GoWithGuideFind your perfect tour guide at GoWithGuide. Relax and cherish unforgettable tours with loved ones. Create personalized tours for a truly memorable trip!
GoWithGuide
GoWithGuideFind your perfect tour guide at GoWithGuide. Relax and cherish unforgettable tours with loved ones. Create personalized tours for a truly memorable trip!

South Africa Tourism Statistics 2023

Gowithguide travel specialist O.

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Gowithguide travel specialist O.

Last updated : May 21, 202415 min read

Travel Tips

South Africa is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Africa (and around the world). The country beckons to travelers through its abundant wildlife, diverse culture, deep history, and some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes on Earth. 

While the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on the country’s tourism industry, the same can be said for the rest of the world, and thankfully the tourism sector has been recovering recently. 

 

The most popular tourist activities in South Africa include going on an African safari, lazing on the country’s expansive sandy beaches, engaging in water sports of all kinds, and visiting some of the best wineries in the world. The country also boasts a rich cultural heritage which can be explored via its numerous museums and monuments. 

 

Taking advantage of the services of a private tour guide during your trip will help you stay safe while getting a glimpse at life in South Africa through the eyes of a local. 

 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some enlightening South Africa tourism statistics while also providing tips that will help you plan your trip.

 

The Most Popular Places to visit in South Africa

 

While Cape Town is arguably the most famous and popular city with tourists in South Africa, there is much more to explore in the country. In the Western Cape province where Cape Town is located you can also find the world famous ‘Garden Route’. This is a 200 km (124 mile) long stretch of pristine coastline situated between Mossel Bay and Storms River. This area is a UNESCO recognized biodiversity sphere which includes some of the most beautiful flora in the world, including the Cape Floral region, the rainforest-like beauty of Knysna, the largest free-flight aviary in the world at Plettenberg Bay, arguably the best whale watching ocean safaris in the world, and much much more. 

 

Another of South Africa’s most popular tourist activities is of course going on a classic safari in one of the country’s many national parks. The largest and most famous of these is the Kruger National Park which stretches across the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. One of the largest national parks in the world, it stretches across a staggering 19,485 square km (7,523 sq mi), meaning this park alone is about the size of Israel or Belgium!

 

Other popular areas to visit include the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal where you can find pristine beaches, great weather year-round, and excellent scuba and surfing spots. Tourists also frequently visit the large metropolitan cluster surrounding Johannesburg and Pretoria (known as the Witwatersrand). Here you can find the largest city in the country (Johannesburg), filled with its share of museums, attractions, shopping districts, and even wildlife parks. You can also visit the country’s capital city of Pretoria located just 45 minutes up the road.

 

Here you can marvel at architecturally brilliant and historic structures such as the Union Buildings, Voortrekker Monument, and Freedom Park

 

The top five most visited cities in the country are Cape Town (pictured below), Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, and Port Elizabeth.

 

Who Else Loves South Africa?

When it comes to international travelers, South Africa is most popular with visitors from the UK,  USA, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. The country’s natural beauty, wildlife safaris, wineries, and beaches make it a popular destination for tourists seeking an African adventure, and it is the second most popular travel destination on the continent.

 

Another reason for its popularity is the fact that most South Africans are fluent in English, and the country has a well-developed transportation infrastructure. 

 

Overseas tourist entry data for 2019 (pre-Covid) amounted to; 

  1. UK: 436,559
  2. USA: 373,694
  3. Germany: 322,720
  4. France: 165,038
  5. Netherlands: 144,071

In recent years the number of tourists from countries such as India (95,621) and China (93,171) has also been on the rise. The majority of international visitors to South Africa came from other African countries however, including Zimbabwe (>2 million), Lesotho (>1 million), and Mozambique (>1 million). 

 

Weather

 

South Africa is a vast country and is home to several different climates, from the arid Kalahari desert to the snow-capped mountains of the Drakensberg. Most of the country however enjoys comfortably warm temperatures throughout most of the year with the exception of 2-3 months of winter weather between late May and early August. 

 

Luckily, the cold doesn’t affect the entire country in the same way, as parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape have sub-tropical climates where the temperatures stay comfortable year-round

 

For the rest of the country, the average hovers around the 22°C (72F) mark in most places, although during the peak summer months (November – February) temperatures in excess of 30°C (86F) are quite common. We would recommend wearing a hat and/or sunscreen and carrying water with you when out-and-about during the warmer months, especially if you are at the beach. 

