With eleven national languages, South Africa is a study in diversity. Vibrant, beautiful, and laid-back, it will take you mere moments to fall in love with this region. High school students from English speaking countries will find the transition easy as English is commonly spoken, while those who speak English as a second language can register for courses. You’ll find that once you’ve arrived it will be hard to leave, as South Africa quickly feels like home!
South Africa is great for students who are interested in environmental conservation, wildlife protection, community service, experiencing unique cultures, and making new friends.
High school students interested in studying abroad in South Africa have a few different types of programs to choose from.
For students who really want a taste of life in South Africa, you can enroll in high school abroad there and spend a semester or year studying alongside local students. Since English is an official language of South Africa, this option is great for students who want to experience high school in a vastly different culture, but who don't have the language skills to do their normal coursework in a language other than English.
Volunteer / Conservation
There are many opportunities for high school students to volunteer in South Africa. Education programs are a popular one, but environmental and wildlife programs in South Africa are some of the most interesting and unique on the planet. Students can work in famous national parks like Kruger National Park to protect magnificent animals like rhinoceroses, elephants, lions, hyenas, and cheetahs.
Youth Travel Tours
Teen travel tours are the perfect way for high school students to spend a concentrated amount of time abroad. Most tours focus on a particular theme like adventure, wildlife conservation or community service. These well-prepared tours enable students to have fun while incorporating educational elements like history, art, and language.
Planning Your Trip
To enter South Africa you need a valid passport with one blank page, sufficient funds for day-to-day expenses, and a return ticket.
Citizens from Canada, Australia, and the United States do not require a visa to stay in South Africa for 90 days or less. High school students who want to stay longer than three months will need to apply for a visa that matches their needs. Check the official South Africa visa requirements while planning your trip.
High school programs in South Africa have a variety of housing options. Volunteers with social programs might stay with a local family while environmental volunteers may find themselves stationed in the same living quarters as other national park employees. Traveling tour programs often use hotels and hostels.
If you’re traveling from North America, flights to Johannesburg will cost between $800 - $1,000 USD, while those coming from Europe can pay between $600 to $800 USD.
Compared to North American and European prices, South Africa is inexpensive. Larger cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban are slightly more costly than rural areas and smaller towns. Students should budget around $10 USD a day.
Length of stay, amenities, and type of housing can affect South African program costs. Relatively inexpensive programs can be found at $500 USD for two-weeks while others can cost $5,000 USD for twelve-weeks.
Packing for South Africa depends on when and where you’ll be visiting. Just remember, the northern hemisphere’s summer is, in fact, South Africa’s winter. The summer months (December, January, February) are hot while the winter months (June, July, August) can be chilly to mild depending on where you are. The interior of the country has a dry environment and the northwest is classified as a desert. The coastal regions have varying climate zones of subtropical (northeast and southeast) and Mediterranean (southwest).
In general, you will need:
- Breathable and UPF (sun resistant) clothing
- Sunscreen and bug repellent
- A hat
- Warm jacket
- Solid walking shoes for outdoor adventures
- A power and voltage converter
Health and Safety
Staying Healthy in South Africa
Before traveling to South Africa it’s recommended to be up to date on routine vaccinations like Hepatitis, Tetanus, and Typhoid Fever. If you follow basic precautions you will have a safe and healthy high school trip in South Africa.
The country is nearly free of malaria except in the northeastern region. Mosquitos are found throughout South Africa though, so be sure to stock up on mosquito repellant. Avoid swimming in fresh water everywhere as you may come in contact with parasites that cause Schistosomiasis. Ensure you’re eating fully cooked fish and meat and only drink bottled water. Avoid animals you don’t know, especially dogs, monkeys, bats, snakes, and jellyfish.
High school students traveling to South Africa should have a fun and safe visit if they follow general safety guidelines. As with anywhere in the world, being aware of your surroundings is an important means of keeping safe.
Avoid going to the townships alone and be sure to have a knowledgeable guide if you are visiting. Walking around alone at night is not advised, so grab a group of friends or take a taxi.
When using ATMs be alert and don’t withdraw excessive amounts of cash at one time. Credit card fraud is on the rise in all of South Africa, so keep your credit card in your line of site at all times and intermittently check your statements for any unusual activity.