EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN VISITING SOUTH AFRICA:

Please click on each heading below for more information:

CLIMATE
CLOTHING
CURRENCY
CUSTOMS
DRIVING
DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
ELECTRICITY
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS / VISAS
FACILITIES FOR THE DISABLED
FINANCIAL
FIREARMS
FUEL
HEALTH - AIDS
LANGUAGE
MEDIA
MEDICAL CARE
PEAK SEASONS
POSTAL SERVICES
RELIGION
SAFETY AND SECURITY
TELECOMMUNICATIONS
TIME
TIPPING
TOILETS AND RESTROOMS
TRADING HOURS
TRANSPORT
WATER
WEIGHTS & MEASURE


CLIMATE:
South Africa is generally sunny and pleasant and the winters are usually mild. Snow only falls on the high mountain peaks of the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal during winter. The South African seasons are the reverse of those of the northern hemisphere. Despite regional climate differences, South Africa generally enjoys a mild climate throughout the year. The areas with the most significant differences in climate are the Western Cape with its Mediterranean climate (warm, dry summers and wet, cold winters), the northern areas (hot summer days and frequent thunderstorms) and the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal (sub-tropical, all year round beach weather and high humidity).

Average temperatures in South Africa can vary widely:
Summer: October - March, 15° C (60° F) to 35 ° C (96° F)
Winter: April - September, below 0° C (32° F) to 20° C (68° F)

Exposure to the sun South Africa has one of the world's highest daily sunshine rates and visitors who are not used to the sun, should take extra care, especially between 11:00 and 15:00. Sunscreen lotion with a protection factor of at least 15 is advised against the high UV rating of the South African sun.
(back to top)

CLOTHING :
For summer months, lightweight (cottons and linens), short-sleeved clothes are best, although a light jersey might be needed for the cooler evenings. Umbrellas and raincoats are essential for the summers and the Western Cape winters. Warm clothes will be needed for the winter months. If your holiday programme includes a safari where you will be in open 4x4 vehicles, please make sure you bring a warm and windproof jacket as the early mornings and late evenings can be cold!
(back to top)

CURRENCY:
The SA monetary unit is the South African Rand (R) and it equals 100 cents. The international symbol of the Rand is ZAR.

Bank notes are issued in denominations of: R 200 (orange) R 100 (purple) R 50 (pink) R 20 (brown) R 10 (green)
Coins are issued in denominations of: R 5 (silver) R 2 (silver) R 1 (silver) 50 c (copper) 20 c (copper) 10 c (copper) 5 c (copper)
(back to top)

CUSTOMS:
Customs charges: Before leaving the customs hall, duty has to be paid on items that are over the allowed limits.

Duty-free allowances:

    * Cigarettes 400,
    * Cigars 50,
    * Cigarette or pipe tobacco 250 grams,
    * Wine 2 litres,
    * Spirits or other alcoholic beverages 1 litre,
    * Perfume 50 ml,
    * Eau de Toilette 250 ml,
    * Gifts, souvenirs and all other goods R 500.

A flat rate of 20 % is charged on gifts in excess of R500 and up to R 10 000.

Important note: No person under 18 is entitled to a tobacco or alcohol allowance. Duty-free purchases: Duty-free goods can be bought at Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban airports
(back to top)

DRIVING:
Car hire : As is practice all over the world, you will be required to produce a credit card at time of collecting the car, even if the rental has been pre-paid. This is to secure payment for petrol and any excess due in the event of theft or damage to car.

Driver’s permit : Drivers must be in possession of a valid driver’s permit containing a photograph and the signature of the holder and it should be printed in English. Should a permit not comply with these requirements, an International Driver’s Permit will be needed. South Africa has recently adopted the credit-card type licence and is gradually phasing in the system.

Alcohol limit : The legal alcohol limit for drivers is 0,05% . This law is very strictly enforced. Penalties are severe and could even include a prison sentence. You may prefer to opt for our guided tour - we drive - you can drink.

Breakdowns : The Automobile Association (AA) is South Africa’s biggest motoring club and will provide assistance to tourists who experience problems with their vehicles if they can produce a membership card of a motoring association affiliated to the AA through the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) or FIA (Fédération de l’Automobile). The emergency number of the AA breakdown service is: 0 800 01 01 01

Law enforcement : The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory and strictly enforced by law.

