Travel Tips and FAQ's
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Facts & Figures

  • South-Africa is bigger than Germany and Italy combined with a population of 45 million people.
  • There are 4 main race groups: Africans; Whites; Indians; Coloureds.


Banking and Currency

  • Local currency is the (ZAR) RAND, with 100 cents equaling R1.
  • Notes come in R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 denominations, whilst coins are minted in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c, (5c and 2c are being discontinued).
  • All major commercial banks and Foreign Exchange Bureaus provide foreign exchange services.
  • Bank Phone Numbers: You may want to print out a list of these useful numbers before you leave home. All numbers are written as you would dial them from within South Africa. The 0800 numbers are toll-free from a landline within South Africa, but not from a mobile phone.:
    • American Express SA - (011) 359 0200
    • Diners Club SA - 0800 112 017
    • Master Card SA - 0800 990 418
    • Visa SA - 0800 990 475
    • Absa Bank - 0800 111 155
    • First National Bank - 0800 111722
    • Nedbank - 0800 555 111
    • Standard Bank - 0800 021 000

Credit Cards and Cash

  • All major credit cards can be used in South Africa, with American Express and Diners Club enjoying less universal acceptance than Mastercard and Visa. In some small towns, you may find you'll need to use cash. A rather strange anomaly - you may not purchase fuel with credit cards.
  • South Africans have special fuel credit cards, known as garage or petrol cards, which can be used only at filling stations. You can, however, pay road tolls with master or visa cards.

Business Hours

  • Most commercial banks are open from 09:00 - 15:30, Mondays to Fridays and from 08:30 - 11:00 on Saturdays.
  • Shops are open from 08:30 - 17:00, Mondays to Fridays and from 8:30 - 12:30 on Saturdays.
  • However, major shopping centres are abuzz till later on Saturdays and are also open on Sunday mornings.

Restricted Goods

Certain goods may only be imported provided you are in possession of the necessary authority/permit. If you are in any doubt whether the importation of goods is restricted, please contact your nearest South African Embassy/High Commission abroad or the nearest Customs office in South Africa. A few examples of the goods in question are listed here for your information:

  • South African bank notes in excess of R10 000, gold coins, coin and stamp collections and unprocessed gold
  • Endangered species of plants or wildlife, whether alive or dead, including any parts of and articles made from them
  • Plants and plant products, such as seeds, flowers, fruit, honey, margarine and vegetable oils
  • Animals, birds, poultry and products thereof, for example dairy products, butter and eggs
  • Medicines (excluding sufficient quantities for one month for own personal treatment accompanied by a letter or certified prescription from a registered physician).

Prohibited Goods

The importation of the following goods into the Republic of South Africa is strictly prohibited:

  • Narcotic, psychotropic substances and habit-forming drugs in any form and any paraphernalia relating to the aforementioned
  • Fully automatic, military and unnumbered weapons, explosives and fireworks and weapons of mass destruction
  • Poison and other toxic substances
  • Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2 kilogram per 1 000
  • Goods to which a trade description or trademark is applied in contravention of any Act (for example, counterfeit goods)
  • Unlawful reproductions of any works subject to copyright
  • Prison-made and penitentiary-made goods

Entry Requirements

  • Most visitors only need a valid passport when entering South Africa, but some may require a visa as well. If you intend travelling to neighbouring countries and back to S.A apply for a multiple-entry visa
  • ALL VISITORS MUST HAVE TWO BLANK PAGES IN THEIR PASSPORT, IF NOT SUCH A PERSON MAY BE DETAINED AND DEPORTED

A complete Guide for Entering and Leaving South Africa is available on request.

Climate

  • Positioned in the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa enjoys its peak summer tourist season from November through March (during the Northern American and European winters).
  • Mid-winter falls in June and July, mid-summer in December and January.
  • Most of South Africa enjoys a pleasant, warm climate year-round, with annual average rainfall less than 10 inches in the west and 40 inches in the east.

Sun Protection

  • 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. Sunscreen lotions and sun hats are recommended at all times when participating in outdoor activities.

Clothing

  • South-Africans enjoys long hot summers and clothing is generally informal. In the more up-market hotels, evening entertainment venues or gala dinners, smart-casual wear is often required.
  • For the summer months (October-March), pack lightweight clothing but include a jacket for the occasionally chilly evening.
  • Neutral colours are best for safaris.
  • Most of the country is in summer rainfall region, so it is best to carry an umbrella or raincoat. Warm clothing is suggested for the winter months.

Disabled Services

  • South African Airways, most of the country’s hotels and the majority of the rest camps in the National Parks offer facilities for the disabled.
  • You can rent wheelchairs and other aids in most cities and the larger car rental companies can provide vehicles with hand controls.

Driving

  • In Southern Africa, driving is on the left, and pedestrians should therefore look right, then left before crossing.
  • Any valid driver’s licence is accepted in South Africa, provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is printed in English.
  • The country has a network of multi-lane roads and highways, some of which may require tolls.
  • The speed limit on city roads is 60 km/h, whilst on national highways it is 120 km/h (75 m/h).
  • Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory, driving under the influence of alcohol is considered a serious offence, and traffic laws are strictly enforced.

Duty-Free

  • You can buy duty-free goods at the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban airports.
  • Duty Free Allowance per person is as follows: 2 litres of wine, 1 litre of spirits, 400 cigarettes and 50 cigars.

Electricity

  • Ensure you bring a converter and adapter. The electrical current is generally 220/230 volts AC, 50 cycles, except in Pretoria, where the current is 250 volts AC.

Emergencies

  • The national emergency number for the police is 10111; and 10177 for an ambulance.

