How to Apply for a Visa to Spain

Explore the gorgeous and historic depths of Spain. With celebrated vineyards, mesmerising architectural heritage and exciting nightlife, you are sure to have the time of your life. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to apply for your Spanish visa (Schengen visa). We’ve included everything you need to know about the tourist visa application process, and soon you’ll be visiting breathtaking Spanish cities, including Barcelona, Granada and Madrid.

South African passport holders do require a Schengen visa for Spain, but luckily the process is a relatively painless one! You will need to apply at BLS International (Spain Visa Application Centre) in Cape Town or Pretoria. Always apply at least 15 days prior to your departure date.

Please note this process is applicable to South African passport holders.

Spain Visa Travelstart

Image courtesy of @visit_valencia_ via Instagram

Types of Visa

  • Tourist Visa – for people who wish to stay in Spain for a maximum period of three months. If you’re visiting family, friends or visiting on holiday, this is the visa you need.
  • Business Visa – for people who wish to stay in Spain for a period of three months for work purposes.

Note: South African citizens do not require a transit visa if transiting through a Spanish airport between non-Schengen countries.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Spain Visa?

Once your application is presented at the Spain Visa Application Centre, it will be submitted to the Embassy of Spain/Consulate General of Spain the next business day. Processing time can be anywhere between 15 and 30 days, and be extended if additional documentation is required.

The decision to grant Spanish Schengen visas is made by the Embassy or Consulate General.

How to Book an Appointment?

All Spain visa application appointments must be scheduled on the BLS International website. Register online and the earliest available date will be shown.

Spain Visa Travelstart

Image courtesy of @spain.visit via Instagram

Visa Costs

Visa Type Visa Fees Service Fees
Tourist Visa R938 R242
Children between 6-12 years R547 R242
Children between 0-6 years No fee No fee

Payment must be made in person at the Visa Application Centre during your application.

All visa and service fees must be paid with a debit or credit card only. Cash payment is not allowed at the Visa Application Centre.

Spain Visa Requirements

  • Schengen visa application form (fully completed and signed).
  • Passport (original) – (a) Must be valid at least three months beyond the stay in the Schengen area. (b) Issued with a maximum of 10 years validity. (c) Must have at least two blank pages. (d) Copy of the passport – biometric page only.
  • One recent colour photograph: 45x35mm against a white background, not more than six months old.
  • Travel itinerary in Spain – (a) Dates of your trip. (b) Entries and exit from each Schengen state. (c) Amount of days in each country and total amount of time in Schengen states.
  • Means of transport – (a) Booking of flight ticket/train/ferry ticket booked according to passport showing Spain as the main destination, reservations are accepted. (b) Movement between the Schengen states must be shown (flights, car hire, train bookings).
  • Accommodation for entire period of stay in the Schengen territory must be presented.
  • Medical Travel Insurance – Minimum coverage of €30,000.
  • Letter of Employment – (a) Must provide a signed original letter of employment stating salary/annual cost to company and date of employment. (b) Certified copy of last three months’ pay slips. (c) Self-employment (directors, CEO, board members): proof of company registration/ commercial license and latest VAT/Tax clearance certificate. (d) Pensioner/retired applicants should provide proof of pensioner slip. (e) For students, letter from the school/university confirming attendance.
  • Proof of economic means – (a) Original last three months bank statements. (b) Statements must be stamped by the bank with an original stamp.
  • For minor applicants – (a) Certified copy by Commissioner of Oaths of the full unabridged birth certificate. (b) Certified copy of both parent’s ID or passport by Commissioner of Oaths. (c) The application form must be signed by both parents.

Please note: all original documents must always be accompanied by at least one photocopy.

Use the Tourist visa checklist to make sure that you have all the necessary documents.

Travelstart Spain Visa

Image courtesy of @visit_valencia via Instagram

Where to Apply

All Schengen visa applications for Spain are done at BLS International – Spain Visa Application Centre in Cape Town and Pretoria. You must apply in person for your biometric data to be collected. Children under the age of 12 do not need to appear in person or have their fingerprints taken.

Residents in Pretoria, Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West, Free State, and Lesotho must apply at the Visa Application Centre in Pretoria.

Residents in the Northern, Eastern, Western Cape, as well as KwaZulu Natal, Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, East London, and Port Elizabeth must apply at the Visa Application Centre in Cape Town.

Cape Town

Address: 1st Floor, Block B, North Park, Black River Park, 2 Fir Street, Observatory, Cape Town, 7925
Contact: 021 003 8050 / info.cpt@blshelpline.com
Business Hours: Passport Collection Time
Monday to Friday 12:30 – 16:00
Submission Time
Monday to Friday 09:00 – 12:30 and 13:30 – 15:00

Taxis, cabs, and busses are readily available to get you to the Visa Application Centre in Cape Town. If you’re driving by car, there is parking located in the front of the building.

Pretoria

Address: Regus Lakeview, Ground Floor Lakeview Building 1277, Mike Crawford Avenue, Centurion, 0157
Contact: 012 007 0030 / info.pry@blshelpline.com
Business Hours: Passport Collection Time
Monday to Friday 12:30 – 16:00
Submission Time
Monday to Friday 09:00-12:30 and 13:30-15:00

There are various public transport options available to get you to the Visa Application Centre, including busses, taxis, and cabs. If you’re driving in a car, you can park at the back of the building.

Travelstart Spain Visa

Image courtesy of @visit_valencia via Instagram

Where to Print Documents and Take Photos

Cape Town

PostNet Woodstock

Address: 399 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7925
Contact: 021 447 7235
Business Hours: Monday – Friday 08:30-17:00
Saturday 09:00-13:00

Pretoria

Aces of Spades

Address: 78 Botha Ave, Lyttelton Manor, Centurion, 0157
Contact: 060 623 2556
Business Hours: Open 24 hours
Travelstart Spain Visa

Image courtesy of @ahang486 via Instagram

With all this helpful information on how to apply for your visa to Spain, by now you should be ready for the application process. Sign up for our newsletter and discover the best flight specials to Spain.

If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, find cheap flights to Spain with Travelstart!

Have you recently applied for a Spanish visa? Share your experience in the comments below.

Disclaimer:

All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart is not affiliated with immigration authorities or their application centres and will not be liable for loss or inconvenience arising from the use of this volatile information.

Featured image courtesy of @visit_spain via Instagram

The post How to Apply for a Visa to Spain appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

20 Fun Things to do Along the Garden Route

[Updated January 2019]

The Garden Route really is a brilliant family destination as it caters for a wide range of interests – outdoor adventurers and shoppers can bond over a memorable meal of fresh-off-the-line seafood or locally-cultivated wine. Make connections – meet the makers, the ceramicists, the artisans, the conservationists. Slow things down, catch your breath, take in every sunset and let the Garden Route work its magic.

Escape the city to the invigorating salt air of the Garden Route. Misty indigenous forests, excellent cafés and shops, fresh seafood, and a wide selection of outdoor activities are the reason this trail of holiday hamlets prove so popular.

Not only that, but you can encounter elephants, cheetahs, Cape Fur Seals, a honey badger and a Great White Shark all in one day.

Plett, Knysna, Wilderness and Sedgefield are an easy drive from George Airport and a slightly longer drive from P.E. Just a 6-hour drive from Cape Town, you’ll be stuck for a reason not to head to the Garden Route over a long weekend or during the holidays.

We’ve highlighted 21 things to do in the Garden Route the next time you visit!

1. Cosy up at Bramon Wine Estate

garden routeGenerous, well-priced tapas accompanied by home-made bread just out of the oven… the restaurant at Bramon Wine Estate in Plettenberg Bay is ideal for family lunches and lazy afternoons sipping wine by the fire. Olive tapenade, prawns wrapped in pastry, generous cheese and pear salads, springbok carpaccio, the list goes on. Their dry MCC with notes of apple and icing sugar will turn any event into a celebration.

Open every day from 11:00 to 17:00.

073 833 8183

garden route

Courtesy of pletttourism via Instagram

2. Spot a Great White Shark stalking seal rock in Robberg

garden route

You’ll hear the canine bark of the Cape Fur Seals before you see them. On a perfect winter’s day, we traced the movements of a Great White as it skirted the clear shallows in search of a seal. I can’t think of anywhere else where you’d get an elevated view of nature in action quite like this.

3. Take a Featherbed ferry to the Knysna Heads

A popular must-do, Featherbed cruises are synonymous with the Knysna lagoon. If time is short, then the 75-minute Three Legs River Cat cruise makes the most sense at R156 per adult and R86 per child aged 4 to 15 years.
You can also book a cruise on the only traditional paddle-driven cruiser in South Africa. Choose the 3-hour eco-experience at the Knysna Heads with a return ferry trip, 4×4 drive to key viewpoints in the reserve and an optional guided walk to the sea caves, R499 per adult and R116 per child.

