With a diverse ecosystem, awe-inspriring and brilliant nature, especially once the host of the 2010 World Cup, South Africa has increasingly attracted tourists from all over the world to visit. Coming to the beautiful South Africa, visitors cannot ignore famous tourist attractions such as: Johannesburg — The South Africa’s largest and richest city, Port Elizabeth, the legendary of Cape of Good Hope, Durban, Kruger National Park — One of the most famous safaris in the world or Cape Town — The city is always on the list of the world’s most beautiful and livable cities.
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While traveling, you often have the habit of collecting typical souvenirs of that land, those gifts will help you better understand the culture and save the memories where you once have been set foot. This article will help you get some suggestions for buying gifts in South Africa. So, what to buy in South Africa? Let’s check out our South Africa shopping guide with the list of suggested 13+ must buy gifts in South Africa, best gifts from South Africa, best things to buy in South Africa, cheap things to buy in South Africa, best souvenirs from South Africa as well as best places to find them to figure out the answer!
What to buy in South Africa: Vuvuzela Trumpet
It is a brightly-coloured plastic shell trumpet about 65 centimetres long, it produces a loud monotone note. This is the first suggestion for what to buy in South Africa and cheap things to buy in South Africa. According to South African tradition, inspired by the long, spiral horns of the Kudu (or Koodoo, two species of spiral-horned antelopes which found in various regions throughout southern and eastern Africa), Vuvuzela is used to summon distant villagers to attend community gatherings. Today, Vuvuzela is a musical instrument which used a lot at football matches in South Africa and it has become the symbol of South African football. In stadiums it produces loud sounds and its hoarse sound (harsh-sounding, sounds raspy) reflects the excitement of the fans.
If you are a football lover, you will surely know that the Vuvuzela trumpet is an item widely used in football matches in South Africa, it seems to have become a symbol for South African football. When blowing the trumpet, Vuvuzela emits extremely loud sounds like the sounds of thoudsands of insects, sometimes like showers, even many people think that it is like an extremely scary weapon. However, the uniquely designed, colorful Vuvuzela trumpets will definitely be a meaningful souvenir to bring home after your trip.
Visitors who have been to South Africa during the 2010 World Cup will definitely be very impressed by this sound. When resounding on the field during the game like the sound of a horde of insects. Pleasant surprise and also displeasure. There are so many feelings bring out caused by this trumpet sound.
Vuvuzela in the South African dialect means showers. Indeed, the continuous sound of trumpets like showers can deafen anyone’s ears because their sound can reach 127 decibels. These colorful vuvuzela trumpets are sure to make a great souvenir of your journey. Because you can only find it in South Africa. Please decorate the trumpets in your own style.
What to buy in South Africa: Ardmore Ceramics
Ardmore is a thriving community of artists creating unique pottery in the Natal Midlands region, in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province, established in 1985. Ardmore ceramics is known for its weird, colorful and interesting ceramics, from bowls and platters to vases and tea sets. The ceramics are made by local artists and each item is completely unique, making this is a must-have South African souvenir.
Referring to the unique gifts that should be brought back after traveling to South Africa, Ardmore ceramics is famous for its bizarre fragmented decoration. Each item, from plates to bowls, tea sets and vases… are meticulously handcrafted by artisans, so the recipient of this gift is sure to be extremely treasured and happy.
Best souvenirs from South Africa: Diamond
South Africa is known as one of the major mineral deposits of the world, of which diamond and gold are the most expensive. Right in Kimberley city, they have found a lot of diamond mines such as Big Hole mine with a depth of up to 215m. Admiring some rare blue diamonds worth up to about 10 million USD is also a great experience here. According to the concept, the blue diamonds are the rarest and most expensive diamonds among the diamonds in South Africa, it symbolizes the luck, thriving of the owner. If money is not your issue, you can hunt for yourself a tiny piece of this type of diamond.
With abundant finance along with a love for gems, South African diamonds will be the choice for you. South Africa is also known as the country of diamond. Nature gives South Africa million-dollar diamond mines, a big favor that every country wants. The most famous is Kimberley city with Big Hole — one of the deepest man-made holes in the world with a depth of 215m. It is also the largest diamond mine in the world today.
Among the types of diamonds in South Africa cannot help but mention to Blue Diamond. This is the rarest diamond type in South Africa, according to legend, this diamond will bring luck to the owner. Therefore, many rich tourists want to have it in their travel. Besides blue diamonds, white diamonds are also one of the proofs of value as well as quality.
South African diamonds are also among the cheapest in the world. If you are a believer in gems, don’t miss this opportunity. Get yourself beautiful diamonds at reasonable prices. You can buy rough or pre-manufactured diamonds in a wide range of luxury and nobility. In addition, you can also buy jewelry made from diamond.
