an official government worker.

Supporting ‘freelancing’ car guards is not recommended since they are not regulated, and some may work within gangs.  

Official Government Car Guards:

These car guards wear the official government vest or jacket and only require a couple of coins in exchange for their services. It can range from a simple R2 to R10 and more for the level of service they provide. If you’re parking for an extended period, you might give a larger tip upon returning.

General Car Guards:

Many of us wish to support and help whoever we can when we can, but certain situations are up to your discretion. Reports have shown that giving money to unregulated carguards can increase drug and crime activity in different areas.

Still, if they did provide an excellent service to you, then there is no reason not to. Many people are wary because of these guards’ pushiness and high expectations.

Side note: If I found an unofficial car guard in the parking, before heading to my car, I would ask him first which car was mine, and that tended to help me decide whether they deserved any money from me. 

As mentioned before, car guards typically prefer small cash or bills. Still, you will be surprised that many of them, especially in Cape Town, now carry small card machines for their services. 

TOUWS RIVER, SOUTH AFRICA - A street scene, with a supermaket, people and vehicles, in Touws River in the Western Cape Province

Tipping is an excellent way of showing your appreciation. In places like South Africa, the locals and residents heavily rely on gratuity as a primary form of income, which is why it is such a common practice. 

People from places like Europe and America will likely find South Africa very affordable and tipping a couple of dollars, pounds or euros here. There can go an exceptionally long way for a local in South Africa and barely make a dent in your pocket or travel budget.

The question is, “to tip, or not to tip?”

Is South Africa A Good Place To Live?

Travel safety tips for south africa.

Katie Barker

Katie, a dynamic travel expert and photographer, is dedicated to exploration and sharing her adventures through travel and lifestyle blogging. With a global perspective shaped by residences in Cape Town and beyond, she offers insights into off-the-beaten-path destinations and budget-friendly travel tips. Katie's expertise spans digital nomad living, travel planning, and empowering solo female travelers.

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tipping in South Africa

South Africa is a country where you can visit any type of terrain you wish, from beautiful sandy beaches to mountainous regions. There’s more to the country than the famous Cape Town. Hiking is quite common in the peaks and valleys of Drakensburg, Kruger National Park is a perfect place to take a safari and whale watching can be engaged in on the Southern Coast.

It is important to tip a small amount in South Africa. It shows your appreciation, though it does not have to be a significant amount.

tipping etiquette for restaurants in South Africa

in South Africa Tip 10-15% in Resteraunts

It is customary to tip good service in South Africa. An acceptable amount is 10-15%. If you have six or more in your party, restaurants will generally add a gratuity to your bill. You do not have to tip if you see a service charge added to your check; however most wait staff depend on tips to make up for the lower wages they receive.

tipping in hotels in South Africa

in Hotels Tip 10-15 Rand at Hotels

If you want to be sure that your housekeeper gets your tip money, leave your 10-15 Rand per night in the room or give it to them directly. If your gratuity is requested with your bill, know that the appropriate person may never see that money. Porters should be paid 10 Rand per bag, or the equivalent of $1 each.

should you tip your tour guide?

in South Africa Tip 10% or 100 Rand to tour guides

In South Africa it is good etiquette to tip 100 Rand per person per day or 10% to private drivers

Many private tour guides in South Africa are also the vehicle driver. In this case you can get by with tipping them 100 Rand per person per day. If you have a separate driver, make sure to tip them 10% of the total tour

tips at spas in South Africa

in South Africa Dont Tip at Spas

Tipping is not usually done in South African spas, but if you are staying in a luxury hotel and using their spa, check with the front desk staff to find out if tipping is allowed.

should you tip your taxi driver?

in South Africa Tip 10% to Taxi Drivers

When hiring a taxi in South Africa a gratuity is not usually included in your bill. As such it is good etiquette to add to tip 10% of the fare to the driver.

should you tip your hairdresser

in Souht Africa Tip 10-15% at a Salon

If you choose to treat yourself to a trip to a salon in South Africa, make sure to tip between 10-15% of your bill for your stylist. If a separate person washed your hair, it is expected you will add a small tip for them as well. 5 or 10 Rand is more than enough.

Cape Town with Kids

Tipping in South Africa (in 2022)

Money in front of a jar

What to tip in South Africa?

When you arrive in a new country as a tourist, you will most probably ask yourself how much to tip in service-oriented businesses. There are always a few uncertainties about the tipping rules in that particular country as you don’t want to give too little or too much tip, or maybe even not anything at all. Some countries don’t have a tipping culture and consider it rude to receive those extra bucks.

First things first: South Africa definitely has a tipping culture and it is usually expected that you pay a certain amount on top of your bill or for certain services. People working in the service industry are very much reliant on tips to make a living wage, so be considerate and at least tip the minimum amount of 10% when visiting restaurants, hotels or other service oriented attractions. There are other services where other rates apply and which will be covered in more detail below.

Restaurants

We already discovered that you should tip a minimum of 10% in restaurants and bars. Some restaurants (especially the fine dining ones) automatically add a 12.5% tip to their bills in which case you don’t have to pay an additional amount on top. In those cases, the tip is already included in the bill. You can also use this amount as a standard tipping rate when going to other places as it is above the minimum of 10% but still within reasonable tipping amounts. So you can never go wrong with 12.5%. Anything above the 12.5% is much appreciated and you can basically give as much as you want, but staying within a 10% – 20% range is recommendable.

Petrol Attendants

In South Africa, you don’t have to get out of the car to fill it up yourself. There are numerous petrol attendants working at gas stations who assist you with that. They fill up your tank, clean your windshields and even check on your oil and water and tire pressure if required. So depending on the amount of tasks that you require from them, a tip between R5 and R20 is considered appropriate . If you don’t have small change in cash, you can also add the tip to the overall bill and pay it with your credit card.

According to a poll conducted by BusinessTech in 2021 , 36% of South African motorists don’t tip their service station attendants at all while 30% give R5, 19% tip 10 Rand, and 7% hand over a R2 coin. 5% of those who responded are more generous and tip R20 or even more (3%). Since petrol attendants use tips to supplement their low wages (according to data from 2021, the minimum wage of petrol attendants was R36.10 for each working hour which amounts to R7,147.80 per month) and offer a lot of complimentary services on top of filling up your car, it is recommended to give at least 5 Rand, even if the process of having to fill up your car is not an enjoyable act like a visit in a nice restaurant and tears a hole in our own wallet due to rapidly increasing oil prices. But keep in mind that inflation, which is generally high in South Africa, affects the poorest the most.

Poll: How much do you usually tip serve station attendants?

In public streets, you will often find those unofficial car guards, wearing a neon-yellow security vest, who keep an eye on your car during your absence and (hopefully) make sure that nothing happens to it. They are not paid by the city and often just claim the parking spots to earn some money. There are also official parking guards employed by the city during office hours who issue an official parking ticket where applicable. Those guards don’t need to be tipped.

For the rest (since it’s not an official job), we usually give them between R2 and R5 depending on how long we stay (or leftover food that we didn’t finish in restaurants ) as a courtesy if they are friendly and honest and we feel they made an effort to look after our car and help us back into and out of the parking space. On a hot day, a bottle of cool water or a soft drink is also very much appreciated by the car guards.

Please note that you always only tip the unofficial car guards when you leave, never upfront! The official car guards in the City Centre however, that wear a proper uniform and carry a small orange registration and time-tracking device on a strap around their neck, usually charge upfront.

Unfortunately, some of the car guards are rude if you don’t give anything (e.g. if you don’t have small change or they come running from two blocks away without actually having watched your car) – especially if they are drunk. Don’t let yourself intimidate by them and harass you for money but also don’t verbally abuse them.

Car guards are a sensitive subject in South Africa. There is a big discussion going on whether it is right or wrong to tip unofficial car guards which mostly are unemployed and sometimes live on the street. Some of the car guards also have mental health issues and/or an addiction. Many locals are not very sympathetic to their cause due to the constant demands for money which quickly can become overwhelming and irritating. Those that are completely opposed to car guards argue that the presence of them supports homelessness, turf wars and increases crime and grime in the area. They say that by supporting them (and indirectly their addiction to alcohol or drugs), you keep them on the street instead of nudging them to seek help and support in shelters for the homeless. Some even claim that the self-appointed car guards act as the eyes for car thieves, drug dealers or muggers or that they have their own car lock jammers or sell drugs themselves. That’s not our experience though. In contrary, our local car guards have helped our neighbourhood watch and police to drive away or expose and catch car breakers and other criminals. Most of the car guards are super friendly and honest. Instead of begging or turning to crime they show some initiative and work for their money. They at least try to make a contribution by keeping an eye on people’s cars. Those that really make an effort deserve to be acknowledged and supported. But of course there is exceptions and the other side of the coin as mentioned above. As a tourist however, we would recommend to always tip them in order to avoid any negative experiences and unnecessary hassle with the car guards.

Here is an additional security tip: Unfortunately, car jammers that jam the radio signal from key to car lock are a thing in South Africa. Whenever we lock our car with our remote control, we always physically check that the doors are really locked to make sure that the car wasn’t jammed and can be plundered. Do the same with your rental car instead of just walking away while casually pressing the lock button. A general rule is also to never leave any valuables in your car.

