If you have booked or are considering The South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana Tour, this is where you will find the practical information you need from travel insurance and safety protocols to navigating the local currency and money exchange process across three countries.
Is this trip right for you?
- The best time of day to go for a safari game drive is often the early hours, just around sunrise. For this reason, you can expect a few early mornings at many of the game lodges we stay at across South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
- Pack appropriately for the chilly, sometimes freezing, nights in Africa or at least the cooler early morning and evening game drives. If your trip coincides with the Southern African winter, absolutely do not forget to pack warm winter clothing, including an insulated jacket, a fleece or wool pullover, a hat, and a pair of gloves.
- We’ll be doing a lot of overland travel on this trip and African roads aren’t always the smoothest. If you’re not much for long and sometimes bumpy drives, plan to pack some distractions, like headphones or a book. If you tend to get carsick, it may be a good idea to bring some dramamine too.
Visa requirements vary for each of the countries we’ll be visiting. We recommend that you verify what it is required for your nationality specifically with your nearest local consulate or embassy
South Africa: Most countries do not need a tourist visa to visit South Africa for stays under three months. Nevertheless, please check with
your local embassy or consulate to ensure that you don’t require a visa. If you do not require a visa, all you’ll need to enter South Africa is your passport and a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate if you’re from, or have transferred through, an infected country or region. A few important things to note: 1) Make sure your passport is machine-readable and, if it’s not, come prepared with an e-passport that immigration can scan instead. 2) Schedule your appointment for your Yellow Fever vaccination no less than 10 days before your arrival to South Africa. Failure to do or have either of these things could result in denied entry to South Africa.
Botswana: Many countries do require a visa for entry to Botswana. You can find instructions and a link to download the visa application forms at http://www.gov.bw/en/. You will also need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. To locate your nearest Botswana embassy or consulate, visit https://embassies.info/botswana.
Zimbabwe: Most countries do require a visa to enter Zimbabwe, however it can be easily obtained upon entry. All you’ll need is your passport and about $30-40USD in cash. If you’d prefer to apply for your visa in advance, you can find more information at https://www.ivisa.com/zimbabwe-visa. All nationalities should check with their nearest consulate or embassy for the most up-to-date information.
As rules and restrictions are constantly changing, please check your government’s foreign travel advisory and visit the following websites:
For South Africa, requirements currently include a negative COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organisation, taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival.
For Zimbabwe, requirements currently include a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival and a completed Health Questionnaire.
For Botswana, requirements currently include a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival and you must also take an additional COVID-19 test at the point of entry.
Please also ensure you have a travel insurance policy that covers you for travel to and from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana as well as medical or COVID-19 related expenses within the country.
For this tour, we offer a selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travelers. We recommend to pre-book these activities, to be sure there is availability. It’s rare that only one person signs up for an activity, but you will never have to go alone. A leader or our guide will go with you if no one else has signed up. Last minute booking of optional activities is possible, but depends on availability. Should you choose to book an optional activity while on the tour, we will charge the card we have on file.
We have worked with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed, especially those that are medium to high risk. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator, and therefore, we are unable to help book these activities. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
We do not recommend drinking the tap water, even in the hotels. All accommodation will have drinkable water, sometimes for purchase and sometimes provided with your room.
Your tour leader will do their best to accommodate any dietary restrictions, but sometimes gluten free and vegan can be a little trickier in every meal, especially breakfast. We suggest bringing supplemental snacks like protein powders and bars just in case. It is ultimately your responsibility not to consume anything to which you are allergic. You may wish to speak to your tour leader at the beginning of the tour to make your requirements clear and ask your options throughout the tour.
As of April 1, 2021, we have updated our policies to require all travelers to show one of the following upon meeting the group on day 1:
-Proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or
– Proof of negative COVID-19 test conducted no more than 72 hours before day 1 of your trip
12 nights in a mix of hotels, game lodges, and glamping tents
Rooms are twin share with an ensuite unless you upgrade to a private room, based on availability.
The accommodation indicated on the webpage is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to lack of availability. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
In the base cost of the tour, a shared room is included. You may choose to upgrade to a private room for an extra charge as long as there is availability. Please note that there is no private accommodation option when camping on the Egyptian sailboat (1 night).
Upgrading to a private room once in Egypt is more difficult and may result in a higher cost than advertised on the webpage.
