South Africa

The southern most country of the African continent boasts one of the most beautiful tourism destinations in the world. Built for every experience possible, we have no doubts that you will fall in love with this land.

This vast country is undoubtedly one of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth. Fondly known by locals as the ‘Rainbow Nation’, South Africa has 11 official languages and its multicultural inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of African, Asian and European cultures. Spend your days: discovering the gourmet restaurants, impressive art and nightlife scenes and fine beaches of Cape Town; enjoying a typical local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township; browsing the bustling Indian markets in Durban; or sampling some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotted around the picturesque Cape Winelands.

Due to its rich and turbulent history there are plenty of historical attractions to explore including the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town.

Above all else, South Africa’s attraction lies in its remarkably untamed wilderness with its astonishing range of wildlife roaming freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world famous Kruger National Park.

With all of this variety on offer, it is little wonder that South Africa has fast become Africa’s most popular tourist destination.

The currency is the Rand, which is divided into 100 cents. There are R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10 notes. Coins come in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c.

Banks are found in most towns, and are generally open from 09h00 to 15h30 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays (Closed Sundays and Public Holidays). Most of them offer foreign exchange services – with cash, bank & credit cards as well as travellers cheques. You can also obtain cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs). Several international banks have branches in the main city centres. Always advise your bank that you are travelling outside of the country as they might block your purchases if they are not informed.

Travelling around South Africa is relatively easy by air, road and rail.

Principal air routes are serviced by SAA and British Airways, operated by Comair. There are 2 low-cost carriers on main routes, namely Kulula.com and Mango.

Facilitating travel around South Africa are 10 airports managed by the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa). In addition, there are some 90 regional airports, including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit and the Skukuza Airport, offering access to the Kruger National Park.

An extensive tarred road system makes travelling in South Africa by vehicle convenient and easy. You will find gravel roads in rural areas though. Note:

A valid international driver’s licence is required.

We drive on the left hand side of the road.

Wearing seat belts is compulsory and cellphones can only be used ‘hands free’.

Speed limits are generally set at 120km on freeways, 100km on secondary roads and 60km in urban areas.

Toll fees apply on certain national roads.

Petrol stations are widespread.

Most global car hire firms have branches in South Africa

Another means of getting around South Africa are luxury inter-city bus services such as Greyhound and Trans-Lux. Metrobus buses are available for in-city transport. Metered taxis must be ordered by telephone. There is a hop-on-hop-off bus in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Our rail system includes the long-haul, inexpensive Shosholoza Meyl Metrorail trains. More luxurious options are the Blue Train, Premier Classe and the steam train Rovos Rail. There is also the new Gautrain rapid transit railway system in Gauteng Province which links Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekhuruleni and OR Tambo International Airport.

Standards of hygiene in relation to food health and safety in South Africa, are generally high in hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightspots. Tap water in South Africa is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so take precautions if necessary.

It is safe to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, and put ice in your drinks. South Africa’s fish, meat and chicken are of excellent quality, so there is no need to limit yourself when enjoying the local cuisine.

Restaurants are subject to South Africa’s food safety control legislation, which is implemented by local government. Regulations include certification and regular inspections by health inspectors to ensure hygienic standards are maintained.

Street food is not as common in South Africa as it is in other countries, although vendors selling traditional snacks and meals can be found in city centres and townships. Food safety in such instances cannot always be guaranteed.

South African temperatures, which are measured in centigrade, average at highs of 28°C to average lows of 8°C in the summer months while winter temperatures range from 1°C at night to around 18°C in the day.

Average annual rainfall is on the low side at under 500mm a year, making the country somewhat dry. Much of the rain falls in the Western Cape in the winter, differing from the rest of the country, which experiences summer rainfall.

On the plus side, the South African climate boasts more than its fair share of sunshine, recording an average of 8.5 hours a day.

Summer

Bring clothes that are cool, light and comfortable because summer temperatures can get well into the 30 – 40 degree Celsius range in some areas.Also bring an umbrella or raincoat during summer as this is when most of the country gets its rain, but don’t forget a swimming costume (bathing suit).

Winter

The winters are generally mild, comparing favourably with European summers. But there are days when temperatures dive, especially in high-lying areas such as the Drakensberg, so be prepared with jerseys and jackets. Cape Town gets its rain during the winter season so it’s advisable to bring rain gear along.

General

Always bring a hat, sunglasses and sunblock as the sun can be strong even in the winter months.

Walking shoes are a good idea all year-round, with warm socks in the winter.

If you are doing business in the country, business attire (suit and tie) is generally called for in the corporate sector, but media for example generally dress more casually.