Taxi Drivers

If you require a taxi to go to places, you have basically three different options: the mini busses (not recommended because they drive around like crazy and don’t have designated stops), metered taxis or taxi apps such as Uber, Bolt, Yookoo Ride, inDriver and Taxi Live Africa. If you have any of those e-hailing apps on your phone, make use of them. It’s easy, quick, safe and you can tip the driver within the app.

When you take a metered cap, you can also tip according to distance travelled, the friendliness of the driver and your overall experience.

The standard tip for taxis is between 10% to 20% of the overall fare . Alternatively, you can just round up to the nearest R10 or R20. Minibus drivers don’t get a tip.

Beauty Therapists and other Professionals

When you’re on holiday, you’re probably going to book yourself some treatments. Whether it’s a massage, a new haircut, new nails or a new tattoo: you should definitely show your appreciation after your treatment and not leave without a friendly tip.

The average tip for those services is between 10% to 15% of the overall service charge. Of course, if you are super happy, you can always go higher than that.

Safari Staff

Visiting South Africa and going on a Safari Trip is almost the same thing. Many tourists coming to this country want to have a luxury game drive experience and spot the Big 5 and other wild animals. So you often book a safari package for several days where rangers take you out on game drives, point out the animals and provide you with many interesting information. The house-keeping ladies make sure you are comfortable in your lodge and cooks and service personell add to your happiness.

At the end of your stay, you receive your bill and the question arises: how much tip shall we pay? This is a very difficult question to answer as it all depends. In a luxury accommodation, you should certainly tip more than in a standard lodge. Here, the average tip for your guard should be around R1,000 or higher.

In more down to earth lodges, it’s a little lower. In general, you can apply the rule to pay a tip of R150 – R250 per couple per night. The ranger should be tipped separately and if possible directly after the game drive is over (you often have rotating rangers, so you might not see this particular guide again). We would say that R50 to R100 is advisable , but of course the amount can always be higher depending on your overall experience.

Hotel Staff

Staying in a hotel is convenient for so many reasons and there are quite a few staff members who make your stay enjoyable. From the porter who carries your luggage, to the cleaning ladies who make your bed and do the laundry to the receptionist with a helping hand and great advice.

So they all deserve a nice tip at the end of your stay as a Thank You. We usually tip the porter directly with R10 to R20 for bringing our luggage to the room. The other staff members, we don’t tip directly, but add a tip at the end of the stay. At hotels it is customary to leave  R50 per person per day for housekeeping .  Otherwise, you can also add a standard 10% tip to your overall invoice.

Tour Guides

We already covered the tips for rangers and tour guides who accompany you on a safari. For a short game drive of 2-3 hours, you can tip your guide R50 to R100. For a tour guide that is with you for an entire day (or a couple of days) and shows you around exclusively, the tip should be higher and a recommended daily amount is R200 to R300.

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Tipping Guide

Expatcapetown guide - etiquette in south africa.

In our ExpatCapeTown Tipping Guide you will read how to tip for services in South Africa. Giving tips for good services is customary and appreciated all over the world, but tips can vary hugely. 

South Africa Tipping Guidelines

south africa tour guide tip

People working in the service industry in South Africa usually rely heavily on tips from customers as the basic wages are often minimal and not enough to support a family. Thus, in South Africa, people often tip regardless of the quality of service they receive, as tips are commonly expected or even anticipated. 

In South Africa, services in the hospitality industry are generally provided swiftly and are of good standard. Given the fact, that education and training levels of people in the service industries are often quite basic, misunderstandings and failures due to inexperience of a waiter for example, might happen. However, services are usually delivered with friendly smiles; and the cooperation and willingness to remedy unacceptable situations often will make up for any shortcomings.

Tipping in South Africa: How much should you tip?

Restaurants/Coffee Shops/Bars

south africa tour guide tip

  • Waitron: 10-15% of bill, for tables of six or more the standard tip of at least 10% is usually added to the total amount of the bill by the restaurant
  • Bartender: R5 per alcoholic drink
  • Parking Attendant: R5-10

Day-to-Day Routines/Personal Grooming

  • Trolley Attendant/Car Guards: R2-10, if there is no parking fee
  • Food Delivery Service: R10
  • Handymen: no money, but cold or hot drinks for morning or lunch break time
  • Car Wash Cleaner: R10 
  • Petrol (Gas) Attendant: R5-10
  • Hairdresser/Barber: R20, if the service is provided by the owner, usually not applicable
  • Hair Saloon Shampoo Lady: R10-20
  • Beauty Therapist: R20

south africa tour guide tip

Travels/Transport/Hotels

  • Taxidriver: 10-15% of taxi fare
  • Porters: R5-10 per bag
  • Airport porter: R20 per trolley
  • Concierge: R50
  • Maid/Housekeeper in Hotelroom: R20+ per person/night 
  • Full-time Maid (self-catering accommodation): R200/day
  • Coach Driver/City Tour Guide: R20
  • Safari Tour Guide: R50 per day
  • Mover: R20 for each staff member per day

South Africa Tipping Guide from: Living in South Africa

These are only customary guidelines in our tipping guide. The attitude to tipping services varies widely among the different population and income groups. For outstanding and excellent service regarding above mentioned categories, tip as much as you feel comfortable with. If people give value-for-money service, appreciate this with a tip and let the person who served you and the service provider aka her/his boss know. 

Remember, recommending outstanding service delivery generally motivates. It generally improves the service commitment for continuously and proudly delivering first-class services and thus creates are better and more positive environment for all. There are many ways to support great businesses, either by writing reports on HelloPeter.com or TripAdvisor.com or l et us know.   Tipping Guide:   Further reading: Etiquette in 50 countries

Need more info on South Africa?

Living in South Africa - Expat Guide Book by Regina Graeff and Derryn Campbell

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Tipping In South Africa

Posted by Savvy Travel Secrets | Feb 1, 2017 | South Africa | 0

Tipping In South Africa

Tipping in South Africa is very common and often expected. South Africa offers some amazing out door activities and some of the best guided tours in the world. With lots to do around the country its no surprise tipping is very common. When traveling to South Africa you should be prepared to tip. Use our guide below to figure out when you should tip on your travels!

Tipping Taxi Drivers In South Africa

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Savvy Travel Secrets

Savvy Travel Secrets

Savvy Travel Secrets is a group of authors that travel the world to explore everything the earth has to offer. We are now sharing our savvy traveling secrets with you! Experience your own memories using some of our ideas to help make traveling cheaper and easier!

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Tipping in South Africa, A Local’s View on Etiquette

tipping in south africa

Want to know how to tip when you’re in South Africa? You’re in the right hands. As a local who has lived in Durban and Cape Town, I understand how important gratuity in South Africa is. It’s a part of the culture and there are some important do’s and don’ts, which I’ll share in this guide. This article will share some no-nonsense advice on how much to tip when to tip, and the things that are considered polite or rude.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tipping Percentage:  In South Africa, the standard tipping percentage is 10%, but it can range from 10% to 15% or more if you recieved good service.
  • Importance of Tipping: Tipping is vital in South Africa, where many service industry workers earn low salaries, and some rely solely on tips for income.
  • Tipping in Different Settings: Tipping practices vary by location, but common guidelines include 10% for restaurants, loose change for bars, and 20 ZAR ($1) for hotel staff.
  • Tips on Tipping Like a Local: Cash tipping is preferred, especially for car guards who usually accept only cash. Carrying loose change is convenient for tipping, and tipping etiquette suggests a minimum of 10% or more if service is exceptional.

How Much Should I Tip in South Africa?

The general rule is to tip 10% of the total bill in South Africa, however, this can be anything from 10% – 15% (more if you can afford it or if you’re truly impressed with the service received). You are not obliged to tip if the staff member is rude or takes too long to deliver the service without any explanation or apology offered.

Let me say upfront that even though 10% is the standard there are instances where, depending on the nature of the service, this may vary and cases where it’ll have to be an amount instead of a percentage but we’ll talk about that further below.

In South Africa, many of those who are employed in the service industry earn salaries that are way below the minimum wage. Secondly, a large number of those people live far away from work, and have to catch public transport to and from every day. Therefor, these people often rely on the tips they receive from their customers to make a decent income, and to afford the transport to and from work.

In worst-case scenarios, there are also people who don’t even receive a basic salary but only make money out of the tips they receive as their only source of income. Tipping, therefore, is an important act of kindness while you’re on holiday in this country and a great way to help someone who needs it and put a smile on their face.

All of the above is the reason why tipping in South African culture is often required.

Tipping For Different Services in South Africa

Tipping in restaurants and cafes.

south africa tour guide tip

Tipping waiting staff in restaurants is the most common form of tipping in this country and the one that everybody understands and expects. Again  the standard   here is 10% of the total bill or more  if happy to do so. Make sure you check your bill before you settle as some restaurants, especially the high-end establishments, now have a practice of adding the gratuity or service charge onto the bill for large groups of six or more people at the table.

If you didn’t know this you would add another tip because you’d be completely unaware that it’s already been added to the total.

You can additionally add more to what the restaurant has put on the bill if you feel it’s not enough for the service that you received.