Speed limit : South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road. The speed limit is 60 km/h (35 mph) in urban areas, unless signs indicate otherwise. The speed limit on national roads is 120 km/h (75 mph), unless signs indicate otherwise and 100 km/h (60 mph) on rural roads. Road signs are in English and distances are indicated in metres and kilometres.

Toll roads : Some South African roads require toll fees. The amounts charged vary widely and visitors are advised to keep enough cash handy.

Petrol : You can not use regular credit cards when purchasing petrol. South African residents have special cards for purchasing petrol. Foreign visitors who do not have such cards must make sure they have sufficient cash when filling petrol.
(back to top)

DRUGS AND ALCOHOL:
Alcohol is not served or sold to any person under 18 and may not be drunk in public places, e.g. beaches. All habit-forming drugs are banned in South Africa and prescriptions are necessary for all Schedule 3-7 drugs. All Schedule 8 drugs are strictly prohibited.
(back to top)

ELECTRICITY:
SA electricity supply: 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz. Exceptions: Pretoria (230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200/250 V). Most plugs have three round pins but some plugs with two smaller pins are also found on appliances. Adaptors can be purchased but may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a transformer, which is available in South Africa.
(back to top)

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS / VISAS:
Visitors entering South Africa are required to be in possession of a valid passport. Most passport holders need visas to enter South Africa, but some countries are exempt from this arrangement. Check with a travel agent or the nearest SA representative to determine if one is needed. Visas should be obtained in the tourist’s own country and will not be issued in South Africa. Visas are issued free of charge. A multiple-entry visa is needed if visitors intend to travel to and from neighbouring countries during the time in which the visa is valid. Upon arrival, visitors need to present proof that they have enough money to support themselves and need to be in possession of a valid return ticket.
(back to top)

FACILITIES FOR THE DISABLED:
Facilities for disabled people are limited and enquiries should be made before arrival in South Africa to avoid unnecessary discomfort.

    * Air travel: The airlines provide aid to disabled passengers at the major airports and some hotels do have facilities, but it is safer to confirm beforehand.
    * Car travel: The larger car rental companies have vehicles with hand controls available.
    * Equipment rental: It is possible to rent wheelchairs and other aids in most cities.
(back to top)

FINANCIAL:
Credit cards : All major credit cards such as American Express, Diner’s Club, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. Money can also be withdrawn from these cards at various cash points.

Currency control : There are no limits on the amount of cash that visitors can bring into South Africa. However, some countries have limits on the export of bank notes and visitors are therefore advised to convert most of their money to traveller’s cheques. The necessary permit should be obtained from the South African Reserve Bank (the central bank of South Africa) if visitors wish to leave the country with more than R 5 000 in cash in their possession. Import of foreign currency is free, subject to declaration. Export of foreign currency is limited to the amount that the visitor declared upon arrival. For more information, contact any Customs and Excise Office.

Financial institutions : South Africa has a sophisticated banking system that can accommodate all international transactions. Banking hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 - 15:30 Saturday, 8:30 - 11:00. Automatic teller machines are open 24 hours a day and only in some very small towns in the rural areas may these facilities be unavailable. Commercial banking services are available two hours before and two hours after the arrival and departure times of international flights, 24 hours a day.

Foreign exchange : Banks, foreign exchange bureaus and certain hotels accept all major foreign currencies, as do most restaurants, businesses and shops. The best currencies to use would be the US Dollar, the British Pound and the Euro. Traveller’s cheques can also be exchanged at any commercial bank. Most hotels, shops and businesses also accept traveller’s cheques but a fee may be charged for this service. American Express offices and most hotels also have exchange facilities for guests. Rennies Foreign Exchange Money Line is a toll-free information line, which operates 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The number is 0800 11 11 77. A touch-tone telephone or cellular phone is needed to access the system from within South Africa.

Major South African Commercial Banks : ABSA Bank Limited, First National Bank of Southern Africa Limited, Nedcor Bank Limited, The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited.

