What’s the best way to travel in South Africa?

South Africa has been on my bucket list for far too long. Ever since I started taking part-time travel more seriously, I’ve dreamed about visiting the place so many of my good friends and favourite animals call home. By the time I was lucky enough to book my dream trip this year, I knew exactly where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see. The hardest part was working out how best to travel in South Africa. After all, it is a pretty massive country, and it was going to take some planning to make the most of our two weeks!

How to travel in South Africa

As I see it, there are three options for travel in South Africa: Public transport, self-drive or a group tour. In this post, I share the pros and cons of each way of travelling to help you figure out what would work best for you. 

Public transport in South Africa

Like most countries, public transport in South Africa is probably the most affordable option. However, it’s not usually recommended due to safety and security concerns for tourists. For that reason, I’m only going to focus on the types of public transport that don’t have horror stories attached to them.

The pros of using public travel in South Africa

Because it’s such a big country, flying is nearly always the best option as it’s fast, comfortable and convenient – provided your destination has an airport of course! We were even offered a business class upgrade for £20 when we flew between Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth! Check out cheapflights.com for domestic flights with British Airways, Zulula and SAA.

How to travel in South Africa: public transport

You could also try minibus services like Ashton’s. We used these guys for our journey from Johannesburg to Kruger and were pretty impressed. The driver was safe, professional and gave us plenty of insight into South African life on our 5 hour journey. We had plenty of rest stops along the way to visit the loos, admire the scenery and try local delicacies. 

Another option – the Uber network in South Africa is pretty reliable and safe, making it perfect for travelling within the major cities and even further afield. 

When public transport in South Africa isn’t such a good idea

People told me I’d get used to South Africa time. It basically means things will happen whenever the person in charge wants it to. Which is great when you don’t really have anywhere to be, but not if you have a bus to catch. The biggest downside of public transport is that it really could take forever to get you anywhere. And if there’s only one bus running between Johannesburg and Kruger national park, you’d better darn catch it. Even if that means missing out on that cooked breakfast or second glass of wine. 

A self-drive holiday in South Africa

If you like the sound of being in complete control of where you go and when you get there, consider driving yourself across South Africa.

The perks of self-drive travel

Whilst travelling, we met lots of people that had opted for self-drive travel in South Africa. They loved the fact the itinerary was completely up to them. If they decided they wanted to spend an extra night somewhere or completely skip a whole area, they could do it. By driving yourself across South Africa, you’re not flustered by public transport timetables, or forced to put up with moaning Marjorie in your group tour that needed the toilet. Every. 5. Minutes. Everything is just how you like it. 

How to travel in South Africa: self-drive

The disadvantages of a self-drive

Despite the freedom and tranquility of a self drive, it also has its draw backs. For one, the roads in South Africa aren’t great. Granted, the main highways between big cities are, but if you were going to stick to the main roads you might as well do it in public transport. It’s the littler roads you have to worry about. Completely fraught with potholes, you’re advised not to travel in the dark in case you puncture a tyre or worse. And we were told by far too many people to keep the windows and doors locked, hence why we didn’t choose this option.

Group tour of South Africa

Behold the group tour! To be honest, we take group tours in most countries. If, like me, you love the idea of meeting other like-minded travellers on a tour guaranteed to take in the best bits of a country, a group tour just might be for you too. 

The best bits of a group tour

The perks are pretty obvious. Everything is organised for you, so you just need to make sure you’re at the right place at the right time to join in. You don’t need to worry about making your connections, or identifying the most hygienic place to drop trou, because your tour guide has already done all of that for you! So sit back, relax and enjoy your holiday. 

How to travel in South Africa: Group tour

Why you might not like a group tour

Of course, you’d be a little stuck if you don’t like your group. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but my tour groups have been full of fun, explorative, inquisitive people like me that love to travel. I’d be surprised if you found loners or those hell-bent on giving you a hard time. 

Something else to consider is that a group tour itinerary is pretty set in stone. Some tour leaders are great at figuring out your interests early on and tailoring to them, but with big groups and activities planned by the tour operators, this isn’t always possible. To combat, free time is available on most tours, giving you at least an afternoon in each place to spend as you wish. In Tsitsikamma National Park, we ended up visiting a local American diner, tasting beer at a microbrewery and catching up on some well-earned sleep during our free time. But it’s completely up to you what you do!