Contact: 044 382 1693

4. Spend the night in the beautiful, electricity-free cabin on Robberg promontory

robberg accommodation garden route
The Robberg Nature Reserve boasts the cosy Fountain Shack for overnight hikers. It can accommodate up to eight people, and offers unparalleled views and enjoyably rustic facilities.
Book at the Fountain Shack: 021 483 0190

5. Coffee and a knock-out breakfast at Roost in Old Nick Village

Roost old nick's garden route

Courtesy of Old Nick Village Facebook Page

After a delicious breakfast, pick up great ceramic finds in Prêt à Pot and quality cotton jerseys in Indalo clothing.
Open 07:00 to 18:00 daily.

6. Visit rescued wild cats and a honey badger at the Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary

cheetah at jukani garden route

Courtesy of Jukani

R260 for adults, R130 for kids. Get a discounted ticket to visit Monkeyland and Birds of Eden too at R410 for adults and R205 for kids. This ticket is valid over 3 days. Free for kids under 3. Jukani subscribes to responsible tourism principles.

7. Do a short hike or trail run in the breath-taking Tsitsikamma Storms River Mouth

Choose between the Loerie and Blue Duiker trails or hike to the pristine waterfall. Check the SANParks website for more info.

8. Toast to the sea with oysters and wine on the Oyster Tour on Knysna Lagoon

oyster festival garden route

Courtesy of simola_spa_gym via Instagram

Take a tasty and informative oyster tour of the Knysna lagoon. It is a 1.5-hour long cruise and includes oysters and wine.
R600 for adults, R180 for kids aged 4 to 12 years.
Contact: 082 892 0469

For the serious oyster lovers, be sure to diarise the Knysna Oyster Festival towards the last week of June each year. This year it takes place between 21-30 June 2019. Accommodation fills up quickly, so book yours in advance.

9. Tea time delights and fresh farm bread at Thyme and Again farm stall

thyme & again garden route

Courtesy of livs_macd via Instagram

Pop in for delicious home-baked treats, jams, breakfasts, wraps and a freshly-brewed cup of coffee. Find it just off the N2 by the Keurbooms turn-off.

10. Whizz through the trees on the original treetop canopy tour in SA

Glide through the Tsitsikamma forest 30 metres above the ground through 700-year-old Yellow Wood trees! If you’re lucky you may even sight the flash of an elusive Narina Trogon. R595 per person.

Located at the Storms River Village – a 45-minute drive from Plett.
Call 042 281 1836

11. Tackle your bucket list – bungee jump off the world’s highest bridge at Bloukrans

Pay R1,350 if you book online with Face Adrenaline. Truly one of the most thrilling experiences of your life!

Contact: 042 281 1458

12. Eat fresh fish and chips at the Lookout Deck and Restaurant in Plett

The perfect spot for a seafood lunch or sundowners right on the beach. The restaurant works on a first come, first served basis, so be sure to get there early in summer!

Open every day between 09:00 and 22:00

Contact: 044 533 1379

13. Spend a couple of days in surf heaven in secluded Victoria Bay

Victoria Bay- Garden Route
Take a sharp left after Wilderness and turn down a windy road to secluded surf hotspot Victoria Bay. Buy an ice cream from the only café and walk along the quay past signs that say “No dogs allowed- not even small ones” and “Be nice to sharks”.

vic bay garden route

14. Enjoy a sunset to remember at Brenton-on-Sea

garden route

Courtesy of elrorke via Instagram

Rent a self-catering cottage in Brenton-on-Sea just 15km west of Knysna. This little hamlet offers a quiet escape from the bustle of nearby Knysna.

15. Visit the Book Nook in Plett followed by a croissant at Le Fournil/ tiramisu ice cream at the Ice Palazzo

garden route

Courtesy of ebieshady via Instagram

All can be found in the Lookout Centre in Main Street in Plett. Treat yourself to all-day breakfasts, fresh tartines, home-made waffles and Italian gelato.

16. Pizza with a helluva view at Enrico’s in Keurbooms

Keurbooms beach garden route

Courtesy of pletttourism via Instagram

After your meal, take a walk along the Keurbooms beach to the left of Enrico’s and throw a stone through the gap for luck. Bookings are advisable, especially during high season.
Address: 296 Main Street, Keurbooms
Contact: 044 535 9818

17. SUP on Knysna’s lagoon

knysna lagoon garden route

Courtesy of annaliese.deklerk via Instagram

Gain a new perspective and hire a stand-up paddleboard to explore the highways and byways of the canals on Thesen Island and the Knysna estuary.
R180 per person for an hour and R130 per subsequent hour.
Contact Ocean Odyssey on 044 382 0321

18. Meet gentle giants at the Elephant Sanctuary – the Crags

Walk with the gentle elephants, trunk in hand, in an educational and interactive experience. Tours are 60 minutes long.

Rates: R625 for adults, R310 for kids aged 4-14 years.

19. Explore the Crags with Hog Hollow Horse Trails

hog hollow horse trails garden route

Courtesy of pletttourism via Instagram

Visit animal sanctuaries and eco-adventure spots on a half or full day “Cruise the Crags” package, or do a full day Crags Winelands Trail, visiting award-winning local wineries.

Both trails cost R1,650 per person for a full day.

Contact: 082 771 3745

20. Finish off your Garden Route adventures with a fabulous meal at Fynboshoek cheese farm restaurant

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.23.09 AM

Courtesy of lomie12 via Instagram

Hosted by award-winning cheesemaker, Alje van Deemter, you can take part in cheesemaking classes, stay overnight in the cosy farm cottage, and enjoy lunch in the restaurant between 12:00 and 16:00 (by appointment only).

Located 7km from Storm’s River.

Contact: 072 342 0445

What is your favourite thing to do along the Garden Route? Let us know in the comments below!

Also Read:

The post 20 Fun Things to do Along the Garden Route appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Free things to do in London – A few of our favourites!

Have you ever dreamed of travelling to London, but always thought you couldn’t afford it? Think again!

Here is our top list of free things to do in London.

Free things to do in London

Image by Chantelle Flores. www.51countriesandcounting.com

It is a city that most people dream to visit. Taking in the sounds and sites of this culturally diverse city is the culmination of a life-long dream for some people.

It is usually perceived as being one of the most expensive cities in the world. Granted, some things are hellishly expensive. But once you visit, you will soon come to realise that it is entirely affordable and the city offers budget-friendly options – a lot of these free to explore it.

The freedom to walk

Save on travel costs and walk everywhere. Most attractions are in close proximity to each other and can be easily accessed on foot. Giving you the ability to save on transport costs.

Free things to do in London

Image Credit: Unsplash

Be smart with your accommodation

Source accommodation options that offer a kitchen to cook your own meals. We have a great selection available for you to have a look at.

Buying groceries to cook with is surprisingly cheaper than it is in South Africa. It could be attributed to the variety and the competition available. For lunch, Tesco has great meal deals where you get a meal, a drink and a snack – all for £3. (Just under R60).

Paddington Flats, Hyde Park Rooms & Apartments, The Kensington Studio and the  Hyde Park Rooms & Apartments are some great options.

A few small substitutions here and there has already saved you a ton of money.

The free stuff

In addition to transport and accommodation, London offers a range of spectacular, yet exciting free things to keep you preoccupied with.

Here is our list of favourite “free” things to do in this mother city.

Bushy Park

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

When Londoners think of Bushy Park, they immediately think of the 320 odd deer found grazing in the arid grasslands.

Located in the London Borough of Richmond upon the Thames, this park is London’s second largest park and one of the 8 iconic Royal Parks.

Deer are not the only animals that can be found here. Other smaller mammals like rabbits, voles, mice, shrews and hedgehogs, bats can be spotted. Bird lovers can enjoy three types of native woodpeckers, kingfishers, kestrels, woodpeckers, waterfowl and tawny owls.

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Wander around the many ponds and streams fed with water from the 19 km long artificially created Longford River.

Ever wanted to kiss your loved ones underneath a mistletoe. This is the place for it. It is one of the best places in London to spot this well-loved plant.

The park bears historical significance too. Evident remains of medieval settlements at least 4000 years ago have been found here and are on display in the British Museum. More recently, during the Second World War, part of Bushy Park became the US air base called Camp Griffiss.

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Opening times:

The pedestrian gates in the park are open 24hours, except during the deer cull season (September and November) when pedestrian gates open at 8:00am and close at 10:30pm, Monday – Friday.

Getting there:

By Train: Take the Waterloo subway line to Teddington, Hampton Wick or Hampton Court. Walk 5 to 10 minutes and enter the park through the Sandy Lane Gates.