Note: There is a little note for you when buying diamonds. You should not listen to the vendors outside, but directly go to reputable factories or stores to avoid buying fake diamonds. In particular, when buying diamonds over 3 millimeters, you need to declare customs upon entry and exit. Goods purchased will be determined by your country customs such as General Department of Vietnam Customs, not depending on the purchase invoice. If the customs value it over USD 300, you still have to declare and pay tax.
Best souvenirs from South Africa: Krugerrand Gold Coin
The Krugerrand gold coin is first minted from 22-karat gold on 3 July 1967, this is a very valuable item for collectors and investors. They were minted to promote internationally South African gold market and produced by Rand Refinery and South African Mint. Visitors can completely buy Krugerrand coins weighing 1 ounce of gold right at Gold Reef City, Johannesburg.
Best souvenirs from South Africa: Beadwork
Beadwork (decorative work made of beads ) is known as a popular souvenir in South Africa. This item is crafted by the women among the indigenous people of southern Africa. They attach multi-colored beads to a unified whole with many shapes and designs. You can easily find these items at souvenir shops. Thanks to the creativity of local artisans, the beadwork crafts here are diverse in design and color. This will be a signature South African gift for visitors.
Handmade beadwork is a popular South African souvenir, available in antique shops as well as street souvenir stalls. These string and bead artworks are handmade by with complexity and colorful. With only pliers, string, beads and their skillful hands, these artisans deftly create any imaginable object or functional object, and can be adjusted to the client’s wish. You just need a picture to give to artisan to be able to order any product from animals, flowers, models…
Best things to buy in South Africa: Wine
Known as one of the largest wine producing countries in the Southern Hemisphere, with a history of up to 300 years. Wine is also seen as a bridge between the old and the new world. Most South African wines are produced according to new techniques but with old styles. The diverse mountainous terrain allows it to produce many different styles of wine, in addition to wines in the Western Cape region, South African wines are also produced in the Orange River region, Northern South Africa. It must be said that the taste of South African wine has a cross between the winemaking technology of the new world but has an old style.
South African wine was virtually unknown during the 1860s due to a government embargo due to apartheid. It was President Nelson Mandela who helped untie the wine industry when Rust en Vrede wine from Stellenbosch (the town in South Africa’s Western Cape province) appeared at the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Today, South Africa is the 9th largest wine producing country in the world with 100.000 hectares of vineyards and is beginning to be recognized worldwide. Some best South African wine brands you can refer to such as: Quoin Rock, Mt. Vernon Winery, Glen Carlou, Bartinney, La Vierge, Morrisons, Darling Cellars, La Motte, Constantia, Swartland, Verdelho Western Cape, Hemel-En-Aarde, Vergelegen
Best things to buy in South Africa: Leather goods
In your journey to discover South Africa, you will come across beautiful, good quality leather bags at affordable prices, suitable for gifts after the trip. You can choose from bags, backpacks, and accessories available in a variety of styles, shapes, designs and colors. Go to the local markets, walk around to choose the right leather goods to bring back.
Especially, you can choose ostrich leather handbags. There are many local designers producing beautiful, quality leather bags, most notably the bags made of ostrich leather by tribal people, a very popular South African traditional souvenir. Missibaba is a luxury accessories brand in Cape Town founded by the Chloe Townsend Indian, known for its designer leather bags, handbags and backpacks in a wide range of beautiful designs.
Best things to buy in South Africa: Xhosa Shweshwe Fabric
Shweshwe is a traditional cotton fabric with beautiful patterns and colors worn by Xhosa women. You can choose from ready-made clothes, pillows, cushions, bags and more, or if you prefer, you can simply buy some cloths of Shweshwe fabric to take home.
Red Rooibos Tea
Rooibos is an herb native to South Africa that isn’t even a true tea family. Instead, it is a native plant that is harvested and dried that can be brewed into a reddish-brown herbal tea called “African Red Tea” or “red tea or red bush tea” and more familiar is the name “South African Rooibos Red Tea” in the tea industry today.
The early Dutch settlers of South Africa used rooibos tea and produced them in the 1700s as an alternative to the expensive imported black tea at that time. Rooibos was considered a commercial tea but was not developed until the 1930s, when the nascent tea industry was on the rise.
In the late 1990s, green rooibos tea was created, this is a less oxidized, more recognizable version of the red rooibos tea. And by the early 2000s, the rooibos industry had developed more powdered rooibos for cooking, concentrated rooibos for making tea, and also rooibos as a flavoring and additive in cosmetics.