How to travel in South Africa

As South Africa is such a varied country, it makes sense to select your transport to best suit the places you want to visit. We used a combination of public transport and a group tour on our 2 weeks in South Africa, and it suited us just fine.

What’s your favourite way to travel in new countries? What do you consider when choosing transport?

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What's the best way to travel in South Africa?

9 reasons to go on safari

I don’t like to make a habit of setting my alarm at 5am, but I can make an exception on safari. In fact, on a recent trip to Greater Kruger in South Africa, I found myself bounding out of bed as soon as I heard the guide’s gentle knock at the door. A far cry from burying my head in a pillow like I normally do. It was the thought of seeing lions in the wild that made me, but there are many other reasons to go on safari besides that!

If you’re unsure whether a holiday spent spotting wildlife is the one for you, I’ve rounded up my top 9 reasons to go on safari. I’m sure there are millions more, but these are the ones that made me fulfil a lifelong dream and book one. 

Reasons to go on safari

Reasons to go on safari

1. See animals in their natural habitat

This reason should be enough, in my opinion. Where better to see wild animals than in their own environment? Granted, a safari still seems to be a bit of an invasion of their privacy but if they don’t like the look of you, they can run away. And anyway, it’s miles better than locking them away in a cage in a country that their bodies just aren’t made for. Do a solid and go to them instead. 

Reasons to go on safari

2. Learn more about animals from the people that really know them

All of the guides I have had the pleasure of meeting have been fantastic. At Africa on Foot, the trackers had all grown up in the bush and the guides dreamed of protecting animals from a very young age. This gave them a passion for their job that you just don’t see with other professions. You could ask them a question about anything and they would tell you the answer with a big smile on their face. 

Africa on Foot: Staff

3. Support conservation 

All safari lodges in designated national parks charge park fees at the end of your stay. Instead of an annoying tax, this fee directly contributes to the animals’ welfare through park maintenance and anti-poaching tactics. As you settle in to your game drives, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re helping to protect the wonderful animals you’ve come to see. 

Reasons to go on safari

4. Support local communities 

The majority of staff at safari lodges are local to the area. In fact, five of the seven staff we met at my lodge in South Africa were born within a twenty minute drive of the park gates. By going on safari, you can help these communities by funding staff wages, buying local crafts in the souvenir shops and eating and drinking local produce. 

Africa on Foot: Staff

5. Relax

When you’re not out on a game drive, a safari lodge is a great place to relax. Most lodges have communal areas where you can read a book, have a coffee or watch the wildlife go by from the verandah. All are a great way to recuperate after early mornings and too much pinotage the night before. 

Africa on Foot: Drinks around the campfire

6. Make new friends

Safaris really are for everyone, meaning you’re likely to meet a very diverse group of people at your lodge. And they always have one thing in common – a love of animals. On our three nights at Africa on Foot, our fellow guests came from Australia, USA, Germany and France and we all had a great time drinking around the campfire, reminiscing about what we had seen during our day’s activities. 

Africa on Foot: Staff

7. Unique experience

The beauty of nature is that every safari is different. You’ll never see the same thing twice, making it an incredible experience each time you go. I know I’d much rather go on safari every year than stay at the same beach resort for a second time! 

Elephant in Yala National Park

8. Good photography opportunity 

Animals make fantastic photographs. If photography is your thing, you’ll be snap happy on a safari. Plus, the landscapes in national parks are just beautiful. Even if you don’t see any animals worth capturing, you’re sure to find incredible mountain scenery, lush forests and never ending plains through your viewfinder. Depending on where you visit, of course! 

Reasons to go on safari

9. Explore more than just Africa 

Remember that safaris shouldn’t just be reserved for Africa. I’ve had fantastic trips to see tigers and elephants in Indialeopards and deer in Sri Lanka, as well as lions and giraffe in South Africa. With a safari holiday, you’re spoilt for choice as to where you go. Try them all to see which type you prefer! 

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park, India

If my reasons to go on safari have convinced you it should be your next holiday, check out my review of Africa on Foot – a boutique safari lodge in South Africa – to start planning!