By Bus: You can get to the park using the following buses:

  • 111 Kingston – Heathrow
  • 216 Kingston – Staines
  • 411 Kingston – West Molsey
  • 481 Kingston – West Middlesex Hospital
  • X26 Express service Heathrow – Croydon
  • R68 Hampton Court – Richmond

Park Run

Free things to do London

Image courtesy of parkrun.org

Paul Sinton-Hewitt had no idea that his effort to gather 13 amateur runners in Bushy Park back in October 2004 would become a worldwide revolution.

Today this free but timed 5km run draws more than 1,000,000 runners across 543 parks worldwide.

The idea behind the run is to gather communities and get them outdoors irrespective of age, physical ability, race male or female.

Due to its growing success, The Queen made Paul a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in her 2014 birthday honours list for his ‘services to grassroots sports participation.

The run takes place every Saturday morning at 9:00am and is free of charge. Taking part is easy. You just need to register once before the event. After every run take part in another tradition, grab a post-run cup of coffee at the parks Pheasantry Cafe.

Getting there:

By Train: Take the Waterloo subway line to Teddington, Hampton Wick or Hampton Court. Walk 5 to 10 minutes and enter the park through the Sandy Lane Gates.

By Bus: You can get to the park using the following buses:

  • 111 Kingston – Heathrow
  • 216 Kingston – Staines
  • 411 Kingston – West Molsey
  • 481 Kingston – West Middlesex Hospital
  • X26 Express service Heathrow – Croydon
  • R68 Hampton Court – Richmond
  • St James Park

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

London is blessed with 5,000 acres of ancient parkland enabling Londoners to escape from the hustle and bustle of city living.

St James’s Park is the oldest of the Royal Parks where previously Henry VII kept many exotic animals such as camels, crocodiles and an elephant in the park. Today the park is famous for its colony of pelicans and other birdlife.

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Why not feed a squirrel while you are there? It’s a favourite activity for most locals. They come here most days with nuts in hand and share in the therapeutic nature of feeding these blissful gentle creatures.

Getting there

Using London Victoria as your starting point use the subway circle and district line to St James Park Station. It only takes 1 min.

Princess Diana Memorial Walk

Keep your eyes on the ground. Here you will find 90 attractive looking metal plaques with rose emblems etched in them.

Following these will navigate your way along the 7 mile Princess Diana Memorial circular walk. The walk takes you through four of the royal parks: St James’s Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Getting there:

St James Park is a high starting point. Using London Victoria as your starting point use the subway circle and district line to St James Park Station. It only takes 1 min.

Winter Wonderland

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

If you are planning to visit London this coming December, then prepare to attend Winter Wonderland. This Christmas spectacular pops up each year between November and early January. Hyde Park (one of 8 Royal Parks) transforms into a pop-up amusement park filled with productive activities for the whole family. It attracts thousands of locals and tourists each season.

Funfair rides, fairy lights, candy floss, pop up bars and food stalls. The live music is sure to get you in the festive mood. There is also an ice rink and sculpture park to look forward to.

Entrance is free, so if you are on a tight budget, then you can embrace the Christmas spirit free of charge and admire the happenings.

Free things to do in London

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Getting there:

There are many tubes and mainline stations in close vicinity including Victoria, Bond Street, Knightsbridge, Green Park, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner. Victoria and Green Park stations are best for step-free access..

Free Museums

You would be surprised at just how many free museums there are in London.

The National Gallery is a special one where you can see some world class artworks. Amongst these are the famous Van Gogh’s The sunflower.

Image courtesy of The Science Museum.

The Science Museum is pretty cool too and makes for a great family outing. You can learn all sorts of fascinating things. The space toilet, the space explorations between satellites and the Apollo 10 command module is all free to explore. If you have some money to spare – then level 3 is a must. The Wonderlab offers hair-raising live science shows that explain the science and maths that shape our world. Flight simulators with 3D and motion effects can be found at the Flyzone. The kids will love this one. The Space Descent VR. This is a thrilling virtual reality experience where you take a 400 km journey back to Earth.

If this isn’t diverse enough for you, then visit the Natural History Museum. It houses the massive T.rex dinosaur fossil. There are 36 free galleries within the museum each divided into different colour zones. Some of these include witnessing the diversity of large mammals to other kinds of dinosaurs. Some galleries even feature live viewings of scientists busy at work.

Graffiti, Jack the Ripper and Harry Potter walking tours

As mentioned previously, walking is the best way to explore this city. There are a few companies that offer free informative walking tours. Our favourite is Strawberry Tours. They work on a “pay as you feel its worth” kinda system.

Here are a few of there best tours.

Free things to do in London

Image courtesy of Strawberry Tours

Jack the Ripper Tour

Discover one of London’s darkest chapters: the shocking murders by Jack the Ripper. Delve into some of the fascinating facts about the world’s most chilling, unsolved murder mystery. Learn about the victims and theories surrounding the identity of the killer.

Harry Potter Tour

Harry Potter fans – you will love this.

London is filled to the brim with locations that have inspired J.K Rowling’s magical world of Harry Potter. This free walking tour takes you to these iconic buildings, streets and neighbourhoods that have been featured in the films. Who knows, you might even end up, accidentally, in Knockturn Alley.

Ghost Tour

If you love a bit of a thrill, this walking tour is just for you. It lets you explore the haunted town of London and helps you unravel its darkest secrets. Learn about the tales of the beheaded king who still haunts his prosecutors and about the ghost hidden in the theatres of West End. Men have been startled by ghosts at pubs, others have been attacked and wounded in the middle of the night at a Royal Palace. Stroll through the lovely royal gardens that are cursed at night.

Free things to do in London

Images by Chantelle Flores. www.51countriesandcounting.com

Graffiti Tour

London’s East End has become a mecca for artists and art lovers from all over the world. The tour takes you past all the famous ones in Shoreditch, Bricklane, Fashion Street and Bateman’s Rowne. Keep your eyes peeled for Banksy’s iconic pieces. This renowned street artists distinctive stencilled artwork can be appreciated here.

How to book

Head over to the Strawberry Tours website for more information. Limited slots are available each day.

Thames River Walk

Some of the best walks in London are to be had along England’s longest river.

The Thames River is 346 km long and offers plentiful walking trails. You can pick up the footpath pretty much anywhere in the city. It is scenic and highly populated with iconic buildings and monuments that you can make a full day out of.

Our favourite part of the Thames is the stretch between Richmond and Twickenham.  This 4 km walk on these banks takes you through two incredibly beautiful towns, gorgeous riverside parks, secret gardens and weird statuary. You will also pass two flooding pubs.

Richmond

For example, at high tide, The White Cross pub is completely inundated. And if you are so happy to reach here at high tide, outside the pub, you can find some wellies to borrow.

The riverfront in Richmond deserves special attention. It is an architectural jewel. The Richmond bridge is beautiful, and many buildings with Georgian facades can be found dotting the grassy slopes.

Pass by the isolated Marble Hill House. A Prince of Wales once lived here. Its grand interiors have been exquisitely restored and recreated and include an excellent collection of early Georgian paintings.

Keep your eyes peeled for some unique houses along the way. To name a few: the Ice House, Grotto and the Ham House.

Rest up at the tranquil Orlean Gardens before continuing along the path. And if you would like to refuel, The White Swan beer garden is the place to do it at. But, it is another one that floods.

Free Things to do in London

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Twickenham

As you approach Twickenham, you will come across a unique sculpture garden and the secret garden of Champions Wharf. There is a tiny island across from here that has a long-standing history of live music and entertainment. Walk in the footsteps of the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

There are a few other sites along the way not to miss. The charming stretch of greenery of the quaint York House Gardens and the 17th-century country York house are worth a visit.

Free things to do in London

Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Getting there

Leave Richmond Station via the main exit, turn left and cross the road using the pedestrian crossing. Once over the road, turn right and shortly after, turn left into Old Station Passage.

At the end of the passage, turn left and walk over the bridge, passing Richmond Theatre on your left and a small green, Little Green, on your right. Shortly after, you will reach a crossroad where Duke Street meets The Green.

Walk diagonally across the road to the corner of a larger green, Richmond Green, where two paths are leading diagonally across the green. Take the path on the left.

Once across the green, walk down the road directly in front of you, Friars Lane, and follow it down towards the river. When you reach the river, turn left, walk along the river path and under Richmond Bridge.

Carry on along the path, passing a small grassed area and Richmond Canoe Club, both on the left. You will now be on the path to Twickenham.

Visa Requirements

South African passport holders will require a visa to visit the United Kingdom.

The visa takes at least two weeks to process, so make sure you apply well ahead of time.

You can apply via a new online visa application service called Access UK. Visit the website for further information on a more straightforward, more efficient way to get your visa, or see this guide on how to apply for your UK visa.

Considering that you have to pay R100 per email query, it’s worth studying every detail of the visa application process before applying for a UK Visa.

