South Africa is a large, scenically splendid and humanly diverse country and home to approximately 50 million people. It's size (1,219,090 km²) makes it bigger than Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Holland put together, or Texas and California combined.
Washed by the cold Benguela current on the west coast and the warm Mozambique-Agulhas current on the east, the country has a long coastline of 2,954 kilometres, a temperate climate and a topography ranging from highveld grasslands to bleak semi-desert to subtropical swamps. Within these contrasting zones, some of the world's most diverse animal and plant kingdoms are found. South Africa is the only country in the world with an entire floral kingdom, the Cape 'fynbos', within it's boundaries. It is flanked by the Indian Ocean on the east and the Atlantic on the west. It is bordered by Namibia to the north-west, Botswana and Zimbabwe to the north and by Mozambique to the north-east, while the tiny land-locked states of Swaziland and Lesotho, although fully independent countries, lie within the geographical area of South Africa.
On the road
- SA has a very efficient road network and generally good quality roads that have well marked road signs.
- Speed limits, unless otherwise demarcated:
- National & Major Roads 120 km / hour.
- Approaching crossing, villages and towns 80 km / hour.
- In villages, towns and cities 60 km / hour.
- Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road in Southern Africa. Remember that Southern Africans drive on the left hand side of the road.
- In the big cities - keep your car doors locked at all times and windows up.
- Lock valuable items in the boot.
- Only stop at designated viewing or picnic spots.
- At night - park in well lit areas, hotel parking.Never pick up strangers.
- Do not let your car get too low on fuel/gas.
- If you get lost - call our office or go to your nearest petrol station, police station or any business for assistance.
- If you encounter a problem on the road - use the SOS phones, which are located along all national highways. There is also excellent mobile phone coverage throughout the region.
- Pay special attention to speed limits, road signs and road markings.
- It is an offence in SA for the driver of a vehicle to use any communication device while driving, hand-free devices are acceptable.
- It is compulsory to carry translations with regard to driver's licenses in foreign languages.
- If you are issued with a citation for any traffic violation, you are not required to pay over any amount to the officer.
- Here are some SA driving habits that tourists find unusual:
- The first motorist to arrive at a stop signs or streets has the right of way.
- The left hand-side emergency lane marked with a yellow line may be used during the day to allow others to pass (not at night).
- Courtesy passing signals - flashing of hazard lights, peeping of the hooter.
International and domestic airlines operate between the main cities, with charter services available. Coach tours operate daily nation-wide with Greyhound Citiliner, Translux Express and Intercape among the largest. Intercity train services are good with regular bus services available. Local taxis don't cruise! Call the taxi companies or find them at a centrally located taxi rank (usually at city centers and major airports). Make sure the meter starts from zero.
Rand (R) = 100 cents. Denominations: coins - 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2, R5; notes - R10, R20, R50, R100, R200. Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Most major international credit cards are widely accepted.
- Traveller's cheques are always the safest to use, but then make sure they are in South African Rand.
- Do not counter sign all your traveller's cheques.
- Credit cards, debit cards or normal bank cards are recommended, as ATM (Automated Teller Machines) are readily available throughout the region. Use the same precautions you would use at home when using these cards. Most importantly - do not let anyone offer you any assistance.
- Keep your traveller's cheques, cash and credit cards separate when travelling.
- It would be ideal to always have some cash available whilst travelling.
- If available - always make use of your room or hotel safe, to store the bulk of your money.
- Write down your traveller's cheque and credit card numbers as well as the customer service number of issuing bank(s), keep in an envelope and in a safe place.
- Make use of foreign exchange outlets and banks to obtain the best exchange rates.
- Banks open Monday to Friday from 09h00 - 15h30, Saturday from 08h30 - 11h00 and foreign exchange outlets are available in all the airports and big centres.
- Airport taxes are usually included when purchasing your air ticket - check on this.
- We have a 14 % VAT (Value Added Tax) system on most goods purchased in SA, which may be claimed back before your departure. No claims are possible for services rendered.
- VAT claim applications are obtainable at the "VAT Claim Office" at all international airports, harbours, major border posts or at the various "VAT Claim Offices" in major centres. E.g. Cape Town, Johannesburg - inquire about where to find these offices at your accommodation establishment, local tourism information centre or guide.
