Before your trip

Before your trip

South Africa

PASSPORT & VISA

  • Passports: Passports must be valid for at least 6 months from the return date of your trip. However, both of Zimbabwe and South African law requires travelers to have at least two consecutive blank visa pages (Botswana requires at least three blank pages) in their passports for entry stamps. Travelers without the requisite blank visa pages in their passports may be refused entry, fined, and returned to their point of origin at their own expense. This tour itinerary will enter South Africa twice. To ensure you are covered for all the countries in this tour, Peony Tours recommends that there should be at least ten blank pages in your passport.    
  • U.S. Resident Aliens need both passports and Alien Resident Cards for re-entry to the United States.
  • Carry emergency contact person’s name, address and telephone number with you.
  • Keep travel documents, passport, personal necessities and valuables with you at all times and make a digital copy of them.
  • Be sure you have all the necessary documents and money before leaving for the airport.  
  • Visa: Tourists with valid U.S. passports to South Africa and Botswana do not require visas for stays of up to 90 days. For Zimbabwe, U.S. passport tourists are not required to apply a visa before traveling, but may pay USD 30 for and obtain a 30-day/single entry visa when entering Zimbabwe. For non-U.S. passport holders and for the latest visa requirements please check the Embassy websites:
South Africa: http://www.saembassy.org/ 
Botswana: http://www.botswanaembassy.org/
Zimbabwe: https://www.evisa.gov.zw/regime
 

CONSULAR INFO

The U.S. Department of State provides Country Specific Information Sheets for every country in the world, as well as Travel Alerts and Warnings. Find this information by calling 888-407-4747, or 202-501-4444, or online at travel.state.gov.
 

BAGGAGE 

  • Baggage charge and insurance are at the owner’s responsibility. Baggage allowance varies by airline and is subject to change at any time. For up to date baggage allowance restrictions and fees, always check with the appropriate airline before traveling.
  • It is recommended that all checked luggage has a lock (TSA approved locks are recommended) and a luggage tag showing the name and contact information of the owner. (Use Peony Tours tags for easy identification)
  • All baggage and personal effects are at the passenger’s risk at all times and in all circumstances. DO NOT pack medicine, valuables or other personal necessities in checked luggage or leave them on the bus.  Keep them in carry-on bag with you at all times.
  • Consider packing one change of clothing, one set of underwear and toiletry in your carry-on bag to avoid inconvenience caused by delayed or lost luggage.
  • Baggage allowance on coach: Peony Tours welcome each passenger to bring one suitcase and one carry-on bag on coach. Due to the limited capacity for luggage storage on the vehicle, Peony Tours does not accept more than one suitcase per person in order to avoid any additional charges for excessive luggage. 
  • Consult www.tsa.gov for USA restrictions on baggage and TSA approved locks. 

HEALTH & INSURANCE

  1. For travelers’ peace of mind and protection, you are strongly advised to purchase travel insurance prior to departure. 
  2. It is important to familiarize yourself with any potential health issues or concerns related to your destination, and so we strongly recommend consulting the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for up-to-date information on required and recommended vaccines and medications. Visit them online at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel or call 800-232-4636.
  3. Health requirements for entry into South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana may depend on the country of origin and countries visited en route. Vaccinations are not required for travelers coming directly from the United States. For travelers originating from or transiting through WHO designated yellow fever countries, the proof of yellow fever vaccination is required and it should be administered 10 days prior to travel in order for it to be effective. Further Information on vaccinations and other health precautions for travelers may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) website http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/ or the World Health Organization's (WHO) website:  http://www.who.int/countries/zaf/en/.
  4. It is strongly recommended that you consult your doctor for existing medical conditions four to six weeks before you leave. Vaccination is one of the best ways to reduce the infectious risk. Ensure your routine childhood vaccinations are up to date. Some vaccinations may require booster doses. Ask your doctor and get the boosters. 
  5. If you are taking prescription medication, pack in your hand luggage sufficient quantity for the duration of the trip and make sure it is fully labeled.  
  6. In Africa, malaria is found in some areas. If you travel to a malaria-risk area you must take prevention drugs and avoid mosquito bites:
    • wear long sleeves, long trousers and socks
    • apply insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin
    • spray your room with aerosol insecticide
    • use mosquito-proof bed net
    • stay indoors between dusk and dawn
    • close doors and windows or protect them with screens
    • switch on fans or air conditioners
    • use mosquito mats or coils during the night.
  7. In case of illness during your trip, please notify your tour guide for immediate assistance.