There are no border controls between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island so you can travel these countries with ease once you have received your visa.

Cheap Flights and Travel Insurance

Book cheap flights to London now. And don’t forget your travel insurance to protect yourself during travel delays or possible baggage loss. 

Share your experiences

Have you visited London recently? What activities did you do that didn’t cost you anything?  Share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Free things to do in London

Image by Chantelle Flores. www.51countriesandcounting.com

All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of out-dated or incorrectly noted information.

The post Free things to do in London – A few of our favourites! appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Budget tips to make your dream holiday happen!

Unless you’re lucky enough to be Rockefeller, you’ll need a simple budget travel tip or two to help save for an overseas holiday. While we can’t guarantee you’ll be dining on champagne and lobster after reading this, we do know that your overseas trip will be a lot more comfortable!

Budget travel tip 1 – Save money for overseas travel

Like any savings goal, you need to be truly committed to the cause. Taking a look through your monthly expenses to see where you can cut back is where to start. Do you really need to eat out every week or see friends for drinks twice in a weekend? Look for areas where you’re overspending and then commit to saving that money in a completely separate savings account that is for your holiday.

Search and book cheap flights on Travelstart.

It’s also helpful to look for ways to make a little extra each month. Whether it’s selling off all the gadgets you don’t use on social media or baking cookies to sell at the office, remember that every Rand counts and can mean the difference between sad garage pies or buying yourself a special meal while travelling.

budget travel tip

Budget travel tip 2 – Book in advance

This goes without saying for flights, but most people don’t realise the massive difference in cost it can make when booking everything else for that overseas holiday. Scan flights regularly, look for alternative airline options and keep an eye out for special 3-6 months in advance of your trip.

Once your flights are booked, search for hotels that are out of the main tourist areas of your destination that may have an off-season, mid-week or other special offers you can take advantage off. Booking your hotel stay without breakfast can also help save money, and instead, buy a fresh pastry at a neighbourhood bakery!

Museums and attractions often sell tickets through their websites that are at a lower rate than if you booked on the day and in person. By researching what you want to do in advance and booking upfront, you might also be able to skip the long queues at major attractions on the day!

budget travel tip

Budget travel tip 3  – Research, research, research

It may seem silly to say, but of course the more research you do on your chosen destination, the more you’re likely to save when booking and enjoying your trip. Use Pinterest, Google Search and Facebook neighbourhood groups to find the best local suggestions on where to eat, what to see and how to get around.

READ: Honeymoon ideas for every budget

Knowing upfront what you want to see, what is a tourist trap and where you can get a great meal deal for lunch can make all the difference when you’re converting your hard-earned Rands into Dollars or Pounds. And talking of conversion…

budget travel tip

Budget travel tip 4 – Forex

You might think that Forex is something you have to leave until just the day, or even when you get to the destination, but that’s changed a little in recent years. Chat to your bank about getting a currency card for your travels.

These cards can usually hold several ‘wallets’ with different major currencies in them, and the card simple acts as a debit card when you travel. Because you can apply for these cards in advance and keep them in between travels, you can top up the card with your required currency whenever the rate is in your favour. By doing this, you also avoid last-minute currency fluctuations while you’re travelling.

Hot tip: When paying overseas with a card, you might get asked whether you want to process the transaction in your home currency. It’s advised you decline this option, as the additional transaction this requires ends up costing you more in fees in the long run.

budget travel tip

Budget travel tip 5 – Technology is your friend

Wherever you might be on your way to, there are bound to be a selection of local apps that if used cleverly, will keep you from overspending during your stay. Look out for apps like Citymapper, which works out different transport routes and their cost, or walking tour apps that allow the experience of a paid guide with just a set of headphones.

READ: Amsterdam on a dime

You can also download historical or cultural podcasts about an attraction or museum to enhance your visit. Remember to also search through social media and websites to see when and where free tours may be on offer, and check out EventBrite for free or inexpensive events.

budget travel tip

Budget travel tip 6 – Combo tickets and multi-passes

During your research process, take a look for combo deals on tickets for attractions. Often, city passes allow you to do so much more with your budget and will often reveal museums or galleries that you didn’t even know existed. City passes are sometimes combined with local SIM cards at the airport or even transport discounts!

Remember, that while zipping about on trains is fun (and novel for South Africans!), it can also get pricey. Often bus fare is much lower than train fare and if you managed to score a window seat, a good way to see the city you may be visiting. Ride sharing apps in major cities are also an option now, and a great option when transferring to and from the airport. You may even make a new friend in the process!

Where are you off to next and how do you plan on saving on your travel expenses? Let us know in the comments below…

The post Budget tips to make your dream holiday happen! appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Canada Visa – A Step-By-Step Guide

Have you ever thought of witnessing the stunning setting of Niagara Falls? Or treat yourself to the majesty and adventure available at the Glacier National Park in British Columbia. Canada is home to all that and more!

But first, you’ll need to sort out your visa. South African passport holders need a Visitor Visa to enter Canada. While there are Canadian embassies, consulates and trade offices throughout South Africa, you will need to make your applications at the Visa Application Centres (VACs) in Pretoria and Cape Town. Always apply for the visitor visa at least 30 days before your departure date.

Make sure that you check your eligibility before you start the application process and submit your application well before your flight departure.

Please take note that this process applies to South African passport holders.

Types of Visas

  • Visitor Visa – This visa allows you to enter Canada once. You can also apply for this visa if you are visiting your children or grandchildren. It is valid for six months.
  • Super Visa – You will need to apply for this visa if you are visiting children or grandchildren and need to stay for longer than six months. It is valid for two years.
  • Transit Visa – You will need this visa if you change planes in Canada. This visa only applies to you if you have less than 48 hours between your flights and you’re just transiting. If you have more than 48 hours between your flights, you will need to apply for a Visitor Visa.

Processing Time

Once you have submitted your application and biometrics, you could have your Visitor Visa within two weeks.

  • Visitor Visa – 14 working days
  • Super Visa – 87 working days
  • Transit Visa – Applications for the Transit Visa usually take a few weeks or less. The processing time depends on the VAC, the volume of applications, and if you need to complete any additional steps.

Visa Collection

You don’t need to worry about collecting your Canada visa and passport. Once your application is approved, the VAC will send your visa and passport back to you (you can arrange this with the VAC when making your application). Be sure to check that the visa stamp states the correct dates of your time in Canada.

Visa Costs

Your Canada visa can be quite costly, and can easily cost around C$280 (R2900). Below is a breakdown of the visa and service fees.

Please note that fees are non-fundable and must be submitted with your application.

The visitor visa and super visa will cost you $100 (R1047).

The transit visa is free.

Biometrics recordings cost $85 (R890)

Visa application fees at VAC

Service charge for application handling $51.71 (R542)
A self-service computer terminal for form completion $14.52 (R152)
Assistance with form completion on self-service computer terminals $26.97 (R283)
Photocopy services – price per page $0.21 (R3)
Photography service $8.58 (R90)
Transmission of passport to embassy upon request by visa office $41.37 (R433)
Courier delivery $18.34 (R192)
Courier early delivery $19.21 (R201)
Courier overnight express $14.58 (R153)
SMS services $2.50 (R27)
GC Fee Collection and Remittance $3.56 (R38)

You can only pay in South African Rands.

You can pay by debit/credit card at the VACs.

See below for the info regarding making cash deposits to the VACs.

Bank: Nedbank
Account Name: VFS Visa Processing (SA) Pty Ltd
Account Number: 1049565797
Branch Code: 198765
nathan phillips square toronto canada visa

Image courtesy of @anilulorey via Instagram

Canada Visa Requirements

  1. Photocopy of the information page of your valid passport, including the passport number, issue and expiry dates, your photo, name, date, and place of birth
  2. Proof of financial support
  3. Photocopy of your marriage license/certificate (if applicable)
  4. Purpose of travel
  5. Minors travelling alone or with one parent must have custody documents / a letter of authorization from the other non-accompanying parent / a letter of authorization signed by both parents or legal guardians

Super Visa Requirements

  1. A letter of invitation from your child or grandchild residing in Canada as a permanent resident or Canadian citizen (you must also have information on your host child or host grandchild’s family composition (dependants, including spouse, children or other relatives financially dependent on your host child or host grandchild).
  2. One of the following documents to prove that your child or grandchild meets the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) minimum:
    • A most recent copy of the Notice of Assessment. If you don’t have a hard copy of a Notice of Assessment on file, you can print the tax returns and other personal tax information using the CRA’s My Account for Individuals.
    • A most recent copy of the T4 or T1 tax form
    • Original letter from employer stating title, job description and salary
    • Employment insurance pay stubs
    • If self-employed, a letter from an accountant confirming their annual income
    • Proof of other sources of income (pensions statement, investments, etc.)
  3. Evidence of the parent or grandparent relationship to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident you wish to visit (copy of birth certificate, baptismal certificate or other official document naming you as parent or grandparent).
  4. Proof of private medical insurance coverage for a minimum of one year with a Canadian insurance company (copy of the insurance certificate or policy)

