South Africa | General TipsNatasha Townley | 12 Jul 2012

I know it's Africa, but the first thing to remember is if you go in their winter months, it does get cold. Having done the garden route, I can safely say you will need more warm clothes than you might expect. The wind is the main problem, but the hostels are not particularly insulated and it can get chilly. You will get your share of sunshine too, so pack for all weathers.

Secondly, I used the Baz Bus, which was brilliant. There are cheaper alternatives, but as a teenage girl travelling alone and for the first time, I was very glad of the door-to-door system, their general knowledge of areas and friendly help. I found all the staff in hostels extremely helpful too, and they will ring ahead to next hostels and the next Baz Bus for you. Most of the hostels I stayed in had resident cats and dogs (great for me, but if you have allergies etc it is probably worth checking beforehand).

If you are interested in shark cage diving, Hermanus is definitely the best place for it, and Hermanus backpackers is the cheapest and best place you could find. It is under R1000 (about £90) which includes a free night in the hostel, breakfast and lunch. The hostel itself I found to be a really friendly place and full of character, a short but spectacular walk away from the main town. One thing to remember would be that shark cage diving is highly weather dependant, so if you only have a day or two to spare in Hermanus, be prepared that it may be cancelled.

In terms of crime, I think as long as you are sensible you will be fine. In all of the three months I was there, I encountered only two issues, neither serious. The first was staying in a backpackers in Storm's River (Dijembe - it was very quiet at this time of year but a great place to stay), where a man staying there from Saudi Arabia decided to try something uninvited. Fortunately I am a modern western girl who felt confident enough to give him a strict no and make him apologise, and nothing horrible came of it. I felt safe anyway, as there were other people in the next room I knew would help me if needed, but it is important to remember that different cultures have different rules, and you musn't be afraid to stand up for yourself if necessary (of course without putting yourself at risk). The only other incident was walking up long street at about half past 11 at night. A man came up to us and started trying to sell us weed, following us up the street, then pretended to compare the shoe size of himself and one of the guys I was with, tugging at the bottom of his jeans and pointing to his feet. Thinking he was probably high or something, we just got him to leave us alone and went on our way. It was only later we realised this had actually been a distraction technique (which we probably should have noticed), and he had stolen the moblie phone from the jeans pocket. So just be aware :)

I had an absolutely brilliant trip, and would love to go back. Cape Town especially feels as though you can't spend enough time there. I hope this was helpful, and if you go, enjoy!!

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