 

Pro-tip: As the name implies, South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning the seasons are reversed from the perspective of Northern Hemisphere visitors. Plan your trip accordingly!

 

Food

Like the rainbow nation itself, South African cuisine is well-known for its diverse influences including from African, European, and Asian cooking styles. One of the most famous dishes is simply known as “braai” (pronounced ‘brai’) and basically translates to barbecue. It consists of a series of meats (steak, sausage, lamb chops) grilled outside over hot coals (usually while enjoying a drink or two).

 

As side dishes people frequently enjoy salads, bread, and corn alongside their grilled meats, but if you want to be truly authentic ask for “pap” (pronounced ‘pup’) – a maize-based porridge enjoyed as a staple across Africa. During a barbecue it is usually enjoyed in its savory form covered in a rich vegetable relish known as chakalaka

 

Another well-known dish is called “bobotie” (pronounced like this), and it has its roots in Cape Malay culture. Almost like a kind of lasagna, it consists of spiced ground beef with onions and raisins finished off with an egg-based topping and served with rice. 

Seafood is also a popular choice, especially if you’re traveling along the country’s extensive coastline. Arguably the most well known is “snoek” (pronounced ‘snook’), a large species of fish only found in Southern Hemisphere waters. The fish is usually covered with a glaze of lemon juice and/or apricot jam and is also best enjoyed cooked outside over hot coals while chatting with friends.

 

Other famous foods include “potjiekos” (pronounced ‘poi-kee-kos’, a hearty meat and vegetable stew. For sweet treats we would recommend “melktert” (pronounced ‘maelk-ta-rt’) which is a sweet milk tart, and “koeksister” (pronounced ‘kuk-sis-ter’), a deep-fried pastry coated in delectable syrup. For a more in-depth look at some of South Africa’s best foods, check out our article on this topic here, or you can benefit from the services of your private guide by having them introduce you to their favorites.

 

Transportation 

South Africa has one of the most developed transportation networks in Africa, including several international airports as well as an extensive highway system. Rail connections also exist, although the most popular methods of transport for tourists is by air or car. 

If you are looking for an interesting and high quality rail journey through the country, we suggest checking out the luxurious ‘Blue Train.’ The modern and recently built Gautrain system also links the urban centers of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Unless you are truly adventurous, we would not recommend other local rail services due to potential safety concerns. 

 

Another popular method of transport for locals in South Africa are minibus taxis, basically taxi vans which criss-cross the country, although these can be confusing to use for tourists. For overseas visitors, we would highly recommend renting a car or using a smartphone service such as Uber to travel locally.

 

Things To Do

Safari 

One of the best activities in South Africa is going on a safari in one of the country’s many national parks. Here you can see the elusive ‘Big Five’ – a term which refers to five species of mammalian megafauna (large animals). This moniker was initially coined by big-game hunters who considered these to be the most difficult animals to hunt, and they include the lion, elephant, African buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard. 

 

Fun fact: These animals also appear on South African banknotes!

 

The country is home to numerous national parks and private game reserves, virtually all of which offer high quality accommodation options. If you are traveling in South Africa, we would recommend spending at least a few nights at one of these parks as it will undoubtedly make for an unforgettable experience. 

 

Activities include going on game drives to see the wildlife up close, and some parks even allow visitors to hike or explore the area on horseback (though this depends on the animals present). Worry not though, as friendly and professional game rangers will accompany you however you plan to explore the bush. Many of the larger parks also allow visitors to drive their own vehicles on a private safari as long as you stick to the trails. 

 

Pro-tip: Do not leave your vehicle under any circumstance while on a game drive unless park staff explicitly permits it. Wild animals are unpredictable and should be treated with respect.

 

The Sea

As mentioned previously, another great reason to visit South Africa is to enjoy the country’s beautiful beaches and rich marine life. With a coastline stretching a staggering 2,850 km (1,770 mi), it is also the only country on Earth with access to both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. 

 

This means that visitors can enjoy the warmer waters of the East Coast, excellent for swimming, surfing, and scuba diving, as well as the colder waters of the Western and Southern Coasts, world famous for whale watching, sports fishing, and shark-cage diving. Swimming and surfing is also very popular here, though your enjoyment might depend on your cold water tolerance. 