Transit Visa Requirements

  1. Your original passport
  2. Good quality photocopies of your current and previous passports for the last five years, which include:
    • Visas
    • Stamps
    • Your biographical data (name, date of birth, passport number), including your photo
moraine lake banff national park canada visa

Image courtesy of @alex_driebergen via Instagram

How to Apply

  1. Get your required documents and print others that are needed for your application (see below for where to print).
  2. Download and print the application form, complete it and put it together with the rest of your required documents.
  3. Visit one of the VACs (see below) to submit your documents as part of your visa application.
  4. You must be ready to pay for your visa application when applying.
  5. You will also have to pay the relevant fees for applying at a VAC.
  6. If you’re a first-time applicant, you will need to give biometrics. You can do that when submitting your application. VAC staff will check that you’ve paid all the relevant fees before you can give your biometrics.
  7. After you apply, the VAC will check your application, and may additionally require the following:
    • Go for an interview with one of the VAC officials
    • Send more information
    • Get a medical exam (if your visit is for more than six months)
  8. Make sure to arrange a courier to ensure your passport and visa will be sent to you. Due to there being only two VACs in the country, it’s wiser to arrange delivery of your visa and passport so that you only need to visit your closest VAC once.

Where to Apply

See below for the Canada Visa Application centres in South Africa.

Cape Town

Address: 5th floor,
30 Waterkant Street
Cape Town

Pretoria

Address: Cherry Lane Centre,
1st Floor,
114 Fehrsen Street,
Nieuw Muckleneuk,
Brooklyn,
Pretoria

Where to Print

Cape Town

Printing Cape Town | Printers Cape Town – PARKADEprint

Address: 18 Long Street,
Cape Town City Centre

Pretoria

Jetline Brooklyn

Address: Brookfield Office Park,
273 Middel Street,
Brooklyn,
Pretoria
victoria canada visa

Image courtesy of @yummy_73 via Instagram

If you haven’t yet, book a flight to Canada with Travelstart!

With this step-by-step guide, you’ll have your visa sorted with enough time to spare to focus on what you’re looking forward to experiencing in this exotic North American nation.

Subscribe to our newsletter to find out about awesome holiday packages and flight deals to Canada. Find other great travelling opportunities with our flight specials!

Have you previously applied for a Canadian visa? Let us know about your experience in the comments!

All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart is not affiliated with immigration authorities or their application centres and will not be liable for loss or inconvenience arising from the use of this volatile information.

Featured image courtesy of @therergulartravelholic via Instagram

The post Canada Visa – A Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Canada Visa – A Step By Step Guide

Have you ever thought of witnessing the stunning setting of Niagara Falls? Or treat yourself to the majesty and adventure available at the Glacier National Park in British Columbia. Canada is home to all that and more!

But first, you’ll need to sort out your visa. South African passport holders need a Visitor Visa to enter Canada. While there are Canadian embassies, consulates and trade offices throughout South Africa, you will need to make your applications at the Visa Application Centres (VACs) in Pretoria and Cape Town. Always apply for the visitor visa at least 30 days before your departure date.

Make sure that you check your eligibility before you start the application process and submit your application well before your flight departure.

Please take note that this process applies to South African passport holders.

glacier national park bc canada visa

Image courtesy of @adventure_ang via Instagram

Types of Visas

  • Visitor Visa – This visa allows you to enter Canada once. You can also apply for this visa if you are visiting your children or grandchildren. It is valid for six months.
  • Super Visa – You will need to apply for this visa if you are visiting children or grandchildren and need to stay for longer than six months. It is valid for two years.
  • Transit Visa – You will need this visa if you change planes in Canada. This visa only applies to you if you have less than 48 hours between your flights and you’re just transiting. If you have more than 48 hours between your flights, you will need to apply for a Visitor Visa.

Processing Time

Once you have submitted your application and biometrics, you could have your Visitor Visa within two weeks.

  • Visitor Visa – 14 working days
  • Super Visa – 87 working days
  • Transit Visa – Applications for the Transit Visa usually take a few weeks or less. The processing time depends on the VAC, the volume of applications, and if you need to complete any additional steps.

Visa Collection

You don’t need to worry about collecting your visa and passport. Once your application is approved, the VAC will send your visa and passport back to you (you can arrange this with the VAC when making your application). Be sure to check that the visa stamp states the correct dates of your time in Canada.

Visa Costs

Your Canadian visa can be quite costly, and can easily cost around C$280 (R2900). Below is a breakdown of the visa and service fees.

Please note that fees are non-fundable and must be submitted with your application.

The visitor visa and super visa will cost you $100 (R1047).

The transit visa is free.

Biometrics recordings cost $85 (R890)

Visa application fees at VAC

Service charge for application handling $51.71 (R542)
A self-service computer terminal for form completion $14.52 (R152)
Assistance with form completion on self-service computer terminals $26.97 (R283)
Photocopy services – price per page $0.21 (R3)
Photography service $8.58 (R90)
Transmission of passport to embassy upon request by visa office $41.37 (R433)
Courier delivery $18.34 (R192)
Courier early delivery $19.21 (R201)
Courier overnight express $14.58 (R153)
SMS services $2.50 (R27)
GC Fee Collection and Remittance $3.56 (R38)

You can only pay either South African Rands.

You can pay by debit/credit card at the VACs.

See below for the info regarding making cash deposits to the VACs.

Bank: Nedbank
Account Name: VFS Visa Processing (SA) Pty Ltd
Account Number: 1049565797
Branch Code: 198765
nathan phillips square toronto canada visa

Image courtesy of @anilulorey via Instagram

Canadian Visa Requirements

  1. Photocopy of the information page of your valid passport, including the passport number, issue and expiry dates, your photo, name, date, and place of birth
  2. Proof of financial support
  3. Photocopy of your marriage license/certificate (if applicable)
  4. Purpose of travel
  5. Minors travelling alone or with one parent must have custody documents / a letter of authorization from the other non-accompanying parent / a letter of authorization signed by both parents or legal guardians

Super Visa Requirements

  1. A letter of invitation from your child or grandchild residing in Canada as a permanent resident or Canadian citizen (you must also have information on your host child or host grandchild’s family composition (dependants, including spouse, children or other relatives financially dependent on your host child or host grandchild).
  2. One of the following documents to prove that your child or grandchild meets the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) minimum:
    • A most recent copy of the Notice of Assessment. If you don’t have a hard copy of a Notice of Assessment on file, you can print the tax returns and other personal tax information using the CRA’s My Account for Individuals.
    • A most recent copy of the T4 or T1 tax form
    • Original letter from employer stating title, job description and salary
    • Employment insurance pay stubs
    • If self-employed, a letter from an accountant confirming their annual income
    • Proof of other sources of income (pensions statement, investments, etc.)
  3. Evidence of the parent or grandparent relationship to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident you wish to visit (copy of birth certificate, baptismal certificate or other official document naming you as parent or grandparent).
  4. Proof of private medical insurance coverage for a minimum of one year with a Canadian insurance company (copy of the insurance certificate or policy)

Transit Visa Requirements

  1. Your original passport
  2. Good quality photocopies of your current and previous passports for the last five years, including:
    • All pages with visas
    • All pages with stamps
    • All pages with your biographical data (name, date of birth, passport number), including your photo
moraine lake banff national park canada visa

Image courtesy of @alex_driebergen via Instagram

How to Apply

  1. Get your required documents and print others that are needed for your application (see below for where to print).
  2. Download and print the application form, complete it and put it together with the rest of your required documents.
  3. Visit one of the VACs (see below) to submit your documents as part of your visa application.
  4. You must be ready to pay for your visa application when applying.
  5. You will also have to pay the relevant fees for applying at a VAC.
  6. If you’re a first-time applicant, you will need to give biometrics. You can do that when submitting your application. VAC staff will check that you’ve paid all the relevant fees before you can give your biometrics.
  7. After you apply, the VAC will check your application, and may additionally require the following:
    • Go for an interview with one of the VAC officials
    • Send more information
    • Get a medical exam (if your visit is for more than six months)
  8. Make sure to arrange a courier to ensure your passport and visa will be sent to you. Due to there being only two VACs in the country, it’s wiser to arrange delivery of your visa and passport so that you only need to visit your closest VAC once.

Where to Apply

See below for the Canada Visa Application centres in South Africa.