Sometimes it is not possible to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels, especially if you arrive before check in time. We can store your luggage and you can explore the surrounding area. Standard check in time is 4:00pm.
Check out is at 11:00am on the last day.
Extra nights at our hotel are available. You may have to switch rooms at the beginning or end of the tour.
Money and finances
Spending money is a personal choice, and everyone will have different spending habits and needs. It is best to budget a reasonable amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities, tipping, and laundry. It’s always better to bring a little more than you think you’ll need. Please have a thorough look at the itinerary and at what is included so you will be prepared for what isn’t included. Our Meetup Tour is very inclusive, however some meals, tips, and extras are not included. This guide should make budgeting a little clearer.
Many meals are included in this tour, but some are purposefully left out so you can experience different restaurants and dishes to your liking.
Lunch at a local restaurant could cost between $10USD to $15USD. However, local street food is relatively safe to eat and is normally much cheaper.
Your leader and guide will help you find local options. Meals will cost between $12USD to $25USD, depending on the restaurant.
Food prices will range widely from cheap street food to fine dining. If you have a strict budget, be mindful of your choices and let your tour leader know the type of food you are looking for, so she can direct you to the best places.
As we’ll be spending a lot of time at game lodges in remote national parks across Southern Africa where ATMs are rare, we recommend that you plan to visit the ATM in Johannesburg, the airport, or any other major cities we pass through. In Botswana, most ATMs only accept Visa. In Zimbabwe, we do not recommend drawing money from the ATMs, as the exchange rate is likely to be unfavorable and oftentimes ATMs are out of cash. Rarely, you can draw US Dollars from some ATMs, including those of Standard bank and Stanbic bank, but do not rely on this as an option. It’s better to arrive in Zimbabwe with some US Dollars in small denominations already in your wallet.
Credit cards are usually accepted in tourist shops and restaurants, but American Express, Diners, etc. are not usually accepted at all. Bring a Visa if you do want to use credit cards, as this is the most widely accepted across all of the destinations we’ll be visiting. Mastercard will occasionally be an option as well. Smaller venues take cash only. For this reason, we recommend always having a small amount of cash (both dollars and local currency) with you for small purchases at places that do not accept credit cards.
Important: In Zimbabwe, only use your credit card when the item you are buying is priced in US Dollars. If the item is displayed in Zimbabwe Dollars (ZWL) your card will be debited at the official bank exchange rate of the day and this tends to fluctuate often and quickly .
Alert your bank that you will be traveling before departure to avoid being locked out of your account while abroad, as they may suspect fraud.
Tipping is a large part of Southern African culture. Wages are extremely low, and tipping is an important means of supplementing income whether you are a tourist or local. If you are satisfied with the services provided, a tip is appropriate and always appreciated. While it may not be a part of your customs at home, it is very valuable and helpful to the people who will be taking care of you on your trip.
While tipping is frequent, the amounts are small. Please budget about $7USD per day on average for small tips. If you are worried you may not have small change or feel uncomfortable tipping yourself, your leader might suggest the idea of a group tipping kitty, where everyone contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips as you go. The leader will keep a running record of all money spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This kitty does not include tips for your local guide, but tips for your driver and porters at hotels are included in your tour price.
To help you understand tipping culture, we have provided some ideas for amounts. These are suggestions, as tipping is always a personal choice and at your discretion. Keep in mind that tipping with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes is considered an insult.
Restaurants: 10-20% of the total bill amount is appropriate. Sometimes a service charge of 10% will be automatically added to your bill, especially if you’re dining with a large group. It’s up to you if you’d like to add an additional tip from there.
Drivers: Our drivers’ tips are included in your tour cost.
Safari Rangers: the equivalent of $6-10USD per day is appropriate.
Safari Trackers: the equivalent of $3-5USD per day is appropriate.
Your Tour Guide: You may also consider tipping your tour guide for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is completely at your discretion, however as a guideline $5USD per person, per day is standard practice. Of course, you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
It is not necessary or expected to tip your Tour Leader, but small, sweet gifts, even handwritten notes, are very appreciated if you feel that your Tour Leader improved your experience.
The currency in South Africa is the Rand (ZAR or R). Denominations come in notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 and coins of 1, 2, and 5 rand and 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents.
The money situation in Zimbabwe is complicated. In fact, their currency, the Zimbabwe dollar (ZWL) is not internationally recognized. For this reason, we recommend that you stick to using US Dollars as much as possible instead of local currency. Local currency comes in the form of a Bond Note in bills of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $500. There are no coins in circulation, so everything is usually rounded up or down.
