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Tourist Tips

CLIMATE

The region can be classified as warm-hot in that temperatures thoughout winter are mild with night times temperatures between 0-12 deg. c and day time temperatures averaging between 20 and 28 deg.c with 85% sunshine, yes, that's in winter.

Most regions have low rainfall, mostly in the summer (with the exception of the Western Cape) with late afternoon showers quite common. temperatures in summer will vary between 28-38 deg.c on average during the day time and dropping to 15-25 deg. c at night. Moderate and extremely confortable almost the whole year rouund with the exception of an occasional colder spell during winter, particilarly in the highland areas.

Sunny South Africa as it is ioften known has a climate that makes it one of the best year-round destinations in the world. Most areas enjoy a summer rainfall with occasional afternoon thunderstorms, these can be spectacular to see. Snow sometimes occurs, especially on the mountain peaks of Lesotho and the Drakensberg. Some areas have such mild winters, that visitors will never guess it's winter at all.

GETTING THERE

International access to South Africa is via air travel, with the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg as the major airport, supported by the international airports  of Durban and Cape Town in South Africa and airports in Windhoek (Namibia); Gaberone (Botswana) and Maputo (Mozambique). South Africa is the hub for over 50 airlines from all 5 continents.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

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, For visitors from many countries, visas are not required for visits of a limited period. A yellow fever inoculation and certificate from travellers over 1 year of age coming from an infected area, is an official requirement. This is not generally required if one's original departure is from Europe; the America's; North Africa or Asia.

TOURISM FACILITIES

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. Cell phone service providers abound for either the short term hire of a local mobile phone and number or to assist with international roqaming facilities. A public system of pay-phones and the state assisted operator Telkom  has many calling centres for international and local calls available.

ACCOMMODATION

This is made up of a combination of traditional Hotels; Bed and Breakfast or Guest House style accommodation and the rental of private holiday homes or villa's from private owners. Accommodation options can be broadened to include accommodation at various destinations such as Game Parks (Private and state operated) and the many camping; chalet; cottage and other self-catering accommodation. Most commercial establishments (as compared to private homes) are graded through the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA). As a general guide, standards are higher than in most parts of the world with the South African three star grading being extremely comfortable and of adequate standard for most holidays, for a little luxury, go higher and to save on your budget you can safely go a little lower. We recommend further research on each selection and assure you of our best attempts at ensuring quality accommodation when using this site.

GETTING AROUND

BY CAR - The region, and in particular South Africa, has an extremely good road infrastructure linking all major cities on good tar roads. Secondary tar roads between smaller areas support the main roads, these are usually tar but in some cases gravel based, suitable for all normal vehicles. Vehicle travel in all South African game parks is sufficuent for normal vehicles, if you are planning to visit parks in the surroindingh states it is suggested you find out more information as an off-road vehicle might be required. All international car hire companies are represented.

BY AIR - From the major airports (above), the whole region is serviced by an efficient airline infrastructure to airports at Bloemfontein; East London; Kimberly; Port Elizabeth and George in South Africa and Maun (Botswana); Walvis Bay (Namibia). Vehicle hire can be arranged at all the abive airports. Advance booking is recommended for bith car hire and aor travel, advance discounts also apply.

BY BUS - An efficient iner-city bus grid exists between the main centres and along key routes. The smaller towns are not adequately or comfortably serviced by bus.

BY TRAIN - Not as efficient a system as can be found in a lot of countries. between the main cities this could be described as adequate. We do not recommend this for tourists with the exception of travellers on a limited budget and recommend you conduct fiurther research.

ELECTRICITY

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. This is not common in smaller establishments or private villa accommodation.

Adaptors can generally be purchased at your point of departure

DRIVING

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

English is commonly understood throughout the region and Portugese in Mozambique and german in Namibia is ioften spoken.

In South Africa, 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. 

Afrikaans, a unique South African language derives from a combination of the Dutch; German and French languages. It is not dissimalr to the Flemmish (Flams) spoken in Belguim. For more information on each country kindly refer to our other information sections.

HEALTH

Malaria is found in Mozambique; Botswana; Northern Namibia. In South Africa it is 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. 

SAFETY

Most parts of South and Southern Africa can be described as very safe provided that basic, common sense, good practice is applied, this will include the rules that should apply when one travels in any unknown country.

These include obtaining related information from local persons, not going or walking alone to strange and isolated areas after dark, not flashing photographic equipment or jewellery to the public eye in crowded areas, 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 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              083 123 2345      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. This number may also be used for assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.