Branches of Foreign Banks in South Africa : Banko Espirito Santo e Comercial de Lisboa, Banque Française du Commerce Exterieur, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, National Bank of Egypt, Standard Chartered Bank, Swiss Bank Corporation.
(back to top)

FIREARMS:
A permit is required to bring a firearm into the country but the permit need only be obtained after arrival in South Africa. However, it is advisable to contact the airline a few weeks before a trip to arrange for transport of the firearm.
(back to top)

FUEL:
There are numerous filling stations in cities, towns and on principal road routes and most of them are open 24 hours a day. Unleaded fuel is available in South Africa but many cars have not been converted for unleaded fuel. Visitors using rental cars are advised to ascertain if the vehicle has been converted before filling up on unleaded fuel. Diesel is also readily available. Fuel cannot be bought with an ordinary credit card and should be paid for either in cash or with a special "garage card".
(back to top)

HEALTH - AIDS:
Immunisation: No international immunisation is needed when entering South Africa. Vaccinations for cholera and smallpox are not needed but a yellow-fever vaccination certificate is needed from travellers over one year of age entering South Africa within six days of leaving an infected country. Visitors who travel through or disembark in these areas are advised to be inoculated against yellow fever before visiting South Africa.

Bilharzia : There is no immunisation against Bilharzia, a microscopic organism found in rivers, streams, pools and dams (both stagnant and flowing) in the northern and eastern areas of the country. Visitors are advised not to drink or swim in this water.

Cholera : Isolated cases do occur, but they are mostly imported. South African tap water is safe to drink, except where indicated otherwise. No vaccination is required.

Hepatitis Type A : This disease is mostly a threat to visitors who have been exposed to poor hygienic conditions. No vaccination is required.

HIV / AIDS - There is a high incidence of HIV / AIDS in South Africa. It is mainly transmitted through sexual intercourse and every precaution needs to be taken to have safe sex. Condoms are readily available from pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and supermarkets. The medical care services, including the injections and blood transfusions, are sophisticated and safe for visitors and blood is carefully screened before use.

Malaria : Malaria is caused by a parasite that requires two different hosts during its lifetime: humans and mosquitoes. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Once inside humans, the parasites move to the liver where they develop. After maturing, they move back into the bloodstream where they invade and multiply inside the red blood cells. The infected red blood cells burst, releasing the parasites back into the bloodstream where the whole process begins again. A malaria risk, predominantly in the malignant form P. Falciparum, exists in certain low-altitude areas of the country, namely parts of Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga and the north-eastern part of KwaZulu-Natal. The neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana are also malaria areas. Symptoms: When the blood cells burst, the victim experiences symptoms such as chills, fever, headache, muscular and joint pains, nausea, diarrhoea, fatigue and sweating, very similar to flu symptoms. These symptoms can occur up to six months after leaving a malaria area. More serious symptoms such as anaemia, an enlarged spleen, kidney failure and congestion of the blood vessels in the brain may also develop. Diagnosis and Treatment: Any person returning from a malaria area, who develops the above-mentioned symptoms, should consult a doctor immediately. Blood tests can then be done to determine whether the parasite is present and treatment should begin immediately.

Precautionary measures :
In all the risk areas, visitors should take precautionary measures to prevent mosquito bites:

    * Use insect repellent on exposed skin;
    * Remain indoors between dusk and dawn, if possible;
    * Wear long-sleeved clothing, long trousers and socks when outside at night;
    * Seal doors and windows with screens. If this is not possible, close doors and windows at    night;
    * Spray the house inside with insect repellent, after closing the windows and doors;

People at high risk:

    * Children under five years of age
    * Pregnant women
    * Immunocompromised people (e.g. people who have had a splenectomy, or is on immune-suppression medication, such as cancer chemotherapy)

For further information, visit www.malaria.org.za

Typhoid fever: This disease is mostly a threat to visitors exposed to poor hygienic conditions. No vaccination is required.

Yellow fever : Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted from infected to susceptible people by a mosquito. There is no evidence that yellow fever has ever been transmitted in South Africa and preventative measures are necessary to ensure that this does not happen. Yellow fever still occurs in West, Central and East Africa and South America. Preventative measures: The same as with malaria, to reduce or prevent the risk of mosquito bites. Vaccination: Visitors who travel to high-risk areas are advised to be vaccinated. According to the International Health Regulations, a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is currently the only certificate that is required for international travel. A yellow-fever vaccination certificate is needed for travellers over one year of age entering South Africa within six days of leaving an infected country. Visitors, who travel through or disembark in these areas, are advised to be inoculated against yellow fever before visiting South Africa. If visitors had not been vaccinated, they should be vaccinated 10 days before arriving in South Africa.
(back to top)

LANGUAGE:
South Africa has 11 official languages but English is spoken well by almost all. South Africans and visitors will always be able to have their needs met in English. Road signs and official notices are all in English. Information documents and booklets are also available in English, e.g. maps, telephone directories, forms and tourist brochures.
(back to top)

MEDIA:
Print media: There are five daily national papers and five Sunday national newspapers in South Africa. The Weekly Mail & Guardian offers international news and the Sowetan has the highest circulation. A wide variety of local and regional newspapers and magazines is also printed.
(back to top)

MEDICAL CARE:
Medical services are readily available in South Africa and are sophisticated and safe for visitors to use. Blood is carefully screened before use.

