Gugulethu, or Gugs as the locals call it, is one of the oldest black townships in South Africa and is developing at an extremely fast pace. The township, in the shade of Table Mountain on the Cape Flats, has its roots in the migrant labour system of the apartheid state, taking the overflow from the nearby township of Langa.
Today, there’s a real sense of community and tourists are welcomed on the streets both on township tours and on overnight stays in the B&Bs that are springing up. A walking tour, with a local, is by far and away the best way to explore this thriving community and the informal settlement of Kanana.
This is a study of everyday life and there’s a sense of pride in the immaculately cleaned houses and hearths. Technicoloured clothes flap in the breeze on makeshift clotheslines, often in sharp contrast to the vividly painted buildings around them. Small kids in bright t-shirts will gladly pose for pictures (if there’s an adult, ask first) and will often hold hands and skip with you through the dusty streets.
Gugulethu also shoulders its share of pain and two shrines – the Amy Biehl Memorial and the Gugulethu 7 monument – pay tribute to those that lost their lives in the bloody fight for freedom.
This walk through shanties is not about rubbernecking or taking pictures of people going about their daily business, but rather appreciating the sense of community and culture. You’ll visit a shebeen, or communal watering point, a Spaza (informal convenience store), a heath clinic and community garden and also spend some time inside one of the homes.
A visit to Gugs just isn’t complete without a stop off at Mzoli’s place – a local butchery and open-air braai hotspot that’s not big on airs and graces, but is big on flavour. Large barbeque hot plates – with weather-beaten chimney vents – line the vibrant red walls and throw out mouth-watering, smoky aromas of the meat and corn that’s cooked on them. It’s brash, it’s noisy and preparing a feast against a steady beat of local Kwaito beats.
11 official Languages Spoken
Afrikaans – English – isiNdebele – Sepedi.– Sesotho – Siswati – Xitsonga – Setswana – Tshivenda – isiXhosa
How to say hello?
Molo – Xhosa
Sawubona - Zulu
Hallo - Afrikaans
Dumela - SeSotho
Electricity – Volt & plug
The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ. Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong, with round pins.
WiFi/Internet Access on tour
WiFi can be found at most accommodations, restaurants and airports, however, the download speed is often slow and many connections limit your data usage. In short, you’ll be able to stay connected with home, but don't expect to watch HD movies in your spare time.
When to go
South Africa is blessed with a mostly mild climate, but different areas will yield different temperatures throughout the year. Summer in South Africa is usually peak season, lasting between November – February, however Easter time (March) is often still considered peak season too. Temperatures range from 25ºC in coastal areas to high 30ºs in inland areas. Cape Town has ideal weather during this time and Durban sports warm beaches and humid air, Johannesburg experiences hot clear days and often an afternoon thunderstorm.
Shoulder season is April and May, as well as September and October. Surprisingly, the weather in Durban is often at its best during this time, and other areas simmer down from their scorching highs. Prices are lower and crowds are smaller. September and October see eruptions of flowers and blooms all around the country.
Winter is beautiful in most parts of the country. Cape Town experiences winter rain and is often a little cold and miserable, but still crisp and beautiful. Because of the warm Indian Ocean, Durban has spectacular weather in winter, often hovering around 20-25ºC with clear blue skies. Inland areas get quite chilly and the odd snowfall is not uncommon (it only lasts for a day though!). Prices are at an all time low and it is an ideal time for game viewing, as the animals are more active in the cooler weather.
Best time to go
Jun-Jul = Safari
Jan-Feb = Beach
With the possible exception of Christmas Day and New Year's Day, most tourist services and attractions are open on South African public holidays. In addition most city shopping centres, restaurants and entertainment venues remain open.
|1 Jan||New Year's Day|
|21 Mar||Human Rights Day|
|30 Mar||Good Friday|
|2 Apr||Family Day|
|27 Apr||Freedom Day|
|1 May||Workers' Day|
|16 Jun||Youth Day|
|9 Aug||National Women's Day|
|24 Sep||Heritage Day|
|16 Dec||Day of Reconciliation|
|17 Dec||Day of Reconciliation Holiday|
|25 Dec||Christmas Day|
|26 Dec||Day of Goodwill|
Visa & Travel docs
Travellers from most Commonwealth countries (excluding New Zealand), most Western European nations, Japan and the USA receive a free, 90-day visitor's permit on arrival. These travellers do not need a visa to enter South Africa. A valid passport is essential with at least two empty pages. You generally will need to show return or onward travel arrangements. Children aged under 18 must show an unabridged birth certificate (showing both parents details).
Some countries do, however, need a visa. Visas are not issued upon entry, they must be attained beforehand. It is advised that you clarify this before you leave, the Department of Home Affairs office has a comprehensive list of countries that do not require visas. http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/exempt-countries
What to pack
We're generally laid back in South Africa, so no need to haul out your best silks and diamonds when you head to our shores. Here's some clothing advice when in South Africa:
Health & Safety
There are no compulsory vaccinations required to enter South Africa with exception of a yellow fever vaccination if you have been in a yellow fever area within the last 12 months.
The only major health risk you might face in South Africa is malaria, which is confined to small areas in the north-eastern parts of the country. Small pockets of the northern parts of the Kruger National Park fall under this area but the risk here is considered extremely low and it is not always necessary to take anti-malaria tablets. Remember as a precautionary measure to check with your accommodation what is recommended.
South Africa may have high crime statistics, but if you conduct yourself wisely, most tourists enjoy the country without any incident at all. Ensure that you lock away your passports and travel documents in a safe, which is usually provided by your accommodation. Don't flash around valuables and keep an eye on your belongings at all time. Majority of South Africa’s crime is opportunistic petty crime, so if you are vigilant about your belongings you should not have any problem.
South Africa has 3 world-class airports that receive international flights every day; Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Most international airlines will have flights into one or all of these airports daily.
There are numerous budget carriers that offer domestic flights between the major cities for very reasonable rates; this is the fastest and safest way to span large distances, especially between Johannesburg and Cape Town, which is a 2-hour flight.
From the airports there are numerous shuttles and taxis that you can pick up upon arrival, there are also many different car hire options at each airport and in all major cities. Uber is another reliable and affordable option.
Our currency in South Africa is the South African Rand. You can easily convert your currency to rand at a bank or Forex Bureau, the airports and larger towns often have many different Forex options. You can also withdraw from an ATM, banks are available throughout South Africa. Be sure to check what international bank charges you will incur for withdrawals before you arrive. Major credit cards are usually accepted in hotels or restaurants, however, there may be a surcharge. It is advisable to have small amounts of cash for curios and tipping.