South Africa in 10 days at Christmas

This is how we made this dream holiday come true, with a much lower budget than what any tour operator would have given us. How? Organising ourselves and being smart about it.

It has been one of the best holidays of our lives, and one of those experiences that will stick with us for a very, very, long time.

Read 3 days in Cape Town at Christmas, Safaris around Kruger Park.

View photo galleries: Cape Town & Surroundings, South African Safaris.

We decided to divide the trip in two parts: the first part in & around Cape Town, the second part flying up North for safaris in the Kruger Park area. We flew with a one way to Cape Town, and back from Johannesburg’s Airport. You could also turn the itinerary around and start with the safari instead, depending on tickets prices.

If you wonder how choosing a safari works, read this post on the difference between private reserves, and rest camps at Kruger National Park: Safaris at Kruger. Choosing the latter you might be able to save money, of make it affordable for a whole family.

The highlight of the trip is, without a doubt, the three days safaris around Kruger National Park – and that’s also where a good chunk of the budget went.

Below you can find out itinerary.


1 – Arrival in Cape Town, check-in at Airbnb accommodation.

2 – Tour of Cape Town by bus.

3 – Surfing in Muizenberg, tasting wine in Stellenbosch.

4 – From Table Mountain to Cape of Good Hope, driving back to Camps Bay.

5 – Early departure from Cape Town, fly to Johannesburg and drive to Nelspruit for overnight stay at Loerie’s Call Guesthouse.

6 – Drive 3 hours to Elandela Private Game Reserve, afternoon safari.

7 – Early morning safari and day trip to Kruger Park to see elephants.

8 – Early morning safari, then drive 1 hour to Vuyani Safari Lodge for the afternoon safari.

9 – Early morning safari and drive 1 hour to UmVangati House. In the afternoon, boat trip to Blyde River Canyon (pre-booked by hotel).

10 – drive 7 hours to Johannesburg through Panoramic Route, and fly back.


1.600 euro per person sharing accommodation, excluding international flights. This includes all, i.e. car rentals, petrol, internal flights, food etc. Note that a good chunk of the budget goes into safaris in Private Reserves: from 200 euro per person, per day, and up. We travelled in high-season at Christmas time. In Cape Town, we managed to find a great deal of 70 euro per night for a great studio, and that’s how we managed to balance expenses out.


We rented an entry-level car in Cape Town with First, took an internal flight to Johannesburg, and rented a medium-level car with Europ Car at Johannesburg Airport. Our experience with Europ Car in Johannesburg wasn’t good, maybe we have only been unlucky, but the car we were supposed to take had the GPS charger broken – thank god we noticed that – and so they gave us what available, that turned out to be a huge, slow and difficult to drive pick-up.

As a lot of driving is involved in the second half, around 1.000 km, another option is flying to Mpumalanga Airport to reach the reserves, though this is more expensive and won’t allow you to see the landscape on the way.


Book in advance if you can, especially if you go in high season. Pre-book your cars, accommodation, and safaris! We did so 2 months ahead of time and were left with what still available – although we got lucky.

If driving 7 hours on the way back is just too much, break it down spending one night somewhere half way through, or in Pretoria. We had our flight in the evening and didn’t mind.

Regarding roads conditions in the second half of the trip, don’t worry, most roads are tarred or have easy access. It might get trickier if it rains even though in private reserves they’ll help you manage to get back to the main road. Driving on Panoramic Route the last day, we found several potholes on the way, be careful.

GPS are not always included, depending on the company you rent your car from. With Europ Car, the GPS isn’t normally included, and since they didn’t have any availability on site, we rented one out at Vodacom which was a bit of a hassle. Another option is getting a South African sim with traffic data as you land, and use that on your phone instead of the GPS.





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