Please note: most waiters prefer a cash tip to card. This is because most have to wait till the end of the week or month for the restaurant to do the accounts before paying them what’s due to them, whereas many of these people need the cash flow daily for transport to and from work.

It’s perfectly acceptable (and appreciated) to ask the waiter what they prefer when it comes to this matter.

Tipping in Bars & Pubs

south africa tour guide tip

Tipping bartenders is a bit different simply because there is no general rule for this specific type of service, unlike waiters in restaurants. Most people generally tip the bar staff whatever loose change they get back after paying for their drink. This can be any amount of money depending on your level of generosity, I feel. However, if you are running a tab it would make perfect sense to go with the 10% guide and add that tip when you’re settling your bill.

Hotel Tipping South Africa – Hotel Staff, Bag Carriers etc.

This one is a bit tricky because there are many people who contribute to your comfortable stay for the duration of your stay. If you tip the front staff you may be forgetting the others like cleaners, cooking staff, etc.

Most hotels have a common tipping jar for them to split the tips across all staff, but if you’d like to tip individuals, say the porter who helps you with your bag, then 20 ZAR ($1) is an acceptable amount . If you have a lot of bags I would say between 20-50 ZAR ($1-$3) is good. You would tip the staff member who helps you with bookings a similar amount as well as the doorman and housekeeping staff.

Tipping Petrol Attendants in South Africa

Petrol attendants are one of the lowest paid service staff and tips go a long way to helping them make a decent income. Secondly, petrol attendants don’t just pour petrol in your car (in this country you don’t pour petrol for yourself) but they go the extra mile of cleaning your front and back windows and will check your air pressure and put air in your tires, when required, as well as oil if you have a leak.

Most people tip anything from 5-20 ZAR ($1) but if you can afford to tip more then please consider doing that.

Tipping Hairdressers in South Africa

When it comes to hairdressers in South Africa, a tip is optional, but they do appreciate it and most people do so if the service has been exceptional. I think it’s optional because most hairdressers own the business and when they charge a fee they have already worked out what their labor and profit would be so the question is do you add to that or not? I don’t see why not if you’re extremely happy with what they’ve done.

10% of the bill or a flat fee of 20 ZAR ($1) should be acceptable  when tipping hairdressers in ZA, but this is a personal opinion.

Tipping on Safari in South Africa

Safari guides do a lot to give you a great experience on safari. They not only ensure your safety in the bush where you are among very dangerous animals but they also point out those you could have missed and educate you about the various animals, etc. so it makes sense that they should be tipped well.

When tipping Safari guides in South Africa, anything between 50-100 ZAR ($3-$6) is good.

Trackers also provide a great service by guiding you as you track the animals on foot so they know the bush well. A 20-50 ZAR ($1-$3) tip for trackers is a good amount and would be greatly appreciated.

Most safari places also have common tipping jars where you can leave a tip to be shared by all staff, especially if you’re staying with them for a number of days and not just there on a day visit. If staying for a few days consider leaving 100-250 ($6-$15) per couple per night.

Tipping Tour Guides in South Africa

Tour guides provide an important and necessary service. They often hold a vast amount of knowledge about the various places that they take you to see, including the history and the current information, and sometimes double-up as photographers when you need a photo taken in front of some famous building. They can really contribute to you having an amazing experience of the place so tipping them should be standard practice. Consider tipping 100 ZAR ($5-$6) for a whole-day tour.

Tipping Taxis, Ubers/Ride-share Drivers & Public Transport Workers

Tipping public transport drivers is not a requirement especially those who earn a salary like the bus drivers, but do consider tipping if the service was exceptional, especially with Uber drivers. There are Uber or rideshare drivers who go out of their way to help with your luggage and/or ask if you are happy with the music, or they find the quickest route to get you to the airport, etc. Adding 10% to the bill should be standard in those cases, or tipping more if the service was truly exceptional. The rideshare apps give you the option to tip at the end of your ride. Minibus taxi drivers are not tipped in South Africa.

Tipping in Spas & Salons

south africa tour guide tip

Spa and salon staff pamper you and make you feel beautiful and good in your skin and so tipping them should be standard, however it’s not. If you are happy with the service you should definitely consider adding 10% to the total bill or at minimum 20 ZAR ($1). This also goes a long way to making sure you get great service again the next time you visit.

South Africa is a country with a very high unemployment rate which leaves many of the unemployed trying to find creative ways to earn a living. And sometimes, due to the informal nature of those jobs, the only income those people earn is by way of the tips that they receive from their customers since those jobs are not salaried. One of those jobs that has become popular in this country is people who work as car guards.

Car guards look after your car when you go inside the mall or any establishment where you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time. This is to stop those who are looking for opportunities to break into other people’s cars by smashing a window and stealing the contents of the car or stealing the car itself! So car guards play an important role by volunteering their services. These days we are starting to see shopping malls employ car guards but you will know who is employed at the mall because they will wear a full uniform. Whether a car guard is employed by the mall or not doesn’t really matter as they would be earning less than a minimum wage anyway, so tipping them is a way to show gratitude for the service that they provide.

Most people tip anything from 5-20 ZAR ($1). Do not feel obliged to tip in instances where the car guard is harassing you or being rude to you , and only tip when you get back to your car and have made sure that everything looks good. Sometimes they also offer to help you carry your bags to the car but feel free to say “no, thanks” if you don’t need them to.

You will normally recognize car guards by the yellow or orange vests that they wear. They are also different from the parking meter attendants that are employed by the municipality – the latter wear a full uniform and are paid by the municipality so no tip is required there.

Tips on Tipping Like a Local

  • Tipping in cash is preferred over tipping by card, as many staff members rely on daily cash flow for expenses like transportation.
  • Car guards generally only accept cash tips, as they do not have card-swiping machines.
  • Carrying loose change for tipping can be a convenient way to ensure you can tip when necessary and maintain the safety of your vehicle.
  • Tipping etiquette typically involves giving a minimum of 10% or more when possible, but exceptions can be made if the staff was rude or provided poor service without an apology or explanation.
  • In situations where service is unsatisfactory, tipping may be withheld, such as when a waiter argues over a wrong order.
  • If you don’t have cash available, it’s acceptable to inform your waiter and add the tip to your card payment as an alternative, which is still appreciated by the staff.

Gratuity in South Africa is always preferred in cash over card. This is because, as I explained earlier, most staff need the daily cash flow for transport, etc. Car guards don’t carry card-swiping machines so they always take cash. I have been embarrassed enough when I didn’t have cash on me and had to apologize profusely for not tipping so I started carrying some loose change just for tipping. This also ensures the safety of your car because some of them can take it personally when they think you’re stingy and do something to your car or simply turn a blind eye!

I always tip 10% minimum or more when I can afford it but I never feel obliged to do so if the staff were rude or took too long and offered no apology or explanation. I’ve had a waiter argue with me when they were giving me the wrong order and it’s such cases where I won’t tip.

If you don’t have cash on you don’t stress too much about it. You can politely explain this to your waiter and just add the tip to the card payment. That will still be much appreciated – it definitely beats not tipping at all.

What is the standard tipping percentage in South Africa?

10% -15% is the standard tipping percentage. You can always tip more if you are happy with the service.

Is it rude not to tip in South Africa?

Yes, but this depends on the service industry. In restaurants and hotels it is expected but with spas, hairdressers and drivers it is appreciated but not expected.

How do I handle tipping for large groups?

10% – 15% of the total bill still applies but some restaurants add the gratuity upfront for larger groups of six or more. Check the bill before you settle.

Who do I tip in South Africa?

Tip everyone who provides you with a great service; drivers, petrol attendants, beauty treatment staff, hotel and safari staff, and waiters and bar staff. The only people who are not tipped are minibus taxi drivers and parking meter attendants.

Are there situations where tipping is not expected?

Generally, it’s the owners of the business who do not expect a tip. So, if the hairdresser owns the business or the beauty therapist is also the owner of the business, wa tip is not expected.

How can I show appreciation without tipping?

Consider leaving a note of appreciation to the staff member or telling the business owner about the excellent service that you received from the staff member. It is also quite common and appreciated to write a review on websites like Tripadvisor and mention the staff member by name.

Is it acceptable to tip with foreign currency?

This can be done but it’s not preferred simply because it would be very difficult for the person to exchange the money since this is done in the bank and foreign exchange places that require a lot of documentation. If you want to tip in US dollar in South Africa, it’s not possible, as it doesn’t work in the staff member’s favor.

Can I tip using credit cards or mobile payment apps?

Absolutely, payment apps have an option to add a tip and you can indicate the tip amount on the bill as well when you are paying by credit card.

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Thola is a research psychologist who left the field in 2019 and has been writing professionally for various magazines including her own blog ZuluSingleandFab since then. She also writes as a ghostwriter for various clients and has published 5 books to date. Her love of writing started during the COVID-19 lockdowns when she created her website to share her travel stories and her health and fitness journey. A gym enthusiast and lover of healthy food, she published a book, “Fit and Fabolous at Fifty” on Amazon Kindle in 2020 and is currently in the process of writing her second book about her life experiences from leaving a powerful corporate job to working as a freelance writer.

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South Africa - Best in Travel 2023 - Shot October 2022

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South Africa

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Check out this year's Best in Travel winners

Black-maned lions framed against desert dunes, powdery beaches lapped by two oceans, star-studded night skies, jagged mountains – South Africa is the place to go wild.

