Information About South Africa
In general, South Africa is sunny all year round. A Mediterranean climate prevails along the Cape Coast with winter rainfall. The KwaZulu-Natal coast, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province are subtropical. Elsewhere temperatures are moderate in the high interior plateau with summer rainfalls, often in the form of late afternoon thunderstorms. Summer rains fall between November and March with a peak summer rainfall in December and January. Winter is May through to August.
Approximately 48 million
Free, 90-day entry permits are issued on arrival to citizens of most Commonwealth countries, including Australia and the UK, most Western European countries, Japan and the USA. You can check the website www.southafricahouse.com if you are not from one of these countries but will have to get your visa before you arrive. You can apply at a South African Embassy or Consulate. They are also free but may take several weeks to process. Your passport must have at least two blank pages for the entry stamp. This does not include the endorsement page at the back. Passengers who also need a visa must have a passport with two blank facing pages, one for the visa and one for their entry stamp.
Prices in shops are fixed, but prices in open markets or from street vendors are open to barter. Tipping is the norm in restaurants and at gas-stations (which are all full-service). Indeed, most of these businesses pay their staff the legal minimum-wage, relying on customer-tips to bring staff incomes up to live-able levels. Tips of around 10% of the bill are considered the norm.
There are ATMs in all cities in South Africa, most of which give cash advances against cards belonging to the Cirrus network. Credit cards are widely accepted in South Africa, especially MasterCard and Visa. American Express and Diners Club are also accepted.
Phone, Internet, and mail
Country code 27; Area codes are used even if you are making a call in the same area International access 09.
Internet cafes are present around the country and wireless is available at airports and in more expensive hotels
Airmail to Europe takes up to seven days.
There is a limited amount of alcohol, tobacco and perfume you can take into South Africa. You should check the limits before you depart. You will also be asked to declare the amount of currency you have with you on arrival.
Business & Shopping
Shops: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. Sat 9am-2pm although many are staying open later, up to 7pm
Banks: Mon-Fri 9am-3.30pm. Sat 9am-11am.
South African cuisine is just as diverse as its cultures, with influences from the British, Dutch, German, Indian, Malay, Portuguese and of course all the indigenous tribes. BBQs or Braais are most popular, as are Boerewors-spicy sausage, Biltong-strips of dried meat, Potjikos-slow cooked meat and veg stew, Miele Pap-stiff corn meal mix, and Babotie a spicy mince meat dish. There is an abundance of beautiful fish around the Cape, and Knysna is famed for its Oysters. Your dining experiences in South Africa will generally be of very high quality. South African wine is recognised as New World Wine of high quality and local beers are Castle and Lion.
Health and Safety
You must check with your GP what vaccinations you need before travelling to certain areas of South Africa.
Medical facilities are good in urban areas but limited elsewhere. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended, which should include repatriation to your home country in the event of an emergency.
Avoid swimming and paddling in stagnant or slow-moving water as there is a low risk of contracting bilharzia; swimming pools that are well chlorinated and maintained are safe
Crime rates are highest in Johannesburg, followed by some township areas and other urban centres. Street robberies are common in certain sections of Johannesburg and the city’s metro train system has had a problem with violent crime. Walking around at night in an unfamiliar area as a tourist is not advisable and it is recommended to catch a taxi. In Johannesburg, and to a lesser extent in the other big cities, carjacking is a problem. The carjackers are almost always armed, and people have been killed for their cars. Stay alert, keep windows wound up and doors locked at night, and keep your taste in cars modest. If you’re stopped at a red light and notice anything suspicious, it’s standard practice to check that the junction is clear, and run the light.
Mains water is considered safe to drink.
South Africa has a modern and well developed transport infrastructure. The roads are of a good standard, there is an impressive train service between the country's major cities and there are three major international airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, as well as airports in Port Elizabeth, East London, George, Kimberly, Upington, Bloemfontein and the Pilansberg.
220/240 volts AC; 250 volts AC (Pretoria), 50Hz. Three-pin round plugs are in use.
1 Jan New Year's Day.
21 Mar Human Rights Day.
10 Apr Good Friday.
13 Apr Family Day.
27 Apr Freedom Day.
1 May Workers' Day.
16 Jun Youth Day.
9 Aug National Women's Day.
24 Sep Heritage Day.
16 Dec Day of Reconciliation.
25 Dec Christmas Day.
26 Dec Day of Goodwill.
Emergencies: 10111 (Police); 10177 (Ambulance)
The official languages are Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.