Cape Town

Address: 5th floor,
30 Waterkant Street
Cape Town

Pretoria

Address: Cherry Lane Centre,
1st Floor,
114 Fehrsen Street,
Nieuw Muckleneuk,
Brooklyn,
Pretoria

Where to Print

Cape Town

Printing Cape Town | Printers Cape Town – PARKADEprint

Address: 18 Long Street,
Cape Town City Centre

Pretoria

Jetline Brooklyn

Address: Brookfield Office Park,
273 Middel Street,
Brooklyn,
Pretoria
victoria canada visa

Image courtesy of @yummy_73 via Instagram

If you haven’t yet, book a flight to Canada with Travelstart!

With this step-by-step guide, you’ll have your visa sorted with enough time to spare to focus on what you’re looking forward to experiencing in this exotic North American nation.

Subscribe to our newsletter to find out about awesome holiday packages and flight deals to Canada. Find other great travelling opportunities with our flight specials!

Have you previously applied for a Canadian visa? Let us know about your experience in the comments!

All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart is not affiliated with immigration authorities or their application centres and will not be liable for loss or inconvenience arising from the use of this volatile information.

Featured image courtesy of @therergulartravelholic via Instagram

The post Canada Visa – A Step By Step Guide appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

5 Reasons to Fly SA Express from Cape Town to Walvis Bay

Yes, you read right. SA Express has officially re-introduced their flights between Cape Town and Walvis Bay!

SA Express suffered a bad rap last year with their flights grounded in May. But, they promptly dusted themselves off and began resuming their popular flights from August. This past weekend was the re-launch of their direct route from Cape Town to Walvis Bay and we were one of the lucky few to be invited on board their 50-seater Canadair Regional Jet-200!

sa express to walvis bay

Here are our top 5 reasons to fly with SA Express from Cape Town to Walvis Bay:

1.      Unbeatable Views

What a picturesque journey! Because the planes are small and able to fly close to the ground, we flew along the beautiful coastline all the way from the shores of Cape Town to Walvis Bay. See how the landscapes change and morph from the green, quilted Winelands to long stretches of white beach and caramel sand dunes – you’ll get to see just how beautiful Namibia is with its shimmering deserts, snaking canyons and deep blue sea.

sa express to walvis bay

2.      Refreshments on Tap

You certainly won’t suffer from dehydration with plenty of refreshments on board. Choose from their complimentary selection of local wines, beers, soft drinks, juices and water at any time during your flight.

3.      Top-Notch Meal Service

Who said meals on low-cost carriers have to be bland and boring? Not with SA Express! We were pleasantly surprised at the meal boxes they brought us, which included veggie and halal options. We opened up our box to find crispy golden crackers and cheese, a fresh and tasty chicken wrap, accompanied by a white chocolate and vanilla sponge cake as a sweet treat.

Shortly after, the friendly cabin crew came around with trays of potato crisps and chocolates – we nearly rolled off the plane!

sa express to walvis bay

4.      Comfort

Although the aircraft is small, the reclinable, leather seats are very comfortable. We recommend bringing a jersey or warm jacket on board as the aircon can be rather high. If you’re a little chilly, just ask the steward for a blanket and pillow, and catch a quick nap before you land. Feel free to use your mobile phone, tablet and e-reader during the flight, provided they’re in flight mode.

Each passenger is allowed to carry one piece of cabin luggage, weighing up to 7kg that can be stored in the overhead bin or under your seat.

5.      Convenience

With a flight every day of the week from Cape Town to Walvis Bay, you don’t have to plan your trip around the next available flight. Flights depart daily at 10:55 from Cape Town International, and leave from Walvis Bay Airport at 13:35.

sa express to walvis bay

Our verdict?

For a scenic and comfortable flight between Cape Town and Walvis Bay, SA Express certainly has our vote. In just over two hours, you can be sandboarding down the dunes, sailing on a dolphin tour, or enjoying a meal at the rustic seafood shacks along the beach!

With over 260 domestic and regional flights departing throughout the week, you’re guaranteed to find your ideal flight any day of the week.

Book your next flight from Cape Town to Walvis Bay on SA Express!

The post 5 Reasons to Fly SA Express from Cape Town to Walvis Bay appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

2019 Social Calendar: Events and Festivals in South Africa

Now that the festive season is over, it’s time to start planning your social diary for 2019! Take advantage of the public holidays, and extend your leave days for long weekends in March, April, May, June, August, September and December.

Whether you’re planning a getaway or staycation, take a look at these exciting events and festivals in South Africa for 2019!

January

Sun Met Horse Race

26 Jan | Kenilworth Racecourse

The one event to see and be seen, socialites and fashionistas never pass up the opportunity to show off their outfits and dazzle at the annual Sun Met Horse Race. The theme for this year is African Luxury: Precious Metals, so grab your tickets and shimmy down to Cape Town’s most prestigious horse-racing event.

February

Up the Creek

7 – 10 Feb| Swellendam

One of the lesser-known music festivals in South Africa, Up the Creek draws a smaller and more sophisticated crowd to celebrate the best of local music along the beautiful banks of the Breede River. This 4-day festival features three stages, over 50 bands, and a river stage where you can float in your lilo all day to mellow beats.

festivals in south africa

Photo credit: @josh_f9 via Instagram

Midmar Mile

9 – 10 Feb | Howick, Pietermaritzburg

Deemed the largest open-water swim in the world, the Midmar Mile attracts professional and recreational swimmers from around the globe to swim across the Midmar Dam in Howick, just outside Pietermaritzburg. Race categories include individuals, family teams and company relays.

Clarens Craft Beer Festival

22 – 23 Feb | Clarens Town Square

Clarens Village Square comes alive with music, live entertainment, delicious food stalls, kiddies play areas and, of course, award-winning craft beers flowing all weekend. Set against the beautiful Maluti Mountains, this is a wonderful event for the whole family!

Tickets are R130-R250.

Design Indaba

27 Feb – 1 Mar | Artscape Theatre, Cape Town

Calling all creatives and designers seeking inspiration and networking opportunities. This highly sought-after event on South Africa’s creative calendar is a platform for emerging designers to rub shoulders with the best in the industry and showcase their talents. A series of talks, product launches, guest appearances, dance and music performances are on this year’s agenda.

Randfontein Show

28 Feb – 3 Mar | Greenhills Stadium, Randfontein

The ultimate family event for young and old, the Randfontein Show has been a favourite festival in South Africa for over 33 years! There’s a wealth of entertainment, including music performances by local celebs, thrilling rides, fire shows, puppet shows, wrestling, go-karting, and endless stalls filled with crafts, top-notch cuisine, and award-winning local beers and wines.

Tickets range from R80-R100 for adults (R35 children).

March

Ultra South Africa

1 & 2 Mar | Nasrec (JNB), Ostrich Farm (CPT)

One of the biggest music events to touch down in South Africa, Ultra features some of the world’s best EDM artists and DJs. This year, the line-up includes The Chainsmokers, Martin Garrix and Above & Beyond, performing in both Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Tickets start at R650.

Cape Town Cycle Tour

10 Mar | Cape Town  

The most famous cycling event on the local sporting calendar is set to kick off on 10 March in Green Point. What started as a protest initiative in 1978 to include bicycles in the city’s urban planning has become a world-class event, attracting 35,000 cyclists of all levels and ages from across the world. Time to get those training wheels going!

festivals in south africa

Photo credit: @emma__heap via Instagram

Bazique

15 – 17 Mar | Elgin Grabouw Country Club

Celebrating all things weird and wonderful, Bazique is a spectacle of art, music, and letting your free spirit run wild! An explosion of colour everywhere you look, there are six music stages, intriguing sculptures, performance art, fire dancers, circus and comedy, art boats, a starlit spa, and food trucks galore.

Tickets are now available from R650 and include a free camping pass.

Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK)

21 – 27 Mar | Oudtshoorn

The biggest street festival in Oudtshoorn rocks the laidback Klein Karoo once a year with artists, musician and theatre buffs filling the streets. Throngs of people flock to this major arts festival in South Africa to celebrate the best of local theatre and art. Be sure to book your accommodation in advance!

Cape Town International Jazz Festival

29 – 30 Mar | CTICC

Time to get down and jazzy with two days of exceptional jazz going down in the Mother City. A mix of international and local artists take the stage for the 20th year of honouring the greatest jazz musicians of all time. If you don’t have tickets to the main event, get a pre-taste of these performances at the free concert at Greenmarket Square.

The Rand Show

29 Mar – 7 Apr | Johannesburg Expo Centre

The biggest expo to take Joburg by storm for its 125th year, the Rand Show is all about catering to the living spaces and lifestyles of families. From gaming expos, circus acts and amusement parks, to fitness expos, creative living spaces and cook-offs, there’s plenty to see and do at this renowned festival in South Africa.

festivals in south africa

Photo credit: @businesseventsafrica via Instagram

April

Splashy Fen

18 – 22 Apr | Himeville, Drakensberg

KwaZulu-Natal’s most-loved and longest-running music festival is a celebration of people, music, art and life in the most beautiful setting on Splashy Fen farm in the Drakensberg. What a way to enjoy the long Easter weekend – with an incredible music line-up, family activities, wellness workshops, food stalls and friendly vibes all around.

