I'm heading to South Africa at the start of December to spend 26 days travelling with my girlfriend. I'd be grateful if you could give me any advice on where to visit (seeing wildlife is not a priority), places to stay, and how to get about. Although we are not on a strict budget, I'd like to keep the cost of accommodation, travel, food etc between pounds 1,000 and pounds 1,200.

A Ilott

By e-mail

The travel editor replies: With the exchange rate at nearly nine rand to the pound, your spending money goes a long way in South Africa, so very few places will be outside the scope of your budget. But as you will be travelling in the high season the South African Tourism Board (Satour) recommends you book your accommodation in advance. It produces a series of three booklets - The Portfolio Collection - which includes: B&B, retreats (guest houses) and country places listing hotels and hostels.

Your biggest problem is likely to be time, given the size of the country and the diversity of the cultural, natural and historical attractions in South Africa. I would suggest that you pick certain key areas and plan your itinerary around these. You could easily spend the entire 26 days in and around Cape Town. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and merits a few days spent climbing Table Mountain, visiting Robben Island and exploring the famous beaches such as Camps Bay and Clifton. I would recommend a day-trip around the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost point in Africa, which could include a visit to the penguin colony at The Boulders.

From Cape Town you can also take day-trips out to the wine farms surrounding Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, or go whale-watching at Hermanus. One of the popular ways to get from Cape Town to Durban is via the Garden Route, which is a beautiful coastal plain with white sandy beaches bordered by extensive lagoons and forests. The route is served by the Baz Bus and the Garden Route Hopper.

As you wish to avoid the safari parks, an alternative could be the breathtaking Drakensberg mountains where you will find the Amphitheatre, which provided the backdrop for the film Zulu. Northeast of Johannesburg there is excellent trekking and stunning views in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, as well as the historical village of Pilgrim's Rest.

If you have a keen interest in South African politics and history, an organised tour of Soweto will be a highlight of your trip. Other interesting historical sites in the Johannesburg area are Smut's House Museum and the Voortrekker Monument.

The Foreign Office recommends that visitors take sensible precautions in South Africa as muggings can occur in tourist areas during the day as well as at night. For more up-to-date information you should contact the FO directly or speak to the British Consulates in any of the major South African cities. Satour can be contacted on 0181-944 8080.