Useful information about South Africa

Tourist Information

These are some tips and useful information about South Africa and its seasons.
As the country lies in the southern hemisphere, the seasons in South Africa are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere.  December and January are the main summer holiday months, and people flock to the beaches in droves. In May and June, Autumn brings warm days and cool nights. The climate is at its best at this time in most parts of the country. Autumn and Spring are the best seasons for hiking. From the beginning of July to the end of September, you can expect cold conditions in most of the country, and rain in the Western Cape. Snow sometimes falls on the Natal Drakensburg and the Cape mountains in winter.

Credit Cards

Major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, Master-card, Visa and their affiliates are accepted in South Africa.

Currency

South Africa’s currency is the rand, denoted by the symbol R1. R1 = 100 cents. Foreign currency can be exchanged at commercial banks, American Express and Rennies Travel. Notes issued: R200, R100, R50, R20, R10; coins R5, R2, R1, 50c ,20c, 10c and 5c. Currency exchange rates are available at banks and published daily in the press. CAPE TOWN EXPLORE also offers assistance in currency exchange for our clients.

Visas and entry requirements

Passport holders from more than 80 countries, including the USA, Canada, Japan and the European Union countries can visit South Africa without visas. If you intend travelling to South Africa’s neighbouring countries and back into South Africa you are advised to apply for multiple entry visas. Tourists must prove to the  immigration officers that they have the means to support themselves during their stay, and that they are in possession of return or onward air tickets.

A new law has been passed stipulating that all visitors to South Africa are required to have a minimum of two blank pages in their passport to enable the entry visa to be issued. If there is insufficient space in the passport entry will be denied and the person is likely to be detained pending return to their country of origin. It is vital that you ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months.

South Africa requires a valid yellow fever certificate from all foreign visitors and citizens over 1 year of age travelling from an infected area or having been in transit through infected areas. For visa requirements, please contact your nearest South African Embassy.

Geography

Situated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa has a landmass of 1.233.404 km² edged on 3 sides by a nearly 3000km coastline washed by the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and also wraps itself around two independent countries, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Capitals

South Africa has 3 capitals: Cape Town (Legislative), Pretoria (Administrative) and Bloemfontein (Judicial).

Political system

A well-known fact about South Africa is that since 1994 we have enjoyed democratic government, the apartheid policies of the past have been overthrown. Our constitution is regarded as an example to the world, and enshrines a wide scope of human rights protected by an independent judiciary. The country is headed by a State President, Jacob Zuma, of the African National Congress (ANC).

Economy

A lesser-known fact on South Africa is that it has achieved steady economic growth in gross domestic product (GDP) since the late 90s. The country, regarded as an emerging market, has a well developed financial sector and active stock exchange. Financial policies have focused on building solid macroeconomic structures. The country’s central bank is the Reserve Bank.

Tourism

Since the demise of apartheid, international tourist arrivals have surged, making tourism one of the fastest growing sectors. The tourism industry is well-established with an exciting sector of emerging entrepreneurs. The country is strong on adventure, sport, nature and wildlife travel and is a pioneer and global leader in responsible tourism.

Population

The South African population of more than 49m people is extremely diverse. Africans are in the majority, approx. 80% of the population, followed by the white population approx. 4,4m; the coloured population approx. 4,2 million and the Indian/Asian population at approx. 1,2m.

Provinces

There are 9 provinces in South Africa, namely: Eastern Cape, Free State, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal; Gauteng, North West, Northern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Water

In the major cities and towns and most game reserves and safari lodges, tap water is purified and 100% safe to drink.

Shopping

South African manufacturers set a high premium on workmanship, and at the current Rand value, you can afford to be really extravagant. Shopping hours are generally 08:00 to 17:00 on weekdays, and 08:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays. Many shops in cities are open Sundays as well as in the big shopping malls till 21:00.

Banks

Banking hours vary, but banks in Cape Town are usually open from 9:00 to 15:30 Monday to Friday. Many branches also open from 8:30 to 11:00 on Saturdays. Post offices are usually open from 8:30 to 16:30 on Mondays to Fridays and 8:00 to noon on Saturdays.

Electricity

220/230 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Three pronged plugs are universal, so take an adapter. Most hotel rooms have 110-volt outlets for electric shavers and small appliances.

Climate

South Africa has a temperate climate and is known for its long sunny days, hence the title: ‘Sunny South Africa’. Most of the provinces have summer rainfall, except for the Western Cape (winter rainfall). Winter is from May to August; Spring from September to October; Summer from November to February and Autumn is from March to April.

Communications

South Africa has an exceptionally well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cell-phone providers provide national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas.

National Symbols

The South African flag is a much-loved symbol of patriotism and other significant national emblems include: National bird: blue crane; National animal: the springbok; National fish: galjoen; National flower: protea and National tree: the yellowwood.

Languages

South Africa is a multi-lingual country and there are 11 official languages including: English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Composed by Enoch Sontonga in 1899, the Xhosa hymn ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is South Africa’s national anthem.

Religions

Almost 50% of South Africa’s population is Christian. Other major religious groups include Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists. A minority don’t belong to any of the major religions. The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship.

Animals and Plants

South Africa has been declared one of the 18 megadiverse destinations in the world. As a pioneer and leader in responsible tourism, South Africa has numerous conservation projects to protect its natural heritage – travellers can support and take part in many of these projects. The country is home to the famous Big Five (rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo).

Airports

The 3 major international airports in South Africa are: OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport (Durban) as well as 90 regional airports including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) in Nelspruit.

Travel by Road and Rail

South Africa has an extensive road infrastructure including national highways and secondary roads. Speed limits are set at 120 kilometres on highways; 100 kilometres on secondary roads and 60 kilometres in urban areas.

Health and safety

South Africa is well-known for its medical skill since Professor Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant in 1967. There are many world-class private hospitals and medical centres around the country, especially in the urban centres. Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but always check with the game reserves you are planning to visit and take precautions if necessary. Make sure you have the latest safety tips from the establishment where you will be staying and take common sense precautions as you would when travelling.

Medical Services

South Africa has no national health scheme. It’s advisable to purchase travel insurance which covers medical expenses during the period of your stay.