Tickets are R830 for a weekend pass.

Two Oceans Marathon

20 Apr | Newlands, Cape Town

Locals and runners from around the world unite for this enduring and scenic sporting event along the Cape Peninsula. If you’re not up for the 56-km challenge, you can tackle the 21-km half marathon as well as the fun runs and forest trails below Devil’s Peak and behind UCT. Final entries close 18 March, so dust off those running shoes and get moving!

SA Cheese Festival

26 – 28 Apr | Sandringham Estate, Stellenbosch

Celebrated as a prominent festival on South Africa’s culinary calendar, this three-day cheese festival pairs together cheese and wine connoisseurs. The festival is filled with interactive food tastings, hand-crafted delicacies and live entertainment throughout the day. You can even try your hand at the daily cheese carving competition!

Tickets are from R180 pp (R20 children, R120 pensioners).

AfrikaBurn

29 Apr – 5 May | Tankwa Karoo National Park

If you haven’t yet been to AfrikaBurn, it is one of those festivals you have to experience at least once in your life. A temporary city of art, music, theatre, costumes and tented camps is created for the week-long event. This year’s theme is Ephemeropolis, embracing a temporary way of living, so let your creativity run wild.

Tickets are from R1,895 for the entire week.

festivals in south africa

Photo credit: @andreascheepers via Instagram

May

The Colour Run

TBC | Benoni

Prepare to be showered in vibrant colours at this annual fun 5-km run. The Happiest 5K colour run takes place throughout South Africa and in over 35 countries, and we sure know how to bring on the fun. Dress up or run in white – either way, you’ll cross the finish line in a rainbow of colour!

Whiskey & Spirits Live

TBC | Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg

For those who savour the finer things in life, the world’s largest whiskey festival is one for the calendar. Sample premium whiskeys, rums, vodkas and craft gins where the connoisseurs will demonstrate how best to enjoy these spirits. Sign up for the master classes where you get to rub shoulders with Master Distillers and ambassadors. Complimentary cheese boards and dishes are served throughout the evening to complement your tastings.

Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival

30 May – 3 June | Knysna

One of the most highlighted festivals in South Africa, the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras attracts people from around the world to paint the beautiful coastal town of Knysna pink. This colourful carnival is all about promoting unity and diversion within the community with fabulous entertainment, costume parades, performance art, exhibitions and shimmering parties.

June

Wacky Wine Weekend

7 – 9 June | Robertson

Over 40 wine estates and wineries from Ashton, McGregor, Robertson and Bonnievale showcase their award-winning wines, pairings, cuisine, cellar tours, craft markets and outdoor activities for a weekend of festive fun. The perfect winter warmer!

Comrades Marathon

9 June | Durban

The 87-km marathon kicks off at the Durban City Hall, and runners cross the finish line at Scottsville Racecourse.

InniBos Arts Festival

26 – 29 June | Nelspruit

This arts festival welcomes over 100,000 visitors to Nelspruit to take part in and witness one of the biggest cultural festivals in South Africa. Performers and musicians showcase their talents and creativity over this 4-day event, which is filled with theatre, dance, food and crafts, beer gardens and children’s entertainment.

National Arts Festival

27 June – 7 July | Grahamstown

The most prominent arts festival in South Africa, the 44-year-old National Arts Festival draws an audience of over 200,000 visitors. If you’re not up for a long road trip to the festival, book your flights to PE or East London and rent a car or take a shuttle up to Grahamstown.

festivals in south africa

Photo credit: @nationalartsfestival via Instagram

Knysna Oyster Festival

TBC | Knysna

Knysna’s coastline runs wild with foodies and families as they tuck into the freshest oysters and seafood. From comedy shows and concerts to shucking competitions and diving challenges, make sure you diarise this 10-day event along the scenic Garden Route!

Guesthouses fill up quickly, so book your Knysna accommodation in advance.

July

Vodacom Durban July

6 July | Greyville Racecourse, Berea

Even if you’re not into betting or horseracing, you can watch powerful thoroughbreds and fashionistas strut their stuff at Greyville Racecourse.

This is one of South Africa’s most prestigious sporting events, so book your accommodation in Durban ahead of time.

Bastille Festival

13 – 14 July | Franschhoek

Dust off your berets and don your finest French couture for Franschhoek’s most celebrated festival of the year. Sample the best wines of the valley and gourmet cuisine from celebrity chefs. C’est la vie!

festivals in south africa

Photo credit: @franschhoek_sa via Instagram

Durban International Film Festival (DIFF)

18 – 28 July | Durban

Arguably the biggest film event in South Africa, the DIFF brings together around 400 filmmakers from around the world, featuring their thought-provoking films around African or South African subject matter. Screenings are held around Durban, and there are plenty of workshops and talks for aspiring filmmakers.

August

Slow Food and Wine Festival

9 – 11 Aug | Robertson

If you’re looking for an incredible farm-to-table experience in the countryside, make sure you diarise this gourmet festival. Set along the stunning Route 62, you’re invited to wine and dine with the winemakers in their homes and private cellars for a truly intimate experience of these farms.

The Family Market is free of charge, and experiences with the winemakers must be booked individually.

Oppikoppi

TBC | Northam, Limpopo

Oppikoppi is the pioneer of music festivals in South Africa. This once rock music festival now plays host to various genres of rock, punk, ska, folk, hip-hop, indie, jazz and more, attracting stellar line-ups of local and international artists. The festival also features socio-political stalwarts and comedians like Koos Kombuis keeping crowds enthused and entertained. Camp it or glamp it – it’s up to you!

September

Hilton Arts Festival

13 – 15 Sept | Hilton, KZN

The biggest theatre event in KwaZulu-Natal, the Hilton Arts Festival staged at Hilton College, is a spectacle of theatre, dance, music, art displays, and gourmet cuisine.

Umuzi Week of Festivals

20 – 29 Sept | Secunda

The Umuzi Waterfront transforms into a hub of festivities for ten days featuring a wine festival, Oktoberfest, local musicians, sports tournaments and the AquaZone Waterpark providing endless fun for the whole family.

Strawberry Festival

21 – 22 Sept| Redberry Farm, George

Set off on a road trip for a weekend in George! Set against the stunning Outeniqua Mountains, there’s no better backdrop for this annual strawberry picking festival. Sweet surprises await with a Berry Bar, food and craft stalls, trail runs, live music, beer and wine tastings, outdoor kids park, pony rides, go-karting and plenty more.

festivals in south africa

Photo credit: @melanievanniekerk via Instagram

Aardklop

24 – 29 Sept | Potchefstroom

Another stalwart of South African arts festivals, each year Aardklop is packed with music, theatre performances, visual art exhibitions, live talks and lifestyle events, all representing South Africa’s cultural diversity.

Cape Town Fringe Festival

TBC | Cape Town

Set to be back on track for 2019, theatre lovers should diarise this 2-week festival of fresh theatre, comedy, dance and music performances taking place at venues across Cape Town. See the most exciting, provocative and edgy theatre that’s unique to the Fringe.

Tickets start at R40, and many shows are free to the public.

October

Rocking the Daisies

4 – 6 Oct | Cloof Wine Estate, Darling

Darling rocks to the beat of local and international artists lighting up the stages at one of the largest music festivals in South Africa. Tickets start at R595 excluding an optional camping pass for those wishing to stay over.

Macufe Festival

4 – 13 Oct | Bloemfontein

A vibrant celebration of African and international music, Macufe offers up the best in jazz, rock, R&B, kwaito, classical and gospel music. Artists like Lira, Brandy and Lady Zamar have headlined this festival, putting Bloemfontein in the musical spotlight.

Cape Town International Film Market and Festival (CTIFMF)

TBC | V&A Waterfront

A cinematic feast of local and innovative documentary, feature and short films spanning multiple genres and cultures. From just R50 a ticket, you can catch any of the screenings throughout this 10-day film festival. Apart from the screenings, there are panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses and cocktail parties to attend, where you can rub shoulders with guest celebrities and aspiring filmmakers.

November

Endless Daze

TBC | Silwerstroom Resort, West Coast

Nestled in the relaxing Silwerstroom Resort, this outdoor beach festival is rapidly climbing its way to the top of South Africa’s music festivals. With a smashing line-up of alternative and indie artists from South Africa and abroad, this weekend is all about sun, sea and great bands.

Early bird tickets are available from R600, including camping. Additional parking fees are payable on arrival – carpool for cheaper rates!

