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
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.
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
Smoking is not allowed in most
public spaces including airports and railway stations. Designated smoking and non smoking areas can be found in
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
- 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
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
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
Climate in South
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
Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
30 30 27 25 24 23 26 29
29 32 30
Low(°C) 23 23 21 17 12
8 8 11 16 18 21
Public holidays in South
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
21 March – Human Rights
Good Friday (the Friday before
Family Day (the Monday after
27 April – Freedom
1 May – Workers
16 June – Youth
9 August – Women's
24 September – Heritage
16 December – Day of
25 December – Christmas
26 December – Day of
If a public holiday falls on a
Sunday, the Monday following becomes a public holiday.