Have you ever been on safari? If not, do you think you’d enjoy it? If you have, where did you go and what made you book it in the first place? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

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Reasons to go on safari

Africa on Foot: a boutique safari lodge in review

Back home, I’m used to waking up to find my cat using me as a mattress. But, as I stirred from my bed deep in the South African wilderness, I was pleased to find the local big cats hadn’t had the same idea. I had just begun a three night stay at Africa on Foot, and I wasn’t ready to be eaten just yet.

I had dreamed of going on safari for years. My rose-tinted glasses conjured up visions of me staying in a comfy room, meeting friendly staff and encountering wildlife galore (only not in my bed). With such high expectations, whichever lodge we chose would have a lot to live up to. Luckily, this little gem in the heart of Klaserie Private Nature Reserve came up trumps on all counts. Read on to find out why.

Warning: This post contains a pretty graphic image from a game drive. Don’t look if you’re at all squeamish or an impala-lover.

Bush Walks

Of course, the main reason most people stay in a safari lodge is to spot wildlife. The opportunities to do this at Africa on Foot are second to none. As well as the traditional game drives that all safari lodges offer, Africa on Foot does what it says on the tin. The guides are trained to take you on bush walks, giving you a completely unique and close-up perspective on the wildlife.

Africa on Foot: Bush Walks

On our first bush walk, we learnt how to tell the difference between animal tracks, and all about the plants and trees around us. But of course, it was the animals themselves that we were desperate to see.

A close encounter

After about half an hour of walking through makeshift pathways and around stale elephant dung, we spotted three silhouettes moving in the distance. As we drew nearer, our tracker ducked down behind a tree and, in complete silence, encouraged us to do the same. We peered through gaps in the leaves, all vying to catch a glimpse.

And then the silhouettes came towards us.

Two young white rhino and one very pregnant mother crept up on us as silently as we had stumbled across them. We knew their eyesight was poor, but their strong sense of smell alerted them that there was something (us) hiding behind that tree. And they were determined to find out what it was.

So they came closer still.

Africa on Foot: Safari

My heart was beating faster than a cheetah can run, and I was ready to launch myself in the opposite direction. Only I couldn’t. Our group was completely surrounded by the three rhino, and there was no escape, even if I wanted to.

So I gave up worrying and decided to watch as the magnificent beasts sniffed and plodded along around us. They still didn’t know what we were, so our guides clicked their fingers to give them a clue. Yet, this seemed to intrigue them more than anything, so they took another couple of steps closer. Our guides had grown wary of how close they were, so they tapped their rifles to make an unfamiliar metallic sound.

And then they ran away.

Game Drives

That same day, we had another unforgettable experience on a game drive. Our guides had tracked a pack of wild dogs close to our camp. We followed them as the pack reunited and set off on the hunt for food. They were too fast for us to keep up, but the vultures circling overhead told us the dogs’ efforts were successful.

We caught up with them as they dragged their meal to a clearing and then let the vultures take over. Even for a vegetarian, that was a pretty special moment and one I’ll never forget.

Africa on Foot: Safari

Thanks to the abundance of wildlife in Klaserie Private Nature reserve, we managed to see all but one of the Big 5. It was only the elusive leopard that kept us guessing. That said, I know that lots of lucky Africa on Foot guests have seen one since.

Africa on Foot: Safari

Africa on Foot: Safari

Africa on Foot: safari
Africa on Foot: safari

Africa on Foot Staff

They say it’s the people that make a place, and the staff at Africa of Foot certainly made us feel welcome.

We got to know our tracker, Enoch, and guides, Luane and Chade, pretty well throughout our stay. They knew absolutely everything about the bush and the animals that called it home. Their ability to drive and spot wildlife in the distance, all while answering our questions and listening out for signals over the radio is incredible.

Africa on Foot: Staff

Unlike many other safari guides, they wanted us to have the best experience possible. They preferred quality sightings over quantity. This all helped us to see some truly incredible things rather than ticking all animals off our list. Each sighting was accompanied with an in-depth description of the animal – what they eat, how they live and how to tell the difference between male and female. I’m positively an expert now!

