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South Africa Travel Tips

Climate

South Africa´s climate is generally sunny and pleasant. Winters are usually mild, although snow falls on the mountain ranges of the Cape and Natal and occasionally in lower-lying areas, when a brief colds spell can be expected throughout the country. Lightweight cottons and linens and rainwear are advised. Warmer clothes are needed for winter.

Languages

The official languages are Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.

Currency details

Rand (ZAR) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of ZAR200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of ZAR5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. MasterCard and Visa are preferred. American Express and Diners Club are also widely accepted. ATMs are available. Credit cards are not accepted at petrol stations.

Social Conventions

Handshaking is the usual form of greeting. Normal courtesies should be shown when visiting someone´s home. Casual wear is widely acceptable. Formal social functions often call for a dinner jacket and black tie for men and full-length dresses for women; this will be specified on the invitation. Smoking is prohibited in public buildings and on public transport.

Electricity

220/240 volts AC; 250 volts AC (Pretoria), 50Hz. Three-pin round plugs are in use.

Security Tips

Most visits to South Africa are trouble-free but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate international terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. There is a high level of crime, but most occurs in townships and isolated areas away from tourist destinations. The standard of driving is variable, and there are many fatal accidents. This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing.

Tipping customs

Normally 10 to 15 per cent if service is not included. It is customary to tip porters, waiters, taxi drivers, caddies and room service. By law, hotel rates do not include a service charge.

Health Precautions

Apart from malaria in certain areas, travel to South Africa generally poses no medical threat. Malaria prophylactics are recommended for travellers to Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal. These are available from South African chemists, but you should consult your local pharmacist regarding malaria. If you have any concerns, please consult your own doctor. For travellers entering South Africa within six days of leaving a malaria risk area, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required. The only other health threat is the hot, strong African sun. You should not underestimate the effects of the sun.

Tourism Attractions

South Africa is one of the most diverse and beautiful countries in the world. Aptly nicknamed the Rainbow Nation, its spectacular and varied land and its friendly people never fail to captivate those who travel in South Africa.

As well as the Kruger National Park, Africa´s premier safari reserve, South Africa has picturesque wine-farming towns in the Garden Route, dense subtropical coast in KwaZulu Natal, arid semi-desert in the little Karoo and dramatic mountains in the Drakensberg.

Getting around Towns and Cities

There are bus and suburban rail networks in all the main towns. Fares in Cape Town and Johannesburg are zonal, with payment in cash or with 10-ride pre-purchase “clipcards” from kiosks. In Pretoria, there are various pre-purchase ticket systems, including a cheap pass for off-peak travel only. In Durban, conventional buses face stiff competition from minibuses and combi-taxis (both legal and illegal), which are also found in other South African towns. These, although cheap and very fast, should be used with care.

Visa Requirements

Residents of the USA, the EU, Canada, Australia or New Zealand do not require a visa to enter South Africa. Carrying a valid passport is sufficient to be granted a temporary visitor's permit, which will allow to you stay up to three months. However, all visitors should carry a return ticket – otherwise you may be required to pay authorities the equivalent price and have it refunded on your departure. You may also need to prove that you have enough money to cover your stay. Residents of some former Eastern bloc countries and African countries require a visa to enter South Africa, which must be procured in advance. If you plan to leave and re-enter South Africa you´ll need a multiple-entry visa to get back into South Africa. If you don't have one, you´ll be issued one free of charge on your return, but this can take a frustratingly long time. This is a guide only – for guaranteed reliable information please inquire with your nearest embassy or consulate.