Best Time to Visit

Best places to visit, leave the planning to a local expert.

Experience the real South Africa. Let a local expert handle the planning for you.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

Flowers in the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens below Table Mountain.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Location and unique flora combine to make these 5.28-sq-km botanical gardens among the most beautiful in the world. Gate 1, the main entrance at the…

Constitutional Court on Constitution Hill.

Constitution Hill

Johannesburg

Do not leave Jo'burg without visiting Constitution Hill. One of South Africa's most important historical sites, the deeply moving and inspirational…

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Simon's Town & Southern Peninsula

This 77.5-sq-km section of Table Mountain National Park includes awesome scenery, fantastic walks, great birdwatching and often-deserted beaches. The…

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Kruger National Park

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Apartheid Museum

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A river flowing through a forest with dramatic mountain in the background at the Blyde Nature reserve.

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

Blyde River Canyon

This stunning 260-sq-km reserve centres on the 30km-long Blyde River Canyon, where epic rock formations tower above the forested slopes and eagle-eye…

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway in Cape Town

Table Mountain

Around 600 million years old, and a canvas painted with the rich diversity of the Cape floral kingdom, Table Mountain is truly iconic. You can admire the…

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Three Rondavels Viewpoint

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Top picks from our travel experts

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uShaka Beach

uShaka Beach

The somewhat sheltered beach at uShaka Marine World marks the southern end of the Golden Mile.

Prison Barrack on Robben Island

Robben Island

Green Point & ­Waterfront

Used as a prison from the early days of the VOC (Dutch East India Company) right up until 1996, this Unesco World Heritage site is preserved as a memorial…

Pot Luck Club

Pot Luck Club

The sister restaurant to Test Kitchen is a more affordable Luke Dale-Roberts option. Sitting at the top of an old silo, it offers panoramic views of the…

Building of the SALT 11-meter telescope at the South African Astronomical Observatory near Sutherland.

South African Astronomical Observatory

Northern Cape

During the day you can take a guided tour of the huge research telescopes, including the Southern African Large Telescope, but it's the two-hour night…

Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa.

Sterkfontein Caves

One of the most significant archaeological sites in the world, Sterkfontein Caves include a permanent hominid exhibit and a walkway down into the…

Exterior of the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum in Soweto.

Hector Pieterson Museum

This powerful museum, named after the 12-year-old boy shot dead during the student protests in Soweto on 16 June 1976, illuminates the role of Sowetan…

Bay of Plenty Beach

Bay of Plenty Beach

At the heart of the beachfront along Durban's Golden Mile. Popular with sunbathers and beach-sports enthusiasts.

Blue Lagoon Beach

Blue Lagoon Beach

This playful beach once had a reputation for being dangerous, but after an extensive revamp it's now a haven for families. There are playgrounds, food…

Test Kitchen

Test Kitchen

Luke Dale-Roberts creates inspired dishes with top-quality local ingredients at his flagship restaurant – generally agreed to be the best in Africa…

Shortmarket Club

Shortmarket Club

Star chef Luke Dale-Roberts' latest venture hides in plain sight on the street it is named after. It's a gorgeous attic space with a wall of paper…

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park in South Africa.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

The Elephant Coast

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Shakaland

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Boulders Penguin Colony

This picturesque area, with enormous boulders dividing small, sandy coves, is home to a colony of some 3000 delightful African penguins. A boardwalk runs…

Goegap Nature Reserve

Goegap Nature Reserve

This 150-sq-km semidesert reserve, 8km east of Springbok past the airstrip, supports some 600 indigenous plant species, 45 mammal species and 94 types of…

Family of elephants in Addo Elephant National Park.

Addo Elephant National Park

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Namaqua National Park

Namaqua National Park

Your experience at Namaqua National Park depends a lot on when you visit. From October to July it's an extremely quiet place to hike or spot birds against…

Mandela House Museum

Mandela House Museum

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Maropeng

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Dwesa Nature Reserve

Dwesa Nature Reserve

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Planning Tools

Expert guidance to help you plan your trip.

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Things to Know

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Transportation

South Africa is twice the size of Texas, which can make getting around a little tricky. But don't worry – we've got everything you need to know.

Visa Requirements

Don't spoil your trip to sensational South Africa by not having your travel documents in order. Here's what you need to know about visas for South Africa.

Money and Costs

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Traveling with Kids

South Africa has plenty to offer families, from safari experiences to resort stays. Here are the best kid-friendly experiences.

Best Road Trips

South Africa is home to some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet – it's the perfect road-trip country. Here's our pick of the best.

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South Africa and beyond

View of the beach and Twelve Apostles mountain in Camps Bay near Cape Town in South Africa.

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Your Trip to South Africa: The Complete Guide

South Africa Guide: Planning Your Trip

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South Africa is a country of extremes, where poverty-stricken shanties exist alongside first-world art galleries, entertainment venues, sports arenas, and restaurants . Its magnificent landscapes include snow-dusted mountains and areas of arid semi-desert; whilst its twin coasts support incredible marine biodiversity. With countless ethnic groups and no fewer than 11 official languages , its human culture is just as diverse. Whether you're looking for a beach vacation , a city break, or an escape into the game-filled bush, South Africa has the ability to be all things to all people. 

From deciding when to travel to choosing where to stay, this article takes a look at everything you need to consider when planning your next trip there.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: Although South Africa is a year-round destination, summer (December to February) is the hottest, wettest time of the year and the best time for a beach holiday. Winter (June to August) is the coolest, driest time of year and the best time to go on safari.
  • Languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.  
  • Currency: The rand.
  • Getting Around: Public transport is unreliable and unsafe in South Africa. In the larger cities you can use Uber to get around, while privately owned long-distance buses operate in between the country's major destinations. If you're not planning on joining a chauffeured itinerary, the best way to travel is to fly or hire a car .
  • Travel Tip: Malaria is a risk in parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces   . Before you travel, ask your doctor whether you should take prophylactics.

For many visitors, South Africa's awe-inspiring wilderness areas and safari parks are the main reason to visit. Outdoor activities abound, from whitewater rafting to scuba diving, mountain biking, and even skiing. However, the country's rich culture and history should also be explored, perhaps with a township tour or a visit to Cape Town and Johannesburg's apartheid-era landmarks.

  • Go on safari: Experience South Africa's unspoiled natural beauty while looking for iconic animals on safari. Explore one of the major national parks (like Kruger or Addo ), experience five-star luxury in a private reserve like Sabi Sands or Phinda, or step off the beaten track with a visit to the remote Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
  • Discover natural wonders: South Africa is also home to some jaw-dropping geological features. These include the Blyde River Canyon (the third-largest in the world   ), the dizzying peaks and valleys of the Drakensberg Mountains , and the mighty Kalahari Desert. On the coast, expect coral-filled reefs and world-class surf breaks.
  • Learn about local culture: South Africa is defined by the traditions of its many different ethnic groups. Visit an Ndebele or AmamPondo tribal village, or sign up for a Cape Malay cooking class in Cape Town's Bo-Kaap neighborhood.

Explore more things to do in South Africa with our full-length articles on the best swimming beaches , the best small towns , and the country's UNESCO World Heritage Sites .

What to Eat and Drink

South Africa is a foodie's paradise, with fertile lands and productive seas offering a smorgasbord of locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood. Traditional African staples include pap (a kind of porridge made from mealie meal) and umngqusho , a hearty stew made from samp and beans. Immigrant laborers from India founded Durban's legendary curry culture; while Cape Malay cooking is inspired by the native recipes of Indonesian and Malaysian workers brought over by Dutch colonists. The greatest South African culinary tradition of all is the braai , or barbecue. More than a way of cooking, it's a way of life that transcends all cultural barriers.

South African beverages are just as diverse. Tourists come from all over the world to visit the vineyards of the Cape Winelands , where wines of all varieties are produced but Pinotage is the national signature. Local beers range from mass-produced giants like Castle and Black Label, to small-batch microbrews with their own distinct flavor. For a uniquely South African drinking experience, try umqombothi (a Xhosa beer brewed using fermented maize and sorghum malt) or mampoer (the Afrikaans take on moonshine). Non-alcoholic drinks that every tourist should try at least once include amasi (a fermented milk popular with indigenous cultures) and rooibos, a healthy, fragrant tea made from the leaves of the red bush plant.

Explore our full-length articles on the best curry restaurants in Durban , the best South African beverages , and biltong , South Africa's improvement on beef jerky.

Where to Stay

Deciding which part of South Africa to visit and stay in will be one of the biggest decisions you'll have to make when planning your trip. There are nine provinces in South Africa: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, North West, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu-Natal. From the lush coastline of southern KwaZulu-Natal to the semi-desert interior of the Northern Cape, each one is so different that the ideal option is to rent a car and see as much of the country as possible. If you don't have unlimited time or funds, however, you may have to explore one area of the country at a time.