Africa on Foot: Staff
Africa on Foot: Staff

One of my favourite moments in the camp was when the guides joined us for dinner. They kept us entertained with their stories around the campfire. I could have listened to them for hours!

Africa on Foot: Drinks around the campfire

JD and three lovely ladies took care of everything back at the lodge. They greeted us with hot face towels and aperitifs after a chilly winter game drive. It was this attention to detail that we loved most.

Delicious Food

The food was just too enticing for me to take any photos. You’ll have to imagine the tasty, home cooked meals all served up from a tiny kitchen hut. The food is different every day, and the cooks will start the meal by explaining the menu first.

Africa on Foot: Food

After the morning bush walks, the lodge serves up cereals, fruit and yogurt, before a hot breakfast if you can manage! At about 2pm, the cooks provide a buffet lunch with salads and a yummy dessert. For dinner, there is a three course meal on offer every day at about 8pm. How they managed to find enough food to cater for a pescatarian, two vegans and a coeliac in the middle of the bush is beyond me.

Rooms & Accommodation

The majority of rooms at Africa on Foot sleep two people in rondevels: traditional African huts with thatched roofs. Only they’re a little more luxurious than that, with four poster beds, mosquito nets and little wardrobes.

I adored our room, Tjankbos. At first, I dreaded the outdoor shower, but this became its charm. We could watch the world go by while washing our armpits, and the beating sun made up for the shower’s very occasional lapse in heat.

Luckily, however, the toilet was indoors.

Africa on Foot: Accommodation

Africa on Foot: Accommodation

Each night, the lodge staff would make the bed and hide hot water bottles under the covers. They would also leave traditional African fairytales on the pillows to make going to bed even more enticing. The little touches were just adorable.

Lodge Facilities

Beyond the safari, there is plenty to keep you entertained in the lodge itself. Guests can swim in the pool (not recommended in winter!), drink at the bar or read books in the lounge. You can even head up to the treehouse for unrivalled views across the national park.

If you’re brave enough, you can even spend the night in the treehouse. Other guests raved about their experience up there. They were able to hear the animal calls throughout the night and sleeping under the stars.

Africa on Foot: Treehouse

Africa on Foot: Treehouse

Overall, our stay at Africa on Foot was the best three days of any holiday I’ve ever been on. People often ask me where I’d most like to go back to. I can hand on heart say this is it. And no, they haven’t paid me to say this. Africa on Foot is an incredible place to stay, and I’m delighted to be able to recommend it.