The currency in Botswana is the Botswana Pula (BWP). Denominations come in notes of 10, 20, 50, and 100 pula and coins (known as thebe) of 5, 10, 25, and 50 thebe and 1, 2, and 5 pula.
We recommend always having small denominations for tipping and small purchases.
This is a general list to be used as a guideline. If you think you need more items, pack them.
- A towel for random dips in the Nile
- Copies of your travel documents- passport, flight itinerary, travel insurance policy and contact info.
- A hat for the sun
- A windbreaker
- A rain jacket
- A fleece and warm hat for the cool evenings and early morning or after sunset game drives
- Bug spray
- A pair of breathable, solid walking shoes (preferably with a closed toe)
- Lightweight clothing, to include a few neutral colors for safari
- Shorts if you’ll be traveling during the summer months
- Warmer clothing, to include long shirts and pants, for the cooler evening hours
- A casual dress, jeans, or a nice outfit for an evening out
- Short sleeve tops, tank tops, at least one shirt that totally covers your shoulders
- A lightweight scarf to cover your mouth on any dusty game drives
- A swimsuit and bathing suit cover-up
- Don’t forget underwear
- Earplugs and an eye mask
- Body soap
- Shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush
- Body wash
- Period essentials
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
At Kruger National Park in South Africa, it is often hot, balmy, and rain-filled during the summer months (October to April) while its winter (May to August) is still warm, but mild. The nights, especially during the winter months can get quite cold and require some warmer layers for those night safari drives.
In Zimbabwe and Botswana, there’s really only two distinct climates: the wet season (November through March/April) and the dry season (April through October). The wet season tends to be warmer from day to night, especially the months of November and December where temperatures can reach as high as 90°F (32°C). The regular afternoon torrential downpours, however, offer some relief. Nightly temperatures don’t usually dip below the mid-60s (°F) this time of year. The dry season experiences more flux in temperature from day to night, with a temperate climate by day (usually in the low 60s °F) and temperatures that often hover around the freezing point by nightfall. Pack layers, even gloves and hats, for any early morning or after sunset games drives, as it will be cold. The rainiest months are December through February and the hottest month is October with temperatures frequently going as high as 104°F (40°C).
At Gweta National Park in Botswana, expect drier conditions and warm to hot temperatures year round, usually hovering around 86°F (30°C). It hardly rains, but when it does, it typically happens from October through April. It’s a bit dustier here, so it may be smart to bring a scarf and sunglasses along on any game drives to protect your lungs and eyes from the dust.
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables. We recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
Drones are absolutely illegal in Egypt unless you have approval in writing before arrival, and you could be detained at the airport if they are found. Please do not attempt to bring them into the country.
In South Africa, there are four associated plug types: C, D, M and N. Plug type C is the plug which has two round pins, plug type D is the plug which has three round pins in a triangular pattern and plug types M and N both have three round pins. South Africa operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
In Zimbabwe and Botswana, there are two associated plug types: D and G. Plug type D is the plug which has three round pins in a triangular pattern and plug type G is the plug which has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. Zimbabwe operates on a 240V supply voltage and 50Hz and Botswana operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
We always suggest bringing a universal adaptor.
Phone and internet access
There is wifi available in most of our accommodation, but it is not always the most reliable, especially in more rural areas. We suggest purchasing a prepaid sim card at the airport. This option only works on unlocked phones.
At the Johannesburg airport, enter the arrival hall, walk to your left, and right around the corner you will see stores for three South African mobile phone providers: MTN, Vodacom and Cell C. Plans and prices can change but expect to pay between $6-15USD for a plan that will provide you 1-3GB of data.
In Zimbabwe, the three best mobile phone providers are EcoNet Wireless, NetOne Cellular, and Telecel. Plans and prices can change but expect to pay between $1-3USD per day for a plan that will provide you 1-2GB of data per day.
In Botswana, the three best mobile phone providers are MasCom Wireless, Orange Botswana, and BTC Mobile. Plans and prices can change but expect to pay between $6-20USD for a plan that will provide you 1-4GB of data.
You will most likely require your passport or ID to purchase and register your new sim. An alternative to buying a local sim is asking your home service provider about international plans.
