President: Cyril Ramaposa
Currency: ZAR (South Africa Rand)
There are 11 official languages. The English speaking tourist will experience no difficulties, neither the Dutch nor Flemish speakers. Most of the larger institutions and operators cater for German, French and Japanese groups.
Credit cards are accepted for fuel purchases in South Africa.
South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time.
South Africa has a temperate climate and is known for its long sunny days, hence the title: ‘Sunny South Africa’. Most of the provinces have summer rainfall, except for the Western Cape (winter rainfall). Winter is from May to August; Spring from September to October; Summer from November to February and Autumn is from March to April.
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.
To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa, visit the comprehensive South African Home Affairs Department website at http://home-affairs.gov.za
The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents making up R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Most major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates are widely accepted.
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.
South Africa’s electricity supply: 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz. Most plugs have three round pins but some plugs with two smaller pins are also found on appliances. Adapters can be purchased but may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a transformer.
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 seat-belts is compulsory and strictly enforced by law.
The 3 major international airports in South Africa are: OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport (Durban) as well as 90 regional airports including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) in Nelspruit.
Travel by Road and Rail:
South Africa has an extensive road infrastructure including national highways and secondary roads. Speed limits are set at 120 kilometres on highways; 100 kilometres on secondary roads and 60 kilometres in urban areas.
Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure, high standards of water treatment and medical facilities equal to the best in the world.
In a great many medical disciplines, South Africa is a global leader. In fact, South African trained doctors are sought after all over the world, so this should give an indication of the standard of medical care available. There is a large network of public and private hospitals countrywide, offering excellent service. However, clients must have adequate health insurance to cover the fees private hospitals charge.
Malaria is found only in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo and on the Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Malaria is not much of a risk in the winter months. Although the incidence of malaria is rare, it would be best to take adequate precautions if you choose to visit these areas.
As a rule, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is treated and is free of harmful microorganisms. In hotels and restaurants, the standards of hygiene and food preparation are top-notch. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks.
Visitors who are entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunisation against cholera and small pox are not required and no other vaccinations are required when visiting South Africa.
Did you know?
South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world. The meteor plummeted to Earth nearly two billion years ago, predating the heady days of oxygen and multi-celled life. The Vredefort Dome was recently declared a World Heritage Site.
Most of the world’s proto-mammalian fossils are found in the Karoo region – along with a 280 million year old fossilized shark.
According to recent studies, the star-watching town of Sutherland in the Northern Cape is one of the most geologically stable places on Earth, yet it has a 66-million year old volcano, not yet officially extinct.
Kimberley may have the biggest man-made hole in the world, but the southern Free State town of Jagersfontein has the deepest vertical man-made hole.
The only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prize winners is in South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses in Vilakazi Street in Soweto.
The world’s first heart transplant was done in South Africa in 1967 by South African Dr. Chris Barnard.
South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are tearing down fences between the countries’ game parks to create a 35 000 square kilometers game park which will become the largest conservation area in the world.
South Africa is ranked number one in the world for its floral kingdom.
South Africa’s Coastal Management policy is one of the best in the world with the country being the first outside Europe to gain Blue Flag status for its coastal management.
The CONDE NAST TRAVELLER ranked Cape Town as the world’s best value for money city two years in a row, as well as the most hospitable city in the world.
Discovery.com being an influential travel website has rated Clifton – Cape Town, as one of the top nine beaches in the world, calling Clifton: “sprawling and clean, reflecting the brilliant African sunshine off white sand and throngs of tanned bodies.”
The London Observer Newspaper reports Cape Town as a favourite overseas city for British travelers.
Useful information for visitors:
Situated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa has a landmass of 1 233 404 km² edged on 3 sides by a nearly 3000km coastline washed by the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic. It is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and also wraps itself around two independent countries, the Lesotho and Swaziland.
Capitals of SA: Pretoria (administrative), Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative)
For more information, see the South African fact sheet on SouthAfrica.net.