South Africa

Banking | Credit Cards | Driving in SA | Electricity | Health & Medical Care | Emergencies | Water | Sun Protection | Taxis | Tipping | Telephones | Security | VAT | Religions | Clothing for South African Tours

Welcome to the southern tip of Africa, here, two great oceans meet warm weather last most of the year and big game roams just beyond the city lights.

This is where humanity began: our ancestor's traces are still evident in fossilized footprints 80 000 years old and in the world's oldest rock paintings.

Today, South Africa is the powerhouse of Africa, the most advanced, broad based economy on the continent, with infrastructure to match any first-world country.

About two-thirds of Africa's electricity is generated here. Around 40% percent of the continent's phones are here. Over half the world's platinum and 10% of its gold is mined here, and almost everyone who visits is astonished at how far a dollar, euro or pound will stretch. Welcome to the Republic of South Africa.

Banking

Major national banks are found in every large town in South Africa, as are automatic teller machines. Several international banks have branches in the main cities. All major national banks have international correspondents to facilitate overseas transactions.

Credit Cards

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates are accepted in South Africa. Ordinary credit cards may not be used for the purchase of fuel, only cash or a special "garage card" is accepted.

Driving in South Africa

South Africans drive on the left side of the road and the roads are good and well sign posted, so travelling by car is a fine way to see the country. Driving standards vary widely and it is always wise to drive defensively. Drivers must have a valid international driving license (which carries a photograph and is either printed or authenticated in English), which has to be carried with your local driving permit. The speed limit on motorways is 120 km/h (75 mph); 80 - 100km/h (60 mph) elsewhere and 60 km/h (35 mph) in residential and commercial areas.

Electricity

Current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. Adapter plugs should be brought.

Health and Medical Care

Vaccinations for cholera and smallpox are not required, but travelers from a yellow fever zone must have a valid certificate. Visitors to game parks must take malaria tablets and mosquito repellents, which are both available across the counter at any pharmacy. South Africa has no National Health Service, so medical treatment and hospital fees must be paid direct. Special travel insurance is recommended. Malaria regions include Northern Province, Mpumalanga and the northeast of KwaZulu / Natal. In a malaria region avoid wearing perfume or aftershave lotion, wear long sleeves and long trousers at night. The Bilharzia parasite is present in streams, rivers, lakes and dams in some of the northern and eastern parts of the country and visitors should therefore avoid contact with the water in these regions.

Emergencies

In dire need, dial 10111 for the police Flying Squad and 10177 for an ambulance.

Water

Tap water is quite safe to drink throughout South Africa.

Sun Protection

The South African sun is very strong, with a high ultraviolet ray rating. Screening products with sun protection factors of 30 and over are recommended.

Taxis

Telephone for a taxi or go to a taxi rank. If the taxi does not have a meter, negotiate the fare in advance. Beware of sharp operators.

Tipping

In restaurants, 10% of the bill usually applies, depending on the standard of service provided. Restaurants do not usually include the tip in the bill. Taxi drivers should also receive 10% of the amount charged. R10.00 per bag is generally given to porters.

Telephones

A direct dialing service connects all centers except for villages in the more remote rural districts. The international telephone service links South Africa with countries around the world. Calls from hotels generally carry a surcharge and most hotels are equipped with fax machines. The international dialing code for South Africa is +27 followed by the area code (minus the first zero) and the subscriber's number. To make an international phone call from South Africa, dial the country's international dialing code followed by the area code (minus the first zero) and the subscriber's number. Telephone cards can be used at green public telephones.

Security

Throughout the world crime is prevalent in the big cities. South Africa is no exception. Don't walk in deserted areas or alone at night and don't carry more cash than you need. Be aware of pickpockets and bag snatchers. Use the hotel safe deposit box for valuables including your passport and tickets.

VAT

Currently set at 14%, VAT is included in the quoted price of most goods and services. Foreign visitors are not exempt from paying VAT on purchased goods. They may, however, claim back VAT paid on items taken out of the country when the total value exceeds R250. The refund may be claimed at the airport of departure at various harbors and at customs offices. The following documentation is required: original tax invoice, VAT refund control sheet and foreign passport. The items on which a refund is claimed must also be presented.

Religions

Most denominations are represented in South Africa. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues are located in most major cities.

Clothing for South African Tours

Clothes for warm intermediate climate are necessary. Late afternoon, evening and early mornings can require warm clothes. In the game parks and at holiday resorts casual clothing is advisable. In city hotels and restaurants dress is more semi-formal.

The Western Cape

The Western Cape lies on southern tip of Africa. The province is one of the country's most beautiful, attracting the lion's share of foreign tourists. It is a region of majestic mountains, colorful patchworks of farmland set in lovely valleys, long beaches and further inland the wide-open landscape of the semi-desert Karoo.

Two oceans meet on the coast of the Western Cape: the cold Atlantic and the warmer Indian Ocean.

The Western Cape is home to the smallest of the world's six floral kingdoms, the Cape Floral Kingdom characterized by fynbos and the protea family which contains more plant species than the whole of Europe.

A potpourri of diverse culture backgrounds gives the province a cosmopolitan flavor creating a demographic profile quite different from the national pattern.

MTB heaven! There are so many fantastic trails it will blow you away, treasure trove of exciting routes, with weather allowing for cycling at any time of the year.

Western Cape Climate

Overall, the Western Cape climate is typically Mediterranean, with warm, dry summers and mild, moist winters and low summer rainfall prevails. Near the coast, summer's temperature rises from a pleasant low of 15 degree to a heartwarming 27 degree. Inland temperatures are some 3-5 degree higher. Coastal winters see the mercury dropping to a mild 7 degree at night and rising to a comfortable 18 degree by day.

Away from the beach, morning wakens to an invigorating 5 degree and midday peaks at a summery 22 degree.

To many, March and April signal idyllic weather. Summer's heat subsides, the wind settles and autumn cats it's brightly colored mantle over the vineyards, generating red, burnished vistas spreading from the mountain tops to the sea. In keeping with its sunny, tranquil character, a temperate climate with gentle, intermittent precipitation complements the Garden Route warm summers and mild winters.

In winter (from May to July) the snow capped peaks of the Boland and the Cederberg Mountains and the lush, moist earth evoke an atmosphere conductive to log fires in cozy taverns. However, with the onset of spring (from July to October) the fast retreating winter merges with the summer sun, bringing forth some of the world's most spectacular wild flower displays.

Key Facts South Africa

Official name:

Republic of South Africa

Capital:

Pretoria

Total land area:

1,219,912 km²

Total coastline:

2,798 km

Population:

47.9 million

Currency:

The Rand (ZAR)
R1 = 100cents

Official languages:

English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu, isiNdebele, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.

Provinces:

Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West, Western Cape

Key facts Western Cape

Capital:

Cape Town

Languages:

19.3% English, 55.3% Afrikaans, 23.7% isiXhosa

Population:

4,739,090

Share of SA population:

10%

Area:

129,462 km²

Share of total area:

10.6%

Seasons

Summer

December to February
17 - 35°C

Autumn

March to May
15 - 23°C

Winter

June to August
7 - 18°C

Spring

September to November
15 - 27°C