Choose the Western Cape for winery tours, breathtaking ocean and mountain scenery, and fine dining in Cape Town . As the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, the Eastern Cape is steeped in tribal tradition – especially in the Transkei , a previous Xhosa homeland. The arid Northern Cape is a rewarding destination for adventure seekers wanting to discover remote national parks or to see the annual super-bloom of desert flowers. Head to Gauteng to explore the historic landmarks of Johannesburg and Pretoria; or to Limpopo and Mpumalanga for unrivalled game-viewing. KwaZulu-Natal is all about the Drakensberg mountains, historic battlefields, and world-class scuba diving.

Read our full-length articles on the best hotels in Johannesburg, the best private game reserves in South Africa , and the best luxury lodges in the Kruger .

Getting There

Most overseas visitors will enter the country through O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. From there, you can catch regular connecting flights to major hubs all over the country, including Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Durban. If you're planning an overland trip through Southern Africa, you can cross into South Africa from border posts in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, or Eswatini.

Most nationalities can enter the country without a visa for up to 90 days   , but it's important to check the South African Department of Home Affairs website for up-to-date information. Please be aware that there are specific requirements for those traveling to South Africa with children under the age of 18. 

Culture and Customs

South Africa is one of the world's most beautiful destinations; however, many travelers are put off by concerns about safety . While it's true that South Africa does have a higher crime rate than many first world countries   , most visits are without incident. You can increase your chances of a hassle-free experience by following a few simple rules. These include keeping your windows and doors locked when driving through big cities, and never leaving valuables visible in your car when parked. Don't walk alone in remote areas or in urban areas at night, especially if you are a woman. Leave your expensive jewelry at home. Book accommodation in a reputable part of town, and if you want to experience life in a township, join a guided tour rather than exploring by yourself.

Discussing local history and culture with people that you meet along the way is an important part of traveling. However, remember that race and politics continue to be sensitive subjects in a country still trying to recover from the apartheid era, and foreign input is not always welcome. Judge the situation carefully before giving your opinions.

Tipping is expected for good service in South African restaurants. The amount is up to you, but 10 to 15 percent is standard. Don't forget to tip fuel attendants and car guards, too. A few rand is normal in this case.

Read these articles for in-depth advice about staying safe in South Africa and tipping in Africa .

Money-Saving Tips

  • Although it has more than its fair share of five-star lodges and private reserves, South Africa is also one of the best destinations on the continent for an affordable safari. You can self-drive through all of the country's national parks , which have reasonable daily conservation fees. Most also offer budget-friendly campsites and/or self-catering chalets.
  • Accommodation and food are generally affordable by American standards, even if you decide to splurge on a special meal or spend a night in an upmarket hotel. However, if you're on a tight budget, choose a self-catering guesthouse or Airbnb property and shop for ingredients at your nearest Spar, Checkers, or Pick n Pay supermarket.
  • South Africa is a vast country and you can easily spend a lot on fuel and/or domestic flights if you add too many stops to your itinerary. Instead, keep costs down by choosing one or two destinations and taking the time to explore them properly.
  • For the cheapest prices in terms of accommodation, flights, and tours, plan to travel outside peak season. December coincides with Christmas and the South African summer holidays and is typically the most expensive time to travel.
  • Save money on expensive malaria prophylactics by choosing to visit areas of the country that are free from the mosquito-borne disease. If you do decide to visit a malaria area (of which Kruger is one), ask your doctor about cost-effective generic medication instead.
  • Make sure that your travel insurance is up to date. South Africa's public hospitals often leave a lot to be desired in terms of patient care and facilities, and private hospitals are expensive.

For more money-saving tips, read our detailed articles on how to plan an affordable African safari , and the best things to do in Cape Town for under $10 .

South African Tourism . "What You Need to Know."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . "South Africa Traveler View."

South African Tourism . "Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve - what a wonderful world!"

Department of Home Affairs . "Countries Exempt From South African Visas."

Overseas Security Advisory Council . "South Africa 2020 Crime & Safety Report." March 3, 2020.

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The South African

Book cheap flights in South Africa with these top tips. Image: File

TOP tips to book cheap flights in South Africa

The data has been crunched and here are the best times and days of the week to book cheap flights in South Africa …

Ray Leathern

Using the latest data, here’s the best way to secure cheap flights in South Africa. It’s all about understanding the best times to fly, reports Daily Investor . Accordingly, the guaranteed cheapest flights in South Africa are early on Sunday morning and late in the middle of the week. But what else can we learn about finding cheap flights in South Africa?

CHEAP FLIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

cheap flights in South Africa

Well, according to the data crunching in the Discovery Bank SpendTrend report, another good-value flight is Wednesday evening. Interestingly, Discovery Bank gathered the data on cheap flights in South Africa through more than three-billion card transactions from customers worldwide. It then cross-referenced this with trends identified through its Vitality Travel clients.

And, apart from monthly groceries and fuel, the third highest thing South Africans spend their money on is travelling. Both within South Africa, and overseas for higher-income individuals, South Africans are spending as miuch money on travel as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Which is great news for the economy.

COST OF TRAVEL HAS RISEN

cheap flights in South Africa

As encouraging as this sounds, cruelly, the cost of travel has risen markedly across the board since the COVID-19 pandemic. So, as much as the spend has returned to pre-pandemic levels, the same amount of money is not getting Mzansi as far as it did five years ago.

Nevertheless, Cape Town remains the most popular flight destination within South Africa. The Garden Route town of George with its excellent airport, has enjoyed a sharp increase in flight arrivals over the last year. Flights to George rose by 20%, which makes it the fourth-most popular travel destination in Mzansi. Joburg ranks second and Durban third.

DOMESTIC PRICES HAVE STEADIED

south africa tour guide tip

Following notable increased since the end of the pandemic in 2021, South African domestic flight prices on popular local routes have steadied. Sadly, the same cannot be said for prices on many international routes, which have risen sharply since 2022.

  • Ticket prices to England increased by 26% last year.
  • Flights to Mauritius by 70%.
  • Bookings to Australia are now 23% more expensive.

NEXT READ: Upcoming SASSA grant payments for May 2024 (and beyond)

What do you think of this info on cheap flights in South Africa? Will you book at specific hour to save a few bucks? Be sure to share your thoughts with our audience in the comments section below. And don’t forget to follow us @TheSANews on X and The South African on Facebook for the latest updates.

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How One Family Lost $900,000 in a Timeshare Scam

A mexican drug cartel is targeting seniors and their timeshares..

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email [email protected] with any questions.

Hello, James.

Hey. How’s it going?

Yeah. I’m not having much luck. So the problem is funding. And all of my money is in Mexico, all of it.

From “The New York Times,” I’m Katrin Bennhold. This is “The Daily.” A massive scam targeting elderly Americans who own timeshare properties has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars sent to Mexico.

Once you move forward and make your payment, if anything were to happen, he will directly pay you the full amount of what you’re entitled to, including the gains. He will pay you the full amount.

You’ve got all my money. It’s been sent. I sold a freaking house.

Listen to this. I sold a house that I grew up in so that I could come up with funds to send to Mexico.

I don’t even have anything from the sale, nothing.

My colleague Maria Abi-Habib on one victim who lost everything and the people on the other side of the phone.

That’s it. That’s it. There’s nothing —

You know what? That’s what has been said every freaking time. Every time, just pay this. That releases the funds.

But that’s why we won’t allow it to happen again. This is the last time, James.

It’s Friday, April 12.

Maria, you’ve been looking into this scam that’s targeting Americans. Where did your investigation start?

So several weeks ago, I received a phone call from a lawyer based in St. Petersburg, Florida, who had been contacted by a family who was very concerned that the father, this man named James, was in the middle of being scammed. He’d sent hundreds of thousands dollars to Mexico. And he was considering sending another $157,000 when his daughter decided to call up this law firm and try to get her father to stop, stop sending money to Mexico.

So I called him a few weeks ago as I was trying to understand what was going on.

Hi, James. How are you?

Good. Thank you.

He’s asked that his last name be withheld for privacy concerns because he’s quite embarrassed about the story that I’m about to tell you.

You’re retired now, but what were you doing for work? And if your wife was working, what was her job?

I was with the Highway Patrol.

James is a retired state trooper from California. And his wife Nikki is a former school nurse.

She was born in ‘51. So 71-ish.

Two. She’s just reminded me, 72.

And they’re both in their early 70s. And they own this timeshare that is in Lake Tahoe, California. And they bought it in the 1990s for about $8,000.

And for someone who did not grow up vacationing in a timeshare, remind me how exactly timeshares work.

Timeshares are essentially vacation properties. And they tend to be beach resorts. And multiple people can buy into this property. The ownership is a shared ownership. And this gives you the right to use the timeshare for one to two weeks out of every year.

And so James and Nikki used their timeshare every other year with their daughters. But as they hit retirement age and their daughters are growing up and starting their own families, they’re just not really using it that much anymore. And timeshares require the owners to pay off yearly maintenance fees. And so they’re starting to think about maybe letting go of their timeshare and selling it.

Then one day, in late 2022, James gets a phone call from a company that is purporting to be based out of Atlanta, Georgia called Worry Free Vacations.

Worry Free Vacations?

That sounds enticing.

Yeah. And they start off with a simple question, which is, do you want to buy a timeshare? And James says, I already have a timeshare. And then they say, great. Well, what about selling the timeshare? Do you want to sell? There’s this Mexican businessman, and he’s interested in your timeshare. And he’s willing to buy it for about $20,000.