This visit was just the start of my 2 weeks in South Africa. Read my recommended itinerary to find out what else I got up to!

~~~

Now tell me, what’s the one place in the world you wish you could go back to? What made it so special for you? Let me know in the comments!

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Africa on Foot - a boutique safari lodge in review

2 weeks in South Africa

“Two weeks? You’re only spending 2 weeks in South Africa?” My mum’s face was a picture when I told her my summer holiday plans. I understood her concern. With a history spanning 100,000 years, and beautiful scenery taking up 120,000 square miles, South Africa is a whole lot of country to squeeze into a short space of time. 

But, as a part-time traveller, I don’t have the luxury of unlimited travel, so I was damn well going to spend my two weeks wisely. 

Below, I’ve outlined the itinerary I followed for two weeks in South Africa, so you can do it too.

Day 1 – Fly into Johannesburg 

Try to get a flight that arrives in Johannesburg in the morning. That way, you can try to sleep off your jet lag or head out on a tour of Johannesburg for the afternoon. 

Stay: Safari Club, Johannesburg for a cosy garden room with super friendly staff and free 15 minute airport transfer. 

Day 2 – Safari in a private nature reserve 

A safari is a must in South Africa, so head to a private lodge or camp in Greater Kruger to spot incredible wildlife for a few days. The transfer can take up to 7 hours by road, so pack entertainment and snacks to keep you going. The scenery is pretty spectacular so don’t waste too much time sleeping!

When you arrive at your lodge, head out on your first game drive in the afternoon and keep your eyes peeled for the Big 5. You’ll have time for a sundowner before you drive back to the lodge on the lookout for nocturnal animals with the help of your guide’s spotlight. 

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

Have dinner in the main camp with the other guests and enjoy drinks around the campfire before bed. 

Transfer: Ashtons for a professional shared minibus service to a number of stops in Kruger National Park. Make sure you allow enough time, though. Our first driver managed to add two hours to our journey as he kept taking wrong turnings and ignoring his sat nav! 

Stay: Africa on Foot for the most incredible guides, beautiful accommodation and access to a private nature reserve. I have genuinely never recommended anything more. I fell in love with the lodge as soon as I stepped foot in it, and never wanted to leave. 

Days 3-4 – Two full days of safari

Spend two full days at your safari lodge, waking up early for a morning bush walk as the sun rises, and taking afternoon game drives as the sun goes down. When not out on safari, your lodge is the perfect place to relax and look out for wildlife that could stroll through the camp at any moment. After a cosy night sleep in your camp, you’ll be ready to do it all again the next day! 

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

Stay: Another two nights at Africa on Foot for delicious food and evening drinks around the campfire. 

Day 5 – Transfer back to Johannesburg 

You won’t want to leave your safari lodge, I can almost guarantee that. But, sadly, it’ll be time to go after your final game drive in the morning. Say goodbye to your guides and the wildlife as you see what else this beautiful country has got to offer. 

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

The Ashtons transfer back to Johannesburg should take 5-6 hours so I recommend another night in the city before flying south to the coast. Upon arrival into Johannesburg, check into your hotel and relax…

Stay: Safari Club, Johannesburg for one more night. 

Day 6 – Fly to Port Elizabeth

The flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth takes just over an hour, but it’s chockablock with spectacular scenery and one of my favourite approaches ever. Coming into land at PE, you fly out over the sea and then gently descend over the lovely little town. If the flight is empty, you may even be offered a jammy upgrade like we were for just £25! 

If you arrive before 2pm, you could transfer to Addo Elephant National Park with enough time for an afternoon game drive. The park is home to hundreds of elephants, a pride of lions and the world’s last remaining flightless dung beetle. You could drive yourself around, or book one of the shared jeeps driven by an experienced tracker and guide. 

2 weeks in South Africa: Addo Elephant Park

2 weeks in South Africa: Addo Elephant Park

Stay: Addo Elephant Rest Camp for a bungalow right on the edge of the national park. 

Day 7 – Start the Garden Route 

After a final game drive in the morning, it’s time to make your way to the Garden Route. The Garden Route is a beautiful stretch of countryside, lush forests and rocky coastline in the south of the country. It runs for 300km so you’ll want to spend a few days on it. The journeys always take longer than you think. Every two minutes you’ll want to stop to take photos of the scenery. 

2 weeks in South Africa: The Garden Route

The Garden Route officially starts at Tsitsikamma National Park, so that’s where you’ll head first. It is THE place to be for adventurers and thrill-seekers. Along the trail to the park, you can leap off the highest bridge bungee in the world, but it was too windy for us to jump. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

2 weeks in South Africa: Tsitsikamma National Park

So, instead we stopped off to visit a 2,000 year old tree. Much safer!

Stay: Tsitsikamma Village Inn in the heart of nearby Storms Village. The hotel rooms are set in original cottages and buildings, laid out around a central courtyard and garden. 