 

Most of South Africa’s beaches carry Blue Flag Status, meaning they have been internationally recognized as being clean, well-managed, and safe. If you find yourself visiting the South Coast, we would highly recommend going on a whale and dolphin watching ‘ocean safari’. The waters around South Africa are rich in nutrients which attract many whale species including Humpback, Southern Right, and the rare Bryde's whale. Many species of dolphin and porpoise can also be spotted, from the friendly Bottlenose to the majestic Orca (Killer Whale). 

 

If you are feeling particularly adventurous, another great marine activity unique to South Africa is great white shark cage diving. While it may sound dangerous, it is actually quite safe and certified operators follow strict guidelines to ensure the safety of both yourself and these amazing predators. 

 

Pro-tip: Only swim at beaches with a designated swimming zone and a lifeguard present. Rip-currents exist in some areas and can take even the most experienced swimmers unaware.

 

Do’s and Don'ts

Safety

Personal safety is a concern for many travelers visiting South Africa, and while the overwhelming majority of people experience no issues on their trip, crime is something to be aware of. We would recommend keeping valuable documents such as your passports safe by not carrying them on your person when out on short excursions. 

 

It is also a good idea to keep your wallet and phone out of sight when not needed, and when driving around do not stop on the side of the highway unless instructed to do so by uniformed police. As previously mentioned, it is also a good idea to not venture into impoverished areas such as townships by yourself. The best way to ensure a safe trip is by hiring one of our vetted South Africa private guides to show you the ropes. 

 

Pro-tip: Here are some useful emergency numbers to take note of: 

Police: 10111 

Ambulance/Fire: 10177 

Covid 19 emergency no: 0800 029 99

 

Finally, due to a rapidly expanding population and aging infrastructure, the electrical grid sometimes suffers from temporary outages known as ‘loadshedding’. This means the electricity may be out for a few hours in a day. While an annoyance, many hotels and other establishments have adopted generators and solar power to help keep the lights on during these events. 

 

Conclusion

South Africa is a beautiful country with stunning natural vistas, abundant biodiversity, and friendly locals. From enjoying a classic African safari to relaxing on the beach or going on a relaxing wine tasting tour, there is something for every kind of traveler to enjoy here. 

 

Check out our extensive list of South African tour offerings and book your dream holiday today!

Cape Town Tour Guide - Jean luc K.

Jean luc K.

South Africa

Warm greetings from Cape Town, My name is Jean Luc, Energetic professional with over 14 years of experience informing and guiding tourists. Superior talent for entertaining audience members and delivering a high level of customer service. Extensive knowledge of history and culture; able to learn, retain, and recall extensive amounts of information quickly.                                                                                                                                 

Cape Town Tour Guide - Matteo P.

Matteo P.

South Africa

Are you ready for Cape Town? /\/¯¯¯¯¯\/\ Sei pronto per Città del Capo? Enjoy breathtaking cycling routes, embark on a magnificent ascent up Table Mountain, or simply meander through the vibrant streets. Just relax during the scenic drive to the Cape of Good Hope or enjoy a leisurely e-bike ride. Our experience blends captivating culture with serene natural surroundings - take a leisurely stroll through botanical gardens, partake in exquisite wine tastings, go whale watching, indulge in gourmet dining, explore beautiful beaches, and savor the finest craft beers. Discover Cape Town in your own way!                                                                                                                                  

Cape Town Tour Guide - Sizwe G.

Sizwe G.

South Africa

Hi there! my name is Sizwe. I am based in Cape Town, South Africa. I have been in the Travel and Tourism industry for years. I love travelling and meeting new people and I know the feeling of visiting a foreign country for the first time can be exciting and daunting at the same time. However booking trips in advance gives you peace of mind. I am a licensed tour guide. The tour packages that I offer include sightseeing experiences, city tour, wine tasting, cultural, marine, safari and so much more. I can arrange an itinerary based on your interests. Cape Town has so much to offer and with me these incredible places will not go unseen. My focus is providing travelers with incredible, safe and memorable travelling experience. I Look forward to meeting you soon. Thank You.                                                                                                                                  

Plan your trip to South Africa

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.

Get Started