Tag Archives: preparing for safari

Preparing for Safari: Local Currency and Tips

(please note some of this information pertains only to my safaris and safaris in South Africa) Learn about our safaris on the Africa Wild Safaris Website


Local Currency

You will need some South African Rand to use for tipping, shopping, and some snacks and meals.

The best place to get Rand is at the airport in JFK or ATL.  You will have time while waiting for your flight and their rates are good

You can also exchange in Johannesburg Airport  (2nd level above arrivals).  There are several exchanges there to choose from. Be warned that you credit card may trigger an alert with a transaction for a large – ish amount coming from a foreign country.  I believe they will also accept cash, but I have never tried this.

You can also get Rand from your local bank, but you will have to order it a few weeks in advance. The rates are not as good as an airport exchange bureau.

Best to have currency in your pocket before getting on the plane so you can get right to the enjoyment. 

It is best to get small denomination bills to use for tipping and buying without requiring a large amount of change.

Stores, guides, restaurants, etc will not take US dollars and most will not have the capacity to do an exchange at the point of transaction.  (even in Mexico this is not the way to go)


Not many places are equipped or safe for credit card use. The nice shops at Joburg airport and Kruger are best for credit cards. Some of the lodges will take credit cards for the bar tab, internet, or things from their shop.  Most everywhere else will need cash – mostly because processing systems are old fashioned by our standards and internet service is not reliable. 

Currency Exchange Rate Tool


Gratuity/Tipping is the custom in South Africa. It is not mandatory, but the vast majority of people you will meet will put their heart and effort into making it a fantastic experience for you and will be deserving of a thanks.

You may wish to tip the drivers on the game drives, guides, and lodge staff. We can give more detailed recommendations in person, but you should plan to bring about $250 USD worth in Rand in 10’s 20’s, 50s is most useful.

A rough guide (expressed per safari guest) for an experience you enjoyed :

Single Game Drive  R50  shared between the guide and driver

Tour guide, narrator, zipline guide  R40

Driver for transfers:  R80

Lodge staff:  shared between the cleaning, serving, and catering  R80 – R100 per day

Most places will take a common collection, but if you had a special experience with an individual you can give them extra in person.

Staff also enjoy gratuity in the form of things you leave behind for them: clothing, shoes, books, flashlight, etc.