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Tips for travel to South Africa

Visitors to South Africa are often awed by her immense display of natural beauty, fascinating wildlife and rich culture. This beautiful country lies on the southern tip of Africa with 2,798 km (1,739 mi) of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe in the north, Mozambique and Swaziland in the east.

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South Africa is known for its diversity in cultures, language and religious beliefs. It is also ethnically diverse as it has the largest European, Indian and racially mixed communities in Africa. There are 11 officially recognised languages with English being the most common language spoken.

Here are some useful tips for your travel to South Africa:

Travel visas for South Africa

While most nationalities get up to 3 months entry on arrival to South Africa, it is important to check with the Department of Home Affairs for detailed information on whether you need to apply for a visa. If a visa is needed, application must be made ahead of your departure either through South African diplomatic or consular representatives from your country or in the country you are travelling from. Allow sufficient processing time for visa application or extension to prevent unnecessary delays.

Your passport must be valid for no less than 30 days after your intended date of departure and at least 1 unused page for entry and departure endorsements. A vaccination certificate is required for those travelling from the yellow fever belts of Africa and South America. More information is available at http://www.dha.gov.za/visa_detail.asp

Currency of South Africa

The South Africa currency is the Rand (ZAR). Notes are in denominations of R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10. There are two types of R5 coins in circulation. One is a silver-coloured coin while the other is silver-coloured with a copper insert. Both are legal currency. Coins are in denominations of R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c.

Cash machines in South Africa

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available throughout the country and will generally dispense money in a mixture of denominations between R200 and R10. You can use any Cirrus or Maestro card as well as all major credit and debit cards at the ATMs. Use ATMs located in a mall or building and be vigilant about your surrounding when withdrawing cash. You can also withdraw cash at check out points at some major retail stores (especially in the supermarkets). All you need to do is simply let the cashier know that you would like to withdraw money.

Credit Cards 

VISA and MasterCard's are accepted almost everywhere whilst American Express and Diners Club are not as widely accepted.

Sales tax (VAT Tax) in South Africa

There is a VAT (Value Added Tax) of 14% levied on almost all products in South Africa. It is required by law that the advertised prices should be inclusive of VAT unless it is explicitly stated otherwise. Visitors to South Africa may claim back the VAT on products (total value of goods exceeding R250) bought in South Africa. You can claim your VAT refund at the VAT Refund Administrator’s offices located at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport as you leave the country.

Smoking laws in South Africa

Smoking is not allowed in most public spaces including airports and railway stations. Designated smoking and non smoking areas can be found in most restuarants.

Tourist Safety in South Africa

It is a known fact that crime is a major problem in South Africa. But it does not mean that a tourist cannot have a great time travelling around the country's spectacular landsmarks. Irrespective of where we go as a tourist, we should always take precaution for our own safety. Some safety tips to remember when travelling in South Africa are:

  • When driving, always plan your route in advance, keep the doors locked and do not picked up hitchikers. Park your car in designated and well lited areas, do not expose your belongings in the car, locked your valuables in the boot. 
  • Move around in groups and never go into unlit or deserted streets. 
  • Do not display expensive jewellery, camera and carry large amount of cash. Travel as lightly as possible. Do not change large sum of money in public, busy places. Hold your bag close to your body at all times. 
  • Be alert and be aware of any vehicle or person following you. We were advised not to stop the car or get out of the car in an accident on a quite road but to drive straight to the police statiion as it could be a ploy for robbery.  

Money Exchange in South Africa

Do not be tempted to change money on the street  even if the rate offered is more attractive than in an authorised money exchange outlet. Money can be changed at banks, bureau de change and in some hotels. You need to show proof identity, therefore it is advisable to bring along your passport if you intend to change your currency. Allow ample time for money exchange as the whole procedure may take a while due to the paperwork involved. 

Tipping in South Africa

It is common practice to tip in South Africa.The accepted standard is about 10% of the bill and it applies to restuarants and bars. You are also expected to tip the attendants at petrol station, 2 to 3 rand for their services, hotel portals, taxi drivers and tour guides

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 can be tipped up two to five rands. It is a common sight to see street security guards asking if you would like them to watch over your car especially in populated areas such as a shopping centre in return for a small tip, anything from 2 rand upwards. It's up to you on whether you would like them to watch over your car though most people do.

Climate in South Africa

The climate in South Africa is relatively dry and the temperature tends to be lower as compared to countries at similar latitudes due to a greater elevation above sea level. Whilst the rainy season for most of the country is in summer, the Western Cape has the highest rainfall in winter.

The South African winter starts from May through to July and summer falls between mid Octobers to mid February. Autumn in South Africa starts from mid February to April and is probably one of the best times to visit the country as there are very little rain falls over the whole country. Spring (from August to mid October) offers the best condition for travel to Cape provinces.

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

High(°C) 30  30   30  27  25   24  23  26  29    29  32   30

Low(°C)  23  23   21 17  12    8   8    11  16    18  21   22

Public holidays in South Africa

In the major cities most stores, cinemas and restaurants are open on most public holidays. The exceptions are Christmas Day, 25 December and New Year's Day, 1 January.

1 January – New Year's Day

21 March – Human Rights Day

Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday)

Family Day (the Monday after Easter Sunday)

27 April – Freedom Day

1 May – Workers Day

16 June – Youth Day

9 August – Women's Day

24 September – Heritage Day

16 December – Day of Reconciliation

25 December – Christmas Day

26 December – Day of Goodwill

If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following becomes a public holiday.

 

 

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