WEATHER

  • Use a website such as www.weather.com to find average temperatures and rainfalls during your travel times.
  • South Africa: This country has two climatic systems. The south-western Cape has a Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall (May-August) and a dry hot summer (September to April), whilst the rest of the country has exceptionally sunny weather throughout the year, broken only by spells of rain in the summer months. The long spring and summer months – late August to mid May make South Africa a holiday-maker's paradise, whilst in the winter months the weather is still beautiful, with generally warm sunny days and cool nights (except in the South-Western Cape where this is the green season).
  • In Zimbabwe, the annual average temperature is 22°C. October is the hottest month, the temperatures are around 32°C. July is the coolest, the temperatures are typically 13°C - 17°C. Rainy season is from November to March. April to June is a stunning time to visit Victoria Falls when the water levels are at its highest for the season.   
  • Botswana: Botswana’s climatic pattern is typical of southern Africa, although its rainfall is less than countries further east. The rain in Botswana come mostly between December and March, when average minimum temperatures are in the low 20°s. Some days will be bright and sunny, some will have afternoon thunderstorms, and some will just be grey.

ELECTRICITY

  • Domestic supply for South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana is between 220 and 240 volts AC, 50Hz. 
  • Plug sockets: 
Type M: Most of South Africa and Botswana use the plug M (3-round pins, South African type, looks like plug D, but with larger pins).
Type D and Type G: Zimbabwe uses the plug D (3-round pins, India type), and plug G (3-rectangular pins, UK type). 
  • We recommend you pack a universal travel voltage converter and plug adapter, hairdryer, and chargers for the trip.

CLOTHING & THINGS TO BRING 

  • Use a website such as www.weather.com to find average temperatures and rainfalls during your travel times.
  • Dress should be informal and comfortable throughout the trip. Prepare at least one nice smart/casual outfit for better hotels and lodges. Bring a collar or tie with you. 
  • It's best to wear good walking shoes throughout the trip.
  • On Safari, you will require casual, neutral colored, cotton clothing (no bright colors or whites), light-weight trousers, slacks, and long-sleeved shirts are ideal. 
  • A warm light-weight jacket is recommended. 
  • A light waterproof jacket or umbrella is necessary for the summer shower months.
  • Bring a sun-hat, sunblock lotion, sunglasses, swimwear, sarong, and comfortable sandals.
  • Insect repellant, hand sanitizer, and anti-malaria tablets (if applicable).
  • Bring binoculars and a small first-aid kit.

CUSTOM & ARRIVAL

  • Peony Tours representatives cannot enter the baggage claim area.  Baggage carts are available at all airports. Collect your luggage and exit, our local representatives will be waiting for you outside.  
  • All baggage from the group will be collected for transport between the airport and hotel in a separate vehicle. Baggage service to/from the airport is limited to one bag per customer.

LANGUAGE

  • South Africa: 11 official languages, English, Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu are the most commonly spoken. 
  • Zimbabwe: English is the main language used in the education and judiciary systems. The Bantu languages Shona and Ndebele are the principal indigenous languages of Zimbabwe. 
  • Botswana: The official language is English. However, Setswana is widely spoken across the country. 

TIME ZONE  

The South African Standard Time (South Africa) and Central African Standard Time (Zimbabwe, Botswana) do not utilize Daylight Savings. During the Daylight Savings Time, these countries are 9 hours ahead of Los Angeles (PST), and 6 hours ahead of New York (EST).  
 

MONEY MATTERS

  • It is suggested to inform your credit card company of your traveling and to confirm your credit line prior to departure.
  • South Africa: The currency is the Rand (R, ZAR). One Rand equals to 100 cents. There are R200, R100, R50, R20, and R10 notes. Coins come in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c, and 5c. South African banknotes in excess of R10,000 gold coins and stamp collections and unprocessed gold have to declare. Most international credit cards are accepted, as are traveler's check. Foreign currency may be exchanged at the international airports, commercial banks and hotels. It is advisable to carry cash with you for small payments. As of January 2020, the exchange rate is: 1 USD = 14.17 ZAR.
  • Zimbabwe: Following the collapse of the Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWD), the country has adopted a multi currency scheme using U.S. dollars and South African Rands into everyday usage. Travelers’ cheques and credit/debit cards are not widely accepted. ATMs are hard to find. It is recommended to bring enough cash to cover your stay in Zimbabwe (in either USD or ZAR) especially in small denominations like 1, 5, 10 as there is always a shortage of change and shops often refuse larger bills. As of January 2020, the exchange rate is: 1 USD = 361.90 ZWD.    
  • Botswana: The currency is the Pula (BWP, which means “rain” in Setswana). One Pula equals to 100 thebe (which means “shield” in Setswana). Travelers cheques and foreign currency may be changed at banks, change stations, and authorized hotels. The US dollars, Euros, British Pounds and the South African Rand are the most easily convertible and acceptable currencies. As of January 2020, the exchange rate is: 1 USD = 10.66 BWP.
  • Major credit cards such as Visa and Master Card are accepted in large department stores, restaurants and hotels in major cities. However, we suggest traveling with sufficient US dollars to be exchanged for local currency for small payments. Always make sure you have cash on you as some small shops won’t accept credit card. Plus you’ll need it for tips.

FOOD & DRINK

Some meals are included as per the itinerary. It is advisable to drink plenty of water in the heat and drink only sealed bottled water at all times which is available almost everywhere and is to be paid for. Take special precautions in rural areas.
 

