South Africa Visitors Guide
Getting to South Africa is pretty simple when one considers the vast quantity of international daily flights and direct connections to Johannesburg and Cape Town. There are an outstanding number of world-class airlines flying daily into South Africa’s international airports from all the corners of the globe.
OUR WORLD-CLASS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS INCLUDE:
Through the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), passenger-handling facilities are continually being upgraded, offering excellent facilities for the business traveller. There superb restaurants, bars, shopping areas, rest facilities and a number of VIP services at these airports.
There are just a few basics to bear in mind, as you land in South Africa.
Please visit the Airports Company South Africa website www.acsa.co.za for further information and details on getting in and around our airports.
Known to some as sunny South Africa, the country has a warm to hot climate, making it one of the best year-round destinations in the world. Most provinces enjoy a summer rainfall with occasional afternoon thunderstorms, which are spectacular to see. Snow sometimes occurs, especially on the mountain peaks. Some areas have such mild winters, that visitors will never guess it’s winter at all.
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, but for many countries, visas are not required up to a maximum number of days. For the latest visa requirements, contact your nearest South African embassy or mission. A yellow fever inoculation and certificate from travellers over 1 year of age coming from an infected area, is an official requirement.
South Africa boasts world-class transport infrastructure, telecommunications, banking, medical and tourism facilities. Accommodation caters for all needs and is accredited by the national Tourism Grading Council, which upholds very high standards.
The electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ, with the exception of Pretoria (230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200/250 V). Most plugs have 3-pin or 2-pin. Adaptors can be purchased, but may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a transformer. Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and appliances.
Non-residents are permitted to drive with a driving licence issued and valid in their own country, provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is in English. If your drivers licence does not meet these requirements, an international driver’s licence is required. Driving is on the left and the wearing of seatbelts is compulsory.
PEOPLE & LANGUAGE
Diverse people and cultures combine to make the Rainbow Nation colourful. Population groups include the majority Nguni (incl. Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi); Sotho-Tswana; Tsonga; Venda; Afrikaners; English; Coloureds; Indians; Khoi and San; and immigrants from Africa, Europe and Asia. The majority religion is Christian, but freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Constitution. There are 11 official languages, including English. Most South Africans are multi-lingual and English is fairly widely spoken, notably in urban centres.
Malaria is found only in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga (incl. the Kruger National Park) and Limpopo (north-eastern areas and near the Zimbabwean and Mozambican borders) and on the Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal (north-east as far south as the Tugela River). Malaria risk is highest October-May. Although the incidence of malaria is rare, it would be best to take adequate precautions if you choose to visit these areas. In addition to malaria prophylaxis, insect repellants and mosquito nets can be effective. Medical facilities equal the best in the world and in many medical disciplines, South Africa is a global leader. A large network of hospitals offer excellent service, but make sure you have adequate health insurance.
Most parts of the country can be safely visited by tourists, provided they take basic common-sense precautions e.g. not walking alone in deserted areas at night, not flashing photographic equipment or jewellery and, in traffic, maintaining a safe following distance. Most major cities run organized crime prevention programmes and Basic Safety Tip guidelines are available at hotels and tourism information offices. If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction, contact the National Tourism Information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345. This number may also be used for assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.
Modern shopping malls, arts & crafts routes and markets, flea markets and informal vendors provide a wide variety of goods, curios, and shopping experiences. South Africa’s fashion, gold and diamond jewellery, and art are sought-after. As are the traditional handcrafted items such as Zulu beadwork; carved chessboards; painted ostrich eggs; colourful woven baskets, handbags and soft furnishings; mohair or sisal rugs; traditional wooden masks and carvings; pottery and leather items. And don’t forget the world-renowned Cape wines, exotic fruit liqueurs, brandy, rooibos tea, dried fruit, biltong (dried meat snacks) and chutney. Most major shopping centres and malls operate 7 days a week, but small town shops are often closed on Sunday.
The local currency is the South African Rand (R1=100 cents), which exchanges favourably with the major international currencies. This makes South Africa an affordable destination, where five-star luxury, and many items such as food, wine and lager, can be purchased at a much lesser cost than in many global cities.
Most international traveller's cheques are accepted, however, it is advised that you bring them in a hard currency, such as US dollars or British Pounds. Currency can be exchanged at banks, forex bureaus and sometimes at hotels. Foreign tourists can have their VAT (value-added tax at 14%) refunded at the point of departure, provided they present their original tax invoices. Most major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted.
FOOD & WATER
South Africa’s tap water is potable and of the safest and cleanest in the world. In hotels, restaurants and nightspots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation is generally top-notch. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks - a good thing, too, after a day on the beach or in the bush. Restaurants cover a wide variety of cuisines and visitors are normally very impressed with the food. The country’s many cultures makes for varied traditional fare, which is worth exploring.