- VAT refunds are paid out at the tax office at all international airports, harbours and major border posts, if you produce and / or your claim complies with the following:
- If the total VAT paid on all items purchased, exceeds R250.00.
- Produce your travel ticket, example - air ticket.
- Produce your passport.
- Supply VAT invoices for all goods purchased.
- Hand in your completed VAT claim application.
- You might be asked to produce the goods that you have purchased, for example - very expensive jewelry.
Tap water is 100% purified and safe to drink in major cities, towns and game reserves.
Visitors arriving from a yellow fever zone require a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Infants under the age of one are exempt. Cholera and smallpox immunization is not required. Visitors to malaria areas, i.e. the Lowveld, must obtain the prophylactic medicine to be taken before, during and after their trip, available from their doctor or pharmacist.
Visitors who enter South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt.
South Africa has excellent medical facilities, with doctors listed under "Medical Practitioners" in the local telephone directories. Insurance covering travel, accidents, illness and hospitalization is advised for the duration of your stay. If you are on medication make sure you carry enough for the duration of your tour. It is always handy to carry your own medical kit that contains some basic items, e.g. Headache tablets, sun protection - min factor 30, plasters, ointments, etc.
- 220/230 volts AC
- Round - two point and three point plugs are used. It is advisable to purchase a multi-plug on arrival, as the so called international plugs purchased overseas are not compatible for our very unusual three point sockets.
Passport holders of more than 80 countries, including the USA, Canada, Japan and the EU can visit without visas. Contact your nearest SA Tourism office or South African Consulate.
Passports MUST be valid for at least six months from the guest’s return date. We recommend a validity of nine months to prevent any problems in this regard. There MUST be at least three blank visa pages in the passport (not endorsement pages). Guests have been refused entry due to not having sufficient blank visa pages in their passports.
Seasons are opposite to those in the Northern hemisphere. The average daytime temperatures in degrees Celsius are:
Only the Western Cape has winter rainfall, the rest of the country has summer rains.
Clothing and accessories
- Summer (September to April) - Generally Southern Africa has great weather, warm to hot, although it can get cool. Take some warm clothes with you. Never forget your swimming costume.
- Winter (May to August) - It can become very cold, especially at night. Days can be warm, so take some light clothes with.
- Always pack in a pair of comfortable walking shoes and a hat.
- Some establishments stipulate "smart casual" requiring jacket and tie, or cocktail dresses for the evening.
- At game reserves, neutral colours, such as browns, beige's, khakis are preferred on game drives.
- There is a chance of rain throughout the year, take clothes to keep you dry.
- Western Cape (Cape Town) - winter rainfall.
- Western Cape (Garden Route) - all year round rainfall.
- Rest of the region - summer rainfall.
- Most hotels and lodges have a laundry service.
- Most airlines only allow 20 kg per person and some hand luggage. This is usually enough for travelling, and too much luggage can become awkward. If you are taking any charter flights on tour / safari, then you will need to carry a smaller bag, as these airlines only allow 10 kg per person and your other luggage will need to be stored at your place of departure.
- A camera and binoculars will add pleasure to your stay.
Photographic and other equipment
- A digital camera with plenty of memory is ideal, but if not, camera film is readily available - most people bring about 10 rolls per 2 weeks.
- A zoom lens would be handy for wildlife photography.
- For all enthusiastic photographers - a camera UV / skylight filter is advisable.
- A digital recorder is ideal, but video recorder tapes are readily available, although it would be easier if you bring a sufficient supply with you.
- All batteries are readily available, but it would be easier if you brought a sufficient supply with you.
- Binoculars will improve your game viewing considerably.
- A small torch is a good idea, especially to find your way around the camps at night.
- Self-drive - Although, Southern Africa is an extremely easy region to navigate around, if you have a GPS (Global Positioning Satellite), you might as well bring it along to help you get around.
Do not forget
- Comfortable shoes
- Sun hat
- Sunblock (Very important!)
- Cameras and binoculars
- Anti-malarial precautions (please consult your doctor / pharmacist)
- Light, neutral coloured clothing
- Swimming costume