Rooibos is a native plant only found in the mountainous South African region of Cederberg(just north of Cape Town) — where it still strongly growth to this day. Cederberg boasts one of the country’s largest biodiversity areas with wildlife, 500-million-year-old sandstones, and the 6,000-year-old rock art heritage of the San (or Bushmen — is the name to refer to many indigenous peoples with a tradition of hunter-gatherers, inhabit in South Africa). All are preserved by Unesco.
South African red tea is harvested and processed similarly to tea making. When harvested, the rooibos plant is cut by hand, and the stems and leaves are tied into bundles. The bundles are folded and chopped or pounded to stimulate oxidation. Oxidation will release the essential oils of the plants and will help them turn red and acquire their characteristic flavor.
The more strongly the plant is oxidized, the more intense the color and flavor will be. This is the version we still call “red rooibos”. Meanwhile, the less oxidized rooibos are immediately dried, keeping their green color and grass-like flavor. This is the “green rooibos” version.
Cheap things to buy in South Africa: Amarula
Amarula with its full name is Amarula Cream Liquor is one of the most premium cream liquors in the world, famous for its mild aroma, subtle chocolate and vanilla aromas. To create this cream liquor, makers have used sugar, cream and Marula fruit (Sclerocarya birrea), a tree that only growth in the wilds of South Africa. They are then fermented with milk cream, then brewed and aged in oak barrels for 2 years. In South Africa, people have used this cream liquor in combination with some rum to create excellent cocktails.
Amarula is produced from a wild fruit called Marula, which is a favorite food of South African elephants. After picking the Marula fruit, the worker will prepare it for fermentation with milk cream in a favorable environment. After that, it is aged for 2 years to produce such a delicate cream liquor.
Cheap things to buy in South Africa: Biltong
Biltong is a form of dried, cured meat will be a good suggestion for you. This type of cured meat was created in the 1800s and is made from dried meat of animals such as kudu, ostrich, African antelope… The fresh meat will be cut into slabs about an inch thick, seasoning, adding black pepper and coriander then dried naturally… Over the long of existence, Biltong jerky today becomes one of the specialties of South Africa and is widely sold in many markets, railway stations and supermarkets. This jerky will usually be soaked in malt vinegar or cider, then marinated with a little more spices and enjoyed.
You will not be able to find delicious pate from zebra, crocodile, ostrich meat anywhere like in the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town. If you are looking for a unique South African specialty, this pate will help you answer the question of what to buy in South Africa.
Cheap things to buy in South Africa: South African fruits
Another gift that you can easily choose to buy when you are struggling to know best gifts from South Africa, best things to buy in South Africa, cheap things to buy in South Africa, best souvenirs from South Africa is delicious fruits. Fruits such as pears, grapes… are all great choices. South African fruits, although not large in size, but in return have a very sweet, crunchy taste with a very unique characteristic.
What to buy in South Africa: Other souvenirs
In addition to the above meaningful gifts, you can also buy other souvenirs such as jewelry, masks, keychains or t-shirts printed with famous South African landmarks, attractions as gifts.
South Africa shopping guide: Where to buy
South Africans love to shop and they often choose to buy goods in large shopping centers rather than small shops on the street. The Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Durban (Address: 1 Palm Blvd, Umhlanga Ridge, Umhlanga, 4021, South Africa/Hours: 9AM–7PM) is considered the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the shops and stalls on the streets are becoming more and more popular both during the day and at night.
In addition large shoppingn malls, Johannesburg often hosts three popular weekday and weekend markets:
- 44 Stanley: Address: 44 Stanley Ave, Braamfontein Werf, Johannesburg, 2092, South Africa/Hours: 9AM–5PM.
- Arts on Main: Address: 264 Fox St &, Berea Rd, Maboneng, Johannesburg, 2094, South Africa/Hours: 9AM–8:30PM; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 9AM–4:30PM; Sunday: 9AM–4PM.
- Neighbourgoods Market (The Playground): Address: 73 Juta St, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa/Hours: 9AM–6PM.
Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront (Address: 19 Dock Rd, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa/Hours: 9AM–9PM) is fully stocked, offering guests with shopping and entertainment with bars, music, restaurants, cinemas as well as art galleries and boutiques, crafts.
Traditional South African goods and handicrafts are supplied to major markets, including Johannesburg’s Rosebank Mall (Address: 15A Cradock Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa/Hours: 9AM–6PM). Intricate bead necklaces and wood carvings (masks) are very popular. And four-legged giraffes souvenirs are often very carefully stored in the cargo hold.
Craft stalls often appear on the busy streets and one of them is very popular, becoming a must-see attraction like the shopping street between Johannesburg and Sun City. Bargaining is completely acceptable, especially in local craft markets. Gold, diamonds and local wines are also freely traded.
Below we introduce Cape Town’s best markets
Cape Town of South Africa is considered a paradise for shopping lovers with markets filled with goods at affordable prices.