SHOPPING

  • Most travelers enjoy the change to purchase items that reflect their destinations, and so as a courtesy, your guide may recommend a particular shop or arrange a shopping visit. Please note, however, that these recommendations should not be taken as Peony Tours’ endorsement of the shops, merchandise and/or pricing. You assume all responsibilities for any transaction that takes place, including shipping arrangements that are made.
  • The decision to shop while traveling is personal choice and shopping is never compulsory. If at any point during your journey you feel pressured to shop or make purchase, please contact the tour leader or our local representative immediately.
  • Prices at hotel shops and tourist shops in big cities are generally fixed; however when shopping at local markets or stalls by the streets, bargaining is expected.
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Value Added Tax (VAT): In South Africa, VAT is levied at 14%. Foreign visitors may claim back VAT on purchases taken out of the country with a total value exceeding R250. In Zimbabwe, GST is currently 15% and is included in the price of most goods. You are recommended to check the current regulations prior to completing your purchases in foreign countries. 
  • Observe U.S. Customs restrictions when bringing in goods from tour. Consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at http://www.cbp.gov for details.  

TELEPHONE & EMERGENCY NUMBERS

  • International Calls: South Africa’s international access code 09, country code 27; Zimbabwe’s country code +263; Botswana’s country code +267; USA’s international access code 011, county code 1.                                                                     
Dial to USA from S. Africa: 09+1+City code+Local number
Dial to S. Africa from USA: 011+27+City code+Local number
  • Local Emergency Numbers: 
South Africa: 112 (for any emergency from a cell phone), 10111 (police & fire), 10177 (ambulance).
Zimbabwe: 999, 993 (fire), 994 (ambulance), 995 (police)
Botswana: 911, 997 (ambulance), 998 (fire), 999 (police)
 

INTERNET ACCESS

Most hotels in big cities offer free Wi-Fi in all areas as well as business center. Please consult the front desk for specific details in each property. 
 

TIPPING

Gratuities are not included in your tour cost.  They are customary, and their purpose is to encourage and reward quality service.  Our tour guides, drivers, hotel porters and other service personnel do their utmost to make your trip smooth and pleasant. Gratuities are a way of showing your appreciation and also constitute a large part of their monthly income. However, tips are NEVER mandatory. For this tour, Peony Tours suggests tipping in the following manner (per person per day in USD):
  • Local Guides: US $10 - $15 (per person per day)
  • Trackers: US $5 - $8 (per person per day)
  • Misc. Lodge Staff: US $5 - $10 (per person per day)
  • Driver: US $5 - $7 (per person per day) 

SAFETY

  • In South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, driving is on the left side of the road. When walking you need to keep to the left and pass on the right.
  • Zimbabwe has certainly economic challenges at the moment. Even though Victoria Falls has been safer from the rest of the country, you are advised that always make sure to secure your possessions in public areas, watch what you eat, and be aware of pick-pockets. There are “Tourism Polices” on patrol throughout the town. Ask them for help in the event of any difficulties.    
  • All national parks and reserves have a set of rules that you need to follow to ensure your safety. Many of the animals you'll come across, particularly lion, hippo, elephant and buffalo, are dangerous. Stay in your car and keep a reasonable distance. Never get off the jeep without permission. Never feed the wild animals. Avoid swimming in rivers that have hippos and crocodiles.
  • Africa has its fair share of poisonous snakes–though they are rarely encountered. If you plan on doing any walking, take along boots, socks and long trousers as a precautionary measure (which also helps with ticks) – and always look where you're going.
  • In wildlife areas, visitors are advised to wear neutral colored cotton-wear clothing, lightweight trousers, slacks, and shirts. No bright or colorful clothes or too much perfume

GENERAL TIPS

  • Keep eyes on your personal belongings and valuables at all times.
  • Respect other group members, your tour guides and drivers. Refrain from talking when tour guide is speaking.
  • Safety of travelers has always been our number one concern.  For your safety, notify tour guide ahead of time if you plan to go out at night or roam at free time alone.
  • Always be cautious when staying at a hotel. Keep doors locked at all times. Never allow strangers into your room. 
  • For the protection of your own interests, read your itinerary and hotel information prior to the tour. Leave a copy to your family.
  • A nice and smooth trip counts on every group member's high cooperation.  It is important to follow the indicated meeting time and meeting point.  Use the name badge and luggage tags provided by Peony Tours for easy identification.  To make your trip as enjoyable as possible, allow enough time for flight check-in, security screening and boarding: 2 hours for US domestic travel, 3 hours for international travel. For flight delay, cancellation, or any emergency, please contact Peony Tours immediately:
USA – Office Hours (Monday - Friday, 9 am - 5:30 pm)
Headquarters (626)289-2450
Los Angeles (626)289-1010
San Francisco (650)259-9983
New York (212)973-1998
After Office Hours (626)592-8448