So we figured, well, what the heck? If we can make a few bucks on it, we’ll go for it.

And James jumps at the opportunity.

And did he do anything to try and verify that this was real?

Yeah. So remember, James is former law enforcement. And he feels very confident in his abilities to sniff out untrustworthy people. So he goes online, and he googles this Mexican businessman and sees that, yeah, he is a real person.

He’s a very well-respected individual in Mexico, very well off. And —

And this makes James feel at ease, that he’s selling to a legitimate person, that Worry Free Vacations are who they claim to be and that he’s going to double his money overnight, essentially.

And what happens next?

Well, a couple of weeks after he makes the agreement with the buyer, he’s told that he needs to send a couple thousand dollars to facilitate the purchase.

What does that mean, facilitate?

[MUSIC PLAYING]

I can’t remember specifically whether it was supposed to be cross-border registration —

So he’s being told that there are these fees that are paid directly to the Mexican government.

Or SPID or some other fee that was Mexican government required or not.

A lot of these fees are the same types of fees that you would pay in the United States for a real estate transaction. So he begins wiring money to an account in Mexico.

After that —

— a few days later, we get a notification. Well, everything went well, except that we have to pay an additional fee.

Every time that he sends one fee, he’s being told that he’s got to send another fee right afterwards.

Does he get suspicious at any point?

His wife is suspicious. After the first couple of payments, she starts saying, this does not feel right.

But James is the former law enforcement officer, right? And he’s the one that basically handles the family finances. And he’s confident that all of this is going to work out because he’s being told that the buyer of the timeshare will reimburse James for all of these fees once the sale goes through.

Michael from the Worry Free Vacations was constantly reassuring me the money’s in that account. Check with the commercial escrow account. It’s there. It’s just these fees have to be paid, and you’re being reimbursed for all of this.

They’re sending James documents that show all of the reimbursements that he’s owed and how much money he’s going to get. And this just makes him feel like all of this is kosher.

We have this commercial escrow company that was involved out of New York. So there was an air of legitimacy that I was comfortable with.

Maybe OK, these guys just need one more fee and everything is going to finally be cleared.

But about a year in, James starts to get suspicious. He begins asking questions because he wants his money.

And every time I asked, hey, is there a way I can get a partial release of these funds, there was always no, these funds have to be paid from your account before they’re released.

But Worry Free Vacations, they pivot. And they tell him that, listen, there are all these complications. It’s going to be really hard to get your money out from this transaction.

I could pay about $30,000 and change to reinvest the $313,000 into an environmentally-conscious development in Loreto, Mexico.

Instead, we’ve got this other investment opportunity in Mexico.

And I’m sure you know where that is, over on the East Coast of Baja.

And that is going to make you a huge return, even more money than you had thought that you were going to make, much more than the $20,000.

I’m supposed to have 54 million pesos in a Mexican bank account.

So this is now no longer just about his timeshare. They are now partners in a real estate investment.

Right. And there’s this whole new round of fees and fines associated with that.

So how many payments would you say?

Quite a few. Couple dozen at least, maybe more.

When was your last payment?

It would have been 17 January.

Uh-huh. And what was that for?

Good question.

And all along, he believed it was necessary to pay these costs just to get the money that he’s owed.

The amount of money that I’ve sent to Mexico is just freaking exorbitant. And I mean, it is approaching $900,000 or more.

And at this point, he’s sent about $900,000 to Mexico over about a year and a half.

Nearly $1 million.

That was almost all the money that he and his wife had saved for their retirement.

It also included money from the sale of James’s childhood home and money that he had borrowed from his daughter and son-in-law, about $150,000 from them.

It’s awful. So they were completely cleaned out by these guys.

Yeah. And this is when his daughter asks a law firm to look into this, which is the point in the story when I meet James. And when we start talking, it was clear to me that he just did not know what to think, even after losing this much money.

So this started in 2022. When did it end?

We’re still in it.

And he’s still talking to the scammers.

And as a matter of fact, presently, there was a request for $157,000 and change to clear up this whole thing. It would clear the entire issue out. Now —

And James is even considering putting a second mortgage on his house to send that money that he’d been promised would finally clear all this up — one final payment of $157,000.

It really sounds like he’s still wanted to believe that this was somehow legit.

Yeah. It was pretty clear to me that he was being scammed. But I didn’t definitively know what was going on, so I asked him if he could start recording his phone calls with the scammers.

Would you be so kind as to do me a favor?

Would you be willing to give them a call and record them?

[LAUGHS]: I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve been recording them.

And it turns out he already had been.

Worry Free Vacations.

So he shared the recordings of these calls that he’d had with these scammers over the last year or so. And it was just remarkable. It gave me huge insight into how the scam worked and the way that it sounded over the phone.

Is this is Michael in? I think he’s trying to call me. I couldn’t get through pick up.

Yes, I believe he did try to call you, sir. Give me a second. I think he’s only going to be in for a couple of minutes. One second.

There are two main takeaways for me listening to these calls.

Good afternoon. Michael McCarthy.

Michael, I missed your call. I was trying to pick up.

Yeah, don’t worry. Yeah, I figured something was wrong with your phone. Everything OK?

The first is that these scammers had really gotten to know James so well, and they really made James believe that Worry Free was a company that was working for him.

That’s why we need to hurry up and get this money over to you. Because hey, I’m losing my mind too. I’m not even here to convince you, James. I’m not — I’m your broker, and —

One of the things they continuously say is, trust me.

Look, I’m doing everything I can in my power and will on my end. So James, just look — like I told you from the get-go, I’m going to resolve this. And we are doing it. I just need you to focus on the goal.

They would refocus the conversation on what James needed to do to get his money back.

Look, if you make your payment as a security deposit, right away they will release the funds to you. With these —

And the other thing —

I’ve been having so much trouble trying to reach you, and I have not been successful.

— is that the scammers had created this elaborate cast of characters.

Why don’t you answer my calls?

And some of them were really aggressive. James shared a recording of this one man who claimed to be an agent for the Mexican government. And he basically started yelling at James.

I don’t care if your wife is at the hospital. To be honest with you, I don’t give a damn! But you know where I do give a damn? It’s your money, and my name is written all over it! Do you understand?

And he even threatened James. If James didn’t pay off these fines, then he would lose all the money that he’d sent to Mexico already.

You could get the best lawyer you want. You could get whoever you want. And this is not a threat. This is facts. But anyways, who am I to convince you, right?

Well, thank you for the information. And — are you still there? Hello?

Wow. So these scammers were basically doing a good cop, bad cop routine to stop James from walking away and to squeeze every last penny out of him.

If you provide me your email, contact information, I will certainly be happy to forward all of the wire transfer information from my bank account to you so that you can see where those funds went.

Yeah, that would be great. I have your email.

James asks me, a reporter who’s based in Mexico, who speaks the language, if I could help him figure out where his money had gone to.

Thank you very much. I really appreciate your assistance.

I’m just doing my job. Thanks again, and we’ll talk soon.

And the only way that I could figure that out was to understand who was on the other side of the phone.

We’ll be right back.

So Maria, who was on the other side of that phone line?

So by the time that I’d met James, I’d already gotten a tip from US law enforcement agencies that they were seeing a new trend. Mexican drug cartels were getting involved in the timeshare scam industry.

Drug cartels?

Yeah. And not just any drug cartel. This is one of the most notorious, violent, bloody drug cartels that exists in Mexico and Latin America, the Jalisco New Generation cartel. And when I looked at James’s bank records, guess what? All the money that he was sending was going to various bank accounts that were all located in Jalisco state in Mexico.

Wow. So why would the drug cartels get into the timeshare scamming business?

It is a huge business. The FBI told me that it’s about $300 million in profits over the last five years.

But the thing is is that the potential for it to actually be multitudes more is huge. Because the FBI estimates that most of the scams are actually not even reported. In fact, only about 20 percent are. So that means the total timeshare scam business could actually be much larger than the $300 million that they have knowledge of over the last five years.

But wait. I thought the drug business was a pretty lucrative business in itself. So why get into the scamming of elderly people for their properties in Lake Tahoe?

Well, you have to remember that these drug cartels, they’re not just doing one thing. They’re doing multiple things. They’re essentially conglomerates. Because it’s really expensive to run a cartel. You need to pay off officials, both Mexican and American. You need to maintain basically an army in order to secure your routes up to the United States, ports of entry into Mexico from Colombia. And any big business, you need to diversify your income to make sure that you keep the money flowing. Because you never know when one business is going to be shut down by authorities or taken over by your rivals.

We’ve reported that they’re now in the avocado business and the construction business. And timeshare fraud is basically no different than any of those. So we’re seeing that the cartels have their fingers in many pies, the legitimate and the illegitimate economy here in Mexico.

It’s kind of fascinating to think of these drug cartels as like sprawling diversified business empires. But when did the cartels first get into the scamming business?

So Jalisco New Generation started about 15 years ago.

And when they started to consolidate their empire in Jalisco state, they found that there were all these scam timeshare call centers all over the state that were being run by various players, and that this was a huge, huge moneymaker. Because essentially, all you have to do is call up retired senior citizens in the US and Canada. It doesn’t take that much money to run that kind of a scheme. There’s no product you’re making.