The markets in Cape Town offer a wide range of products, from farm produce and seafood to jewelry, souvenirs and antiques. Most of these interesting markets are open on weekends, attracting crowds of locals and tourists alike.
Here are some of the markets that have received the most praise and positive feedback.
Address: Burg St &, Longmarket St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
Hours: 9AM–4PM/Saturday: 9AM–2PM/ Sunday: Closed
According to reviews of many tourist websites, Greenmarket Square is the most famous market in Cape Town. It sells everything that a visitor could want, from African masks to jewelry, textiles, and decorations. Some of these items were brought back by sailors after ocean voyages.
This market is also famous for its overcharging or charge high prices . Shop owners will also use every trick of the business to be able to sell an item at the best price. So don’t hesitate to bargain loudly and reduce the maximum price when you see the item you want to buy. However, this place has a lot of unique items, “good” things that visitors can’t help but withdraw their wallets.
Location: Milnerton Market is adjacent to Marine Drive, not far from downtown.
Address: 126 Marine Dr, Paarden Eiland, Cape Town, 7405, South Africa
Hours: 7:30AM–2PM/Sunday: 8AM–3PM (Except Christmas, Easter)
Every Saturday, Sunday and most national holidays, this place is always crowded with buyers and sellers. More than 200 stalls offer every product, second hand items, antiques and all sorts of items typical of flea markets are on display. Tourists coming here to visit are lost in the crowded and bustling of Milnerton. However, not every item on sale here is of good quality, but if you search hard, you will surely find beautiful and unique items that are extremely satisfied and bought at a very good price.
Address: 375 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7915, South Africa
Hours: 9AM–4PM/Saturday; Sunday: 9AM–3PM
Old Biscuit Mill is a famous food market in Cape Town. The common scene at this place is diners holding something in their hands and eating deliciously. The food for sale has received many positive reviews for its fresh quality. In addition to fresh bread, the market also sells a variety of popular foods such as cakes, cheeses, smoothies, coffee… Breakfast and lunch items are also sold at each stall. For a long time, this market has become a must-see destination for tourists when they come to the legislative capital of South Africa.
Address: The Old Power Station Building 19 Dock Road Pier Head, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8005, South Africa
It can be said that the busy commercial port of V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is the top attraction in South Africa. It is a complex of bustling shopping malls and huge entertainment venues. Goods sold at this commercial port are mostly fresh food.
Address: 14 Hope St, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
Opening hours: Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m., Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In recent years, City Bowl Market has become a favorite destination for residents and tourists. This is a place to sell products and foods produced by most of the shop owners. Therefore, the quality of the items is usually guaranteed and of a high standard.
South Africa shopping guide: Useful shopping tips
In addition to choosing for yourself the right gifts to bring back to friends and relatives, you should pocket some of the following tips when buying gifts in South Africa:
- Shopping hours: Many of the shops here are open until at least 6pm, and even some large stores or shopping places still open after the time. Sunday shopping is very popular.
- South Africa uses the Rand (ZAR: 1 USD = 14.97 RAZ) in the transaction of buying and selling, not dealing with other foreign currencies including USD, so before you start your trip to South Africa, you should exchange the rand.
- Do not buy fresh products because it is very difficult for you to go through immigration procedures or bring them home without being affected.
- You should carefully find out the value of the items before buying to avoid being overpriced.
- When shopping for goods in South Africa, if you purchase goods worth 250 rand or more, you can claim 14% value added tax refund (VAT) at the airport before leaving the country (for Invoices for goods over 3,000 rand must be typed in both the customer’s first and last name). So to get refund this tax, you need to get the receipt when shopping.
- Do not withdraw money at an ATM at night: Even during the day, if you see locals nearby, it is best to stop this idea, if it is necessary to withdraw, you should try to cover your pin code. With just a few small tricks, they can make you lose all the money in your account.
- Do not keep cash in the back pocket: If you leave cash in the back, it will become a clue for super pickpockets to do their “business”. You should also not bring too much cash with you, it is best to use an ATM card.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Cape Town and Johannesburg you can refer to
- The Official Cape Town City Pass (2, 3, or 5 Days)
- Scenic Helicopter Flights in Cape Town
- Cape Town Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Pass
- Cape Peninsula Half Day Tour
- Cape Town City with Table Mountain Day Tour
- Cape Agulhas Full Day Tour from Cape Town
- Johannesburg Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour
- Johannesburg City Walking Tour
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Soweto Tour in Johannesburg
- Maboneng Street Art Tour in Johannesburg
- Soweto Walking Tour with Lunch in Johannesburg
- Braamfontein Graffiti Bicycle Tour in Johannesburg
- Soweto Bicycle Tour in Johannesburg
Read more South Africa guide here.