Health

  • Unless otherwise signposted, you can drink the tap water and eat all fresh produce in the country.
  • Whilst you can swim safely at beaches along the entire coastline, you shouldn’t swim in rivers and lakes in the eastern and northern regions, as the bilharzias parasite may be in the water. However, warning signs are usually posted.
  • Ticks generally come out in the early spring and may carry tick-bite fever, which is easily treated.
  • You should also be aware of hepatitis, for which you can be inoculated.
  • 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 travelers 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.
  • Inoculations
    • If you're an adult, you won't need any inoculations unless you're traveling 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).

Medical Care

  • South-Africa offers first class private hospitals with all the equipment conforming to European and American standards.
  • 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.
  • While South Africa maintains excellent medical facilities, there is no national health system, so you should take out travel insurance for your stay.

Language

  • Whilst English is the language of administration and is widely spoken, South Africa has 10 other official languages.
  • These are Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.
  • Most of the hospitality industry is versed in at least one other foreign language.

Safety

  • Crime is noted for being a problem in South Africa and tourist are advised to undertake normal precautionary measures.
  • Be observant throughout the day and night and do not draw attention to yourself by flashing an expensive camera, jewellery or large amounts of cash.
  • Rather deposit your valuables in you hotel’s safety deposit box.
  • Don’t walk the streets alone after dark, and keep your car doors locked and windows closed at all times.
  • It is preferable to keep personal items and luggage hidden in the trunk rather than visible on the seat of the car.
  • Remember to park n well-lit areas and to not pick up strangers.

Communication

  • South-Africa has an extensive automatic telephone system, three GSM cellular networks, e-mailing facilities at most hotels and a postal service.
  • Public phones are either coin or card operated and phone cards are available at post offices, airports and most convenient stores (cafe).
  • We have a well-developed communications infrastructure, with extensive landline phone networks and three mobile phone service providers with far-reaching coverage.
  • You can rent mobile phones - known here as cell phones - from the airport on arrival.
  • You should find an Internet café in even the smallest towns, and the postal service works, offering the usual letter and parcel services as well as secure mail, freight and courier services.
  • South Africa's network is almost fully digital, allowing for caller line identification, electronic call answering and per second billing.
  • Landline services are operated by public utility Telkom, and a second national operator is expected to open up shop in 2004.
  • Phoning into South Africa
    • If you’re dialing a number in South Africa, it must be preceded by:
    • +27, South Africa’s international country code (the + sign represents the international access code for the country you’re calling from); and either:
    • The area code of the city or town in South Africa you’re calling (leaving out the first zero), if you’re calling a landline; or
    • The cellular/mobile network code (leaving out the first zero), if you’re calling a cellular/mobile network.
    • So, for example, to phone South African Airways’ call centre from abroad, you’d dial +27 11 921 6262 (Johannesburg’s area code is 011 - phoning from abroad, you leave out the zero). If it were a mobile number, you might dial +27 82 921 6262 (082 is the code for one of the main mobile networks - phoning from abroad, you leave out the zero).
  • Area codes of some of South Africa’s major cities are:
    • Bloemfontein – 051
    • Cape Town – 021
    • Durban – 031
    • East London – 043
    • Johannesburg – 011
    • Pretoria – 012
    • Port Elizabeth – 041
    • The three main mobile networks’ codes are 082 (Vodacom), 083 (MTN) and 084 (Cell C). There are also other smaller mobile networks with different codes.
  • Phoning around South Africa
    • If you’re in South Africa and phoning a landline, the number must be preceded by the area code (including the first zero) for that city or town.
    • If you’re phoning to a mobile number - regardless of where you are in South Africa - you never use an area code, only the appropriate mobile network code.
  • 08 numbers
    • Many businesses and organizations have special landline numbers beginning with an 08 code - 0800, 0860, 0861, and so on. (But not 082, 083 or 084, which belong to the mobile networks.) These are, in effect, national numbers - area codes are dispensed with, and callers dial the same number regardless of where they are. Note that these lines can only be accessed from within South Africa.
    • 080 numbers (usually 0800) - no charge to the caller
    • 0860 numbers - the caller does not pay for any long-distance portion of the call.
    • 0861 numbers - the caller is charged a flat rate for the caller

Phone directories

  • Consult Telkom’s print directories for the numbers of landline subscribers - The Phone Book for residential subscribers nationwide, and The Yellow Pages for businesses, services and products nationwide.

    • Alternatively, dial in to Telkom’s telephonic directories (useful especially for unlisted or changed numbers):
    • South Africa (The Phone Book) – 1023
    • Electronic Yellow Pages – 10118
    • International – 0903

  • You can also consult Telkom’s searchable online directories:

  • Phoning out of South Africa
    • To make an international call from South Africa, dial 00 followed by the country code of the country you wish to call, followed by the relevant area code (if there is one), followed by the relevant phone number. Telkom’s Phone Book lists all country codes in its International Dialing Code List.
    • International calls are cheaper after 8pm and before 8am from Monday to Friday, and between 8pm on Friday and 8am on Monday
    • For an even cheaper option, try the Home Direct service. This allows you to call an operator in your home country free of charge, either to place a call on your - phone home - account, if you have one, or to arrange a reverse-charge call. Telkom’s Phone Book lists all Home Direct numbers in its International Dialling Code List.

Tipping

  • In South Africa, tipping is expected for services that you may take for granted back home.
  • The norm is to tip any person that delivered a acceptable level of service 10 percent of the bill, unless a service charge has already been added.

Value Added Tax

  • 14 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) is included in the advertised price of most items and services.
  • However, if you retain you receipt of purchase, you can claim VAT back on goods priced higher than R250 at the airport of departure, various harbours and customs offices.
  • You will also need to produce a your passport and the items purchased.

Time

  • South-Africa is 2 hours ahead of GMT trough out the year.
  • The entire South Africa is on one time zone and we do not have day light saving.