Doctors : Doctors are listed by their surnames, under Medical, in the telephone directories. Major hotels have an arrangement with doctors and dentists to treat guests when needed.

Hospitals : Hospitals are listed under “H” in all telephone directories and indicated with “H” on maps.

Medicines : Most medicines are obtainable at pharmacies, and emergency pharmacies are open at night. Visitors are, however, advised to bring any supplies of specialized medicines they may need, with them. Should visitors carry any prescription medicine on them, it would be best to bring along a letter of authorisation from a doctor, since some medicines might be mistaken for illegal drugs.

Medical insurance : There is no national health scheme and visitors are advised to take out medical travel insurance for the duration of their stay.
(back to top)

PEAK SEASONS:
South Africa’s peak tourist seasons are between October and February and again between during Easter period (March / April), and again in July. Tourist accommodation is in high demand during these seasons and visitors are advised to book well in advance to avoid disappointment.

The period from 10 December to 10 January each year is the top peak season as this is the main annual holiday period for South Africans. Rates are high and hotels and lodges are often fully booked from one year to the next.
(back to top)

POSTAL SERVICES:
The postal service in South Africa is well developed and modern. Poste restante facilities are available in the main post office of every town and identification documents are needed to claim mail. Post office hours: Weekdays: 8:30 - 16:30 Saturdays: 8:00 - 12:00
(back to top)

RELIGION:
South Africa caters for most religious denominations. Places of worship that include churches of every denomination, temples, synagogues and mosques are readily accessible in most towns and cities. These places of worship are normally indicated on city and town maps, as well as advertised in the local newspapers.
(back to top)

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Safety precautions : Visitors are advised to take basic safety precautions, much the same as they would in other major cities around the world. Contact the local tourist information centre for assistance.

The basic safety precautions are basically common sense good practice wherever you are. These include things like, wearing your money belt / handbag where it is visible to you, sticking to the areas advised by your Tour Guide, not leaving valuables visible in your car,  being cautious when withdrawing cash at Bank ATM 's, not leaving your property unattended in public places.

We also advise against picking up hitchhikers or accepting lifts from strangers and to check your route before leaving your hotel.
(back to top)
  
TELECOMMUNICATIONS:

South Africa has a sophisticated telecommunications network. The telephone system is the best developed and has the highest capacity in Africa. Except in remote rural districts, direct dialling connects all centres. Cheaper telephone rates have been instituted from Monday to Friday, 8 pmto 7 am and Saturday 1 pm until Monday 7 am.

Cellular phones (mobile phones): The cellular network in South Africa is well developed and calls can be received almost anywhere. Problems are experienced mostly in the mountainous areas. Cellular phones are available for hire from most cellular-phone outlets. When using a cellular phone, the dialling code for each area has to be dialled before punching in the telephone number Dialling code: The international dialling code for South Africa is + 27 but from within South Africa, the +27 should be replaced with 0. Dialling codes should be dialled when calling outside metropolitan or municipal areas. For dialling abroad, precede the number with "09". For example, a number in Pretoria would be: 000 0000 (from within Pretoria), (012) 000 0000 (from another location in South Africa) and +2712 000 0000 (from another country). The national and international dialling codes are easily found in the first few pages of telephone directories.

Facilities: International dialling and full telex, telefax and electronic mail facilities are widely available, e.g. at hotels and Postnet outlets.

