Where to stay in South Africa
The top-end hotels in South Africa are world class with excellent restaurants, well-equipped fitness rooms, spas and swimming pools. Stylish boutique hotels have become very prevalent in the last two years, and almost every town increased the quality and quantity of its accommodation options in the run up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Grading: The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa runs a voluntary accommodation grading system. Establishments that join the scheme are awarded 1 to 5 stars. The type of accommodation is taken into account, so there are 5-star bed and breakfasts, and caravan parks, as well as 5-star hotels.
Bed and breakfast accommodation is found everywhere, from rural villages to urban townships. Many have a bit more charm than standard bed and breakfasts. Some are housed in historical buildings decorated with antiques, while others may be on a working farm where guests can get involved.The hosts may provide dinner on request. Advance bookings in the high season of October to April are becoming essential, especially in the Western Cape. Local tourist offices are the best source of information.
Almost every town has a municipal caravan and camping site (camping is not allowed outside of them) and they are found along all the tourist routes in South Africa. The standard is usually high with clean ablution and sometimes kitchen blocks and secure fencing. Many have additional simple self-catering chalets to rent, and a swimming pool. The national parks have campsites too, often with ready-erected permanent tents on wooden platforms. A number of car hire companies can arrange camper van hire, with a range of fully equipped vehicles.
Lodges: Some truly wonderful five-star safari lodges represent the peak of South Africa’s accommodation options. They’re based in the private game reserves and the package includes early morning and sun-downer game drives with knowledgeable rangers, exquisite meals and all drinks including alcohol.
Budget: Accommodation in the national parks is economical if you stay in one of the many camp sites where you hire a permanent tent on a platform – essential when there are few fences to keep the predators at bay. There are communal ablution blocks, a swimming pool, fairly cheap restaurants and reasonably well-stocked shops if you want to self-cater.
Unique Accommodation: You’ll struggle to find a corner to put your suitcase in if you stay in a rondavel (thatched huts) but it’s worth it for the novelty value. These traditional round Zulu huts have brick and clay walls and an archway you duck through to get in.
Hostels: Located all over the country, hostels are generally cheap, clean and well run. Some offer beds in dorms with shared showers, others have private en suite rooms. Self-catering facilities are provided. Some rent out mountain bikes or surfboards. Most are listed in backpackers guide Coast to Coast (www.coastingafrica.com). The Baz Bus coach service offers a door-to-door service for hostellers.
Holiday flats and chalets are available in all the main tourist areas. Some are located in resorts with spas and swimming pools, and some upmarket hotels also offer cheaper self-catering units.