Ficksburg Cherry Festival

TBC | Ficksburg, Free State

Said to be the oldest crop festival in South Africa, you can look forward to cherry picking, baking competitions, cherry mampoer, farm tours, a golf classic, half marathon, off-road cycling, beer garden, and circus shows.

December

Mother City Queer Project (MCQP)

TBC | Cape Town

In reaching its 25-year milestone, there is always frivolous excitement around the theme and location of Cape Town’s annual MCQP. This is the perfect excuse to get your creative juices flowing and rock your best outfit as the gay community breaks all conventions in celebration of camaraderie and diversity.

festivals in south africa

Photo credit: @mcqp via Instagram

Afropunk Joburg

TBC | Johannesburg

Get ready for the party of the year as Johannesburg fires up a frenzy of fresh talent and iconic artists from around the globe. Afropunk is where people come to free their mind, join a movement, and celebrate the African spirit.

Need more inspiration for a local getaway?

Check out these underrated places to visit and unforgettable road trips in South Africa!

 

Other festivals taking place around Africa

Marrakech Marathon – January

This world-renowned marathon attracts over 8,000 runners from around the world to take on the picturesque circuit lined with palm and olive trees, in Marrakech. Those who find the 42-km marathon a bit ambitious can conquer the half-marathon – an equally beautiful race.

Busara – February

A celebration of African music over four days in Zanzibar – this is one festival you need to be at! The biggest carnival parade hits the streets of Stone Town and musicians and performers go all out with brass bands, acrobats, capoeira, Mdundiko dancers and Maasai warriors.

Jazzablanca – April

Calling all lovers of jazz music – enjoy nine days of soothing jazz from street buskers and intimate jazz clubs to grand stages in the streets of Casablanca.

Bushfire – May

A weekend packed with entertainment, music, art, food markets, dancing and workshops, Bushfire attracts thousands of people from all over the world to camp out or glamp out under the stars in Malkerns Valley in Swaziland. The stage houses world-class artists from Africa and beyond for one epic weekend.

Mawazine Festival – June

Attracting the likes of Bruno Mars, Jamiroquai and The Chainsmokers, the line-up at this week-long festival is always incredible! Entry into the festival is completely free – you’d be crazy not to take advantage. All you need to do is book your flights to Rabat!

Rwanda Film Festival – July

Deemed one of Africa’s most prestigious festivals, the week-long Rwanda Film Festival takes place each year with screenings staged around Kigali and in other remote parts of the country.

Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) – July

A festival that brings people together in spirit and performance, the HIFA is a platform to learn, educate and celebrate Zimbabwean art in a challenging city like Harare. Performers from the USA, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and Finland collaborate with local artists to create a harmonious festival spanning six days.

Lake of Stars – September

This three-day event of culture and music from around the world gathers around Lake Malawi. From jazz and reggae to hip-hop and EDM, this is a music extravaganza for the senses. Other highlights include fashion shows, theatre, poetry slams, yoga sessions, beach volleyball and roller skating.

 

There you have it – the best events and festivals in South Africa and the rest of Africa for 2019! From small-town celebrations to world-class conventions and music festivals, be sure to diarise these festivities.

We’ll help you get there with flight specials and car hire to these amazing destinations. Sign up for our newsletter and don’t miss out!

Which events will you be attending this year? Let us know in the comments below.

festivals in south africa

The post 2019 Social Calendar: Events and Festivals in South Africa appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Ellora Caves – A unique artistic creation in India

Ellora Caves:

The Ellora caves complex in the Maharashtra state of Western India will leave you gaping in disbelief. It is the largest rock-cut monastery and temple cave complex in the world and dates back to 600 – 1000CE.  

Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, this series of 34 monasteries and temples spanning over 2 km has been carved out of a single basalt cliff. The sheer amount of stone dug out by hand to create this masterpiece will leave you speechless.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

The elaborate facades, interior walls and intricate carvings bring the civilisation of ancient India back to life.

Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain devoted sanctuaries can be seen here, and reflect the religious sentiments of the people of that era.

“In an intolerable society as we know it today, this site provides an illustration of the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.”

The Hindu caves are the most dramatic in design, the Buddhist caves contain the simplest ornamentation while many of the Jain temples are two levels and have been left incomplete.

Hindu Caves

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Ellora Caves. Image by Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

There are 17 Hindu temples in the centre of the complex dating back to 500 to 900 CE. Cave 16 is the epitome of all caves standing in an imposing manner just as you step inside the compound.

Cave 16 – The Kailāśa temple

It is twice the surface area of the Pantheon in Athens and one and a half times as high. It carries the same construction mystery as the Egyptian Pyramids and England’s Stonehenge and will leave you fascinated.

Technically called a cave but conceptually a temple, the Kailasha is an exemplary artwork of monolithic single rock excavation. This type of architecture describes buildings which are carved, cast or excavated from a single piece of material, usually a rock.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Cave 16 received its name from the Kailas mountain range of the Himalayas where the Hindu God Lord Shiva lived.

Unlike the other temples that are carved horizontally into the rock face, this one is said to be carved from the top all the way to the ground level.  Construction took place in the 8th century and involved the removal of 150 000 to 20 000 tons of solid rock.

What makes this truly remarkable is the fact that no machinery was used and this was done completely by hand with a hammer and a chisel.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

The complex is 50 metres long, 33 metres wide, and when you are standing on the cliff 30 metres above, you will notice the four levels.

A wander through the complex will reveal elaborately carved monoliths, impressive life-size sculptures of elephants and other animals and erotic representations of Hindu divinities and mythological figures.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

In the main courtyard you will notice a monument of Shiva’s bull Nandi standing on a porch, and along the walls, you will see a scene of Vishnu transformed into a man-lion battling a demon.

The central shrine housing the lingam features a flat-roofed mandapa supported by 16 pillars, and among the depictions within the halls is that of a 10-headed demon King shaking Kailasa mountain.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Buddhist Caves

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

The oldest of the Ellora caves can be found on the southern side of the cliff and are of Buddhist origin. There are 12 caves each dating back to from 200 BCE – 600 CE.

Cave 5, 10 and 12 are architecturally important. Cave 5 has a unique hall with two parallel low benches in the centre making it the second only cave in India to be designed this way.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Cave 10 houses the main Buddhist prayer hall, and Caves 11 and 12 are three-storied caves which show their Vajrayana affiliation. It is said that these caves have been built entirely by human hands and looking at the caves, you will notice the immense skill and craftsmanship of the builders.

Jain Caves

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Ellora Caves. Image by Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

On the Northern side of the complex, you will find the 5 Jain temples, each from the Digambara sect of Jains and with a living tradition of around 700 years. Without modifications or inscriptions, however, the earliest phase of Jain cave temples is often difficult to date.

Cave 32 is particularly important as it shows the ascetic character of this religious group with its fine carvings of lotus flowers and other elaborate ornaments. It has two levels. The lower level is unfinished while the upper level is the most elaborately decorated cave in the group. It has beautiful pillars, large sculptural panels and paintings on the ceiling.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.comCave 30 is a very elaborate cave tucked away in the thicket of vegetation and is often overlooked by visitors. It is locally known as Chotā Kailāsa (“small Kailasa”) and has a similar monolithic structure as the Hindu Cave 16, except that it doesn’t have the elephant carvings or free-standing pillars. The cave is left unfinished from the outside, while only the interior along with the carvings is finished.

Best time to visit Ellora Caves

The best time to visit the caves is from November to March when it’s cooler and dry.

If you will be visiting in the third week of March be sure to check out The annual Ellora Festival of Classical Dance and Music. Experiencing such a magnificent performance on the backdrop of the 1,400-year old caves and rock carvings would be a lifetime experience.

The caves are open from sunrise until sunset (around 5.30 p.m.), daily except Tuesdays.

Getting there

The Ellora caves can be reached by air and then by road. The closest airport to the Ellora Caves is located at a distance of 30kms in Aurangabad, which has good connectivity to the cities of Delhi, and Mumbai. Book your cheap flights to India now.

Using Aurangabad as a base, it’s most convenient to hire a car and drive to the cave complex. Book your cheap car hire in Aurangabad now.

Alternatively, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation conducts inexpensive daily guided bus tours to the Ajanta and Ellora caves from Aurangabad. The buses are comfortable air-conditioned Volvo buses.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

Visa requirements for South African Nationals

South African nationals are issued visas free of charge to visit India. Visa applicants who reside in Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces may apply at VFS Global Centre in Johannesburg. Residents of Northern Cape and Western Cape should apply at VFS Global Centre in Cape Town. South Africans residing in KwaZulu Natal, Free State and Eastern Cape should apply at the VFS Global Centre in Durban.

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Ellora Caves. Image by: Chantelle Flores www.51countriesandcounting.com

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