SHOPPING

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.

MONEY

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 (if not very low cost 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 - especially the biltong.

Where can I smoke?

The law prohibits smoking in most public spaces, including airports and railway stations. Most restaurants have designated smoking and non-smoking areas.

South African time

South Africa does not change its clocks during the year, and there are no regional variations within the country. South African Standard Time is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean (or Universal Standard) Time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, and seven hours ahead of the USA's Eastern Standard Winter Time.

Tipping

Tipping is common practice in South Africa for a range of services. In restaurants the accepted standard is around 10% of the bill, although sometimes a gratuity will be included (often in the case of a large party). Barmen are tipped a similar percentage.

Petrol stations are manned by attendants who will expect a tip of two or three rands for filling up with petrol, checking oil, water and tyre pressure and cleaning windscreens. Hotel porters should be tipped two to five rands. It is also appropriate to tip taxi drivers, tour guides and even hairdressers.

If you park a car in a populated area such as near a shopping centre, street security guards will usually ask whether they can watch over your car and in return should be paid a small fee - anything from two rands upwards.

The seasons

 

  • Summer - mid-October to mid-February
     
  • Autumn - February to April
     
  • Winter - May to July
     
  • Spring - August to October

Inoculations

If you're an adult, you won't need any inoculations unless you're travelling from a yellow-fever endemic area (the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America), in which case you will need certification to prove your inoculation status when you arrive in South Africa.

It is recommended that you have the required inoculations four to six weeks before you travel to South Africa (a yellow fever inoculation certificate only becomes valid 10 days after inoculation - after which it remains valid for 10 years).

Hepatitis B inoculations are recommended for children up to the age of 12 who have not completed the series of injections as infants. Booster doses for tetanus and measles can also be administered.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in cities and larger towns are world-class, but you will find that in rural areas the clinics and hospitals deal with primary health needs, and therefore do not offer the range of medical care that the large metropolitan hospitals do. Trained medical caregivers are deployed round the country, so help is never far away.

The sun

We have a warm sunny climate and you should wear sunscreen and a hat whenever you are out of doors during the day, particularly between 10am and 4pm, regardless of whether there is cloud cover or not.

Even if you have a dark complexion, you can still get sunburned if you are from a cooler climate and have not had much exposure to the sun. Sunglasses are also recommended wear, as the glare of the African sun can be strong.

Can I drink the water?

High-quality tap (faucet) water is available almost everywhere in South Africa, treated so as to be free of harmful micro-organisms, and in any area other than informal or shack settlements, is both palatable and safe to drink straight from the tap.

In some areas, the water is mineral-rich, and you may experience a bit of gastric distress for a day or two until you get used to it. Bottled mineral water, both sparkling and still, is readily available in most places.

Drinking water straight from rivers and streams could put you at risk of waterborne diseases - especially downstream of human settlements. The water in mountain streams, however, is usually pure and wonderful.

In the Cape, particularly, the water contains humic acid, which stains it the colour of diluted Coca-Cola - this is absolutely harmless, and the water is wonderful. You may also find this colouring in tap water in some areas. It's fine - it just looks a bit weird in the bath.

Do I need to take malaria tablets?

Many of the main tourist areas are malaria-free, so you need not worry at all. However, the Kruger National Park, the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal do pose a malaria risk in the summer months.

Many local people and some travellers do not take malaria prophylaxis, but most health professionals recommend you do. Consult your doctor or a specialist travel clinic for the latest advice concerning malaria prophylaxis, as it changes regularly.

Whether you take oral prophylaxis or not, always use mosquito repellent, wear long pants, closed shoes and light long-sleeved shirts at night, and sleep under a mosquito net in endemic areas (the anopheles mosquito, which carries malaria, operates almost exclusively after dark). It is advisable to avoid malarial areas if you are pregnant.

HIV/Aids

As in other countries, always take precautions when having sex. South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world.

Other health issues

Bilharzia can be a problem in some of the east-flowing rivers, but it is easily detected and treated if it is caught early. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a routine test a month or two after you get home - just to reassure yourself.

Ticks generally come out in the early spring and may carry tickbite fever, which is easily treated. You should also be aware of hepatitis, for which you can be inoculated.

Links:


For general visa information go to: http://home-affairs.pwv.gov.za/visas.asp
For visa types go to: www.home-affairs.gov.za/services_foreigners.asp?asptopic=visas
For consular information go to: www.dfa.gov.za
Extracts for portion of these pages kindly supplied by South African Tourism.

 

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