Pay phones: Pay phones can be found in most public places, some operating with phone cards, others with coins. Phone cards can be bought from shops that indicate that they sell these cards.
(back to top)

TIME:
South Africa is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, eight hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time, USA. There is no daylight saving. There are no time-zone changes between South Africa and its neighbouring countries, or between the nine provinces of South Africa.
(back to top)

TIPPING:
Restaurants normally do not include the service charge in the account and it is customary to include an extra amount of 10 % -14% as a tip for the waiter, depending on the quality of the service. Some hotels keep a staff-box at Reception where tips for the staff can be left; otherwise tips may be given to individual staff members personally. Some visitors also prefer to tip tour guides and game rangers between R 25 - R 30 per day for each.
(back to top)

TOILETS AND RESTROOMS:
Most tourist destinations, garages, shopping centres and restaurants have very neat and clean facilities. In game reserves and at the beaches these facilities may be more primitive, but are usually kept clean.
(back to top)

TRADING HOURS:
Bars (smaller towns): 10:00 - 23:00
Bars / pubs (cities): 10:00 - late
Businesses: 08: 00 - 17: 00
Flea markets: Weekends in the major cities and some from Monday to Sunday
Government offices: 08:00 - 16:00
Shops: Monday - Friday: 9:00 - 17:00 (18:00 in large cities) Saturday: 8:30 - 15:00 (13: 00 in towns) Sundays: 9:00 - 13:00 (mostly only chain stores in large cities)
(back to top)

TRANSPORT:
Air Transport : South Africa has three international airports: Johannesburg International Airport, Durban International Airport and Cape Town International Airport. Of these three, Johannesburg is the largest and most popular. All three have duty-free facilities and bus links with the city centre and the major hotels. Their facilities also include taxi ranks, restaurants, car rental offices, tourist information desks and hotel booking desks. Apart from these, there are several national and smaller airports and airfields. The national airline (SAA) and the other smaller airlines combine to create an excellent air network. Charter companies operate widely. Visitors will be able to rent and pilot light aircrafts if they can produce a valid pilots licence.

Rail transport : South Africa has a well-developed rail infrastructure. However travel by train is not recommended for tourists because the system is not geared for it and safety is a concern. Cape Town is the only city with a suburban network but it is not considered safe to use it after dark. There are, however, luxury rail companies that offer the tourist high levels of comfort and safety, such as Rovos Rail and the Blue Train An aspect of rail travel that is very popular with visitors is the luxury passenger trips and shorter trips on scenic routes.

Road transport : South Africa has an excellent road infrastructure. The traffic is relatively light, except during peak hours, which sometimes tempts drivers to speed. The accident rate is therefore high, especially during peak holiday seasons. Pedestrians are also apt to jaywalk, even on motorways, and drivers should be careful, especially at night. Some rural roads are not in peak condition but road signs will warn drivers of danger. Another danger on rural roads is the presence of people and animals such as sheep and goats and, in some areas, wild animals. Drivers need to be extremely careful, especially in areas where rural communities are established.

Bus and coach : There are a few long-distance coach companies that provide transport between cities but visitors need to book well in advance. Information can generally be gained from the city railway station or the company offices.

Car rental : There are a number of national car rental companies who have outlets that are very conveniently placed, e.g. at airports. A car can be collected from one outlet and dropped at another, for a premium. Local firms offer a cheaper but more limited service. A large variety of vehicles are available for rent but vehicle rental in South Africa is relatively expensive.

Public transport : South Africa does not have a well-developed public transport system. All the cities have a municipal bus service, which runs according to an established (limited) schedule, but only until a certain time of night. The service is infrequent and even more limited over the weekends and public holidays. Towns do not offer a municipal bus service.

Taxis : There are mainly two types of taxis in South Africa. Metered taxis are more expensive and to be found mainly in the cities although some small towns may have a limited number. They cannot be hailed from the street and must either be ordered by phone or at the taxi ranks, which are scarce. Minibus taxis are the cheapest but also the most uncomfortable. Violence connected with minibus taxis and a relatively high accident rate make this the least preferable mode of transport.

Travel by sea : South Africa has a number of ports where passenger ships do call and bookings can be made with the cruise companies that operate them. Day trips or shorter trips can be undertaken at many seaside resorts.
(back to top)

WATER:
Tap water in South Africa, in major cities as well as in most game reserves, is purified and 100% safe to drink. However, bottled water is also available countrywide.
(back to top)

WEIGHTS & MEASURE:
South Africa operates on the metric system. Distances are measured in metres and kilometres (1 mile = 1, 621 km). Weight is measured in grams and kilograms. Liquids are measured in litres. Temperature is measured in centigrade.
(back to top)