Restaurant recommendation: Tsitrus Cafe in Storms Village for a cosy meal of homemade pizzas, local beer and cider. 

Day 8 – Explore Tsitsikamma National Park

Head to the National Park for the day to take your pick of wonderful activities. You could take a walk along the beach, hike up a mountain, go snorkelling, kayak, or head to the open fronted restaurant overlooking the sea and spot dolphins while devouring seafood. Guess which one we did…? 

2 weeks in South Africa: Tsitsikamma National Park

2 weeks in South Africa: Tsitsikamma National Park

2 weeks in South Africa: Tsitsikamma National Park

Back in Storm Village, you’ll be equally spoilt for choice for the afternoon. Go for walks in the woods, zip line through the forest, taste beer at the microbrewery, eat ice cream sundaes in the village diner and make friends with the local cats. Whatever takes your fancy. 

Stay: One more night at Tsitsikamma Village Inn to sleep off your adventures.

Restaurant recommendation: Rafters in Storms Village for a romantic meal on the patio. 

Day 9 – Oudtshoorn

Today, continue along the Garden Route to Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world. You could stop off at a farm for a tour to learn more about the animals and visit incubation sites. However, if you pull over next to an ostrich field, you’ll get hundreds of the things wandering over to say hello! Save those pennies!

2 weeks in South Africa: Oudtshoorn Ostriches

In the afternoon, visit Cango Caves: a cavernous complex of tunnels and chambers filled with stalagmites, stalagtites and questionable formations. You can only go in with a guide to find out about the history and discovery of the caves. Apparently a farmer noticed his cattle were disappearing, and he tracked them down a massive drop into the caves! It was a pretty awesome moment when the lights went out to show how dark it would have been when he first arrived. You couldn’t see a thing!

After your tour, head back to Oudtshoorn to relax and wander around the sleepy town before dinner. 

Stay: Turnberry Boutique Hotel for large, comfortable rooms and a good, central location. 

Restaurant recommendation: The Black Swan in Oudtshoorn for tasty wine, delicious food and a wonderfully classy atmosphere. 

Day 10 – Stellenbosch & the wine region 

Get a good breakfast this morning – you’ll need it. There’s lots of wine coming your way today!

It’s quite a long drive from Oudtshoorn to the main wine estates, so sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery. You could stop off at Ronnie’s Sex Shop – a little building in the middle of nowhere. The story goes that Ronnie sold jams and marmalades before his friends vandalised the sign. It’s now world famous but still has nothing to do with sex!

2 weeks in South Africa: Ronnie's Sex Shop

Have lunch at Rooiberg Wine Cellars where you can enjoy a glass of wine with your meal for absolute pennies. And it’s good stuff too! I could have stayed here all day, looking around the cellar shop and admiring the view from our al fresco lunch spot. Yet our day of wine had only just begun! 

2 weeks in South Africa: Rooiberg Wine Estate

Next, head to Simonsig – one of the more traditional wine estates in the Stellenbosch region – for a wine tasting. To celebrate my birthday, we were treated to a premium tasting of seven delicious wines. This included a sparkling wine that Tim opened by sword! The whole tasting was pretty special and something I would urge any visitor to South Africa to try!

2 weeks in South Africa: Simonsig Vineyard

When you’re satisfyingly sozzled, it’s time to head to Cape Town to round off your amazing two weeks in South Africa. You should arrive in time for dinner, and there’s an incredible amount of choice in the city. Find out where to eat in a Cape Town in my blog post, coming soon! 

Stay: Townhouse Hotel in Cape Town for a little bit of luxury in the centre of the city. 

Restaurant recommendation: Kloof Street House for a pretty spectacular meal in a beautifully romantic setting. Booking is highly recommended as we had to sit in the lounge for our meal, rather than the restaurant itself!

Days 11-13 – Cape Town

Spend another 3 nights in the Mother City checking out all it has to offer. Hint: it’s a lot! 

You could take the cable car up to Table Mountain, catch a ferry over to Robben Island for a guided tour, explore the colourful neighbourhood of Bo Kaap, drive to the most South-westerly point of Africa at Cape Point and while away the hours souvenir shopping, wine drinking and seafood eating at the V&A waterfront. 

2 weeks in South Africa: Cape Town

2 weeks in South Africa: Boulders Beach

My complete guide to Cape Town is coming soon, so keep checking back!

Day 14 – Fly home 🙁

Sorry guys, but your trip has to end eventually! Today, take a transfer to Cape Town airport ready for your flight back home. 

What an incredible trip! It was through doing this two week itinerary that I completely fell in love with South Africa. I found two weeks was the perfect amount of time to start exploring, but I’ve only scratched the surface. Now I have a much better idea of what South Africa has got to offer, I’ll certainly be going back!

Have you been to South Africa? Where would you suggest I go on my next visit? I’d love for you to tell me in the comments below! 

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Travel Photography Tips: How to take great photos