Group leader and guide
All tours with The Solo Female Traveler Network are accompanied by a guide who is with the group for the whole trip. The guide’s role is to be the local expert of the destination and coordinate a lot of the on the ground logistics. They are not always a native of the country, but they are always experienced expert guides.
Most of our tours also include a leader, whose role is to enrich the experience socially. She will help bridge any cultural differences, manage group expectations, and capture the tour in photos and videos for marketing purposes. Some tours will not include a Tour Leader, and in this case, our local guide will act as both guide and leader.
Traveling as a woman
We believe that every woman should dress as she chooses and should feel free to experience the world without extra worry for her safety. Unfortunately, the rest of the word does not practice gender equality as we wish. It’s important to adapt to local customs to be safer and to respect not only the locals, but also your fellow travelers. The likelihood of anything happening on your trip is quite low, but we recommend being aware of the following safety tips:
Street harassment such as cat calls, stares, invitations to get in a car/bar/restaurant/home are common. These are our tips for responding to this unwanted attention:
- Ignore. Don’t even bother smiling. Just keep about your business.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid eye contact.
- Ignore. We mean it, so we said it twice! Ignore them but also ignore your internal commentary on it all. Let it roll off your back and walk on focusing on all the amazing things around you.
- Dress respectfully and you will find both men and women will respond to you in a more respectful manner.
- While it very unlikely to happen, do feel free to stand up for yourself if you feel threatened. Men you do not know should not be touching you at all and if you’re in public, people will come to your aid if you make a fuss.
When not with your guide, we recommend the following:
- Do not walk in isolated areas or at night by yourself
- If hotel staff need to enter your room, arrange to be either on tour or in the lobby, so you are not alone.
- Respect the local customs, which may mean dressing more conservatively than you do at home.
- Do not hire a driver or guide for tours from the street. Always go with a reputable company or ask us to help you arrange any pre or post experiences.
- Do not accept any invitations for anything from random people on the street.
- Always carry your tour guide’s contact information and hotel address with you during solo time.
- Alert your guide of any inappropriate behavior or perceived risk to your safety.
We recommend that you stay up to date on travel safety updates on your home country government website. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, but they are not required to accompany you on solo time, where you can relax, choose an optional activity, or explore on your own. During solo time, we do not vouch for the safety of the experiences you choose, even if our guide or leader recommends them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Our team on the ground is always monitoring the safety situation and reserves the authority to cancel or change experiences at their discretion if deemed unsafe.
Seat belts are always provided and must be worn in accordance with local law.
Cars may drive on the opposite side of the road than you are used to. Practice extreme caution when crossing the street. Also note that traffic may be much heavier and road rules may be very different from what you are used to. Be careful and aware that pedestrians do not have the right of way.
While most of the tour, especially in major cities, will be with your guide and the group, petty theft is common in any tourist area. Do not walk around alone at night if it can be avoided and hold your belongings close on public transportation. Your local guide will give you some safety tips throughout your tour, and we suggest heeding this advice.
Please do not enter the water without a life vest and a buddy if you are not an experienced swimmer. Alert the leader and guide to your ability level before participating in water activities. Lifeguards are not on duty and our staff are not trained in water rescue.
We suggest checking your government’s advice in relation to the areas you will be visiting for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers.
Travel insurance is mandatory on all our Meetup Tours. We require that at a minimum you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. If you are travelling within your home country or region please confirm before travel that you are entitled to access the public medical system easily should an accident occur. We strongly recommend all travellers have a policy that also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage or personal effects. For international trips, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company’s 24-hour emergency contact number has been sighted by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number, and emergency contact number rather than the bank’s name and your credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
With almost all of our travelers coming on the Meetup Tour solo, we have women from different countries, backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions. This is part of what makes our tours so special and what often leaves our travelers with couches to crash on around the world and even long time friendships. Like any group, especially one consisting of people of different ages coming from all corners of the world, this can also cause clashes in culture and disagreements. We promote an environment of kindness, empowerment, and communication, so certain behaviors will not be tolerated for the benefit of everyone’s experience.
A great group dynamic takes effort, patience, and compassion from every member. Bullying, threatening, and violence of staff, locals, and fellow participants will not be tolerated on our trips.
Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while traveling, we encourage responsible drinking and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.
The group guide and leader have final say on all matters that affect the safety or well-being of any traveler or staff member participating in the trip. If you fail to comply with a decision made by a group leader, or interfere with the well-being or mobility of the group, the group leader may direct you to leave the trip immediately, with no right of refund.