So essentially, they conducted a hostile takeover of these call centers. They went in. They kicked down doors and dragged out the people who were managing these call centers by their hair and threatened to kill them unless they gave up the call centers or started handing over a cut of what they made. And slowly, slowly Jalisco New Generation cartel took over the entire timeshare fraud industry.

Interesting. Were you able to find any of these call centers?

So these call centers are pretty hard to find. They look like any other storefront. But I was able to visit two that were located in an upscale neighborhood in Guadalajara, which is the capital of Jalisco state. And it was just really perturbing because it was just so normal. Two villas about a mile away from each other outside. Outside of one villa, parents were walking by, holding their children’s hands as they did drop off at school.

It was right next to a park where people taking their morning exercise or their dogs for a walk. There was no real sign that the cartel was doing business there. But a few months before, Mexican law enforcement had found the bodies of eight young people who had used to work at one of these call centers and said that the Jalisco cartel had killed them.

Wow. What happened?

So I wasn’t able to talk directly to any of the victims’ families. They’re just too scared. But in general, this is usually how it starts.

The cartel seeks out English speakers to work for their call centers. Sometimes they don’t even tell them what exactly they are doing. They would tell the recruits that the job was adjacent to the hotel industry.

You have to remember, Jalisco is a huge, huge tourism magnet for Americans and Canadians and others. And the cartel would get their call lists from bribing hotel employees to give them the names of people who stayed at these hotels and also at the timeshare resorts. And the people who would work at the call centers are provided the names and a manual of what you need to do when you call, like a loose script of how to try to suck as much money as you can out of these people up North in Canada and the States.

So we don’t know for sure what exactly happened with the eight young Mexicans who were killed last year. But through an intermediary, one sibling told us that when their family member knew what their job actually was, they became extremely uncomfortable and tried to leave the call center and find another job maybe.

But the Jalisco New Generation cartel is known for being extremely brutal. They chop off heads, and they’ll put them on the gates of a playground, for instance. So that everybody in the neighborhood knows what went down. And in this case, it’s possible that they wanted to send a warning that there’s no defection from their timeshare call centers.

So basically making a very scary example of these guys, in case anyone else is thinking about quitting one of the call centers.

Exactly. And one man, who runs an organization who advocates for missing people and actually organizes search parties to comb the forests of Jalisco state looking for the missing, says that he knows of about 30 people who have disappeared from the call centers in Jalisco state since 2017. So while Americans and Canadians might be losing much of their life savings, in Mexico, this is actually deadly.

Are the authorities doing anything about this?

Not really, other than the fact that these two call centers were shut down. The authorities haven’t arrested others. They’re not putting pressure on Mexican banks, for instance, to look into these payments coming from senior citizens in the US or Canada. And you have to remember that people are really afraid. But you also have to remember that in Mexico things are not that clear. There is a lot of corruption and government collusion with organized crime and cartels.

And the tourism industry, it is huge in Mexico and particularly in Jalisco state. This is a multi-billion dollar industry. They don’t want Americans or Canadians or Europeans who are coming to Jalisco for its beautiful beaches and its mountains to hear about these stories regarding the cartels being involved in the tourism industry and think, I’m not going to send my family there for that beach vacation. It’s just simply too dangerous.

So everybody has an incentive to have the scam continue, whether because they’re too afraid and don’t want to speak out or because they’re in on it.

So in a way, local authorities have an interest in sweeping it under the carpet in order to just maintain this idea of a tourist destination.

Exactly. I mean, the spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office was very responsive to me until I told her what I wanted to ask her questions about. And then she just simply never answered any of my texts or phone calls.

So Maria, based on everything you know, all the information you have, would you say that you’re confident that the cartels were the ones who scammed James?

Yes, 100 percent. Everything I’ve seen points in that direction.

What did James say when you told him this?

So it took him quite a while to really allow himself to believe it. On the advice of his lawyers, he stopped picking up the phone calls. And about a week ago, they stopped after the scammers kept trying to call him.

But you said he was in it for over a year. Why do you think it took him so long?

Can you tell me, after all of that had been presented to you, why do you think you weren’t willing to be entirely convinced?

Well, I actually asked him that question.

That’s a very good question. Why wasn’t I able to pick up on that right away? And I think in the back of my mind, I’m finding out that I’m a little more stubborn than I thought I was.

And for him, it was pretty complicated.

And I think that I didn’t want to believe that I had fallen for this. I didn’t feel I was that foolish and stupid when it came to this. You know? I guess I didn’t want to believe that I could be fooled.

To come to terms with the fact that he had lost so much money was to come to terms with the fact that he wasn’t the person that he thought that he was, that he wasn’t this kind of clever former law enforcement officer who was used to fighting the bad guys and winning.

I’m disappointed in myself. There’s a huge level of anger towards the perpetrators. And all of those things wrapped into one. And part of that, I think, contributes to not wanting to actually believe that I was wrong.

Hmm. Yeah, I hear you. I’m sorry. I can hear the pain in your voice.

[LAUGHS]: Yeah.

Some of it’s based on shame, right? That he lost all this money, everything that he’s worked for, and the fact that this was all supposed to be money that his children and his grandchildren were going to inherit. And now it’s gone.

And have you told your daughter that you think you’ve come to terms with the fact that this might have been a scam?

Oh, she’s been involved. Yeah. They know.

My daughter does.

I’m sorry. This is a tough time.

So I’ve got to make some sort of arrangement to compensate them for this on top of our regular debt. So yeah. It’s been a swell experience, all of it brought on by my — evidently, my stubbornness to believe that I couldn’t possibly be a victim.

How’s your wife doing throughout this whole process, with this new knowledge?

She’s not real happy, obviously, at all. I hear a lot of “I told you so.” And at this point, I’ve got no defense. She’s absolutely right. There’s no question about it.

Do you worry this is going to affect your marriage?

Yes, there has been an effect.

And do you think that at this point there’s any way for James and his family to get some kind of justice or at least find some kind of closure?

Ay. Justice? Unlikely.

At this point, I’m not necessarily expecting much in the way of restitution.

And as for closure, it’s a little bit too soon to tell. In a way, James has gone through several stages of acceptance for what happened. There’s fear. There’s shame. There’s resignation. And now he’s talking to me partly because he feels like it’s a public service, that he needs to be vocal so that other people don’t go through what he’s gone through and fall for the scam. And I think it also helps him feel a little bit empowered in a situation for over the last year and a half he was at the mercy of these people who were calling him multiple times a week.

I want to try to get as much information to as many of these official organizations as possible. I have a streak of anger through me now that I’ve developed to the point where I’m not going to let this go.

Well, Maria, thank you.

Thank you for having me.

Here’s what else you need to know today. OJ Simpson, the football star who was accused and later acquitted of murdering his former wife and her friend, died of cancer at his home in Las Vegas, his family said Thursday. He was 76.

Today’s episode was produced by Astha Chaturvedi and Will Reid, with help from Clare Toeniskoetter and Lindsay Garrison. It was edited by Brendan Klinkenberg and Michael Benoist, contains original music by Marion Lozano, Rowan Niemisto, Dan Powell, Pat McCusker, and Will Reid, and was engineered by Chris Wood. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.

[THEME MUSIC]

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Katrin Bennhold. See you on Monday.

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  • April 12, 2024   •   34:23 How One Family Lost $900,000 in a Timeshare Scam
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Produced by Asthaa Chaturvedi and Will Reid

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Warning: this episode contains descriptions of violence.

A massive scam targeting older Americans who own timeshare properties has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars sent to Mexico.

Maria Abi-Habib, an investigative correspondent for The Times, tells the story of a victim who lost everything, and of the criminal group making the scam calls — Jalisco New Generation, one of Mexico’s most violent cartels.

On today’s episode

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Maria Abi-Habib , an investigative correspondent for The New York Times based in Mexico City.

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How a brutal Mexican drug cartel came to target seniors and their timeshares .

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U sing the latest data, here’s the best way to secure cheap flights in South Africa. It’s all about understanding the best times to fly, reports  Daily Investor . Accordingly, the guaranteed cheapest flights in South Africa are early on Sunday morning and late in the middle of the week. But what else can we learn about finding cheap flights in South Africa?

CHEAP FLIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

Well, according to the data crunching in the  Discovery Bank SpendTrend  report, another good-value flight is Wednesday evening. Interestingly, Discovery Bank gathered the data on cheap flights in South Africa through more than three-billion card transactions from customers worldwide. It then cross-referenced this with trends identified through its Vitality Travel clients.

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DOMESTIC PRICES HAVE STEADIED

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  • Bookings to Australia are now 23% more expensive.

NEXT READ:   Upcoming SASSA grant payments for May 2024 (and beyond)

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  1. Tipping in South Africa Etiquette: Who & Where to Tip

    Your tour guide can make or break your experience when travelling - so when you find a great guide in South Africa do tip them the standard 10%. Tips are equally welcome whether you're taking a private, multi-day, or walking tour. If you join a free tour in South Africa it's worth tipping too.

  2. Tipping in South Africa (Etiquette Guide)

    Yes, it's customary to tip tour guides in South Africa. You'll need to tip 20 - 50 rand per person per day for a group tour and from 100 rand per day total and up for a private tour. You'll need to tip 20 - 50 rand per person per day for a group tour and from 100 rand per day total and up for a private tour.