For game viewing, a couple of neutral-toned items will be useful, but there’s no need to go overboard. A good pair of walking shoes is also advisable.

For the evening, if you are dining at an upmarket restaurant or seeing a show, smart-casual attire is recommended.

Current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. A three-point round-pin adapter plug should be brought for your electrical appliances – such adapters are also available at major airports.

The South African government has implemented new travel regulations to better protect children under the age of 18 from being taken in or out of South Africa without their parents’ permission. The new regulations affect travel to and from South Africa only.

From 1 June 2015, children under 18 must have the documentation of birth issued by their home country (translated into English if necessary) as well as their own valid passport to enter or leave South Africa.

Quick checklist:

  • The documentation of birth must be an unabridged birth certificate that confirms both parents’ names. (unabridged means ‘full or detailed document of birth).
  • A valid passport has a blank page available for the arrival and departure stamps and does not expire for at least six (6) months after you leave South Africa.
  • If both parents are not accompanying the child, you must have legal documentation to prove that the missing parent gave permission, as well a copy of the missing parent’s passport. If you cannot get permission, you’ll need to obtain a court ruling (eg custody ruling) or the missing parent’s death certificate.
  • Any official documents in a language other than English must be translated into English and certified as a true copies of the original.
  • Any copies of original documents must be certified as a true copies of the original.
  • A commissioner of oaths can certify your documents and this certification must be recent – less than 90 days before your travel dates ie if you visit South Africa during August, get your documents certified in June or July.

If you have any questions, please speak to your African Safari Expert or consult your nearest South African consulate or embassy.

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Travelling with children? Please make sure you are aware of the visa policies that can impact your travel.

Interesting Facts

The Bloukrans Bridge in the Western Cape is the highest commercial natural bungee jump in the world. The 216m (709ft) jump off the Bloukrans Bridge, Africa’s highest bridge, falls over the Bloukrans river valley. The world’s oldest bungee jumper, South African Mohr Keet, jumped from the bridge when he was 96.

Table Mountain, one of the iconic landmarks of South Africa, is one of the oldest mountains in the world – and has more than 2,200 species of plants, 70 percent of which are endemic.

South Africa has the longest continuous wine route in the world, stretching from the Cape winelands along Route 62 all the way to the Klein Karoo. Not only is this beautiful route one of South Africa’s most popular tourist attractions, it is also a pillar in the South African agricultural industry – providing export quality produce that fuels SA’s economy.

A South African fish migration is so huge it can be seen from space. Between May and July every year millions of small silver fish travel in vast shoals from the cold waters off South Africa’s Cape Point up to the coastlines of the northern Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal. This annual event is called the Sardine Run. The shoals are so big – 15km long, 3.5km wide and up to 40m deep – they can be seen by satellite. In their wake come hundreds of birds, sharks, whales, dolphins, all eager to feast.

South Africa has three capital cities – Cape Town (Legislative), Pretoria (Administrative) and Bloemfontein (Judicial). There are nine provinces in total: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, ZwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Free State, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Each has its own government.

Bones found in South Africa help support the theory that modern humans originated in Africa. Fossilised bones from hominids (part of the human evolutionary chain) dating back between 4.5 and 2.5 million years were found in limestone caves some 50km northwest of Johannesburg. In the Sterkfontein Caves, now part of what is known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’, there was also evidence that humans used stone tools two million years ago and made fire 1.8 million years ago.

Top South African Destinations

Africa, Islands & Beyond

Cape Town

Resting at the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, sandwiched between the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain and the glistening sapphire waters of Table Bay, the exceptionally scenic city of Cape Town is in a class of its own.

Cape Winelands

Cape Winelands

A mere one hours drive from Cape Town lie the valleys and mountains which have become synonymous with some of the world's finest wines.

Africa, Islands & Beyond

Garden Route

So named for its natural bounty and beauty this lush 300km stretch of coastal plain between Mossel Bay and Storms River Mouth provides one of the world’s most spectacular drives.

Africa, Islands & Beyond

Madikwe Game Reserve

The Madikwe Game Reserve is the newest of South Africa's prime safari destinations. There is a good chance of seeing the Magnificent Seven which comprises the Big Five as well as the rare and endangered wild dog and cheetah.

Africa, Islands & Beyond

Sabi Sands

The Sabi Sands is a collection of private land that has been incorporated into the "Greater Kruger National Park", meaning that it is not open to the public. It is considered by many to be the most famous private game reserve in the whole of Africa.

Africa, Islands & Beyond

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Located at the border line between Hoedspruit (Limpopo) and Acornhoek (Mpumalanga), north of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park, geographically and politically, Timbavati is located in Mpumalanga Province

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