Point. Shoot. Done. I’ll admit it – that used to be my mantra when it came to travel photography. I’d argue I was far too busy enjoying myself to find the perfect angle, set the exposure or even take anything half decent. But then I realised photos are quite often the only thing left after the memories fade. To me now, it’s so important to be able to take photos I’m proud of and want to keep looking at. If you agree, try some of my travel photography tips to see the difference it makes!

My best travel photography tips

Find a new perspective

It almost goes without saying, but the subject can make or break a photo. That said, you can take a picture of the most mundane object and still end up with a cracking picture.

Travel Photography Tips

Believe it or not, that’s a photo of a bin bag in London! Had I have zoomed right out, the photo would be boring as hell. But by filling the frame, I’ve made it much more dramatic, abstract, interesting!

Which brings me to the first of my travel photography tips…

Play with composition

Everybody has a full-frontal shot of the Eiffel Tower somewhere on their memory cards. But how many people have got a photo from a 45 degree angle to the right, where the tower is partly obscured by trees? Far fewer, I bet. It’s important to think about how you can make your photos different, because, dare I say it, you could have just printed a photo off the internet with much less effort.

Go off the beaten track

Find interesting places to take photos of attractions not everybody has seen. One of the best pieces of advice I was given by a fellow travel buddy was to watch where everyone else’s cameras were pointing, and then turn around 180 degrees. You never know what you might find if you look behind you.

Travel photography tips

Buy the right kit

Of course, good travel photography isn’t just about where you go and what you snap. And though you might have a decent camera on your smartphone, some equipment can turn your photos from blah to phwoar!

The right camera

If you’re thinking of ways to improve your travel photography, you’ve no doubt already got a camera. But if you haven’t or are looking to upgrade to a DSLR, I would highly recommend the Nikon D3300 as an entry level camera. So far, it’s done everything I need it to do and produces some really stunning pictures.

Travel Photography Tips

Lenses

The Nikon comes with a 18-55mm zoom lens, which is usually enough to keep you going for basic shots. If you need to get closer to your subject or have a very specific style of photography in mind, consider buying additional lenses like the ones below.

For portrait and food photography, I adore my Nikon 35mm lens. It’s a prime lens, which means you can’t zoom in or out without moving your feet. But what it lacks in flexibility, it certainly makes up for in simply beautiful shots. It’s got a really wide aperture which, if you’ve read the above, you’ll know means you can shrink your depth of field down to F1.8, leaving only the tiniest piece of your photo in focus.

For wildlife photography, you really need a telephoto lens. My favourite is the Nikon 50-200mm lens which allows you to get some stunning close-ups of wild animals from a safe distance. Check out my 2 weeks in South Africa blog post to find somewhere to try it out! You can get even bigger lenses if you really need them – just be wary they’re much heavier and much more expensive!

Travel photography tips

Everything Else

You could keep buying kit and never be satisfied, so it’s important to know when you’ve got enough. However, to really take your photos to the next level, there are a few more must-haves that I would highly recommend.

Ever wondered how professional photographers take photos of those beautifully silky waterfalls, misty waves or crisp nighttime shots? I’ll let you in on a secret – they use a tripod! I love the Manfrotto range, and the BeFree Aluminium One edition is perfect to keep in your bag and whip out when you need it.

How many times have you been out on a full day tour or in the middle of a campsite when that dreaded battery icon starts flashing? Think of the photo opportunities you might miss if you run out of juice! I always keep a (charged!) spare battery for my Nikon D3300 in my bag, just in case. And a spare memory card too so you don’t run out of space.

Finally, I would recommend buying a couple of filters for each of your lenses (make sure you buy the right size!) The ones I use are UV filters to protect the delicate glass in everyday photography, and Polarised filters to make it easier to shoot in bright sunlight (which is very useful when travelling!)

Use them!

If you just follow one of my travel photography tips, I urge it to be this. Use your photos! Don’t just take them and leave them hanging around on your memory card. When you get home, edit them in Lightroom or Snapseed and then…

Print them

By printing your photos, you can stick them up on your walls, use them in calendars or create a coffee table photobook. They will make great talking points for your guests, and you will have a constant reminder of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen.

Instagram/Online Portfolio

Of course, you could also make use of online galleries such as Instagram and Flickr to keep a permanent record of your travels, and share them with others.

Now go free and use your newfound talent in photography!

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What are your travel photography tips? Do you think photography enhances or diminishes your enjoyment of travel?

Disclaimer: If you choose to buy anything through the links on this page, I make a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I genuinely own all of these products and am very pleased to be recommending them! 

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Tips to improve your travel photography