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.
• Communication Services:
A direct dialling service connects all centers except for villages in the more rural districts. The international telephone service links South Africa with countries around the world. Cellular phones can be hired on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
• Credit Cards:
Major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, Mastercard, Visa and their affiliates are accepted in South Africa
The currency unit 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.
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.
• Health Hazards:
Malaria regions include Northern Province and Mpumalanga and the north of KwaZulu- Natal. Preventative medication is obtainable at all South African pharmacies. It's important to consult a pharmacist for advice on the best drug or drug combination you should take. In a malaria region, you should avoid wearing perfume or aftershave lotion, and it's advisable to wear long sleeves and long trousers at night. The bilharzia (shistosomiasis) 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. The Eastern and Western Cape are bilharzia free and malaria Free.
• Sun Protection:
The South African sun is strong with a high ultraviolet rating, so screening products with sun protection factors of 15 and over are recommended.
For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa for vacation, entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa.
Travellers from certain regions of the world (Scandinavia, Japan, the USA, and most Western European and Commonwealth countries) do not need to formally apply for a visa. Upon arrival in South Africa, countries falling into this category will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker that outlines how long they may remain in the country. This automatic entry permit is usually for a maximum of 90 days, though the immigration officer may tailor the time period according to the airline tickets held. Foreign nationals from some other countries are offered this service, but for a maximum of 30 days. If visitors want to stay for a longer period, they will have to apply formally for a visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit.
For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa for vacation, entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa. However, it is important to note that under South Africa's Immigration Act of 2002 (Act. 13 of 2002) in force since 7 April 2003, (a) Immigration Act, 2002 the passport shall contain at least TWO unused page when presenting the passport for endorsements'. This requirement, reflects the requirements of many of the world's top travel destinations, in line with the majority of global destinations' requirements and failure to have a clear page can result in entry being refused.
To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa, visit the comprehensive South African Home Affairs Department website.
In the major cities and towns and most game reserves, tap water is purified and 100% safe to drink.
• Time Differences:
Throughout the year, Standard Time in South Africa is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, and seven hours in advance of Eastern Standard Winter Time.
People arriving in South Africa from a Yellow Fever Zone, must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunisation against cholera and smallpox is not required.
South Africa currently has 11 official languages. English is spoken throughout the country. French, Italian and German are spoken by staff members in many of the larger hotels and shops that cater to the tourist markets.
Languages: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
• 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.
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 14:00 on Saturdays. Many shops in cities are open Sundays as well as in the big shopping malls.
• Rules of the Road:
An excellent road network links the largest metropolitan areas with the smallest villages. South Africa drives on the left. The speed limit in urban areas is usually 60 km per hour, and on freeways 120 km per hour unless otherwise indicated. Wearing seat belts is compulsory; talking on a mobile while driving is a finable offence, please use a handsfree kit; driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence and traffic laws are strictly enforced. A valid driver's license, provided the photograph is an integral part of the document, and provided it is printed in English, is accepted. If your licence does not comply with these requirements, you should obtain an International Driving Permit before your departure for South Africa. Drive on the left and give way to traffic approaching from the right.
All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an international drivers permit, visitors found driving without a permit will be fined and not permitted to continue on their journey. Visitors will also not be able to rent a car without a valid driver's permit. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory and strictly enforced by law.
• Road safety:
Our transport infrastructure is excellent and our roads are in good condition. However, the distances between towns are significant, so if you're planning to self-drive, it is a good idea to plan your itinerary to ensure you don't drive long distances as fatigue is a major cause of road accidents. Avoid long car journeys that necessitate driving at night as it always carries more risk. In some of the more remote rural areas, the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the road - which could be very dangerous at night.
We have very strict drinking and driving laws - with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated that means about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or two for the average or large man. Our speed limits are 120kmph on the open road, 100kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80kmph in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut through residential areas so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60kmph on a road that looks like an autobahn. This is to protect pedestrians, especially children, so
we really do encourage people to comply.
Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Constitution, and official policy is one of noninterference in religious practices. Close to 80% of South Africa's population adheres to the Christian faith. Other major religious groups include the Hindus, Muslims and Jews. A minority of South Africa's population does not belong to any of the major religions, but regard themselves as traditionalists or of no specific religious affiliation.
• Wining and Dining:
South Africa is acclaimed for its top quality fresh produce and culinary excellence. In most cities and towns, menu's feature French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Mexican, Cape Malay and every other type of cuisine imaginable. the standard ranges from the unexceptional to the sublime. this country is also internationally renowned for its fine wines. Many estates have been producing world-class wines for years - and they're improving all the time. Most unlicensed restaurants invite patrons to bring their own wine. Restaurant guides are available from publicity associations in major cities.
• VAT (Value Added Tax):
Currently set at 14%, VAT is included in the marked/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 R 250.00.
• Traveller's Cheques:
Most international traveller's checks are accepted provided they are in an acceptable currency and may be cashed at most banks. Many hotels and shops also provide this service.
• Disabled Travellers:
Generally speaking, our facilities for disabled visitors can be improved, and this is an area our government is working on. An increasing number of accommodation establishments have wheelchair ramps and bathroom facilities for the disabled. Almost every national park has at least one accessible chalet and many accommodation establishments have one or two wheelchair-friendly rooms. Most of our sports stadiums have accessible suites, stands or areas for wheelchairs near accessible parking as well as special toilet facilities. Most public buildings also caters for wheelchair access.
Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills - thus it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking and petrol station attendants should be given whatever small change you have available. This is always appreciated, even though it may seem a small amount.