Five things you can only do in a South African township

2015-05-13 08:58
Post a comment 2

If you want to break free from big city life, dressing up, having a superficial conversation and holding your pinkies up while sipping on a margarita – this is the place for you. South Africa’s townships are unlike anything you’ll ever experience.

The first SA township that formed was Langa, meaning place of the sun. Apart from Langa, there are many other townships right across South Africa. These cultural hubs are unique to South Africa, and every South African, especially, should experience the vibe in this retro space.

Here are 5 unique South African things you can only do in a township, and nowhere else on the face of the earth: 

1. Drink 5 liters of home-brewed beer – Umqombothi –  in a shack.

Calling it beer is a far stretch, really, as it is something in between a sweet porridge and a milk stout – with alcohol. It’s served in a 5l paint can, which you cover with a tile of some sort in-between sips to keep out the flies. 

SA’s townships are the only place in the world where you can drink this proudly SA drink as you should; in a small dark shack, sharing the tin with some locals. 

Drinking #umqombothi with the #Langa locals #LaGugu @capetownredbus #townshiptours #ProudlySA

A photo posted by Traveller24_SA (@traveller24_sa) on

2. Eat smileys cooked on the pavement.

FYI –smileys are sheep’s heads, cooked on open fire and named so due to the animals’ teeth being exposed to the eaters. If you’re grossed out, shame on you… sheep’s head is a sought after delicacy – like foire gras and caviar, but cheaper. In the townships you’ll find the real, real deal. 

Locals call it the townships’ KFC, which should serve as an indication as to how much people love it. 

Oos-Kaap koningskos #skaapkop #wangvleis

A photo posted by @ochse_lombard on

ALSO READ: 21 Unique eats worth travelling South Africa for

3. Visit a Sangoma in their home. 

Walking with a guide, of course, you will walk right into locals’ homes and sit and chat with them. In Masiphumelele township in Cape Town, you can even sit in on a Sangoma's session. 

4. Meet your tour guide’s family.

It happens naturally, when you’re walking on the street and a cousin or a brother or a niece walks by, and you always stop to greet them and have a quick chat.

With the new trend in tourism that leans towards a more personal tourist experience - these guys are leading the way. While exploring the important history in the township, you also get to meet your tour guide’s extended family on the job. This is exactly what makes this township tour so special, and so proudly South African. 

5. Own the streets.

Cars aren't very plentiful in the townships, so naturally, people take to the streets. Instead of the streets being the roadways to destinations, they are the destinations where people meet, party, play and eat. Lovely. 

Yesterday in #Langa #langaopenstreets #openstreets

A photo posted by Andre Bird (@andrebird007) on

For your own safety and prevention of complete embarrassment, here are TWO things you can’t do:

Pat a dog

The scruffy strays scouting around for scraps of something to eat will see your friendly patting hand as just that too… something to eat. Don’t. 

A few stray pups slumbering in #langa

A photo posted by Louzel Lombard (@louzellombard) on

Take a picture without asking permission

Firstly, it’s rude sticking a camera in an unexpecting person’s face. And secondly, ask to take a picture – as you would any other subject. ALSO: Do not take pictures of someone else’s children without asking, at the very least. Not only is it against the law to do so, it’s also very creepy. REALLY… End of story. 

Interested in going on a Township Tour in SA? Here's how:

Who: City Sightseeing offers safe, secure and interactive tours to three of the major townships in SA, namely Langa, Gugulethu and Soweto. You can visit their website for details on these tours. 
How much: LaGugu tour prices: Adult R270 (offline price R290); Kids 5 - 17 R150; Kids under 5 Free (max 2 kids/adult) Soweto tour prices (Joburg and Soweto Combo): Adult R370 (offline price R420); Kids 5 - 17 R200; Kids under 5 Free (max 2 kids/adult)

Louzel Lombard was hosted for a media visit on a LaGugu (Langa and Gugulethu) Township tour by City Sightseeing. 

Please post a comment below or email You can also share your travel experiences with us on our FacebookTwitter or Instagram accounts.

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.