  3. Tipping in South Africa

    A good tip indication is an average of ZAR120-250 per person per day for the guide, and ZAR60-120 for the tracker. If you only participate in a half-day activity (morning or afternoon excursion) then we recommend half of the above sums to each of the tracker and guide.

  4. Tipping Etiquette: Your Guide To Gratuity In South Africa

    Average tip: R5-R20. Something to consider: R5 is the minimum, but tip more when extra services, like checking tyre pressure, are provided. TAXI DRIVERS. In South Africa, there are three types of taxi services: minibus taxis, metered cabs, and e-hailing apps such as Bolt, Uber, inDriver, and Taxi Live Africa.

  5. Tipping On South African Safaris (Complete Guide)

    Yes, it is customary to tip at private game reserves in South Africa. The amount to tip will depend on the level of service provided and the duration of your stay. It is recommended to tip around ZAR 200-300 per day for a guide or ranger and ZAR 100-150 per day for housekeeping staff. However, it is important to note that gratuity is always ...

  6. Tipping Advice in South Africa

    1: Restaurants. Tipping is standard practice in South Africa to tip your waiter or waitress 10 to 20 % of the total bill. Most waiters and waitresses earn a minimum wage, but they do rely heavily on their tips to make a living. Some restaurants will automatically add a standard service charge of 10% too big groups, but check this with the manager.

  7. Tipping in South Africa

    Tour Guides: Is a tip required? There are plenty of tour operators in South Africa and it is good etiquette to tip these individuals. Leaving a tip for the tour guide as well as a driver at the end of your tour is recommended, anything from R100 - R200 per person per day is a good example to follow and 10% of the total cost of the tour to the ...

  8. South Africa Tipping Etiquette: Guide to Tipping in South Africa

    Our South Africa tipping etiquette guide for your travels with top tips on tipping in South Africa. Toll Free Numbers: 1-888-414-6513 -808-189-1052, ... Luckily, for the ambitious traveler, there are a number of epic Africa Overland Tours that combine South Africa, Lesotho, and Eswatini in one budget-friendly trip. Here are our top picks...

  9. A Guide to Tipping in Africa: Who, When, and How Much

    At budget hotels, tips for housekeeping are not expected but are nevertheless always welcome. As a general guide, tip: $1.00 per bag for porters. $1.00-$2.00 per day for hotel staff. $3.00-$5.00 per day for personal butlers, trackers, drivers. $10.00 per day for professional guides and/or drivers on your trip.

  10. Tipping in South Africa: Unique Tipping Practices in South Africa's

    Discover the fascinating tipping customs in South Africa and navigate the unique practices across various service industries. ... as a tip. If the service was exceptional, you can add an extra 10-20 ZAR ($0.70-$1.40) as a tip. For tour guides and drivers who accompany you on your South African adventures, consider tipping 50-100 ZAR ($3.50-$7 ...

  11. Understanding Tipping Culture in South Africa: A Complete Guide to

    Tour guides: If you go on a guided tour in South Africa, it is customary to tip the tour guide. A tip of around 10% to 15% of the tour cost is considered appropriate. Spa and salon services: When receiving spa or salon services in South Africa, it is customary to tip around 10% to 15% of the service cost. Some establishments may include a ...

  12. Tipping in South Africa Guide

    Regarding it, tipping tour guides in South Africa is the same as you would tip hotel staff. However, some feel they deserve more due to their knowledge and interaction with others. ... Safari guides in South Africa often rely on tips as a significant part of their income. Guidelines for tipping safari guides can be higher, typically ranging ...

  13. Tipping etiquette for South Africa

    In South Africa it is good etiquette to tip 100 Rand per person per day or 10% to private drivers. Many private tour guides in South Africa are also the vehicle driver. In this case you can get by with tipping them 100 Rand per person per day. If you have a separate driver, make sure to tip them 10% of the total tour. When to Go to South Africa.

  14. A Complete Guide to Tipping on a Southern African Safari

    Waitstaff. 10% of the total bill (if tip not included) or round up the total when at a bar. Car guard. R5/N$5 (±0.25 USD) or P5 (±0.35 USD) per hour (if you're not paying for parking already) Petrol attendant. R5/N$5 (±0.25 USD) or P5 (±0.35 USD) per visit to the petrol station. Wellness professional.

  15. Tipping in South Africa (in 2022)

    Tour Guides. We already covered the tips for rangers and tour guides who accompany you on a safari. For a short game drive of 2-3 hours, you can tip your guide R50 to R100. For a tour guide that is with you for an entire day (or a couple of days) and shows you around exclusively, the tip should be higher and a recommended daily amount is R200 ...

  16. Tipping Guide South Africa

    Safari Tour Guide: R50 per day. Mover: R20 for each staff member per day. South Africa Tipping Guidelines: Source: Part of a graphic from the expat guide book: 'Living in South Africa' p.140. These are only customary guidelines in our tipping guide. The attitude to tipping services varies widely among the different population and income groups.

  17. 10 things to know before going to South Africa

    South Africa has a strong tipping culture. In many customer-facing industries, salaries are low and workers make much of their money from tips. Restaurant staff will expect a top of around 10%, but leaving 12-15% will generate bigger smiles. Drivers never pump their own gas in South Africa; you'll be expected to pay at least R5 to the ...

  18. A Guide To Tipping In South Africa

    When traveling to South Africa you should be prepared to tip. Use our guide below to figure out when you should tip on your travels! Taxis: You should tip taxi drivers about 10% of the total fare. Hotels: You should tip the bellboy about 10 RAND per bag and you should tip the maid about 15 RAND per night. Restaurants: You should expect to tip ...

  19. A Guide to Tipping on Safari in Africa

    It is customary to include golf caddies when tipping in South Africa. Self-drivers should tip 'car guards' (who offer to look after your vehicle while it is parked) and petrol (gas) station attendants' nominal amounts. It is illegal for anyone but trained staff to pump fuel. Staff on Rovos Rail will expect to be tipped.

  20. Tipping in South Africa, A Local's View on Etiquette

    Tipping Percentage: In South Africa, the standard tipping percentage is 10%, but it can range from 10% to 15% or more if you recieved good service. Importance of Tipping: Tipping is vital in South Africa, where many service industry workers earn low salaries, and some rely solely on tips for income. Tipping in Different Settings: Tipping ...

  21. Complete guide to South Africa

    South Africa. Africa. Check out this year's Best in Travel winners. Black-maned lions framed against desert dunes, powdery beaches lapped by two oceans, star-studded night skies, jagged mountains - South Africa is the place to go wild. Best Time to Visit.

  22. 10 Tips for Your First Trip to South Africa • The Blonde Abroad

    Here some of the most common South African slang words to learn before your trip: Aikona: The direct translation means not on your life. Babbelas: This is slang for a hangover. Eina: This is used to express a sharp pain. Eish: This is a Khoi San term and is used to express shock or surprise. Haiybo: This is a Zulu word that means definitely not ...

  23. South Africa Guide: Planning Your Trip

    Planning Your Trip. Best Time to Visit: Although South Africa is a year-round destination, summer (December to February) is the hottest, wettest time of the year and the best time for a beach holiday. Winter (June to August) is the coolest, driest time of year and the best time to go on safari. Languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern ...

  24. Unraveling the Magic of South Africa: Grasping the Pulse of its ...

    Is it customary to tip in South Africa? Yes, tipping is customary. In restaurants, a tip of 10-15% is standard for good service. Tipping is also common for other service providers like tour guides ...

  25. Africa Safari Trip: A Comprehensive Guide To Crafting ...

    An Africa safari trip promises an enchanted world of discovery, where each expedition and place holds the potential to reveal a captivating tale. Every area of this enormous continent, from the ...

  26. 30+ Best Things to Do in Cape Town, South Africa (2024)

    Muizenberg, known for its colorful beach huts and surf spots, exudes a relaxed beach atmosphere. These neighboring cities enrich the Cape Town experience, offering a blend of cultural and natural ...

  27. TOP tips to book cheap flights in South Africa

    South Africa - Blue Sky Publications (Pty) Ltd - Registration Number: 2005/028472/07 - Address: Regus Business Centre, 1st Floor, Block B, North Park, Black River Park, 2 Fir Street, Observatory ...

  28. Hot Weather Travel: 10 Tips to Stay Comfortable in the ...

    5. Bring a mini fan. Don't let a wave of heat melt your travel enthusiasm. Bring a pocket-sized hero on your travels: a mighty mini fan! This travel essential is a personal cooler in the heat. With a flick of the switch, you're enveloped in a cool breeze, reviving your energy for a long day of exploration ahead. 6.

  29. How One Family Lost $900,000 in a Timeshare Scam

    A Mexican drug cartel is targeting seniors and their timeshares. Hosted by Katrin Bennhold. Produced by Asthaa Chaturvedi and Will Reid. With Clare Toeniskoetter and Lynsea Garrison. Edited by ...

  30. TOP tips to book cheaper flights in South Africa

    The post TOP tips to book cheaper flights in South Africa appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News. After basics, travel is the third highest spend for most South Africans. Image ...